Last-minute Thanksgiving dinner menu, meal planner, time table and recipes for holiday cooking

Arrgh!! Someone bailed and left you with the entire Thanksgiving dinner preparation two days before showtime! You could get drunk and cancel the holiday, or glitter bomb their car (yeah, definitely do that one) but the best plan is to use this last-minute holiday planner to pull off a Turkey Day extraordinaire. You'll find the Thanksgiving grocery shopping list, but budget tips to keep cost low, on my blog Shop Chat (grab paper plates, napkins, cups and plastic cutlery if desired).

Here's the timetable you need to follow to pull this off. You will seen ITMT in recipes. That indicates "in the mean time", meaning do this while the previous stage of cooking is happening). Preparing Thanksgiving dinner is all about multitasking.Oh and if anyone asks if they can bring something, LET THEM! And don't feel badly if you need to ask people to chip in. The entire dinner can cost $40-$50.

On T-day minus 2 (two days before Thanksgiving):

Thaw turkey in refrigerator.
Use up leftovers.
Clean out refrigerator.
Grocery shop--Aldi, Walmart, Dollar Tree and Save-a-Lot have best prices.
Use large blunt bread knife to cube loaf of bread for stuffing. Spread bread cubes in a single layer and cover loosely with towel. (Protect from pets and kids who for some reason love bread cubes.)

T-day minus 1 (one day ahead)

Bake frozen pies (Save boxes to store baked pie. They will keep for one day.)

ITMT start mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes. Set two large kettles, filled about two inches with water, to boil. You will add more water later but they will boil faster with less water. Wash white potatoes and sweet potatoes. Add sweet and white potatoes, jackets on, to each pan. Add about two more inches of water. Cover. Cook till tender: white potatoes cook about 20-30 minutes and sweet potatoes cook about 45 minutes.

ITMT rinse cranberries. Place in sauce pan with one cup of water and 1/2 to one cup of sugar (brown or white). Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes. Berries will begin to pop and whistle as they soften.

ITMT prepare Thanksgiving turkey giblets. Remove turkey from refrigerator and packaging from turkey. From chart on wrapping, calculate cooking time based on size of bird and when you plan to eat. Remove giblets bag from neck cavity and tail from tail cavity. Discard neck and liver and rinse giblets for stuffing. Simmer until tender.

ITMT prep Thanksgiving turkey. Rinse entire bird, including cavities to get any ice out. Pat turkey dry and spray with non-stick cooking spray or use butter if it's not basted already. Place bird in foil pan with lift out handles. Cover loosely with foil and return to refrigerator

ITMT start stuffing. In a large frying pan, melt 2 sticks of butter on low. Season with one teaspoon of sage, poultry seasoning, garlic, 1/2 black pepper and marjoram if you have it. Watch it as butter burns easily. ITMT pare and chop onion. Add to melted butter to saute. ITMT, wash, pare and chop celery. Add to onion and butter. Simmer until vegetables are tender.

ITMT drain and cool potatoes in cold water until you can handle them without getting burned. ITMT, start sweet potatoes sauce recipe. Melt 3 sticks of margarine and add one pound of brown sugar and one can orange juice. Blend and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until sauce is thickened.

ITMT continue Thanksgiving stuffing placing dried bread cubes in a large mixing bowl. Pour butter, onion and celery sauce over bread. Add chicken broth.Blend until butter and broth have soaked into bread. Place stuffing in baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Stuffing is best if it marinates. After you stuff the bird, you will have extra. Bake this separately in baking dish. Don't stuff bird till T-day.

ITMT remove skins from sweet potatoes. Arrange in disposable baking dish and set aside. Remove skins from white potatoes and place taties in large bowl and blend or mash until smooth. Return to cooking pan along with two sticks of butter, garlic, one cup of milk, salt and pepper. Optional: add sour cream, Parmesan and cheese if desires. Heat on low and blend all ingredients, stirring constantly. Pour into another disposable baking dish. Cool, cover and refrigerate.

ITMT pour orange brown sugar sauce over sweet potatoes. Cover and place in refrigerator on top of white potatoes. Pour cranberry sauce into baking dish. Cool, cover and refrigerate. Put feet up and have a glass of wine!

