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Don’t panic! You still have 22 days to prepare for Thanksgiving

Pumpkin Pie with stresuel topping is a great Thanksgiving dessert.
Pumpkin Pie with stresuel topping is a great Thanksgiving dessert. TNS

The countdown has begun: 22 days until Thanksgiving.

Now is not the time to panic; it is the time to plan. Decide what the family is doing for Thanksgiving. Is a trip planned or is it time to kick back with the parades and have an easy meal at home? Perhaps the whole family — grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins — is coming for dinner.

Deciding on plans now whittles away stress.

OK, so plans are made, and you are hosting. Make a menu, then start making a list and checking and double-checking it.

Keep the list at hand and a cooking schedule so each part of the meal will be started on time. Remember most side dishes and pies can be done ahead of time, not Thanksgiving week.

If you are a traditionalist, the menu is easy: turkey, dressing, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes or mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, rolls and pumpkin pie.

For more adventurous home cooks, try updating the sweet potato and green bean casseroles. Search cookbooks or the Internet for some new ideas. When you find your new choices, try them out on the family before serving at Thanksgiving.

Making the new recipes ahead of time gives the cook time to adjust the flavors or ditch that dish and find something else. Do not make a new recipe for Thanksgiving that you have not made before, although I confess I have done that.

My late husband and I enjoyed finding new side dishes for Thanksgiving and Christmas. We once made a cranberry salsa that was great, but, except for my mother, no one else liked it.

Brussels sprouts were one of our favorites, and we did them several different ways that we loved. The rest of the family, not so much.

Think outside the box, but not too far out where guests will not enjoy the meal.

Soup is a great first course, and I recommend a butternut squash or pumpkin soup. These are rich-tasting soups that are gluten-free, but remember to serve just a cup, a bowl is too much with the rest of the meal.

A friend of mine since we were babies in the church nursery was raving about Panera Bread’s broccoli soup. She ate it for lunch and then made her own version for the next family dinner. On my way home, I stopped at Panera Bread in Covington, Louisiana. The autumn squash soup called my name.

It was so good that I was tempted to swab the bowl with the French baguette. I didn’t, but I wanted to. I found a copycat version on the Internet that is close. Again, this is a good starter for Thanksgiving.

For a good pumpkin pie, the recipe on Libby’s canned pumpkin is the ticket. That recipe is time-tested and been served on Thanksgiving tables for years.

At a Texas barbecue last weekend, the hostess served a pumpkin pie with a crumb topping of cinnamon, nutmeg, oats, pecans, butter and sugar. Was that ever good. Take Libby’s pie recipe, bake it until almost done, add the crumb topping and bake until topping has browned. This is a different twist on an old favorite.

Today, I thought I would share some recipes that might help jumpstart Thanksgiving meal planning. Remember, test these out before Turkey Day; they may not be to your liking.

LIBBY’S FAMOUS PUMPKIN PIE

3/4 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

2 large eggs

1 (15 ounce) can Libby’s 100 percent Pure Pumpkin

1 (12 ounce) can Nestle’s Carnation Evaporated Milk

1 unbaked 9-inch (4-cup volume) deep-dish pie shell

Whipped cream, optional

Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sugar-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk

Pour into pie shell.

Bake in preheated 425-degree oven for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 40-50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate. Top with whipped cream before serving.

Nestle’s Very Best Baking

STREUSEL TOPPING

1/2 cup quick-cooking oats

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup butter or margarine, softened

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Mix together and crumble on pie during the last 10 minutes of baking for the pie. Return to oven for last 10 minutes or until knife comes out clean.

COPYCAT RECIPE OF PANERA BREAD’S

AUTUMN SQUASH SOUP

1 extra-large butternut squash

2-3 tablespoons extra virgin coconut oil

Salt and pepper to taste

1 (15-ounce) can Libby’s 100 percent Pure Pumpkin

1 1/2 cups apple juice

1 1/2 cup vegetable broth

1 1/2 cups half ‘n’ half

1 1/2 tablespoons honey

1/4 teaspoon curry powder

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 teaspoons sea salt or kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Roasted pumpkin seeds for garnish

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Peel squash. Remove seeds and cut into chunks. Place in baking dish or on cookie sheet and drizzle with oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper.

Bake at 450 degrees for 25-30 minutes or until fork tender.

Mash squash with a potato masher and place in a large stock pot.

Add pumpkin, apple juice, half ‘n’ half and vegetable broth. Puree ingredients with an immersion blender until well mixed.

Add honey, curry, cinnamon, salt and pepper and heat through about 10-15 minutes at a low simmer.

To serve, garnish bowls of soup with roasted pumpkin seeds.

Note: Adjust the apple juice, vegetable broth and half ‘n’ half according to how large your butternut squash is. If the squash is smaller, decrease liquids. If it’s a whopper you may have to increase this amount.

Recipe adapted from Panera Bread by www.cantstayoutofthekitchen.com/

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