It happens. You get invited at the last minute and need to arrive with (fill in the blank). Somebody drops out of your potluck holiday dinner and you’re minus an anchor dish. Or, you just simply want to add a dish you can pull together on Thanksgiving Day without a lot of fuss.
Help has arrived with five recipes, for potato, vegetable, salad, salad dressing and a dessert. Ready in 30 minutes. Sometimes less. And yes, you may still need to run to the grocery store. Just make a list and check it twice. Don’t go on Thursday — if you can help it. Some supermarkets will be closed or have shortened hours.
Just remember, the goal is not to put on the table just something you threw together because you’re strapped for time. This is Thanksgiving and you want the meal to be special. So, within this 30-minute window of making a dish is time to do the little extras, such as toast walnuts and make your own salad dressing (instead of bringing a bottle from the refrigerator). The Mashed Potato Cups present another goal: How to make something simple look unique.
And, to be honest, I cheated when I said the dessert recipe here takes just a half-hour. The prep time is about that, but the Pecan Pie Bars need a total of about an hour in the oven baking.
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And finally, don’t skimp. If a recipe calls for fresh dill or thyme, use it; it can make all the difference in the flavor as well as the presentation. Happy Thanksgiving.
Mashed Potato Cups
1/2 cup low-fat milk
1/4 cup butter
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon pepper
1 1/3 cups plus 2 tablespoons shredded Colby-Monterey Jack cheese, divided
6 cups hot mashed potatoes (without added milk and butter)
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
In a large bowl, add milk, butter, salt, pepper and 1 1/3 cups cheese to mashed potatoes. Grease two 6-portion muffin pans; divide potato mixture between pans. Sprinkle with remaining cheese; top with parsley.
Bake uncovered, at 350 degrees 15-20 minutes, or until heated through and cheese is melted. (You can cover and freeze a pan for up to 3 months. To use frozen potato cups: Thaw in the refrigerator. Bake as directed.)
Yield: 12 servings, each with 163 calories, 8 grams fat, 24 mg cholesterol, 345 mg sodium, 16 grams carbohydrates, 0 grams sugar, 3 grams fiber, 5 grams protein.
Cranberry Sauce Salad Dressing
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/4 cup whole-berry cranberry sauce
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
Process ingredients in blender until smooth. Serve over tossed or chopped greens. Makes about 1 cup dressing.
Mixed Holiday Salad
9 cups torn mixed salad greens
2 tart red apples, chopped
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
1/3 cup chopped walnuts, toasted
2 cups fresh mozzarella, cut into small pieces
In a large bowl, combine all. Drizzle with your choice of salad dressing; toss to coat. Yield: 12 servings (1 cup each).
Editor's note: To toast nuts, bake in a shallow pan in a 350-degree oven 5-10 minutes, or cook in a skillet over low heat until lightly browned, stirring occasionally.
2 pounds carrots
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill or flat-leaf parsley
Peel the carrots and cut them diagonally in 1/4-inch slices. You should have about 6 cups of carrots. Place the carrots, 1/3 cup water, the salt and pepper in a large (10 to 12-inch) saute pan and bring to a boil.
Cover the pan and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 8 minutes, until the carrots are just cooked through. Add the butter and saute for another minute, until the water evaporates and the carrots are coated with butter. Turn off the heat, toss with the dill or parsley. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and serve.
Ina Garten, “Barefoot Contessa Family Style” and foodnetwork.com
Classic Pecan Pie Bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup butter, softened
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup coarsely chopped pecans
1 1/2 cups dark corn syrup
2/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 large eggs
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups coarsely chopped pecans
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Combine 1 3/4 cups flour, butter and sugar in bowl. Beat at medium speed, scraping bowl often, until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Stir in 1/3 cup pecans.
Press crust mixture evenly onto bottom of ungreased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake 18-22 minutes, or until edges are very light golden brown.
Combine all filling ingredients except 1 1/2 cups pecans in bowl (you can use the same one as the crust); mix well. Stir in pecans. Spread evenly over hot, partially baked crust. Bake 30-35 minutes, or until filling is set and knife inserted 1-inch from edge comes out clean. Cool completely; refrigerate. Cut into small pieces to make 48 bars. This dessert is very rich.
Add whipped topping, if desired.