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Cooks' Exchange: Adjust Thanksgiving dinner to feed fewer mouths

Cooks' Exchange: Adjust Thanksgiving dinner to feed fewer mouths


Understanding that many changes take place through the years, memories of celebrating Thanksgiving suddenly send me searching through countless holiday cookbooks to adapt to the present.

Being assured that new ideas and recipes are necessary at times due to life’s many unexpected corridors, the essence of change allows us to celebrate in our own way.

Instead of preparing Thanksgiving for 18 family members, we might need to readjust by preparing a meal to serve two, four, six or 12 while hoping for a few leftovers to enjoy reheating … as we always did in the past.

Roast Turkey Breast with Rosemary-Mustard Butter

Here is a bone-in turkey breast recipe from Williams-Sonoma Thanksgiving Feast cookbook described as being the “perfect star” of the Thanksgiving table for a small group.

1 whole turkey breast with bone, 4 lb.

¼ cup butter, at room temperature

1½ tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1½ teaspoons dried rosemary

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Salt and freshly ground pepper

For The Gravy

½ cup dry vermouth

3 tablespoons butter

2 shallots, chopped

1½ teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or ½ teaspoon dried rosemary

3 tablespoons all-purpose (plain) flour

2 cups turkey stock

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. To prepare turkey breast, rinse and dry with paper towels. Place on a rack in a large roasting pan. In a small bowl, mix together the butter, rosemary and mustard. Spread evenly over entire turkey breast. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast, basting every 20 minutes with pan drippings until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast away from the bone registers 170 F, about 1¾ hours. Transfer to a platter, cover loosely with aluminum foil and let stand for 20 minutes.

To make gravy, pour off the drippings from the roasting pan and discard. Add vermouth to the pan and place on the stove top over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Boil until reduced to 1 tablespoon, about 2 minutes. Remove from heat. In a saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add shallots and rosemary and sauté until shallots are tender, about 3 minutes. Add flour and cook, stirring frequently, until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Gradually whisk in the stock and the reduced vermouth. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Boil, stirring occasionally until reduced to a sauce consistency, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

If desired, carve at the table and serve with gravy made with the stock, or bottle/can the turkey gravy.

Serves 4-6.

Swiss Turkey-Ham Bake

If you happen to have leftover turkey and ham from your Thanksgiving meal, consider enjoying a great casserole any time of the year.

½ cup chopped onion

2 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

½ teaspoon salt

¼ teaspoon pepper

3-ounce can sliced mushrooms, about ²⁄³ cup

1 cup light cream

2 tablespoons dry sherry

2 cups cubed cooked turkey

1 cup cubed cooked ham

5-ounce can water chestnuts, drained and sliced (²⁄³ cup)

½ cup shredded Swiss cheese

1½ cups soft bread crumbs

3 tablespoons butter, melted

Cook onion in the 2 tablespoons butter until onion is tender, but not brown. Blend in flour, salt and pepper. Add undrained mushrooms, cream and sherry; cook and stir until thickened. Add turkey, ham and water chestnuts. Pour into 1½ quart casserole dish; top with cheese. Mix crumbs and melted butter; sprinkle around edge of casserole. Bake in hot oven (400 F) 25 minutes until lightly browned.

Serves 6.

Apricot-Glazed Chicken

Moving on to another setting at the table, here is the 1991 National Chicken Cooking Contest winning recipe.

8 (4-ounce) boneless, skinless chicken breasts

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

½ teaspoon lemon pepper

2 tablespoons lemon juice

10 dried apricots

¾ cup fresh orange juice

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place chicken breasts in a flat baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil, garlic, lemon pepper and lemon juice. Brush onto all surfaces of the chicken and bake in the preheated oven for 30 minutes. While chicken is cooking, combine apricots and orange juice in a medium saucepan. Raise to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15 minutes, or until apricots are tender. Stir in mustard, brown sugar and ginger. Simmer 2 more minutes, then place in a food processor or blender and purée. Coat chicken with the apricot sauce and continue to bake until chicken is fork tender and cooked through, about 30 minutes. Run the chicken under the broiler to brown, then place on a serving dish, garnish with apricot halves and serve immediately.

Serves 8.

Green Bean Casserole

This longtime favorite “holiday magic” can be made in minutes.

2 cans (10 ounces each) Campbell’s Cream of Mushroom Soup (Regular or 98% Fat Free)

1 cup milk

2 teaspoons soy sauce

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

8 cups cooked cut green beans

6-ounce can French’s French Fried Onions, (2²⁄³ cups)

Stir soup, milk, soy sauce, pepper and beans and 1²⁄³ cups onions in 3-quart casserole. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes or until hot. Stir, then top with remaining onions and bake for 5 minutes more.

Optional: Toast ½ cup sliced almonds and add with remaining onions. Also, consider cooking 4 slices bacon until crisp, then crumble and add to green bean mixture.

Serves 12.

Maple Pumpkin Muffins

The Four Sisters Inn in California suggests serving these all year long, not just in the fall and especially perfect for Thanksgiving Day.

1¾ cups white flour

¼ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sugar

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ginger

3 teaspoons cinnamon

½ cup finely chopped pecans

2 eggs

½ cup oil

1 cup canned pumpkin

¹⁄³ cup water

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour, baking powder, baking soda, sugar, salt, spices and nuts. In another bowl, beat together eggs, oil, pumpkin, water and maple syrup. Add wet ingredients to dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Spoon into greased muffin tins, ¾ full. Bake for 25-30 minutes.

Yield: 1 dozen.

Pumpkin Crisp Pie

Found in the Junior League of Madison’s 2004 Mad About Food collection of favorite recipes, here is a new touch to a Thanksgiving dessert that will serve eight with even more smiles.

2 eggs

15-ounce can pumpkin

14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground ginger

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon ground cloves

½ teaspoon salt

2 egg whites

9-inch unbaked pie shell

2 tablespoons flour

¼ cup packed brown sugar

1½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons butter, chilled

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Using two small bowls, separate egg yolks from whites. Set aside.

In large bowl, mix pumpkin, sweetened condensed milk and egg yolks. Stir in cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and salt. In a large glass or metal bowl, whip egg whites until soft peaks form. Gently fold into pumpkin mixture with a rubber spatula. Pour filling pie shell. Bake 15 minutes.

Streusel topping

In a small bowl, combine flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Cut in cold butter with a fork until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Mix in chopped nuts. Remove pie from oven and reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees. Sprinkle topping over pie, return to oven and bake an additional 40 minutes until set.

Serves 8.

Easy Canned Fruit Cobbler for Two

Here is a simple dessert from Southern Living Cooking for Two to enjoy any time of the year.

1½ teaspoons cornstarch

1 tablespoon water

1 8-ounce can of sliced and undrained peaches or apricots or cherries or apples.

½ cup biscuit mix

2 teaspoons sugar

2 tablespoons milk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Dissolve cornstarch in cold water. Add canned fruit of choice and cook over medium heat about 5 minutes or until thick and bubbly. Pour into a 1-quart baking dish. Combine biscuit mix and sugar; add milk and vegetable oil, stirring to form a soft dough. Drop dough by spoonsful on top of fruit choice. Bake at 400 degrees for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Nice served warm topped with ice cream or whipped cream.

Contact the Cooks’ Exchange in care of the Wisconsin State Journal, P.O. Box 8058, Madison, WI, 53708 or by email at

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