On Thanksgiving Day:

Chill beverages. Preheat oven 325. Remove turkey from pan and stuff neck and tail cavities. Replace in pan, cover loosely with foil and place in oven. Bake leftover stuffing separately in baking dish.

ITMT assemble green bean casserole. Rinse and drain green beans and place in baking dish. Add mushroom soup, stir and season with pepper. Top with French fried onions and bake about 30 minutes with turkey. Bake rolls or biscuits. Bake cold mashed white potatoes if you have room in oven, about one hour.

ITMT tidy kitchen, set table and in the last 30 minutes of baking turkey, remove foil and increase heat to 400 to brown. Remove other dishes, add sweet potatoes and bake for 30 minutes. Remove turkey from oven when timer pops up. Let turkey sit for 15 minutes before you cut. Open wine to breathe. Serve on good paper plates and use plastic tableware and cups to make Thanksgiving cleanup easier on you. Enjoy your labors and your family. Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin recipes: Pumpkin spice treats, pumpkin cheesecake, pumpkin soup recipes for fall

I am a pumpkin fanatic. Every fall and through the winter, pumpkin appears in dozens of foods from my house. Pumpkins are brimming with Vitamin A and beta-carotene. Pumpkin is perfect for vegan and vegetarians delicious and nutritious. Here are some of my very best pumpkin recipes.

For these recipes, you will not use a jack-o-lantern pumpkin (the variety you carve). Select the smaller pumpkin known colloquially in supermarkets as the 'pie pumpkin'. These have richer flesh, thicker rinds and better flavor. You can cook down and can or freeze pumpkin. The other option which is just as delicious and nutritious is canned packed pumpkin. I admit to cheating and using canned pumpkin. If you choose the canned pumpkin option, but sure to buy plain pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling. Pumpkin pie filling is sweetened and has spices added. I don't even buy pumpkin pie filling for my pies.

Pumpkin Soup: Perfect power packed nutrition for chilly fall days. In a large, deep skillet melt two sticks of butter or margarine (olive oil if you are a vegan). saute one medium chopped onion, one small stalk of cleaned, pared and sliced celery, five chopped sage leaves (or 1 teaspoon of ground sage) and one half teaspoon cracked pepper. Pour contents of saute pan in soup pot. Add one 29 oz. can of pumpkin and a carton of Progresso chicken broth (vegans and vegetarians, replace chicken broth with vegetable broth). Fill the pumpkin can with milk (vegans, use water) and add that to the pot. Simmer until blended and heated through. Just before serving, add chopped cucumbers and butter croutons. Send a jar to an elderly neighbor, a family with a new baby or a sick friend.

Pumpkin Upside-Down Custard: In a large bowl, blend 1 29oz. can of pumpkin, one teaspoon of cinnamon, one half teaspoon of nutmeg and ginger, one quarter teaspoon of cloves, one teaspoon of salt, four large eggs, one cup of packed brown sugar, one tablespoon of flour Refill pumpkin can with milk and add to ingredients. Blend until smooth and fold in one cup of peeled, chopped apples (optional). Placed in 9x13 glass baking dish coated with non-stick pan spray. Bake at 400 degrees about 40 minutes until set. Serve with vanilla ice cream.

For topping: blend 1 cup finely chopped pecans with 1 stick melted butter and one quarter cup brown sugar. Mixture will be crumbly. Sprinkle over surface and bake for five to ten minutes to set. Vegans can replace eggs and milk with two packages of silken soft tofu also.

Pumpkin Cheesecake Custard: Using the same ingredients as above, cut milk down to 10 oz and add two 8 oz packages of softened cream cheese. You will need to use blender or electric mixer to blend. Using two cartons of whipped cream cheese will be easier to blend also.

Pumpkin is one of my favorite comfort foods.


Vegan, paleo and ketogenic diet weight loss recipes with diet food swaps

 I have lost 100 pounds using a variety of diet tips and tricks. I don't follow a specific weight loss diet because there's no one meal plan that hits everything I'm looking for. So I do like they say in the Al-Anon slogans, "take what you like and leave the rest." Here are ketogenic diet recipes based on food swaps for weight loss  Vegan, paleo and ketogenic diet weight loss recipes with diet food swaps

Weight Loss Recipe of the Day: Pumpkin Spice Sunshine Muffins or breakfast quick bread, to diet for!

