Cooks Exchange

Thanksgiving is Thursday. Here is what you should be doing now to prep for the big feast

Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake served with Cool Whip on top is a great menu addition for your Thanksgiving spread.
Pumpkin Gooey Butter Cake served with Cool Whip on top is a great menu addition for your Thanksgiving spread. TNS

T-Day is Thursday, and are all preparations on schedule?

Today is the day for preparing reheatable side dishes, covering them and putting in the fridge for heating tomorrow morning.

Who is the sous chef for all the veggie prep and dressing ingredients? If you are it, not to worry. Chopping onions, celery and green onions for stuffing and cutting or trimming fresh vegetables can be stress-relievers.

Another plus, most supermarkets have the “trinity” chopped and ready to use in the produce department. It is not too expensive and a great time-saver.

If you followed the Thanksgiving timetable, be sure to take premade pies, rolls or bread or bread cubes for dressing out of the freezer. The pies can be baked today, the rolls or bread defrosted and put in the refrigerator, and the already toasted bread cubes left to thaw for the dressing.

Don’t stress if you didn’t freeze bread cubes for the dressing. Cut up the bread into pieces now and let sit out overnight. Dressing can be mixed and done Thanksgiving morning. Also for those doing cornbread dressing, today is the day to bake the large pan of cornbread.

I also like to make an old-fashioned creamy fruit salad that uses canned fruit, fresh apples and bananas. I mix all ingredients except the apples and bananas today, cover and stash in the fridge.

Tomorrow right before lunch, I will add the apples and bananas. Be sure to squeeze lemon juice over the apples and bananas so they do not turn brown.

Make sure to check pantry and fridge for all needed items, including beverages.

One year I was making gumbo and forgot the okra. I drove all over the Coast for that okra. It wasn’t funny; it was stressful.

I also prefer to make a pumpkin gooey butter cake or a cream cheese-pumpkin layered pie than the familiar pumpkin pie. These are both easy to do.

Another favorite side is a corn casserole. I make one that is made with three cheeses and easy. I will make it today and bake it tomorrow.

On Thanksgiving, get up early and preheat your oven to roast the turkey or main event. Put your wine or beer in the fridge to chill. While the turkey roasts, prepare your other side dishes since they can stand at room temperature for an hour or keep in the fridge. When the turkey is done, let it rest while you make the gravy, reheat side dishes and prep salads.

This may be sacrilegious to some, but I do not like giblet gravy. I like the gravy and the boiled eggs in it, but I can skip the giblets and liver. I do like to use the broth from the cooked turkey to make the gravy, especially if I have cooked the turkey in butter, seasonings and white wine. That combo makes a good gravy. I wait until after the turkey is out of the oven and resting before I start the gravy. Making the gravy and heating or reheating the rolls is the last foods I prepare before sitting down to dinner.

If wine is to be part of the meal, don’t forget to put it in the fridge today to chill.

Well, you are on your own now. I hope these guides have helped, but now the rest is up to you. Have a blessed Thanksgiving.

Andrea Yeager can be reached at ayeager51@cableone.net and Cooks Exchange, P.O. Box 4567, Biloxi, MS 39535-4567.

OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD ORANGE CREAM FRUIT SALAD

1 (20-ounce) can pineapple chunks, drained

1 (16-ounce) can sliced peaches, drained

1 (11-ounce) can Mandarin oranges, drained

2 apples, peeled, chopped

3 bananas, sliced

1 4-punce package vanilla instant pudding mix

1 1/2 cups milk

1/3 cup thawed frozen orange juice concentrate

3/4 cup sour cream

Lettuce cups

Mandarin oranges for garnish

Combine pineapple, peaches, Mandarin oranges, apples and bananas in large bowl. Combine pudding mix, milk and orange juice concentrate in mixer bowl. Beat at high speed for 1 to 2 minutes. Add sour cream, beat well. Pour over fruit mixture. Chill, covered, in refrigerator. Serve in lettuce cups. Garnish with additional orange segments. Yield: 10 servings.

Note: If making a day ahead, do not add bananas and apples until just before serving. About 45 minutes before serving, prepare the apples and bananas. Let stand in lemon juice until adding to the cream salad.

CHEESY CORN CASSEROLE

4 slices bacon, finely chopped

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, cubed

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

½ cup flour

3 cups milk

4 ounces cream cheese, cubed

2 ounces Velveeta, cubed

2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

3 pounds fresh or frozen corn kernels

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat oven to 375 degrees. Heat bacon in a 6-quart saucepan over medium heat and cook, stirring, until browned, about 8 minutes. Add butter and garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add flour, and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Whisk in milk, and bring to a boil; cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 2 minutes. Add cream cheese, Velveeta, Cheddar and paprika and cook until smooth. Remove from heat and stir in corn; season with salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to a 9-by-13-inch baking dish; and bake until top is golden brown and bubbling, about 40 minutes. Let rest before serving.

Note: Casserole can be refrigerated after adding salt and pepper. Cover tightly. When Thanksgiving arrives, preheat oven and pop casserole into the oven.

From Saveur magazine, 2011

PUMPKIN GOOEY BUTTER CAKE

Cake:

1 regular-size package yellow cake mix

1 egg

8 tablespoons butter, melted

Filling:

1 (8-ounce) cream cheese softened

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin puree, not filling mix

3 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

8 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon nutmeg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the cake mix, egg and butter and mix well with an electric mixer. Pat the mixture into the bottom of a lightly greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

To make the filling: In a large bowl, beat the cream cheese and pumpkin until smooth. Add the eggs, vanilla and butter and beat together. Next, add the powdered sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and mix well. Spread pumpkin mixture over cake batter and bake for 40-59 minutes, depending on how hot your oven gets. Make sure not to overbake as the center should be a little gooey.

Serve with fresh whipped cream or Cool Whip.

Recipe by Paula Deen

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