Originally created 11/17/99

Thankful feast



Thanksgiving was my favorite holiday when I was a child. Sure, Christmas had presents, but Thanksgiving meant waking up to the smell of sauteed onions and celery and a roasting turkey. We'd bake at least four pumpkin pies the night before Thanksgiving. And I'll admit that we ate pumpkin pie for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning.

There was always a crowd around our Thanksgiving table. My mother is big on family holidays, and she can't stand the thought of anyone eating alone or in a restaurant on one of these special days. This meant that there were always adopted "kin" at our Thanksgiving meal. College students from church who couldn't go home for one reason or another, a new family from the neighborhood, anyone without a family to celebrate with would be invited.

Every family has favorite traditions, as well as favorite recipes for the Thanksgiving menu. Today I'll share some recipes from my family and friends for simple holiday dishes. Maybe you can make them a part of your Thanksgiving tradition.

If preparing a turkey is intimidating to you, or if you are cooking for a small group, try today's recipe for roasting a frozen turkey breast. That's right, a frozen turkey breast goes into the oven in a roasting pan along with some celery, onion and chicken broth. Four hours later, you'll have a perfectly cooked main dish, without much fuss.

Use the drippings from the turkey breast to create my friend Robin Merriman's turkey gravy, which couldn't be easier. She simply adds cans of condensed cream of mushroom soup and cream of celery soup to the drippings for a delicious gravy.

Dressing is ever-present on the Thanksgiving table, and most families have a favorite version. My next door neighbor, Barbara Mysona, loves her mother-in-law's sausage dressing. Ann Mysona, who lives in Cleveland, browns mild pork sausage along with onion and celery, then combines them with croutons, milk and cream of mushroom soup. She usually bakes the dressing in the turkey, but if you're preparing a turkey breast, it can be baked in a separate casserole dish.

Both the gravy and the dressing call for condensed soups, which are high in sodium. I routinely use the Healthy Request soups by Campbell's because they contain less salt and less fat. If you are on a sodium-restricted diet, you also may substitute herb-seasoned croutons for the Pepperidge Farm cubed herb stuffing mix called for. You can find the croutons alongside the salad dressings at your supermarket.

Sweet potatoes also are a cornerstone of the holiday, and I've included an easy, make-ahead recipe for mashed sweet potatoes flavored with orange juice, ground cinnamon and maple syrup. Canned sweet potatoes are drained and mashed with the orange juice and other ingredients, then are placed in a greased casserole dish. Then they're heated in the oven for 30 minutes while you carve the turkey.

In last year's Thanksgiving spread, I included a recipe for homemade cranberry sauce. The recipe was very popular, so I'm including it again. Try making your own cranberry sauce once and you'll never go back to canned!

Round out your menu with some green beans, rolls and mashed potatoes if you like, and you'll have a memorable meal. Making a homemade pumpkin pie couldn't be easier with ready-made pie crusts and canned pumpkin. My mother always used the recipe on the back of the Libby's pumpkin can, and it is my favorite.

Roasted frozen turkey breast with Robin Merriman's gravy

1 6- to 7-pound frozen turkey breast, unthawed
Salt and black pepper
3 ribs celery, coarsely chopped
1 small onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 14.5-ounce can low-sodium chicken broth
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 can condensed cream of celery soup

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place turkey on rack in a shallow roasting pan. Season with salt and pepper. Place celery and onion around turkey breast and pour in 1 cup of the chicken broth. Bake, uncovered for 1 hour.

Reduce heat to 250 degrees and bake about 3 more hours, basting with additional chicken broth if the pan gets dry. The turkey breast is done when the internal temperature is 160 degrees when read with an instant-read thermometer.

Remove turkey to a carving board and deglaze pan with any remaining drippings. Strain drippings into a saucepan and discard vegetables. Bring drippings to a simmer, stir in condensed soups and heat through. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Makes 8 servings and approximately 3 1/2 cups gravy.

Ann's best sausage dressing

1 pound mild pork sausage
1 small onion, chopped*
2 ribs celery, chopped*
1 bag cubed, herb-seasoned stuffing mix or 7 cups herb-seasoned croutons
1/2 cup milk
1 can condensed cream of mushroom soup
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt, or to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Brown sausage in a large skillet with onion and celery. When sausage is cooked, drain mixture and return to skillet. Stir in 3 cups stuffing cubes and saute 5 minutes over medium heat.

Heat the milk and condensed soup in a small saucepan. Do not boil. Stir until smooth. Combine with remaining stuffing cubes in a large bowl and mix well. Add sausage mixture, parsley and salt and mix again.

Spread dressing in a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and return to oven for 5 minutes.

Makes 8 to 10 servings.

* One cup frozen Seasoning Blend can be substituted for the chopped onion and celery. Seasoning blend can be found in the freezer section with the frozen vegetables.

Maple orange sweet potatoes

1 40-ounce can sweet potatoes in syrup, drained
1/4 cup orange juice
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon whipping cream, half and half or milk
2 tablespoons maple syrup Pinch nutmeg Salt to taste

Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large bowl, mash sweet potatoes with other ingredients. Taste and add a dash of salt if needed. Place in a baking dish that has been sprayed with nonstick spray. Bake for 30 minutes, or until potatoes are heated through, stirring twice during cooking time.

Makes 6 servings.

Cinnamon Pecan Cranberry Sauce

1 pound fresh cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup orange juice
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Combine all ingredients except pecans in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until thickened, about 20 minutes. Stir in pecans. Place in an airtight container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Can be made ahead.

Makes 2 cups.

Coming Thursday

Whether you're doing the cooking or eating out on Thanksgiving, you'll want to check out our guide to the cost of Thanksgiving dinner. We compare prices for doing it all yourself, buying a prepared meal from the grocery store or eating the buffet at a restaurant.

Karin Calloway is a Web chef for Viking Range Corp. (www.vikingrange.com) and a member of the International Association of Culinary Professionals. You can write her in care of Newsroom, The Augusta Chronicle, P.O. Box 1928, Augusta, GA 30913. Or send e-mail to karingca@aol.com.