Fall is a great time to start or improve your diet and exercise regimen. So, I'm doing a series of "Weight loss recipe of the Day" posts. Think fall and you think pumpkin spice right? I also think home-baked after going oven-free all winter long and because, well, I always think baked goods, lol. Muffins are my drug of choice. But after losing 100 pounds which I'm trying to keep off, they're kryptonite. If you're craving that pumpkin spice shtick and muffins, here's a healthier diet version. My diet recipes tweak favorites with low sugar, better sugar, protein and fiber, low calorie, lowfat (and good fat) options. Make this "to diet for" breakfast muffin/quick bread with 1/3 the calories and tons of healthy stuff! 

Pumpkin Spice Sunshine Breakfast Bread/Muffins

1/2 cups unsweetened homemade applesauce
1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup pumpkin (you can use cooked winter squash too)
1/2 cup grated carrots
1/2 to 1 cup seeds: pumpkin, sunflower, chia
1 teas. cinnamon
1/2 teas. nutmeg
1 teas. each baking soda and baking powder
Flaxseed to make two eggs
1/4 cup melted 35-calorie light butter or Greek yogurt
mashed banana
fresh crushed peaches or pineapple 
optional: walnuts

Mix ingredients (chunky applesauce and banana is good) and bake 350 for 55 minutes (bread) about 35-40 (muffins). Loaf makes about 20 servings. Calories 100 to 130 per slice. Makes 12 muffins 140 calories each.

Low-cal Labor Day picnic recipes, light BBQ grill entrees, meatless menu pleasers for weight loss, special diets

Labor Day is the last official picnic day of summer. With everyone on some special diet--vegan, vegetarian, kosher, weight loss, lactose intolerant, gluten-free, diabetic, halal--it's difficult to plan a picnic buffet that suits everyone. Throw some picky, fussy eaters (a.k.a. kids) into the party crowd and the harried Labor Day hosts are at their collective wits' end to know what to feed the hungry multitudes. Here are low-cal Labor Day picnic recipes, light grill entrees, menu pleasers that dieters and everyone else will love!

Whip up the Ultimate Labor Day Salad Bar Buffet. Make your own restaurant-style salad bar and hot buffet. If you do the whole thing, it may get expensive, so trim corners as you need to. Or have guests each bring 3-4 salad toppings. Create an outdoor refrigerated salad bar by laying a clean bath or beach towel on the buffet or picnic table. Cover towel with a layer of ice cubes. Place another clean towel over ice. Replace ice as it melts.

Next make a huge bowl of greens. Get a package of six romaine lettuce heads. Tear up lettuce, rinse with warm water and drain or spin to dry. Place lettuce in zippered plastic bag and chill in the refrigerator until serving. This makes lettuce extra crisp. Or use pre-cut bagged salad like Dole Classic Romaine, with Romaine lettuce, matchstick carrots and purple cabbage. If you serve field greens, remember these lettuces are much more delicate and must be used immediately. Serve in a large stainless steel mixing bowl or salad bowl.

Here are salad toppings guests can pick and choose from to fit any special diet. Arrange salad toppings in individual bowls with forks, spoons or mini tongs for sanitary self- service. Set out diced cucumbers (leave skin on),sliced mushrooms (white or Baby Bella), chopped celery, chopped sweet onions, chopped green, red, yellow and orange peppers, baby spinach, sprouts (alfalfa, broccoli, onion, or spicy), chopped broccoli and cauliflower or broccoli slaw mix, shredded carrots, chopped tomatoes, shredded beets, shredded purple cabbage, pea pods and avocado slices.

Make a relish tray of assorted olives: Spanish (green),black, pitted Greek olives, capers, sports peppers, banana peppers, hot pepper rings, sweet pickles, dill pickles and canned beets. Set out fruit
toppings: raisins, dried cranberries, strawberries, blueberries, mandarin oranges and pineapple tidbits. Set out nachos, croutons, chow mien noodles, sliced almonds, mixed nuts, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds.

