As the world continues to grapple with the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, everyone is gearing up for a holiday season unlike any in recent memory.
Although Thanksgiving will probably look a bit different this year, it’s still an important time for families to make memories together. But it’s important that when you make the decision to host, you commit to doing it safely. You should give yourself enough time to think about how many people you can host, what you’ll make, and how you’ll serve it, as well as what people will do after dinner. That’s on top of your typical holiday stress!
If you’re hosting, encourage everyone you’ve invited to be extra careful prior to attending, and try to get a sense of what precautions they’ve been taking. If you have a family member who is immune-
compromised, you don’t want a careless family member — who could potentially be infected — mixing with them and everyone else.
You should also make it clear to everyone that if they’re feeling under the weather, even slightly, they should stay home. You can always offer to drop off a care package of delicious leftovers on their doorstep the next day.
In general, it’s safest to wear a mask and keep at least six feet apart from people who are not in your household whenever possible. Being outside is typically safer than indoors, so if the weather in Manitoba cooperates this year, entertain outside instead.
In the past, opening your home to one and all was normal. This year, however, you’ll want to think about how many people you can accommodate safely. Things like staggering eating times or limiting your time indoors can also be good options if those are things you’re willing and able to do.
Get creative with serving and seating. Have a Thanksgiving picnic in your backyard. Implement a kids table if you don’t already have one. Seat higher-risk and older people in spots where they can more easily keep a distance. Seat couples and families together. Think about your space and what makes the most sense for you and your guests.
The same goes for your menu. It’s important to know that the FDA does not believe that COVID-19 can be spread by food or food packaging, so that’s not what you need to worry about. Rather, it’s the shared utensils and face-to-face contact that happens when everyone is crowding into the kitchen for an extra helping of mashed potatoes.
One thing you can do is plate everyone’s meals for them, or serve things that are individual, such as handpies.
These are best practices, but everyone’s situation will vary. It’s impossible to give one-size-fits-all
advice, so use your best judgement based on public health guidelines. Or try a virtual Thanksgiving!
The holidays will look different this year, but with a little common sense, we can still spend cherished time with our loved ones.
Now for the fun stuff!
Easy Thanksgiving centerpieces
Need a quick, festive centerpiece for your dining room table? Gather autumn leaves and pinecones, and arrange them around a pumpkin. Put a plaid runner down the center of your table and arrange candles and fancy gourds on top. Or set a small gourd or pumpkin in everyone’s plate with their name painted on it. Arrange small pumpkins in a wooden tray for something really minimalist and contemporary, or if you prefer traditional, a pumpkin can be used in a fancy flower arrangement with seasonal mums in autumn shades of gold and russet. Visit a discount store and see what fun things you can find there. The options are limited only by your imagination.
Queso Mac and Cheese
We all crave comfort food more than ever these days, as our expanding waistlines can attest. So what’s more hearty and full of warm memories than good old mac and cheese? I can’t think of anything! And the best thing about this dish is that it can be modified to any taste, from simple and classic to extra-filling. Tomatoes, spicy green chiles and crunchy corn chips make this homemade mac extraordinary.
1 lb. large elbow macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper
12 oz. white American cheese
8 oz. extra-sharp Cheddar cheese
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
6 tbsp. all-purpose flour
4 c. whole milk
2 can diced tomatoes and green chiles
1 can mild green chiles
½ c. chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1 c. finely crushed tortilla chips
½ tsp. chili powder
Preheat oven to 425°F. Cook pasta in boiling salted water according to package directions; drain.
Toss together American and Cheddar cheese in a bowl. Melt butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Gradually whisk in flour and cook, whisking constantly, 1 minute. Gradually whisk in milk and cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 8 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and chiles and cook, 2 minutes. Remove from heat and whisk in 4 cups cheese
mixture until smooth. Stir in pasta and cilantro.
Season with salt and pepper. Transfer to a lightly
buttered 3-quart baking dish.
Add chips and chili powder to bowl with remaining cup cheese mixture and toss to combine. Sprinkle over pasta. Bake until golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with cilantro.