Thanksgiving recipes for a safe, distanced holiday feast

Celebrating Thanksgiving during a pandemic doesn't mean giving up delicious food, but it might mean a few more individual portions.

Individual pumpkin tarts loaded with whipped cream, turkey sandwiches and more

This year, sharing a meal doesn't have to mean passing around the serving plates. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

This year has been a tricky one for gatherings of all kinds, let alone get-togethers for family, friends and food. Though we quickly became resourceful this past Easter, sharing virtual meals on Zoom, often sharing similar menus, we're now closing in on the holiday entertaining season, and soon the weather will not be accommodating for outdoor visits. 

Weather-wise, it might still be possible to have a Thanksgiving meal outside — outdoor entertaining is best, if you have the space. Calgary parks have picnic areas with fire pits and lots of tables you can reserve online (you need to do so five days in advance). 

Indoors, it's recommended we keep groups small, preferably stay within our household units, and open up some windows, if you can. Whether you're indoors or out, consider spreading out and eating on your laps, rather than crowding around the table and passing dishes.

A one-dish meal of Sweet Potato Cottage Pie can be eaten while perched around the room, rather than needing a knife and fork at the shared table. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Set the food out at its own table, with hand sanitizer set out with the plates and cutlery to use before touching the serving utensils (or each person could use a new napkin), and have everyone put on their mask before going to serve themselves. 

Appetizers could be divided into paper cups and set out on a tray for people to pick up and nibble (even dips and a few veggie sticks could go into a cup), and pureed soups could be served in paper coffee cups or even insulated to-go cups. 

If you're eating on your laps, a meal that doesn't require manoeuvring a knife and fork is a good idea; perhaps combining turkey, veggies and gravy in individual turkey pot pies, topped with mashed potatoes, or assembling individual plates, TV dinner-style. And if everyone's favourite part of the meal is turkey sandwiches the next day, why not make that your meal?  You could still do the mashed potatoes, Brussels sprouts and salad as sides.

Almost any appetizer can be portioned out into little cups and then served individually. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

For families and friends who are spread out across the country or around the world, you could collaborate on a menu, so that you're eating the same meal while dining on FaceTime or Zoom. And if you're in the same city, you could do door drops — like a traveling potluck, if you're in charge of soup, or salad, or potatoes, you make a batch for each group, and drop a container on each doorstep. 

Thanksgiving is also a great opportunity to support our struggling hospitality industry — many local restaurants and catering kitchens are doing takeout Thanksgiving meals this year.

Little Pumpkin Pies

What could be better than your own mini pumpkin pie to yourself? (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

Pumpkin pie is a must-have at many Thanksgiving gatherings — making individual tarts eliminates the need to slice and serve, but they're still excellent vehicles for whipped cream. 


  • 12 tart shells (frozen, or pastry for a single crust pie)
  • 1 14 oz. (398 mL) can pure pumpkin puree 
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup heavy (whipping) cream
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. allspice
  • 1/4 tsp. salt


Preheat the oven to 350˚F and line muffin tins with pastry, or set frozen tart shells on a baking sheet. In a medium bowl, whisk together the pumpkin puree, brown sugar, cream, eggs, vanilla, cinnamon, ginger, allspice and salt. Fill the tart shells about 3/4 full (the filling will puff up in the oven, and then sink back down). Bake for 20-30 minutes (depending on the depth of your tarts), until golden, cracked on top, and set. Cool at least slightly before serving with whipped cream. Makes about 12 tarts. 

Curried Coconut, Sweet Potato, Carrot & Red Lentil Soup

Individual cups of pureed, sweet potato soup make a seasonal and hands-free appetizer. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)

This smooth soup is delicious with carrots and sweet potato, or use winter squash in season. The dry red lentils boost protein and fibre. Swap the coconut milk for half as much cream, as you like, or leave it out altogether.


  • Canola or olive oil, for cooking
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger
  • 2 tsp. curry paste, or to taste
  • 1 large dark-fleshed sweet potato, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
  • 1/3 cup dry red lentils
  • 4 cups (1 L) chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 14 oz. (398 mL) can coconut milk
  • salt to taste

In a medium pot, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion for 4-5 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic, ginger and curry paste and cook for another minute or two. Add the sweet potato, carrot, lentils and stock, along with a cup of water. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down and simmer for half an hour, or until the vegetables are very tender.

Season with salt, add the coconut milk and use a hand-held immersion blender to puree it right in the pot. Alternatively, transfer it in batches to a blender and puree until smooth, adding more stock or water if it seems too thick. Serves 6.

Parker House Rolls

Perfect for turkey on a bun, Parker House Rolls are light, airy and folded for easy stuffing. (Julie Van Rosendaal/CBC)


  • 1 pkg. (2 tsp.) active dry yeast
  • 3 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1 cup milk, warmed
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted (divided)
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 tsp. fine salt
  • flaky salt, for finishing (optional)


Put 1/4 cup warm water into a large bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top, along with a pinch of the sugar. Set it aside for a few minutes, to get foamy. Add the rest of the sugar to the yeast along with the milk, half the butter, egg, flour and salt and stir until the dough comes together. Knead for about five minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic and tacky. (I do this in my stand mixer, with the dough hook.) Put it back in the bowl, cover with a tea towel and let rise for an hour or so, until doubled in size.

Punch the dough down and divide it in half. Roll each out into an 8x12-inch rectangle. Brush all over with melted butter. Cut the rectangle in half lengthwise, then fold each half almost in half lengthwise, leaving about half an inch uncovered.

Cut the dough crosswise in half, then in quarters, making 8 pieces. Arrange in a buttered, greased or parchment-lined 9x13-inch pan in four rows of four, with the long sides of the buns running along the long sides of the pan. (Once you do this once, you'll totally get the hang of it.) Cover with a tea towel and set aside for about half an hour, while you preheat the oven to 350˚F.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until deep golden. Immediately brush the tops of the buns with the remaining butter while they're still warm — and if you like, sprinkle with coarse salt. Makes 16 buns.

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