How to Disney-fy Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is only a day away, but it’s never too late to Disney-fy your family gathering. A few minutes of planning can elevate a basic turkey dinner into an unforgettable holiday that your loved ones will never forget. Here are a few ways to add some Disney magic to your Thanksgiving festivities.
Make Your Own Pilgrim Hat!
Disney’s official website includes a treasure trove of long-forgotten posts, as long as you know how and where to look. Some of their most entertaining activities involve crafting, but the main site doesn’t really publicize this information the way it did a decade ago.
One of my all-time favorite Thanksgiving creations as a kid was a pilgrim hat. Using this PDF on Disney’s site, you can follow the steps to build one for your kids (or yourself). What’s remarkable about this particular crafting process is how simple it is. You print out a couple of templates, tape them together, and voila! You’re pulling off the Thanksgiving Mickey look! Disney estimates that the process takes 20 minutes.
Thanksgiving Place Cards
There’s one basic rule at all family gatherings: Nobody wants to get stuck at the children’s table! Well, you can change that feeling a bit by doing some crafting. You can add fun Disney name cards to place at each set. Guests won’t roam aimlessly, awkwardly deciding where to sit. Instead, they’ll see festive autumn place settings with their names. Plus, everyone gets to see their favorite Disney characters when they sit down and as they eat.
Disney’s made the name card creation process absolutely painless. Printouts are available here. All you need to make this particular magic happen is a pen, some cardstock, and some scissors. Disney estimates that the process takes 10 minutes, and I think they’re too high. It should only take that long if you have to fight your printer.
The Final Touches
The crafting phase of the meal is almost done. These suggestions are all optional for the meal, but each one may add a special touch to your family’s festivities. So, you should consider each one.
Disney’s family page lists steps for crafting a Thanksgiving centerpiece. This wonderful item only takes 15 minutes to put together, but you may already have a favored centerpiece. If that’s the case, you can Disney-Fy your meal a couple of other ways. You can add Disney labels to all of the foods, and you can also make a Disney Planner for all the meal ingredients you’re going to need for your feast. Doing both should only take 20 minutes or so.
The craft option that would take the longest is a festive gourd. These special Disney table decorations could give your place setting the extra oomph it needs to boost everyone’s morale. The only catch is that you’ll need to buy some gourds plus some mini-lights to complete the effect. Overall, it’s about a 30-minute process to add Disney gourds to your table.
If you choose to do all of the crafts listed here, you should plan to spend about 90 minutes making the various items, two hours at most. You should have plenty of time to craft them while still entertaining those unavoidable guests who inevitably arrive early. In fact, you could use these suggestions as ways to occupy their time while you work on the feast we’re about to describe below. If they’re still slowing you down, make them craft some Disney napkin rings, too! Craft projects are the optimal way to ward off holiday preparation time burglars!
And Now for the Main Course!
Planning the perfect way to DisneyFy your Thanksgiving dinner comes down to matters of necessity. How many guests will attend your party? Are they hearty eaters? Do all of them love Disney the way that you do or are you at risk of being That Disney Obsessive? You know what, forget that question. Anyone who judges you for loving Disney too much isn’t somebody you want at your dinner table anyway, right?
The point is that you must decide the types of food that will populate your menu. You must choose how many types of bread, how many different desserts you’ll need, how many snacks you want to have on hand, and so forth. Disney recipes for all of these items are readily available.
My preferred source – and the sole credit for all the options I’m about to list – is MagicalRecipes.net. They’ve been my go-to Disney recipe site for ages now, and they’ve never led me astray. I also collect Disney recipe books, including my current favorite, Chef Mickey Treasures from the Vault & Delicious New Flavors. You can buy a Kindle copy for $14.99. These are my primary resources for Thanksgiving meal suggestions.
Filling Up on Bread
I’m a huge proponent of having multiple breads as part of the family dinner spread. At my house, the two favored options are basic dinner rolls and cornbread. I’m going to link you to a recipe for each one.
