How Almost Homemade Can Make Your Thanksgiving Meal Healthy, Fast And Easy

Rustic Thanksgiving Dinner Table
Rustic Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Benefits Of Almost Homemade Cooking:

Checks food wastage:

  • Almost homemade checks food spoilage and wastage as you incorporate items that are either too small for use or to be preserved into your dishes with no stress.

Higher nutritional value:

  • Almost homemade can be combined with prepackaged dishes in such a way that you either add or substitute the ingredients in order to beef up the nutritional value of some dishes while reducing the calories and fat levels.
  • Again, a particular ingredient in a prepackaged recipe that a family member is allergic to can be avoided by substituting it with other items from your stock. This can go a long way to checking food allergies and sensitization.
  • Many ingredients in products are chemicals which are detrimental to our bodies. In almost homemade, you can use natural ingredients that enhance color, taste For instance, pure vanilla, not artificial; real eggs not egg substitutes, butter not lard or margarine can be used.
  • You also have a chance of staying away from products that have been genetically altered to increase the size and some other factors by opting for organically grown items for your combinations.
  • In almost homemade, you to some extent put a check on not only the ingredients used in preparing the dish but also on how much of it you consume.

Makes for variety:

  • Fresh vegetables can be added to prepackaged dishes to create variations on a dish.

More servings from the same quantity:

  • You can have more servings from the same quantity of stock if you augment the prepackaged store-bought item with stocks like meat, fruit, and vegetables.

Brings the family together:

  • Almost homemade creates an opportunity for the family to spend time together. This has the advantage of not only letting the children learn about food preparation as they help either by reading the recipe aloud or by mixing some ingredients for use in the meal preparation.
  • More so, as they cook and eat meals together as a family, parents get the chance to groom the children on both healthy eating habits and good table manners.

 Money-saving:

  • With just a few selected items from the store, you can combine some fresh ingredients from your stock thereby spending less than you would have if everything were to be bought from the store.

Portion-control:

In almost homemade, you can regulate your food portions unlike in restaurants and fast food joints where you are usually tempted to eat almost everything that you are served.

Relieves stress:

  • Almost homemade can be both pleasurable and relaxing as both cooking and cleaning involve exercise and every form of exercise reduces one’s dopamine level as well as other mood-enhancing hormones.

Enhances creativity:

  • Almost homemade gives you the chance to be imaginative, creative and artistic. As you look forward to great recipes, you will try out ingredients that you have probably never used before.
  • You may also attempt making something that is usually in one form in a different form altogether.

How To Make Prepackaged Recipes Healthier

A good prepackaged recipe should have ‘real food’ ingredients. In other words, it should have carbohydrates, proteins, and fats which combine not only to keep you fuller for longer periods but also give better blood sugar control and a broader spectrum of nutrition. This implies that it should be low in sugar, low in salts, trans-fat free while tasting great.

The saturated fat content should be 3grams or less to make for a healthy heart.

The sodium content should be in the range of 500-600mg ie 2300mg daily for healthy people. For someone who eats four meals daily, that is 575mg per meal.

Basically, a healthy prepackaged recipe should be one that you can recreate in your own kitchen.

Armed with these facts, you need to look for recognizable natural ingredients in your store-bought  prepackaged recipe and follow these tips as you substitute or exclude certain ingredients altogether while giving your meals a taste and nutrition boost:

The Traditional Recipe for Roasted Turkey Dish

Turkey is a naturally lean source of protein. To make the traditional recipe for roasted turkey dish healthier, you should:

  • Remove any excess skin to reduce fat further.
  • Cut the salt content in half.
  • Add more of the flavored herbs: rosemary, oregano, and parsley.

The Traditional Recipe for Mashed Potato Dish

Mashed potatoes are naturally calorie-dense, particularly in carbohydrates. To make this dish healthier:

  • Substitute potato with cauliflower as you’ll be eating enough of starch in the course of the Thanksgiving day. This substitution really cuts down on carbohydrate and calories.
  • Substitute whole for skim milk and exclude butter so as to reduce total fat. This not only cuts down on the fats but specifically the saturated fats. It cuts 27 calories, and with the exclusion of cheese, cuts an additional 26 calories.
  • Substitute butter with trans-fat free margarine so as to decrease saturated fat, as butter is a tasty killer in the recipe due to its high-fat

Cooking Tip: For creamy mashed potato fans who love the texture, without the added regular cheese fats, Laughing Cow Cheese is recommended.

