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Guide To An Effortless Thanksgiving {+ Recipes!}

Thanksgiving is one of our favorite times of the year. We love that an entire holiday is devoted to all the small things we value and celebrate year-round: friends, family, community, fellowship, gathering, hospitality, and of course…food!

While there’s plenty we all look forward to on Thanksgiving, you might be feeling a little overwhelmed with the thought of guests filing into your home in just a few short days, so we’ve put together a quick guide to help you stay on track and pull off a stress-free feast.

Get Ahead

Your guests don’t want you sweating in the kitchen all day, they actually want to spend quality time with you. Try to scratch off tasks on your to-do list before the main event that will free up your time and keep you less frazzled. Can you set the table the night before? Maybe make a dessert or side dish in advance and toss it in the freezer? Speaking of freezer, don’t forget to thaw out that turkey! Take a peek at this Turkey Thawing Guide from to know when to set it out. 

Keep it Simple

Don’t stress too much about what to put on the table or how to adorn the entryway. Go organic and pick out some last-minute frills from the grocery store or even your yard. It’s easy to quickly grab a bunch of greenery, apples, pomegranates, or pumpkins. These items don’t have to be placed perfectly to look beautiful, and you can even send them home with guests as a little extra treat.

Pop the Bubbly

Offer your guests a drink the moment they walk in, or have a self-serve drink station already set up. Having something in hand will keep guests relaxed. Bring out the celebratory wine, and prep some unique, but simple non-alcoholic beverages as well. Our fall favorites includes fruit-infused water with combinations like blackberry and sage, cinnamon and apple, or pomegranate and lime. A classic apple cider is always a hit too! Check out the Slow Cooker Apple Cider recipe below for an easy, delicious beverage.

Start Small

A full array of appetizers isn’t necessary, but it might be good to have a few small snacks to nibble on, just in case your meal time gets delayed. We like the idea of a small cheese board with dried fruit and nuts. Check out this great guide for preparing a cheese board from Seven Layer Charlotte.

Plan a Strategy

That beautiful bird is going to be hogging the oven for several hours. Reach to the back of those cabinets and pull out a few appliances that may help you prepare other dishes simultaneously – a slow cooker, a toaster oven, even the microwave. And don’t be afraid to delegate. If someone makes an offer to help, take them up on it!

End Sweetly

Let’s be honest, the best part of any meal is dessert. If you want to pass around something other than traditional pie, try this incredibly decadent pumpkin cake with cream cheese frosting. It is so easy to throw together, and the frosting can be whipped up just before guests arrive.

Make Ahead Pumpkin Spiced Bundt Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 2 cups sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1-15 oz. can pumpkin puree
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Frosting Ingredients:

  • 8 ounces cream cheese, softened
  • 1 stick unslated butter, softened
  • 4 cups powdered sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • ½ cup chopped pecans, optional


For the cake, preheat oven to 350°F. Sift together flour, baking soda and cinnamon. Set aside. Beat sugar and eggs until creamy. Slowly whisk dry ingredients into egg and sugar mixture. Add pumpkin and vanilla, mix well. Pour into greased bundt cake pan and bake for 55 minutes. Let cool in pan 10 minutes before releasing and transferring to cooling rack. Frost.

For the frosting, combine softened butter and cream cheese in a medium bowl and blend until smooth and creamy. Gradually add powdered sugar until desired consistency is reached. Apply to cake and top with chopped pecans.

Slow Cooker Apple Cider

  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 teaspoon whole cloves
  • 1 teaspoon allspice
  • 2 quarts apple cider
  • ½ cup packed brown sugar
  • 1 orange, sliced


Fold a cheesecloth in half for double thickness, placing cinnamon sticks, cloves and allspice on top. Fold the corners together and tie with a string, forming a spice bag. Pour cider in slow cooker, then stir in brown sugar until dissolved. Place spice bag and sliced oranges into mixture. Cook on low for 2-3 hours.

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