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How to Plan a Hispanic-American Thanksgiving

If you'd like to pay tribute to your Hispanic roots this Thanksgiving, here are a few ideas to get you started in that direction. Also included are some basic planning tips.

1. Figure out how many guests to invite. Consider the size of your home; the number of chairs, tables and dishes you'll need; and your ability to cook for a large number of people.

2. Think about decorations for your home and dining table that will reflect your cultural upbringing. Bright colors are historically important to Hispanic cultures; think about playing with colors in the selection of the tablecloth and napkins. Other collectibles, which may be in storage or deep in closets, could be brought out as reminders of Thanksgivings past.

3. Decide if you want to ask people to help you, either by bringing parts of the meal (wine, dessert, appetizers or side dishes), or by coming early to help.

4. Determine the food preferences or restrictions of your guests. Are there any vegetarians or people with food allergies?

5. Consider the sequence of the meal and its balance. Balance starchy dishes with lighter vegetable dishes. Consider how many courses you want to serve, as well as how many appetizers.

6. Move beyond traditional dishes and incorporate ingredients that reflect your Hispanic-American heritage. Consider scooping up a traditional spinach dip with toasted corn cups made from white corn tortillas. Think about alternative dishes that reflect your family's unique experience - chilled corn vichyssoise, jalapeno-spiked cornbread stuffing, or turkey mole. Or, instead of mashed potatoes, consider Spanish rice as a starch. Fry vanilla ice cream for dessert to serve alongside a pumpkin pie.

7. Once you've planned the menu, consider the timing and preparation of each dish. If you've chosen to add a lot of spices to the dishes, are you sure everybody will tolerate it? Think about your kitchen and its limitations as well. If you have one oven, remember that a roasting turkey will be occupying it most of the time.