By Suzanne Ledbetter

I don’t know about you, but there’s something about this time of year that draws me closer to family and friends.

Maybe it’s my love of Thanksgiving, the one holiday that isn’t associated with gifts, costumes, or heart-shaped chocolates! It’s about taking the time to reflect on our blessings, to be thankful for the people who support us, and to celebrate with the best in comfort food. 

When this special holiday rolls around, I celebrate surrounded by family, enjoy a delicious dinner, carry on special traditions—and give thanks for being able to do it all together. For me, it’s the gathering that brings such meaning to this holiday. And sometimes, miles and life make getting together difficult. But, Thanksgiving 2.0 is trending hard, and ensuring that everyone enjoy this day laughing at a table covered in food and surrounded by people.  

Every year as I’m preparing our family’s Thanksgiving feast, my husband asks the rhetorical question “Can I help with anything?” He knows that the answer is in fact always “no”, because, I admit it—I’m a bit of a control freak. So, of course I’d take my first swing at Friendsgiving weeks before the appointed day, because—C’mon—you can’t waste a holiday on a practice run. 

One Month Before

Find a date that works for everyone. No easy task! I put together a rough outline for the night’s festivities, and invitations to send out to friends. With today’s technology, you don’t have to spend money on printing. Apps like Evite allow you to send out electronic invites, but be prepared to follow up with guests who respond better with a formal invitation! 

It is the host’s responsibility to organize this friendly potluck, so be smart about who you ask for what! As host, I had the honor of making the turkey, which leads to making the gravy, and the stuffing, too! If you plan to host this party before Thanksgiving, be sure to order your turkey ahead of time. The remaining comfort food must-haves can be delegated to friends. The easiest way? Have them bring an appetizer, potato, vegetable, and dessert dish.

 A great piece of advice to remember is to always assign your MOST reliable friend to bring the appetizer. You know—the one that is never late to anything! And if someone has a coveted specialty for cranberry sauce, by all means, have them make it. Otherwise, the standard cranberry in a can will suffice—I promise! Once the dishes are decided and friends have RSVP’d, you are more than half way there. 

One Week Before

Creating a bitching playlist. Because music will be one of the last things on your mind on the day of, create a phone alarm 10 minutes before start time to remind you to pump up the jams, or quietly start the concerto (depending on your group of friends). 

Choose the dishes, glasses, napkins, and serving plates, and set the table early, with the exception of fresh flowers. You can refer to my checklist for complete tablescape needs.

Consider creating personalized place card holders for a next-level table design. Pick up a few locally grown pumpkins, and start crafting these now! And of course, finalize your grocery list.

Three Days Before

Properly thaw the turkey. Trust me, your Friendsgiving will NOT be a hit if everyone ends up sick because you tried a shortcut and left the bird outside for three days.

At this point, head to the grocery store, and purchase any mixers or alcohol. Oh! And get excited! Dinner with friends is just three days away!

One Day Before

Prep till you can’t. This included chopping apples, oranges, potatoes, and onions into quarters. This essential part of my recipe keeps the turkey moist and infuses flavors throughout the cooking process! You can also prep the stuffing by chopping celery and onions and storing them in a Tupperware container for the night.

Start cracking on the sangria, because it’s always tastier with time. Place it in an airtight beverage dispenser overnight—this allows the juice from the oranges, apples, wine, and brandy to macerate.

The Big Day!

8:30 a.m.

Florist Anna Sinclair of Huckleberry Blooms stopped by to drop off the amazing seasonal centerpiece for the tablescape, along with some fresh eucalyptus for layering. She completely nailed the look I was going for. 

5:00 p.m.

I opened the bottles of wine for the dinner table to allow them time to breathe, and added the club soda to the Festive Fall Sangria. Be sure to fill your ice bucket and do a quick wipe down of the counter tops.

 6:00 p.m.

As my guests began to knock at the door, I knew we’d have a blast sharing in an evening of gratitude and festive libations. I greeted our friends and reminded them where to put their purses and coats. My hubby was at the helm, offering up a glass of sangria or specially selected wine, a bourbon apple smash, or another beverage of their choice.  

 7:00 p.m.

When the turkey was ready, I was sure to let it set for around thirty minutes. This allows the meat to rest and keep the juices inside. I rushed, and I really do mean rushed, to finish the gravy by using the drippings from the turkey pan to make a simple rue with flour. I let the mixture bubble for a couple of minutes before adding enough chicken stock (or milk). It was then time to season the gravy with salt and pepper, and pour it into a gravy boat.

I tossed the salad, took the stuffing out of the oven, and transferred the mashed potatoes from the crock pot (warmer) to a serving dish. Ask one of your friends to fill the water glasses on the table.

7:30 p.m.

Finally, I invited my mingling dinner guests to take a seat and welcomed them to join me for our shared Friendsgiving Feast.

Before everyone digs in, be sure to offer a toast. I said something to the effect of being grateful for years of friendships and closed by offering a thought that speaks to my entire philosophy—“May our lives be full of both thanks and giving.” 

It was then time to dig in! For the host, this is by far the most rewarding part of Friendsgiving. You get to sit back and relax with those that mean the most to you, devour the best in comfort food, and imbibe with some wine, or maybe even some whisky. Oh, and don’t forget the dessert.

My one rule for Friendsgiving is that there must be pie. Luckily, our friend Madelyn has mad baking skills and made a homemade heaping apple pie of goodness. I’ve never tasted an apple pie as good as this one. I was immediately reminded how grateful I am to be sharing this dinner with such great friends.

1 Comment

  1. Great Article Suzanne…. Colleen and I routinely host dinners for up to 30 people. The Holidays are the best. While we have never called it a Friends giving…we may have to start. Congrats on a great piece.

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