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How to scale down your Thanksgiving dinner

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging people to keep their holiday celebrations small, meaning fewer people around the dinner table.

TAMPA, Fla. — COVID-19 is changing how we celebrate yet another holiday.

Usually, we know Thanksgiving for big family dinners, passing dishes and pants that are just a little too tight after all-day eating and snacking. This year, the Centers for Disease Control is asking families to keep gatherings small and avoid holiday travel.

The CDC says to limit the spread of COVID-19, these precautions should be taken:

  • If you're attending a gathering, bring your own food and utensils
  • Have a small outdoor meal where guests can sit six feet apart from each other, if possible
  • If you're celebrating indoors, open some windows
  • Limit the number of guests you have
  • If sharing food, have only one person serve and use single-use options like disposable utensils

When it comes to the meal itself, you may be wondering how to scale it down for just two people or your immediate family. This could be the year to break from tradition.

Cooking alternatives to turkey

Since a big 14-pound turkey may be too much for your smaller dinner party this year, you might want to consider different options for your main protein. If you love the tradition of turkey, you can buy and roast just the breast portion. You can also roast a whole chicken, stuffed with fresh herbs over a bed of vegetables. 

Since there may be fewer of you eating, you could splurge on something that costs a little bit more like some great steaks or local gulf seafood.

You could also choose a different theme for your dinner and choose something else your family loves to eat, like tacos or lasagna.

Stepping up your side game

Some people live for the Thanksgiving side dishes. It doesn't matter if you top your sweet potatoes with marshmallows or pecans or call it stuffing or dressing, you can use this year's opportunity of making smaller portion sizes to experiment with fresher ingredients and making some elements from scratch.

Scaling down recipes

If your favorite recipe usually makes 12 servings but there's only going to be two of you eating, you may be able to just do some simple math to scale down your recipe. Things like mashed potatoes are easy to scale down, but recipes that call for whole ingredients like a whole can of cream of mushroom or whole eggs may be a little harder to execute without wasting ingredients. 

The internet is full of small-batch recipes, so search for the one you haven't tried before to try out this year!

You probably shouldn't scale down baking recipes though. Baking relies on a lot of science, so just dividing every measurement in half may not work or give you the result you're looking for.

Desserts for all

When it comes to dessert, you may know you'll go back for seconds (or thirds, we won't tell) so making a whole pie won't be a problem in your home. If you know you'll need to limit yourself somehow, consider going mini. Make personal-sized pies, cheesecakes or cupcakes. Maybe spend a little extra time experimenting this year and go with something a little more labor-intensive like cannoli or creme brulee.