Set out garbanzo beans, cottage cheese, shredded Mozzarella cheese, Parmesan cheese grater, cubed feta cheese (for Greek salad) and diced hard-boiled eggs, salad shrimp, flake crab meat, sliced pepperoni and anchovies. To season salad, set out fresh chopped herbs (dill, rosemary, oregano, sage, basil), pepper grater and Himalayan pink salt grater.

For hot buffet items, place in three-sided warmer. Grill chuck steak, ham slice, salmon and chicken breast and cube each. Grill bacon and crumble. Make taco meat. Warm nacho dip in a crock pot. A good salad bar should include these dressings: vinegar and olive oil in separate cruets, a lite or low calorie salad dressing (spray-on salad dressing like Raspberry vinaigrette is good), ranch (Hidden Valley is best), French (Russian, Western, sweet and sour) Thousand Island and bleu cheese (Marie's) and Caesar. Serve with french bread. Guests can make their own taco, Caesar, Greek, Salad Nicoise, Antipasto, Cobb or other specialty salads.

'My 600-lb Life' diet grill recipes: Ketogenic weight loss, fat-burn food swaps

Did you know you can lose hundreds of pounds with basic food swaps? The people of TLC "My 600-lb Life" have proved that weight loss simply requires calorie cutting and portion control. But simple isn't always easy and holidays and summer vacation are the hardest times. Here are are sinfully delicious, lowfat, low calorie picnic recipes, summer BBQ and grill alternatives based on Dr. Nowzaradan's bariatric surgery #diet.    'My 600-lb Life' diet grill recipes: Ketogenic weight loss, fat-burn food swaps

'My 600-lb Life' weight-loss debate: no sugar, no carb gluten-free diet no good?

Think weight-loss and what's the first diet tip that comes to mind? Trending among celebrities is the gluten-free diet which cuts carbs and sugar. The TLC reality TV show "My 600-lb Life" pushes such a sugar-free, carb-free diet after bariatric surgery. But carb lovers, don't pass up the pasta just yet. Health experts are saying that no carb, no sugar diets are no good for shedding obesity. Here's the tasty truth behind their surprising advice.   'My 600-lb Life' weight-loss debate: no sugar, no carb gluten-free diet no good?

'My 600-lb Life' Dr Now's bariatric weight loss diet, anti-obesity foods shock

TLC's bariatric surgeon Dr. Younan Nowzaradan gets some pretty dramatic weight loss from his gastric bypass surgery patients. You're probably wondering how "My 600-lb Life" patients like Chad Dean shed 300-400 pounds. The reality TV doc shared his secrets and you're in for a surprise. What's not on Dr. Now's bariatric surgery diet is as shocking as what is. Dr. Now doesn't pus   'My 600-lb Life' Dr Now's bariatric weight loss diet, anti-obesity foods shock

Mama June serves up weight-loss food swaps even Honey Boo Boo loves

Do you want to know how Mama June lost 300 pounds on "From Not to Hot"? Personal trainer Kenya Crooks dished up some of his surprise weight-loss methods and food swaps. You can use these tasty tips whether you've had bariatric surgery like June Shannon, or not. Kenya's yummy recipes work if you need to lose weight, want to eat healthier or are trying to break a soda habit. Even Honey Boo Boo eats up these healthy food swaps!   Mama June serves up weight-loss food swaps even Honey Boo Boo loves

Sugar Bear, obese wife egg Honey Boo Boo to obesity, spite Mama June weight-loss

WEtv Mama June Shannon is flaunting big weight-loss after gastric bypass and plastic surgery, but she's taken a lot of flak for not helping her obese daughter "Honey Boo Boo" Alana Thompson lose weight. Well, it seems that as per Alana, the reality television mom is trying to feed her better. But while most parents praise her efforts, two are sabotaging it: HBB's own dad "Sugar Bear" Mike Thompson and her new stepmom. On June's new show "From Not to Hot," morbidly obese Jennifer Lamb body-shamed Shannon, accused her of abusing and depriving Honey Boo Boo, and then stuffed the 11-year-old full of junk food. Are Sugar Bear and Lamb egging Alana to obesity to spite June?  Sugar Bear, obese wife egg Honey Boo Boo to obesity, spite Mama June weight-loss

