Hosting Thanksgiving Dinner for a Small Family

By: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA

Not every Thanksgiving has to have 20 to 30 people squeezed around the same table. Some holidays will be more intimate, say 4 to 8 people. There is no need to deviate from the traditional plan – turkey, stuffing, potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegetables and of course an indulgent dessert are all within your reach – just on a smaller scale.


A smaller turkey for a smaller crowd…Making a traditional turkey great, but for a small group it might be overkill.  Instead, consider preparing a turkey breast exclusively. This is a great idea that will save you time and space in your oven. Check out my recipe below for Turkey Roulade.

Side Dishes: You can totally skip the stuffing if you like. Instead go for a hearty side dish such as quinoa mixed with roasted onions, mushrooms, carrots, beans and even raisins and apples to boost fiber and flavor.

Cranberry Sauce: Fresh cranberry sauce is a cinch to prepare. You can use the leftovers in sandwiches, spread on toast or even stir into oatmeal!

Vegetables: A salad or any winter vegetable you enjoy is perfect for your Thanksgiving table. Consider roasted broccoli and butternut squash as your vegetable side dish. 

Dessert: Here are some simple yet tasty ideas: cupcakes, chocolate covered strawberries, apple turnovers, fresh fruit and nuts, apple cider donuts. 

Eat Well Tip: Fresh cranberries are at their peak of freshness during the fall, just in time for holiday parties! Incorporating cranberries into your party menu is a delicious and easy way to add unique flavor, color and variety to dishes.


Cranberry Cilantro Salsa

A fresh take on the classic salsa with a fall-inspired combination of cranberries and ginger that guests will love paired with tortilla chips. 

Servings: 4-6

Total Time: 15 minutes


  • 1⁄2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (approximately 2 whole limes)
  • 1 teaspoon finely-grated fresh, peeled ginger root or 1⁄4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 cups fresh cranberries
  • 1 1⁄2 teaspoons minced jalapeño pepper
  • 1 cup fresh cilantro leaves
  • 1⁄4 cup chopped green onion/scallion (white and green sections, approximately 4 green onions)
  • tortilla chips



  1. In a small bowl, juice limes. Add freshly grated ginger, sugar, pepper and salt to bowl. Stir to combine and set aside.
  2. In the food processor bowl, add fresh cranberries, jalapeño pepper, cilantro and green onion. Pulse approximately 5 times to combine.
  3. Place cranberry mixture into a serving bowl and add lime mixture. Stir to combine with a rubber spatula.
  4. Garnish with a slice of lime and serve with tortilla chips.

Recipe by:


Turkey Roulade with Cranberries & Plums 

Prep: 20 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Makes: 4 Servings


  • ½ cup whole unsalted roasted walnuts
  • ½ cup warm water
  • ½ cup dried cranberries
  • ½ cup dried plums (about 4 medium), coarsely chopped
  • 2 medium shallot, minced
  • 3 tablespoons trans-fat free margarine
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 boneless, skinless turkey breast halve (about 3 pounds), butter- flied
  • 1 cup white wine
  • 2 cups low sodium chicken broth
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil



  1. Preheat the oven to 400˚F.
  2. Add cranberries and dried plums to warm water, and set aside until plump, about 10 minutes.
  3. In a food processor, pulse the walnuts until coarsely chopped, then add the fruit, any unabsorbed water, shallots, margarine, salt and pepper to taste, until the fruit and nuts are coarsely chopped. Add the parsley and pulse once or twice more.
  4. Place the turkey breasts on a cutting board and pound to a ¼-inch thickness. Spread the stuffing mixture evenly over the breasts, leaving about a 1-inch border. Starting with the long end of each breast, roll up and tie firmly with butchers twine. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
  5. Heat a large skillet with the olive oil until hot, sear each stuffed turkey breast on all sides until lightly browned, 3 to 4 minutes per side.
  6. Place the stuffed turkey on a rack in a roasting pan and pour the wine over each one. Roast, uncovered for 35 to 40 minutes or until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the meat registers 165˚F. Transfer the turkey to a cutting board and cover loosely with foil. Meanwhile, make the pan sauce.
  7. Place the roasting pan over medium-heat on the stovetop. Add the chicken broth and stir with a wooden spoon to release the brown bits that cling to the pan. Cook until syrupy, about 5 minutes. Pour through a sieve if needed to remove any burned bits.
  8. Carve the turkey into 1-inch thick slices and serve with the pan sauce.

Recipe by: Jacqueline Gomes, RDN, MBA