The Traditional Recipe for Stuffing

Due to the very high carbohydrate content of Stuffing:

  • Substitute the white bread with 100 percent whole wheat bread so as to increase fiber.
  • Substitute butter with olive oil, vegetable oil, or unsalted butter (my personal choice).
  • Add fruit such as diced apple, diced prunes, golden raisins.
  • Add additional diced fresh celery

Cooking Tip: A tablespoon of butter is equivalent to 2 teaspoons of olive oil.

A List Of Thanksgiving Day Almost Homemade Recipe Ideas

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Thanksgiving Holiday Meal Plan

What is Thanksgiving:

Thanksgiving is a U.S. holiday which is celebrated annually on the fourth Thursday of November every year. Thanksgiving is a time to gather family and friends and be thankful for what one has and enjoying a plentiful meal together.

The traditional American version of Thanksgiving dinner has the majority of its dishes made from foods native to America as the first Thanksgiving feast of 1621 contained such foods as wild turkeys, waterfowl, venison, seafood, fruits, pumpkins, etc. A Thanksgiving dinner would as such not be complete without foods as listed below:

Thanksgiving Dinner Menus/Traditional Foods & Some Side Dishes:

  • Turkey: This constitutes the main dish, usually prepared whole, stuffed, seasoned then roasted.
  • Stuffing/Dressing: This is the food with which the turkey is filled. Today it is served next to the main meal (a side dish).
  • Mashed Potatoes: This is a potato that has been boiled, peeled and crushed to give a soft and creamy paste with added butter, milk, and some garlic.
  • Gravy: Cooking the turkey and other meats usually produce juices which are turned into a thick sauce. This sauce is used to top mashed potatoes, meats, and other
  • Cranberry Sauce: Cranberries, grated lemon peel, sugar, and water are boiled and the mixture is simmered to give a sweet but slightly sour flavor.
  • Corn Bread Dinner Rolls or Angel Biscuits: Dinner bread adds variety and character to any table. While enable folks to grab and go.
  • Green Bean Casserole: Made by slowly cooking cream of mushroom soup, fried onions and green bean in an oven.
  • Candied Yam: Made by adding spices, brown sugar, butter, and marshmallow to potato and baked and can be used serves as a side dish.
  • Pumpkin Pie: A delicious, warm spice and pumpkin filling inside a flaky crust.
  • Pecan Pie: Made with pecan nuts, spices, and maple syrup.

Fix-Ahead Prep Tasks For A Stress-Free Thanksgiving

Fourteen Days To Thanksgiving:

  • Make a list of your guests.
  • Find out food allergies and drink preferences (a sure safeguard for undue embarrassment).
  • Write out the menu, a shopping list, cooking schedule, and timetable.
  • Decide on the fix-ahead dishes.
  • Plan to delegate duties: decide on people to help with the preparation, the helps they’ll render when to come; those to bring items like wine, side dishes, serving dishes, cooking utensils, Be sure that everyone involved is informed.
  • Gather the equipment needed – a large roasting pot for the turkey, meat thermometer,
  • If you’ll be baking pie for dessert, make the dough for the crust now and freeze.
  • If you intend using cheesecakes as part of the meal, fix it now and freeze.
  • If you choose to either barbecue, deep-fry or smoke the turkey, then do not stuff, let the stuffing come as a side dish.

Seven Days To Thanksgiving:

  • Clean out the refrigerator to make room for prepared dishes & groceries.
  • Go shopping & buy the frozen turkey and non-perishable ingredients for the dinner recipes.

Cook’s Tip:  Estimating that each guest eats about 1.3 pounds of turkey, round off by multiplying with the number of guests to attend, if ten, your turkey should weigh 13 pounds.

