Thanksgiving on a budget

Tips are from Marcie Rothman, The $5 Chef.

  1. Check the supermarket ad for the best deals on turkey and the trimmings. Generally the closer to the holiday, the better the pricing.

  2. Keep the menu simple: turkey, stuffing, a vegetable, yams or potatoes, salad and dessert. Use a prepared stuffing mix--my favorite is Mrs. Cubbison's--so you can add the ingredients you want. To moisten the mixture, use broth, water, wine or apple or orange juice for something different.

  3. Be flexible with the menu to take advantage of the supermarket specials and consider buying more, especially on items like potatoes (10 pounds versus only a few, if the pricing makes more sense).

  4. Ask friends or family (ones who like to cook) to bring one dish so you don't have to make the entire meal.

  5. Have dishes prepped or made ahead so they can be reheated. Look for products that save time and possibly dollars especially if you're not cooking for a crowd. You'll find chopped onions and celery in the produce section.

  6. If you buy a frozen turkey, defrost it in the refrigerator at least a few days before you want cook it. Do not leave it on the kitchen counter to defrost or you risk bacteria growing. If you don't have days to defrost, fill your kitchen sink with cold water and immerse the bird. Change the water frequently, but don't use hot water (it's that bacteria thing again).

  7. Look for a turkey with a pop up timer so roasting it will be a cinch -- the red dot pops up. Use a heavy-duty roasting pan-- aluminum or metal-- and a roasting rack available in supermarkets.

  8. Put turkey seasoning under the skin. One of my favorites is Paul Prudhomme's Magic Seasoning Blend for poultry.

  9. If you don't bake, either buy a pie or try this easy pumpkin-cranberry spice cake recipe.
Savory Sausage Stuffing
Serves 6 to 8

This recipe uses your favorite breakfast or spicy sausage and apple juice to zip up a stuffing side dish. Orange juice, broth, water or white wine would also work if apple juice isn't your thing.

½ pound Farmer Johns sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil or butter
1 small onion, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
¼ cup chopped parsley
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 cups apple juice OR orange juice, chicken broth or water
2-6 ounce packages Mrs. Cubbison's Seasoned Dressing or Cornbread Stuffin
Pinch cayenne pepper, optional
¼ to ½ cup grated cheddar or Parmesan cheese, optional

In a skillet, brown sausage until no longer pink. Remove from pan, drain any fat from pan.

Add olive oil to skillet along with onion, celery, parsley and garlic. Stir and cook until the vegetables begin to soften.

Add apple juice, stir and add stuffing mix. Stir and mix until the liquid is absorbed. Cover and let rest a few minutes.

Put the stuffing mix in a greased 2-1/2 to 3 quart baking pan and top with grated cheese if using. Bake 375 for about 15 minutes or until top browns.

Pumpkin-Orange Spice Cake
Makes about 80 small squares

This easy cake is a lighter alternative to the usual rich pumpkin pie. It doesn't require a mixer, and it's great for the kids to make. It's dense because of the pumpkin and works well alone or with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of ice cream. I also like to serve it with stewed fruit such as pears or apples; it makes a comforting winter dessert.

1 stick butter, room temperature
2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking soda
2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice or 1 heaping teaspoon ground cinnamon and ½ teaspoon each ground cloves and ground nutmeg
Zest of 1 orange
1 can (15-ounce) pumpkin puree
1 egg
1-1/2 cups buttermilk, see note below
½ cup raisins, optional
½ cup walnuts, optional
½ cup chocolate chips, coarsely chopped or coarsely ground

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Grease a 10 x 15 inch jellyroll pan

Combine butter, flour and sugar in bowl and with hands rub to crumbs. Add baking soda, spices and zest, if using. Gently mix with a fork.

In another bowl, mix with a fork pumpkin, egg and buttermilk. Add to dry ingredients with raisins and walnuts if using. Gently mix with a fork to incorporate the liquid. Do not over mix and dough will be slightly thick.

Pour into prepared pan and gently spread evenly in the pan. Sprinkle chocolate on top.

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until cake springs back when lightly touched.

NOTE: If you don't have buttermilk, sour your milk with about 1 tablespoon white vinegar mixed in 1 cup of milk.

Rundown of the costs: (approx. depending where you are shopping. Prices below are from Safeway and Trader Joe's)

Turkey, 16 and up lb. (Safeway) $ 7.99
Farmer John sausage (frozen) 1.69
*Onions 3 lbs 2.49
Mrs..Cubbisons Stuffing (2 for $5) 2.50
Celery .49
Parsley .69
2 Apples .98
*Potatoes Russet--5 lbs 2.99
Green beans 1.99 lb 1.99
Carrot's 89 lb .89
Pumpkin (can) 2.49
Fresh cranberries 1.99
Rolls (24 in a pack) 4.29

*Potatoes and onions will be used for other meals

For recipes and turkey information:

>> Complete holiday coverage from The View from the Bay

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