Five Tips for Making Your Thanksgiving Dinner More Thankful

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What is a proper Thanksgiving meal? The older I get, the more I realize how broadly Thanksgiving dinner can be defined. At the very least, though, I think it is a bounteous table, set with one's best china, laden with one's best food laboriously prepared. It is also a chance to celebrate whoever you call "family." These things in and of themselves are great, even amazing, but more than that, Thanksgiving is, or should be, a re-dedication to the art and work of being grateful, and by extension, positive.

Melodie Beattie, a motivational author, said, "Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos into order, confusion into clarity ... Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today and creates a vision for tomorrow." Focusing on what we have, even if it doesn't seem like enough, can make such a difference in our level of happiness. I know enough of life to know, to really feel, that just being alive, having use of all my senses, having food to fill my belly, a husband to share my life with, children to love, and a warm home, is HUGE. It makes me happy and grateful beyond words to think of that.

That being said, there is one dish that, for me has come to, shall we say, facilitate gratitude better than most others for me: the Francom Family Green Bean Casserole. Some may stick their noses up at it because it contains Velveeta and canned products, and is therefore not true "green bean casserole," but I love it anyways,

Francom Family Green Bean Casserole Recipe


  • 2 squares butter
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 cups half-and-half
  • 2 tsp. soy sauce
  • 2 lbs. Velveeta
  • 6 cans green beans, drained
  • 4 cans water chestnuts, drained and cut small
  • 2 cans mushrooms, drained (optional)


Make a sauce of the first five ingredients. In a large casserole dish, mix the last three ingredients. Pour the sauce over the mixture and fold to combine. Bake uncovered for 30 minutes at 325° F.

So, if I were to offer "tips" for planning your Thanksgiving Dinner, the first would be to have a quote about the benefits of being positive at the meal, either verbally or visually. The second would be to try Francom Family Green Bean Casserole. And the third would be to have each person around the table list a few things they're grateful for after everyone has eaten. If you're like me, when you're hungry, all you can think about is how thankful you are for food, much like all you can think about during a power outage is how thankful you are for electricity. Listing the things you're thankful for on a full stomach, I think, enables you to broaden your perspective and include more things on your list.

Fourth, consider inviting everyone to read the newspaper beforehand, and find at least three things they are thankful for in stories of other peoples' loss or other organizations' helpfulness. For example, stories of Hurricane Sandy fallout might prompt feelings of gratitude for basics like electricity and good weather.

And fifth, with this statement by W.T. Purkiser in mind, "Not that we say our blessings but how we use them is the true measure of our thanksgiving," invite guests to fill out a pre-prepared or pre-bought card with one or two things for which they're grateful, and one or two ways they can use those particular blessings to help others. They don't need to share what they write with everyone; they just need to walk out the door with a specific idea or two about how they can help others.

So, to sum up, here are my five tips for planning a Thanksgiving Dinner:

  1. Find a quote about the benefits of being thankful.
  2. Make Francom Family Green Bean Casserole.
  3. Have everyone share things they're grateful for after dinner.
  4. Invite guests to find ideas for things they're thankful for in the newspaper.
  5. Invite guests to write down how they can use they're blessings to help others.

How do you make gratitude an important part of your Thanksgiving meal?

Thanksgiving dinner photo courtesy of Flickr.

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