Cook’s Exchange gives its top picks for Turkey Day tables

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Thanksgiving meals change over the years. They range from huge traditional family meals to smaller ones or restaurant meals.

As a child, I remember my grandmother and my great-grandmother cooking for several days to prepare for Turkey Day. One day they were making pies or cornbread for dressing, frozen salads came next and then the day before they were making dressing, sweet potatoes and, of course, turkey.

Since today is four days before Thanksgiving, home cooks will want to put the frozen bird in the refrigerator to begin defrosting. No one wants a glazed turkey for Thanksgiving, plan on a thawing day for every 4 pounds of turkey. Remember to keep the turkey in its original packaging and place it on a baking sheet in the refrigerator. There is still time to thaw a 12 to 16 pound turkey.

Now that the turkey is thawing, start planning what sides, salads, and desserts to serve with.

As for the sides, some are just needed for me. Cornbread, not bread, dressing is a must, as is a low sugar sweet potato casserole, a frozen salad, or a fruit and veg dish. Of course my granddaughter must have mac and cheese.

This year is decidedly different for my family: for the first time in 26 years my daughter will not be there, sad for me, but exciting for her. My granddaughter and I will be joining church friends for Thanksgiving, which means I have to whip up a side or dessert or two instead of the whole meal.

Today is our church’s Thanksgiving meal. Again, I make nostalgic favorites. I like to use old recipes for the holidays because they are rarely used today. Everything old is new again. I make a low sugar blueberry gelatin salad that my late mother-in-law made for Thanksgiving or Christmas. It’s incredibly easy and delicious, only requires 15 minutes to make. My pastor, like me, has diabetes, so I always make something sweet that we can enjoy as well.

Another casserole that dates back to the 1950s is a mixed vegetable casserole that uses either frozen mixed vegetables or cans of mixed vegetables with a can of whole kernel corn. It’s an old-fashioned dish with its use of creamy chicken soup, white cheddar cheese, and Ritz crackers. Instead of the “One Man, One Can, One Plan” cookbook, it’s a woman, cans and a plan. Preparation time only takes 15 minutes, another plus.

For dessert, I make a German chocolate cake that I haven’t made in about seven years. I was flipping through my cookbooks and saw a picture of the cake and decided to do it. This one is easy too. It takes 30 minutes of cooking and 30 minutes of cooling.

Today, here are my three takeout choices for two Thanksgiving meals, one today and one Thursday. Enjoy!

Blueberry gelatin salad

2 packets of unsweetened cherry gelatin (3 ounces each)

2 cups of boiling water

1 can (15 ounces) blueberries, drained or 1 quart of fresh blueberries

1 pkg. (8 ounces) cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup sugar substitute (I like Splenda, others prefer stevia)

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

1 cup sour cream

1/4 cup chopped pecans

In a large bowl, dissolve the gelatin in the boiling water, stir in the blueberries. Pour into an 11 x 7 inch dish, refrigerate until set.

In large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add vanilla and sour cream; mix well. Spread on the gelatin layer, sprinkle with pecans. Refrigerate for several hours or overnight. – By Yvonne Yeager and me

Mixed vegetable casserole

2 (15 ounces) canned mixed vegetables, drained

1 can (15 ounces) whole kernel corn

1 small onion, diced

1 can (10.75 ounces) cream of chicken soup

1 cup of mayonnaise

1 cup grated white cheddar cheese

36 round butter crackers (Ritz), crushed

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, combine the mixed vegetables, corn, onion, soup, mayonnaise and cheese. Mix well and spread the mixture in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Top with cracker crumbs.

Bake for about 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbling. – From www.Allrecipes.com/

German chocolate cake

4 ounces of German sweet chocolate, chopped

1/2 cup water

1 cup butter, softened

2 cups of sugar

4 large eggs, separated, room temperature

1 teaspoon of vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups cake flour

1 teaspoon of baking soda

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 cup of buttermilk

Icing:

1 1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups evaporated milk

3/4 cup butter

5 large egg yolks, at room temperature, beaten

2 cups sweetened grated coconut

1 1/2 cups chopped pecans

1 1/2 teaspoons of vanilla extract

Icing:

1 teaspoon of shortening

2 ounces of semi-sweet chocolate

Line 3 greased 9-inch round pans with waxed paper. Grease waxed paper and set aside. In a small saucepan, melt the German chocolate with water over low heat; costs.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In large bowl, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in 4 egg yolks, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Stir in the melted chocolate and vanilla. Combine flour, baking soda and salt; add to creamy mixture alternating with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl and with clean whisks, beat the 4 egg whites until stiff peaks form. Stir a quarter of the egg whites into the cream mixture, stir in the remaining whites.

Pour the batter into the prepared molds. Bake 24 to 28 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Let cool 10 minutes before removing mussels to wire racks to cool completely.

For the frosting, in a small saucepan, heat the sugar, milk, butter and egg yolks over medium-low heat until the mixture thickens and is golden, stirring constantly. Remove from fire. Stir in the coconut, pecans and vanilla extract. Cool until thick enough to spread. Spread a third of the baking frosting on each layer of cake and stack the layers.

In microwave, melt chocolate and shortening; stir until smooth. Drizzle the cake. – From Taste of Home magazine

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