Debbie Macomber’s 6 Steps to a Great Thanksgiving Meal

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Thanksgiving is a family tradition held around the dining table. Whether you’re serving your family’s favorites or trying out new recipes, cooking up a scrumptious meal is always a labor of love.

Tuscany Cake Stand
Photographed by Stephanie Dyane

Best-selling author Debbie Macomber shares tips on how to prepare for this occasion, including a recipe straight from her latest cookbook, Debbie Macomber’s Table: Sharing the Joy of Cooking with Family and Friends.

Thanksgiving Day Prep: The Meal by Debbie Macomber

Hosting a holiday can feel very overwhelming, especially if it is your first time preparing what some might call the biggest meal of the year! But all it takes is a little organization and prep time to make it manageable and a whole lot less stressful.

I want to help you make this Thanksgiving your best ever. I am breaking down my process step by step to give you an inside look at how I host the holiday, so you can see just how simple it is to create a wonderful experience where everyone is happy and satisfied—and every dish is served warm!

Thanksgiving Tablescape

Step 1: Invite your guests

Whether it’s a phone call, text, email, or even a hand-written note, the first thing to do is see who’s coming to dinner. Now that our children are grown, and they have in-laws and children of their own, everyone’s plans are a little different than they once were when everyone was living with us at home.

Once you’ve got your list of family and friends, you know how much food you’ll need to make. Plus, I am sharing a go-to holiday recipe from my latest cookbook, Debbie Macomber’s Table, which I am sure you and your loved ones are going to enjoy as much as the Macomber clan does.

Step 2: Ask about Restrictions

Before you make your final meal plans, be sure to inquire about any allergies or dietary restrictions your guests may have acquired since the last time you saw them. And if they do, ask them about alternatives you can have available in addition to your main plates or even see if they’d like to bring their favorite dish.

Step 3: The Main Event

Wayne isn’t a big fan of turkey, so we do a Standing Rib Roast for our celebration each year. Yes, it may be unconventional, but I love our family’s twist on tradition—and it is so delicious! Just be sure to check out the preparation notes and defrost ahead of time if your meat is stored in the freezer.

Step 4: All about the Apps 

As everyone is gathering, invite them in for a beautiful day with a savory treat. I know I will be serving Mushroom and Caramelized Onion Bites, these little hors-d’oeuvres are very tasty and easy to eat, so we only need a napkin instead of balancing small plates while welcoming each person into our home.

Preppy Hostess Tablescape
Tablescape by Preppy Hostess

Step 5: On the Sides 

Green bean casserole is always popular but, in our house, we love sprinkling in some new flavors like Cameron’s Garlic and Bacon Green Beans. The garlic and bacon add an unexpected pop to this dish that pairs so well with the roast. Plus, we always serve Gratitude Bread, this delicious bread is a sweet way of expressing appreciation to those who have touched your life on this day and all year long.

Seasonal produce adds a warm touch

Step 6: Don’t Forget Dessert 

Pay homage to the harvest with a sweet ending to your meal, like my Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake. An alternative to the classic pumpkin pie, the Granny Smith apple mix with the brown sugar and cinnamon for a classic autumn taste that your guests will really enjoy. And I love how pretty the apples look when you flip the cake from the pan to a stand, my favorite this season is from Balsam Hill’s Tuscan Entertaining Collection. Just don’t forget to top it whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!

Balsam Hill Tuscany Cake Stand

So, there you have it! Your list is set and the menu is ready. Now just relax and delight in making each dish, your love and gratitude will shine through with every bite.

Here’s my recipe for my special Caramel Apple Upside Down Cake:

Caramel Apple Upside-Down Cake by Debbie Macomber

Got more Thanksgiving prep ideas? Share them in the comments! Read more Thanksgiving party hosting ideas in this post.


  1. Kate Sparks Reply

    For another easy appetizer: one small jar of mayo, 6 oz of parmesan cheese and a medium Onion diced fine. Mix in bowl. Loaf of party rye bread. Spread the mixture on the slices, place on a pan under the broiler til Golden and bubbly. Serve hot. You can add any protein you like. Chopped cooked shrimp, finely chopped ham, mushrooms. We use it for a spread with sliced turkey or ham sandwiches, cold.

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