Saturday, November 19, 2011

Shortcuts to an Easier and Very Delicious Thanksgiving

I'm not hosting Thanksgiving this year.  It hasn't been "my" holiday to host in many years.  I think the last one was  Thanksgiving 2001, the year before we lost our mom.  After that, I let different people take over.  Most recently, either my daughter Katie or my ex-husband Gene and his wife Kathryn have hosted, and it's been very nice.  Still, I can't help wanting to read recipes for this special day.  I think about what I would serve, or what I can contribute.

This year, Gene and Kathryn are hosting and my contribution is stuffing.  I'd always been a "Pepperidge Farm" devotee when it comes to stuffing.  We grew up enjoying it.  I'm going to make it my own this year by adding a few traditional ingredients, including chicken stock, sauteed onions and celery, and also some plumped-up dried cranberries.  I thought about adding walnuts, but there are a lot of people coming to dinner, and nuts are an "iffy" thing when you're serving a crowd.  So, yep, I cheat a little bit - no stale, cubed bread, no giblets, no Bell's seasoning -- and the results will be as good or better than any totally from-scratch recipe.  Pepperidge Farm makes a great stuffing, seasoned perfectly,  a success every time.  I can't wait for left-overs to make my Thanksgiving sandwich:  layers of sliced turkey breast, stuffing, lettuce, and cranberry mayo between two slices of whole wheat bread.  YUM!

One of the very best short-cuts is a recipe given to me by Jody Shepson, two Thanksgivings ago.  It's a recipe for make-ahead gravy and I wrote about it in 2009.  If you really want one thing that's going to cut down on stress and make your Thanksgiving day, this one is it:  Click here for the link to fool-proof Make Ahead Gravy...

If you want to get your mashed potatoes out of the way ahead of time (or if you're bringing them to someone else's house), try making Mashed Potato Casserole (link here) - it's from Cook's Country and Katie and I made it last year.  It's great, and easily portable!

Another short-cut I allow myself at holiday time is using Pillsbury Pie Crusts - an incredible time and mess saver.  They're great, too.  So if the thought of mixing pie crust dough, chilling it, rolling it out, and getting it to fit the pie plate and stay in one piece is freaking you out, then buy a couple boxes of Pillsbury's pie crust.  It's great and you won't be sorry.  I usually make a couple of easy pies for Thanksgiving, too.  One is pumpkin, the other chocolate cream.  My pumpkin pie recipe is a short-cut as well.  I buy Libby's Pumpkin Pie Mix, a can of pumpkin already spiced with the perfect amount of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves.  All you add is evaporated milk and eggs, mix gently, and pour into a pie crust, and bake.  Simple as can be, and when served with real whipped cream -- heavenly!

For my chocolate cream pie, (my family's traditional favorite) I use cooked chocolate pudding - 2 boxes makes one nice pie.  I pre-bake a Pillsbury pie crust or you can buy an Oreo crust ready to go.  Pour the hot pudding in, cover it in Saran Wrap, chill, and top with whipped cream prior to serving.  Classic.

Try one or a few of these time-and-stress savers, and enjoy your Thanksgiving along with everyone else!

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