no avatar

Family Meals Matter: Thanksgiving made easier

Staff Report • Nov 18, 2013 at 11:46 AM



Thanksgiving, the family meal of all family meals, is nearly upon us. Many cooks spend hours planning, shopping and preparing what can arguably be the most important meal of the year. Stop the insanity! Thanksgiving doesn’t need to be so stressful or time consuming.

Now, unless you buy a rotisserie breast or have someone else prepare it, there’s no real way to get around the time involved in cooking a turkey. Turkey takes time.

However, to help family meal preparers everywhere, we’ve put together some of our favorite Thanksgiving favorites that can either be prepared ahead of time or require just 30 minutes of active preparation. These selections will ensure you’ll have all of the flavor with less of the fuss, leaving you more time to share with your family, which is really what Thanksgiving is all about.

Take the stress out of Thanksgiving this year with a menu of Maple Roasted Turkey, Green Bean Casserole and Cranberry Apple Dessert Risotto. Other Thanksgiving made easy recipes include Garlic Mashed Potatoes, Hashed Brussels Sprouts with Lemon Zest, Layered Broccoli Salad and Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie.




Total Preparation Time: more than 2 hours

Actual Cooking Time: more than 2 hours

Number of Servings: 8 (224 calories/serving)


— Turkey glaze

1/2 stick butter

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup

1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon coarsely ground pepper

Salt to taste

— Turkey marinade

1 cup fresh lemon juice

3/4 cup pure maple syrup

1/4 cup vegetable oil

6 medium shallots, thinly sliced

6 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

4 fresh thyme sprigs

fresh sage

lemon zest

2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

12 to 14 pound fresh turkey, neck removed

3 medium onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

3 medium celery ribs, cut into 1/2 inch pieces


— To make glaze:

In a food processor, combine the butter, maple syrup, lemon juice, the lemon zest, pepper and salt. Process until well blended and transfer to a bowl (the maple glaze can be made in advance and refrigerated, bring to room temperature before using).

Marinate the turkey for 24 hours before cooking.

— To marinate:

1. Combine the lemon juice, maple syrup, oil, shallots, garlic, thyme, sage leaves, lemon zest, and pepper in a small bowl and mix well.

2. Place the turkey in a large sturdy 2-gallon plastic bag. Pour the marinade over the turkey and squeeze out as much air as possible and seal the bag. Distribute the marinade evenly over and inside the turkey. Set the turkey breast side down in the refrigerator and marinate for 24 hours, turning occasionally.

3. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Position the rack near the bottom of the oven.

4. With a spoon wipe off the shallots and garlic from the turkey. Strain the marinade into a bowl and set the herbs, garlic and shallots aside separately.

5. Using your fingers, carefully loosen the turkey skin over the breast and thighs. Rub all but 3 tablespoons of the softened maple glaze under the breast and thigh skin, patting gently to spread the glaze.

6. Put one third each of the diced onions and celery in the cavity. Tie the legs together with kitchen string and set the turkey, breast side up, on a rack in a large roasting pan.

7. Brush the breast and thigh with the remaining maple glaze and roast for 30 minutes, basting twice. The skin may appear dark in patches because the maple syrup in the marinade caramelizes as the turkey cooks; cover the turkey loosely with foil to keep the skin from burning.

8. Lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Spread the remaining onions and celery around the turkey and continue to roast for 1-2½ hours longer or until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thickest part of the breast just above the joint reaches 165 degrees and the juices run clear.

9. During the last 30 minutes, add the reserve shallots, garlic, and herbs to the pan, remove the foil from the turkey and brush twice with the maple glaze.

10. Transfer the turkey to a carving board. Remove the whole legs from the turkey, cutting them off at the hip. Cut the wings from the breast.

11. Return the legs and wings to the pan and roast for about 30 minutes longer until an instant read thermometer reaches 180 degrees and the juices run clear. Meanwhile cover the breast with foil.



Total Preparation Time: less than 15 minutes

Actual Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Number of Servings: 6 (212 calories/serving)

This healthy revision of green bean casserole skips the canned soup and all the fat and sodium that come with it. Our white sauce with sliced fresh mushrooms, sweet onions and low-fat milk makes a creamy, rich casserole.


3 tablespoons canola oil, divided

1 medium sweet onion, (half diced, half thinly sliced), divided

8 ounces mushrooms, chopped

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

2/3 cup all-purpose flour, divided

1 cup low-fat milk

3 tablespoons dry sherry, (see cook's notes)

1 pound frozen French-cut green beans, (about 4 cups)

1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream

3 tablespoons buttermilk powder, (see cook's notes)

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Coat a 2 1/2-quart baking dish with cooking spray.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and cook, stirring often, until softened and slightly translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, onion powder, 1 teaspoon salt, thyme and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the mushroom juices are almost evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Sprinkle 1/3 cup flour over the vegetables; stir to coat. Add milk and sherry and bring to a simmer, stirring often. Stir in green beans and return to a simmer. Cook, stirring, until heated through, about 1 minute. Stir in sour cream and buttermilk powder. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

3. Whisk the remaining 1/3 cup flour, paprika, garlic powder and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt in a shallow dish. Add sliced onion; toss to coat. Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion along with any remaining flour mixture and cook, turning once or twice, until golden and crispy, 4 to 5 minutes. Spread the onion topping over the casserole.

4. Bake the casserole until bubbling, about 15 minutes. Let cool for 5 minutes before serving.

Cook's Notes:

— Don't use the high-sodium “cooking sherry” sold in many supermarkets. Instead, purchase dry sherry sold with other fortified wines.

— Look for buttermilk powder, such as Saco Buttermilk Blend, in the baking section or with the powdered milk in most supermarkets.



Total Preparation Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Actual Cooking Time: 15 to 30 minutes

Number of Servings: 4 (336 calories/serving)

Risotto has become the hottest item on Italian menus, but this unique recipe is a dessert risotto, replacing the usual stock and wine with milk and fruit juice. If you like rice pudding, you'll love this!


1/2 cup dried cranberries

3 1/2 cups fat-free skim or 1% low-fat milk

1 cinnamon stick

1 pinch salt

1 tablespoon butter

1 large golden delicious apple, peeled, cored and finely diced (1 1/2 cups)

1/2 cup Arborio rice

1 1/2 cups apple cider

2 tablespoons packed light brown sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla


1. In a small bowl, cover dried cranberries with boiling water. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes to plump.

2. Heat milk, cinnamon stick and salt on the stovetop or in microwave until steaming hot, but not boiling. Remove from the heat, cover and set aside to steep.

3. In a heavy, deep sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat butter over medium heat. Add apple and cook, stirring frequently, until tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring constantly, 30 seconds. Add 3/4 cup apple cider and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the remaining 3/4 cup of the apple cider and cook, stirring, until most of the liquid has evaporated. Add sugar and mix well.

4. Add 1/2 cup of the warm milk and the cinnamon stick to the rice mixture and cook, stirring frequently, until almost all of it has been absorbed, 2 to 3 minutes. Continue cooking and stirring, adding remaining milk, 1/2 cup at a time, until the rice is tender and the risotto has a creamy consistency. Total cooking time will be about 20 minutes. 5. Remove from the heat and discard cinnamon stick.

6. Drain cranberries and stir into risotto, along with vanilla. Let cool for at least 10 minutes before serving warm.

Cook's Notes:

— Plump up the cranberries ahead of time for a quicker preparation.












Recommended for You

    Johnson City Press Videos