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Host Thanksgiving dinner on a budget

Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer
Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer just launched their second cookbook, Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts: Wholesome Everyday Recipes Made With Love (Penguin Random House Canada, September 19, 2023).

Cookbook authors also offer stress-free hosting tips

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Grocery bills may be soaring but if you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, you can still throw an unforgettable occasion without breaking the bank.

Bestselling authors and cousins Jillian Harris and Tori Wesszer – who just launched their second cookbook, Fraiche Food, Fuller Hearts: Wholesome Everyday Recipes Made With Love (Penguin Random House Canada, September 19, 2023) – offer advice on how to host dinner on a budget:

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If any guests have dietary restrictions, Wesszer suggests finding a recipe you can flex. “Why make multiple different recipes when you can just make one but tweak it multiple ways? Gluten-free and plant-based versions of foods can be found for virtually every ingredient,” she says.

“Just prep the main stuff in bulk but be careful to avoid any cross contamination while cooking and be sure to label and separate the dishes when serving to make it clear to those with dietary restrictions. Bonus: it also helps make your guests with the dietary restrictions feel more included to eat the same thing everyone else is eating.”

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There are also numerous things you can do in advance to reduce the stress of hosting. Consider Wesszer’s tips:

In addition to asking guests to chip in by bringing an appetizer, dessert, salad or side dish, Harris recommends tackling time-consuming tasks like chopping and peeling in advance.

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Of course, a pretty table helps set the scene. “Tablescapes might be one of my favourite parts of entertaining and hosting, but you don’t need to break the bank to create a beautiful one,” Harris says. Candles are key. “I’ll take any votives I find around my home that I think will look good on the table and scatter them throughout the middle.

“I don’t worry about whether they’re the same size or height or if they match. This helps give the table dimension.” She also recommends fresh or even faux flowers. Her hack: divide a big bouquet of fresh flowers into various sized vases and bud vases or cut flowers from your garden and collect beautiful branches from your yard.

Wesszer suggests using a mix of old and new. “I love mixing old things like vintage salt and pepper shakers, platters, candle holders and serving spoons with new items. It adds such a warm element, is better for the environment and makes your table so unique. Those pieces often have a story and it’s even better when they came from a grandparent or other family member to create a conversation piece.”

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Create a memorable tablescape

It’s been said that we eat first with our eyes and if that’s true, your guests will feast on your table setting even before the first course is served, underscoring the importance of creating a memorable tablescape this Thanksgiving, says designer Nicholas Rosaci, the ‘DIY guy’ and editor for Canadian Home Trends magazine.
He will host live and interactive tablescape demonstrations at the Fall Home Show this weekend, showing attendees how to transform and theme their dining tables into tablescapes to entertain guests. Here are some of his tips:
• Shop your home first. If hosting more than eight guests, decide if you have enough stemware, plates and dining room chairs. Consider renting a few pieces if necessary.
• Think layers. If your dinner is formal, layer a tablecloth, runner and placements. If it’s casual, roll giftwrap or brown parcel paper across the table and top with a colourful or plaid runner or scarf. “We’re seeing Thanksgiving décor lean towards spring pastels, sorbet-coloured hues and florals,” Rosaci says.
• Accessorize with DIY elements. One idea: spray paint pumpkins in gold and carve them into vases for mums, sunflowers or a combination of pink and peach-coloured roses and carnations.
The 2023 Fall Home Show returns to the Enercare Centre at Exhibition Place in Toronto from Friday, Sept. 29 through Sunday, Oct. 1. Purchase tickets at torontohomeshows.com.

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