Thursday , 21 June 2018

Carrie Brazeal: Last-Minute Menu Ideas for Thanksgiving

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is Thursday? Are you ready? I’m not but I will be by Thursday morning. Sometimes we get so involved in all the preparations that we forget that Thanksgiving is just that…being thankful for family and friends and enjoying their company on this special day. Elaine Magee, MPH, RD with WebMD, suggest that if you’re in a time crunch, decide on those dishes you want to make yourself and which ones you can purchase at your local grocery store and then add a few ingredients to make it your own.

Here are some of her (and my) ideas:

*To jazz up frozen or boxed mashed potatoes, add fat free sour cream and fresh chopped chives. You can also stir in some reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese or roasted garlic and chopped parsley.

brazeal_carrieedited*To make boxed or packaged stuffing your own, sauté onion, finely chopped celery, minced garlic and finely grated carrots in a little butter or margarine. Add the seasoning packet and the amount of water called for in the directions and bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in bread cubes, cover and let stand 5 minutes. Consider using the new low-sodium stuffing variety. With the added ingredients, you won’t miss the sodium.

*Instead of plain green beans, add one of these to a bag of frozen beans:

-a sprinkle of one of the salt-free herb blends

-a little shredded Parmesan cheese

-toasted slivered or sliced almonds

-a drizzle of olive oil or a pat of butter (just enough to give the beans a slight glaze)

-red pepper strips sautéed in cooking spray

-caramelized onions (thinly sliced onions sautéed in a nonstick skillet with a little canola or olive oil until golden brown)

*Instead of making pie crusts, buy refrigerated or frozen pie crusts and just add your favorite filling. Many grocery stores and delis have really good pies so you might want to purchase your favorite and then add light aerosol whipping cream and a few fun garnishes. Be sure to cut small pieces!

*Do you like cranberry sauce? It’s not one of my favorites but many people just wouldn’t think it would be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. If the plain canned sauce won’t work for your family, warm a can of whole cranberry sauce in the microwave for a few seconds to warm it and then whisk in some fresh orange zest and finely chopped orange and/or apple or a few tablespoons of less sugar raspberry preserves.

*If making homemade gravy isn’t on your timeline, consider using gravy packets or bottled gravy. I started using bottled gravy a few years ago since I just can’t make the small amount of  gravy that we needed…I always ended up with a large bowl. I now add some sautéed onion, garlic and diced mushrooms to a jar of gravy along with finely chopped turkey. If you don’t tell anyone, most will think you made it.

*Our family enjoys homemade rolls at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Both my daughter and I enjoy making rolls but sometimes we get into a time crunch, like the time that our standard recipe that makes 3 dozen rolls wouldn’t be enough (we were hosting my husband’s extended family for Thanksgiving). That’s when I found that frozen rolls are a great substitute. We used the frozen dough to complete the amount needed and guess what? No one could really tell the difference after they were baked since we made them in the same shape as the homemade one. To dress up heat and serve rolls, make a flavored butter using softened whipped butter or lower fat margarine with your favorite finely chopped herbs with bottled minced garlic or garlic powder.

*If you don’t have time to cook sweet potatoes, there are several really good recipes that start with canned sweet potatoes or yams. You might want to lighten your recipe by using fewer marshmallows, one of the sugar substitutes such as sucralose for half of the sugar or egg substitute for some of the eggs.

Happy Thanksgiving! Enjoy your time with your friends and family.

Carrie T. Brazeal is the County Extension Agent for Family and Consumer Sciences with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. She may be reached at or 972.424.1460, Ext. 4233.

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