  • Gather other equipment like a cheese grater, strainer, electric mixer, differently sized mixing bowls, baking dishes.

Four Days To Thanksgiving:

  • Begin thawing the frozen turkey.

Cook’s Tip:  A 5-pound turkey requires 24 hours thawing time in the fridge.

40°F is the refrigerator’s turkey thawing time. (Defrosting  turkey at room temperature aids multiplication and breeding of bacteria)

Three Days To Thanksgiving:

  • Set the Table: Iron table linens, designate the serving platters, ensure the glassware and silver sparkle.
  • Prepare cranberry sauce, other sauces, jellies, and dressing. Refrigerate all.

Two Days To Thanksgiving

  • Tidy up the house, kitchen, and bathroom.
  • Brine the turkey. Refrigerate.

Cook’s Tip:  Brining the turkey before baking keeps it moist, tender and flavorful)

The container for brining should be big enough to hold the turkey and “brine mixture and also able to fit into the refrigerator.

  • Allow the frozen dessert to thaw in the refrigerator.
  • If making a gelatin dish is in the plan, do so now. Refrigerate.

Day Before Thanksgiving:

  • Finish preparing any pie you were making.
  • Do a second shopping now: Buy the perishables – salad greens, fresh bread /seafood,

Preparation (Mise En Place):

  • Prepare every ingredient for all the different dishes: wash, trim,  chop the vegetable, set out the spices,  herbs,
  • Clean and dry the salad greens, store in resealable plastic bags.
  • Prepare the fix-ahead mashed potatoes.
  • Set the table using your best dishes to give that ‘special occasion ‘ look, set out the flowers and other decorations.

Thanksgiving Day Dinner

Morning:

  • Prepare the turkey and put the turkey into the oven to roast, pay attending to cooking times guidelines, so, your turkey finishes at the appropriate time.

Cook’s Tip:  You could decide not to stuff, but serve it as a side dish,  which in modern times is a food safety recommendation.

  • Defrost every other frozen item.
  • Chill white wines and other drinks.
  • Set up the bar and other drinks you plan to make.

Mid-Day:

  • stand the finished turkey at room temperature.

Cook’s Tip:  Refrigerate any dish that’s ready more than an hour before dinner.

Thirty Minutes Before Dinnertime:

  • If the turkey is ready, let it stand while making the gravy and reheating side dishes.
  • Dress the salad now.

Dinnertime :

  • Carve the turkey.
  • Serve the meal.

Cook’s Tip:  Save the carcass drippings and remnants for turkey soup or slow cooker both.

After Dinner:

  • Wrap up every leftover within two hours.
  • Make coffee and tea, whip cream for pies and serve

Tips For Thanksgiving Meal Preparation

Tips For Preparing Turkey:

  • Remove turkey from refrigerator and allow to sit for 1-2 hours.
  • Preheat oven to 350°
  • Place turkey in a shallow roasting pan with legs tied together and wings tucked underneath.
  • Coat the skin with herbed olive oil or butter and cover the bird with a thin aluminum
  • Add a cup of water to the bottom of the pan.

Cook’s Tip:  Since cooking varies according to the size of the bird, check the wrapper to ascertain its approximate cooking time.

  • Roast the turkey until the temperature of the thickest parts of the thigh, breast, wing, reaches 165°F or more.
  • In the last 1¹/2 hours of cooking time, remove the foil from the breast, baste with pan juices to aid browning; add more water if needed.
  • The turkey should sit for about 20-30 minutes before carving for the juices to evenly saturate the meat.

Tips For Making Stuffing/Dressing:

  • Make the stuffing slightly dry if you intend stuffing the turkey with it. This way it expands and moistens as the turkey roasts.
  • Dry the bread overnight at room temperature, then slice and bake in an oven to avoid sogginess.
  • Spoon the stuffing lightly into the turkey cavity. It won’t reach the desired 165°F if it’s too tightly packed.
  • If you’re baking your dressing in the oven, make sure it’s moist – add some butter, cold water or turkey stock.

