The Easy Thanksgiving Dinner Planner


It’s time again to think about the holidays with Thanksgiving just around the corner.  I always look forward to this holiday because I know my home is going to be filled with tradition, family, good friends and great food. 

Since my family traditions began, I have found that I like to stick with what I know my family enjoys and looks forward to, as well as what makes this holiday a pleasure to host. With just a bit of planning and list making, you can enjoy the whole experience of entertaining and hosting your family and friends this holiday season.

If your home is just a touch smaller than your guest list, use the space you do have very carefully by expanding the entertaining area to your porch or backyard. Make sure you have enough seats for everyone. Nobody wants to eat a fabulous meal on a plate balanced precariously on his knees.

The best way to serve a large party for Thanksgiving is buffet style, placing the food in one area of your home and the seating in another. That way it will be easier for your guests to get their food and have plenty of room to eat it.

It might mean a little more dishwashing, but pull out those beautiful plates and serving pieces you haven’t seen in a year. With family and friends around, you’ll have plenty of hands available to help with the clean up. Trust me, the pictures will be worth it.


1. BUILD YOUR GUEST LIST. Start small if this is your first time hosting a Thanksgiving party, but don’t forget all of the “plus ones” that inevitably pop up when you begin extending invitations. Although some people might have alternative plans, others will want to bring a guest. Be generous and just say yes. I’ve found some of our most enduring holiday traditions came from guests brought by my friends.

2. PLAN YOUR MENU. Start with a simple menu. This is a holiday where people expect to have the same foods year after year, so there’s no need to experiment too far outside the norm. For a change, try using more local ingredients or adding a new wine to enhance the flavor of the tried and true staples.

3. WATCH OUT FOR FOOD ALLERGIES. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from hosting over the years, it’s to find out whether any guests have food allergies. It’s more common to have at least one person at the table who has a gluten allergy or keeps a vegetarian diet. Rather than watch them make a meal out of side dishes, ask ahead of time and try to prepare accordingly. They’ll appreciate the effort.

4. ORDER THE BIRD.  Trust me, there’s a difference between a store bought frozen turkey and a fresh turkey from a local Colorado farm. You have to order a fresh turkey a little earlier, but you’ll be rewarded with a succulent, unforgettable bird. I’ve included a list of Colorado natural turkey purveyors at the end of the article. Figure 1 ¼ pounds per each adult .

5. MAKE YOUR LISTS AND CHECK THEM TWICE. Start with a list of items you can buy in advance, like decorations, non-perishable foods and frozen items. Avoid the headaches of waiting in line with the rest of the last minute shoppers and buy it now. Then create a second list for the fresh ingredients you want to buy fresh.


Think about the personalities of the guests you have invited and make a seating chart, placing your guests where they will work best around your table. I tend to put the younger people together on one end and the older people on the other, and then subdivide even further based on hobbies or professions. When possible, I avoid having a second table for the kids. It’s much nicer to have everyone together at one table or one area.

Have some fun decorating and setting the table. I like to scoop out a few small pumpkins and place tea lights in them for ambiance. If I can find a good deal at the supermarket, I’ll buy some some seasonal flowers and make little vases to place around the house as well.

By now you should have a list of kitchen tasks for Thanksgiving morning. Typically the turkey needs to go in first because it takes the longest to cook, but glance through your recipes and determine what order you’ll prepare them based on cooking and prep time.  Set out your pots, pans and serving dishes the night before, remembering a roaster pan and an instant-read thermometer to gauge when the turkey is done.


Here are a few recommendations for fall wines that can be found in Colorado that pair excellently with turkey and autumn vegetables. If you try any of them, be sure to leave your tasting notes in the comments for other readers:

Rose Wines: 

  • Klug Estate SP Rose
  • Messina Hof 2010 Sophia Marie Rose

White Wines:

  • Shaw Vineyard, 2007 Dry Riesling
  • Biltmore Reserve  Chardonnay, 2010
  • Conundrum California white table wine, 2010
  • Abraxas- Vin De Terroir, 2009

Sparkling Wine:

  • Domaine Carneros Brut Vintage, 2006

Red Wines:

  • Shinn Estate Nine Barrel Reserve merlot, 2007
  • Edmunds St. John Rocks Gravel Pinot Noir, 2009


Support the following businesses and keep your dollars working in Colorado. Each of these suppliers offer natural, organic turkeys for sale.


P.O. Box 103, Gill, CO 80624




6619 S. Kincaid St, Bennett, CO 80102

303-644-4079, 303-717-5785;



5100 E. County Rd. 48 Fort Collins, CO 80524




18920 W. County Rd. 100, Nunn, CO 80648




6427 WCR 68.5, Windsor, CO 80550




Here’s a recipe for your Thanksgiving dinner supplied by Chef Leah of Stovetop Talent.   


  •  2-3 lb. pie pumpkin from Grant Family Farms, (Wellington, CO)
  • 1 cup cubed Udi’s Cranberry Walnut Bread, (Louisville, CO)
  • 1/4 pound melting cheese, such as the Camembert from MouCo, (Ft. Collins, CO) cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2–4 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme or rosemary grown at Osage Gardens, (New Castle, CO)
  • About 1/3 cup heavy cream
  • Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • Crumbled bacon is a great flavor addition but is optional
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper


Preheat your oven to 350.  After scraping out the pumpkin, salt the inside and then commence with the stuffing!  In go the bread cubes, the cheese chunks, and herbs. The garlic, the cream, nutmeg and pepper on top and bake it until the pumpkin is tender, about 30 minutes.  I like to let it set up for 15 minutes or so and then slice it top to bottom in four servings.  You can just scoop the insides out if you want instead.


The Chefs at Stovetop Talent are available year round to provide you and your guests with a stress free party. All  menus are personalized to meet your entertaining needs. Give us a call  to help with the planning (720-432-4337) or email me at:



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