The Sally Lunn Rolls recipe is one that you’re intimately familiar with if you visit Liberty Tree Tavern with any regularity. You can find precise cooking instructions for it here. For the cornbread, there’s only one option. Whispering Canyon Café has cornered the market on Disney cornbread, and you can duplicate their recipe here.
I would also note that YouTube has plenty of instructional videos on cooking rolls and cornbread if you’re veering outside your realm of kitchen expertise. To my mind, the most important aspect of the Sally Lunn Rolls is that they’re flaky. Meanwhile, the cornbread MUST be golden brown.
Finally, while I’m not really a fan, I’d be remiss if I didn’t note that there’s also a banana bread recipe. It’s the Main Street Bakery one whose scent makes you hungry the moment you enter Magic Kingdom.
Choosing the Vegetables
Every family has a few chosen vegetables that make an appearance at each holiday gathering. Ours are more basic in nature, generally corn, peas, and mashed potatoes. To DisneyFy your Thanksgiving, however, you’ll want to better options.
The preferred ones are a bit eclectic, so you’ll have to trust me a bit. Le Cellier is a staple of the Canada Pavilion, and one of their anchor vegetables is the Cream Cheese Mashed Potatoes recipe. It is admittedly rich, which could be problematic during a meal where you’re already loading up on Tryptophan. You’ll be hard-pressed to zhoosh up your vegetables more than this, though. It’s unmistakably haute cuisine.
If you’d rather go simpler, Tusker House has a wonderful Roasted Potatoes recipe hearty and rich. It’s also exotic enough that you’ll feel multicultural during your Thanksgiving celebration. Alternately, you can stick with a reliable staple of American picnics, a basic Potato Salad recipe used at Sunshine Seasons. My only word of caution here is that you need fresh ingredients for this one to pop. It’s something you take for granted at Sunshine Seasons since the produce grows in the same building.
If you want to go off the board and do something unusual, add an autumnal soup dish to your menu. Tony’s Town Square serves a lovely Pumpkin Soup recipe that has remarkable depth. Of course, you’re walking into a potential meal debate here as some people are Pumpkin’d out these days while others simply cannot get enough of that particular flavor. You’ll have to read the room when making a call on this one.
Let’s Talk Turkey
Realistically, you’re not going to alter longstanding Thanksgiving dinner practices to make a Disney bird instead. Keeping that in mind, I’m still going to offer you an option just in case. The Magic Kingdom Turkey Leg is a work of art, a culinary masterpiece for the ages. While it’s an unusual Thanksgiving choice, it’s actually a strong copout.
The internet has countless instructional videos for this particular treat. In combination with this recipe, you can make a slew of crowd-pleasing turkey legs rather than bet the entire outcome of Thanksgiving dinner on an unthawed turkey. Plus, it’s quite the conversation piece.
I understand that this is a longshot, though. As such, I’ve got a backup suggestion for you. The Turkey Gravy at Liberty Tree Tavern is a rich and satisfying addition to the bird you’ll serve as well as any accompanying mashed potatoes. It’s just not as visually impressive as the ginormous turkey leg.
And Then Dessert Arrived…
There are two phases to dessert planning. The first is the noshing snacks that you’ll need to keep your guests alive during the football games. That interminable wait before the turkey’s ready is the cruelest part of the holiday. You can overcome it with a couple of simple snacks.
Mickey Mouse Popcorn only takes a few minutes to create but satisfies in a way that regular popcorn never could. Similarly, the months of November and December have unofficially become Peppermint Bark season. You should always keep some nearby for guests.
As for the true post-Thanksgiving dinner desserts, I have a realistic suggestion and a wildly ambitious one. The easy one that’s sure to please your family is vanilla fudge, a staple of holiday desserts for generations now. This is another Main Street Bakery selection that’s certain to satisfy.
If you feel like swinging for the fences, however, try to recreate The Grey Stuff. This will require some cooking skill and possibly even some special baking tools, depending on what’s already in your kitchen cabinets. You’re not flying completely blind on the project, though. Several different instructional videos are available on YouTube. And if you pull off this feat, you officially win Thanksgiving dinner!
Good luck and have a wonderful holiday, friends!