Valentine's Day recipes, homemade decorations, heart-shaped cupcakes, cookies

Arrgh! Your child did it again. She volunteered you to make three dozen cupcakes (pink, heartshaped, with sprinkles, please) for her class Valentine's Day party--tomorrow! And when does Lil Miss Cupid spring this news? 9 p.m.--no time to go to the store for supplies. Well, have no fear, Mama Been-There-Done-That has super-fast, last-minute, homemade treat recipes made with on-hand ingredients. You get bonus DIY heart-shaped snacks and improvised frosting, sprinkles and decoration tips.

DIY heart-shaped cookie cutter--Murphy's Law will have it that if you need heart-shaped cookies you won't be able to find your heart-shaped cookie cutter. If you ever had one. So, here are quick, homemade ones. Bend a coat hanger or large paper clip into a heart shape. Or draw a half-heart on the folded edge of a piece of sturdy paper. Cut out the heart and place on rolled out cookie dough. Trace around it with a butter knife, toothpick or metal skewer. Or just freehand it! The kiddies will
Pink cupcakes made with diy food coloring

Heart-shaped cupcakes--Make paper cupcake holders shaped like hearts by folding in half. Open and fold top point inward to form rounded sides of heart. Place folded cupcake paper in cupcake tin with three marbles: one between the halves of the heart to keep it open and one on each side to support the point.

Homemade pink frosting. Mix three parts red and one part blue food coloring and dye vanilla frosting. No food coloring? Use these mix-ins: red juice (grape, cherry, cranberry or beet), red pop, strawberry jam; strawberry ice cream syrup or red gelatin dissolved in a little hot water. Or melt red hard candy in the microwave.

No frosting? Blend a stick (or 8 ounces) of margarine with powdered sugar and milk to desired consistency. Add a dash of salt and vanilla or almond flavoring. For chocolate, add baking cocoa, melted baker's chocolate or melted chocolate chips. No powdered sugar? Heat granulated sugar in sauce pan to make glaze? No margarine? Use milk for icing.

Homemade Valentine decorations. Fresh out of requested sprinkles? Shave chocolate pieces. Crush hard candies in the blender. Form heart shapes with tiny candies: M&Ms, Runts, Nerds or other small candy. Use mini-marshmallows, pretzels, chocolate, cherry or vanilla chips, Snip fruit snacks, jelly beans, gum drops, red licorice into small pieces. Cut letters from gum strips or Fruit Roll-Ups. Kid's favorite: decorate with breakfast cereal: Lucky Charms, Fruit Loops, Trix, Fruity Pebbles.

DIY Valentine decorative frosting. To make icing you can write with, place frosting in small plastic bag. Squeeze frosting into corner, tie end closed and snip the tip off the corner. Use like decorator icing to write Valentine messages, like "These cookies brought to you by a creative mom who's kid forget to tell her till the last minute!" (Probs too long, but tempting).

DIY Valentine sentiments. Add messages to cookies and cupcakes with valentine conversation hearts. Write valentine words with Alpha-Bits cereal or letter-shaped pretzels. Cut letters from Fruit Rollups. Write on cookies with diluted gelatin water in a turkey baster. Form letters from thin cut strips from licorice or use string licorice, also called licorice laces.

Let little last-minute Lucy help and you'll get some fun bonding time, too. Your emergency Valentine treats may turn out to be the most popular yet!

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Freelance writer, Top 100 Yahoo! Voices, Yahoo! News, Shine, Michigan, Detroit), blogger, teacher, mom of 4, happily married 25 years. Graduated GVSU 1986, psychology/general education and special education. continuing ed up to present. Certified MI teacher. Writing Michigan history mystery, children's Gothic fantasy. Areas of expertise: education, relationships, mental health, nutrition, history, world cultures. Passions: faith, Catholic church, sustainable living, interfaith initiatives, living simply that others might simply live. Working on MA in EI education. 

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