Tips For Preparing Mashed Potatoes:

  • Use higher starch potatoes (the Russets or Yukon golds) for fluffy and smooth mash as well as easier flavor absorption.
  • Salt the water as the potato cooks for good and perfect seasoning.
  • Begin cooking the potato in cold (not hot) water, salt and heat to boiling before reducing to a simmer – this checks uneven cooking.
  • Drain the potato well after cooking then mash; this gives the original potato (not water) taste.
  • Add the flavoring at room temperature– melt in the butter, mash in the warm milk; this makes for easy absorption and won’t cool the potato down.
  • Do not mash in the potato too vigorously (g., with a food processor) or for too long. Gentle mashing gives light and fluffy spuds
  • Hold the prepared potato in a slow-cooker on ‘warm’ setting. Fluff the potatoes up again just before serving.

Cook’s Tip: Potatoes don’t take kindly to sitting around for long

Tips For Preparing Candied Yam:

  • Wash, peel and slice yam into thick circles.
  • Melt butter over medium heat.
  • Add sugar; stir and blend well. Stir in whipping cream then cinnamon, nutmeg, maple and vanilla extract.
  • Taste and pour mixture over yam.
  • Cover with foil and bake for 40 minutes.
  • Remove foil, bake for another 20-25 minutes.

Cook’s Tip:  Slow-cooking the yam in the mixture; letting them bask in the syrup sweetens them through.

Tips For Preparing Cranberry Sauce:

  • Sort the cranberries. Pick out and discard any with stem, Rinse and drain.
  • Combine the cranberries with citrus fruits and granulated sugar into a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Stir well.
  • Cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes, at which point the mixture looks loose and liquidy with a deep purple color.
  • As it cools, it clumps and thickens up.
  • Can be served chilled or at room temperature.

Cook’s Tip:  After cooking, you may add water to get the sauciness and thinness you desire.

Tips For Preparing Green Bean Casserole:

  • Salt some water in a pot, add the green beans.
  • Cook for approximately 6 minutes, drain and plunge immediately into ice water to stop further cooking.
  • Melt the butter for cooking over medium heat until foaming subsides.
  • Cook the mushroom for about 6 minutes until it’s released water evaporates.
  • Add flavor, broth, and cream; reduce heat and simmer until sauce thickens.
  • Season with salt and pepper, then add green beans to sauce. Stir until evenly coated.

Cook’s Tip:  Allow the green beans casserole to thaw 1-3 days before the Thanksgiving Dinner.

Heat the casserole in a 425° oven for 10 minutes. Add the topping, bake for 1-20 minutes/until top turns golden brown and the sauce is bubbly on the edges.

Tips For Making Gravy:

  • Measure ¼ cup of turkey fat drippings from roasting bowl into the bowl for making gravy. (Be accurate because too little fat makes the gravy lumpy)
  • Cover over medium heat while stirring continuously.
  • Stir until mixture is smooth and bubbly. Stir in the liquid.
  • Heat to boiling as you stir constantly.

Cook’s Tip:  Straining the pan’s drippings before adding them produces a smooth gravy.

Tips For Making Pumpkin Pie:

  • Canned pumpkin is 100% canned pumpkin, nothing else added.
  • Canned pumpkin pie mix contains pumpkin puree along with traditional pumpkin pie spices and sugar – just add milk and
  • For a glistening effect, brush top and edge of pie crust with milk and sprinkle with sugar before baking.
  • For a golden brown effect, brush top and edge of pie crust with a beaten egg yolk mixed with one teaspoonful milk before baking.
  • Mashed cooked fresh pumpkin do not substitute canned pumpkin puree in baking recipes calling for homemade mashed pumpkin as they can have higher moisture content than canned pumpkin puree.
  • Pumpkin desserts do not have to come in the form of a pie.

On Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, stores across the country make huge sales; people wait in lines even for hours to buy cheap products usually for use as Christmas gifts.

The Thanksgiving holiday concludes on Cyber Monday when stores move their sales to the internet.

Whether you live in America or not, as this year’s Thanksgiving comes up, remember to give thanks for everything you have.

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