xoThanksgiving Tips: How To Plan And Prepare A Holiday Meal For Two

How do you balance wanting the traditional full spread of Thanksgiving while only cooking for one or two people?
Publish date:
November 13, 2013
family, xoFood, recipes, Thanksgiving, sweet potatoes, green beans, small dinner

I have a good friend L who is the human epitome of a Bird of Paradise flower. Exotically beautiful and endlessly interesting, comfortable in her weirdness. She is talkative and blunt and fabulous, the center of attention, and absolutely, totally, passionately hates crowds. And by crowds, I mean 3 people or more.

So at the house of L, there’s a quiet Thanksgiving going on, I’m sure. And at least half the world is the opposite of me, wanting a quiet, private home based event for Thanksgiving. And why not? If it's just you, no one is going to comment on the dishes left undone or the unmopped floor, and you can eat standing up and no one will complain.

Remember, the day is about you, giving thanks for the goodness in your life. Don’t be pressured into having people over or going someplace you don’t want to. Make the day your own.

If you’re having a hard time wrapping your head around how to accommodate a real Thanksgiving without enough leftovers for an army, no probs.

The Bird

Most people would immediately go right to “just buy a turkey breast” but I don’t, and here’s why. First, some people like dark meat, not white. A whole roasted bird is always going to taste better than a breast, prone to drying out, and birds are whole creatures, not a collection of parts. Buy a whole bird from a local farmer. You’ll be surprised how small some of them are- many turkeys are only a few months old and can be had at 7,8,9 lbs. Let me put this in perspective: an 8lb bird is probably only 6lbs of meat. You’ve bought roasts that size. You and yours will each eat about 1lb, and that leaves 4 lbs for leftovers, a completely respectable amount. Buy whole, you won’t regret it.


Skip the box because you won't need that much. The secret is that stuffing is really just dry bread. So, save your bread- ciabatta or cornbread or even sandwich bread in the weeks leading up to it and any heels, leftovers, etc. Cube, give a bit of olive oil and spices and throw them into the oven on the lowest setting for an hour or two, then toss into a ziploc. Once you have enough (a handful per person) you’re done.

Everyone’s stuffing recipe is their own, and I have a basic that I’ve covered before that you can easily add to. You can literally walk into a store and get ONE carrot and one small onion and a bag of celery hearts and be done, or even better, run to Trader Joes and pick up their ready to go mirepoix, its like $2.99 and the chopping is already done.

The Potatoes

Mashed potatoes always get eaten, in any amount and are great for leftovers, so don’t skip them. Make 1.5 potatoes per person, so its not a ton, you’ll have just a bit for the week after.

Everyone loves sweet potatoes, but you can literally make one or two sweet potatoes and serve them as a small souffle. Just enough to get the taste of them.

Mini Sweet Potato Souffle


1 sweet potato/yam per person

1 tbsp maple syrup per sweet potato




1 tbsp brown sugar

optional: 1/2 a graham cracker

(hey! I did a VIDEO. like, a real video. did it suck? did it help? I'm feeling iffy on how clean my grout is, and my nailpolish is chippy)

The Vegetables

Again, you want a taste, so roast a crown of broccoli or saute a handful of green beans for each person at the table. Don’t think in terms of huge or even medium serving dishes, but in terms of tastes. You can enough for everyone to get a taste, so they can have a range of items.


Pielettes or mini pies are going to be your best friend. A mini pumpkin pie is easily made with the goods from one small pie pumpkin (with some leftover pumpkin for the dog or your yogurt or ravioli or the 100 other things you can make with pumpkin). Use one pie crust recipe to make a few different mini pies: pumpkin, apple, pecan- cut any standard recipe into ⅓ or follow these. I love these mini pie pans from Amazon, also inexpensive.

Also consider individual turnovers- make pie pockets! You can halve them or everyone can have one.

Bottom line: its still Thanksgiving. You can make whatever you want, however you want, and still make it yours. Its literally as simple as cutting standard recipes down into half or even ⅓. Wonder how? Use this google spreadsheet to input your normal recipe and it will tell you your new amounts instead.