Zest For Food: Thanksgiving for two

  • This year, a Thanksgiving for two might be the best – and only – way to serve up a holiday meal. Photo by Marie Cassady

For the Ledger-Transcript
Published: 11/18/2020 5:07:14 PM

This Thanksgiving will be very different for many of us. No big family gatherings, Friendsgivings, or travel.

As I thought about preparing Thanksgiving dinner for only two of us, my original plan was to stick with our usual menu. Just scale down the recipes, instead of doubling them so there are plenty of leftovers for us and to send home with the kids. But then I decided that this was a good opportunity to do something different and try a menu just for two. The exception is making cranberry sauce, so there are leftovers for topping biscuits, pound cake, ice cream, or pancakes. You can roast a chicken, turkey breast, sauté cutlets or do tofurkey. We will have breaded soy cutlets with vegan gravy. All the recipes are vegetarian (not vegan) so if you are the lone vegetarian at your family gathering, these would be easy to take along.

Whether you are doing a full-on dinner, this menu for two, or baking a lasagna, I hope you have a peaceful, safe and blessed Thanksgiving. Even during this very difficult year there is much to be thankful for.

Apple and Herb Stuffing

In the south, we call it dressing. But when I mentioned making dressing to a friend here, she said “what’s that?” This is my first time making dressing/stuffing that doesn’t use corn bread, and I have to say this was much faster and easier. I happen to prefer dressing on the dryer side, and this recipe is. So if you like it in the moister side, just add more broth.

■2 cups whole-wheat country bread cubes, white or wheat (about 2 ½ ounces)

■2 tsp extra virgin olive oil

■¼ cup chopped celery

■¼ cup chopped onion

■¼ cup chopped apple

■1 tsp chopped fresh sage, thyme, rosemary or combo

1/8 tsp salt

■½ cup reduced sodium vegetable broth

■1 tbsp butter, melted

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake until lightly toasted, about 15 minutes. Meanwhile, heat oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion. Cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add apple and cook, stirring, until tender, about 5 minutes more. Place the bread cubes, herbs and salt in a medium bowl. Add vegetable mixture. Toss well. Drizzle broth and butter over the mixture and toss gently until evenly moistened. Divide the mixture between two 6-8 ounce ramekins or a 2 cup baking dish. Cover with foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake until heated through, about 30 minutes. If you want a crisp top, remove the foil for the last 15 minutes of baking.

Stuffed Sweet Potato Casserole

This makes one half sweet potato per person, so double if you want a whole potato per person.

■1 medium sweet potato (about 8 ounces)

■2 tsp light brown sugar, divided

■2 tsp butter, softened

1/8 tsp cinnamon

■¼ tsp orange zest

■1 tsp fresh orange juice

■Pinch of nutmeg

■Pinch of salt

Optional toppings:

■10 mini marshmallows

■1 tbsp chopped toasted pecans

Position a rack in upper third of oven. Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Prick the potato all over with a fork. Place on a foil or parchment paper lined baking sheet (sticky stuff will leak out, so this saves clean up) and bake until tender when pierced with a knife, 45 to 50 minutes. Remove and switch oven to broil.

When cool enough to handle, halve the potato lengthwise, and leaving skin intact, scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl. Add 1 tsp brown sugar, butter, cinnamon, orange zest and juice, nutmeg, and salt; mash until chunky-smooth. Fill the skins with the potato mixture and sprinkle the top with the remaining 1 tsp brown sugar, and marshmallows if using. Broil until browned. Sprinkle with chopped pecans.

Skillet Green Bean“Casserole”

We actually liked this better than the traditional green bean casserole. With the smaller size of this recipe we will be having it more than once a year at Thanksgiving.

■2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, divided

■½ cup chopped onion

■½ cup fresh bread crumbs or panko

1/8 tsp salt, plus ¼ tsp salt

■½ tsp chopped fresh thyme

■½ cup chopped mushrooms

■2 tbsp dry sherry, dry vermouth, dry white wine, or unfiltered apple cider

■½ cup reduced-sodium vegetable broth

■1 small clove garlic, minced

■¼ tsp ground pepper

■2 cups frozen French cut green beans (no need to thaw)

■2 tbsp heavy cream

■2 tsp flour

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a small skillet, over medium heat. Add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Add breadcrumbs or panko and 1/8 tsp salt; cook, stirring, until crispy, about 2 to 5 minutes more. Stir in thyme, and transfer to a plate. Wipe out the pan. Heat the remaining 1 tablespoon oil in the skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms; cook, stirring, until they release their liquid, about 3 minutes. Add sherry and cook until mostly evaporated, about 1 minute. Add broth, garlic, pepper and the remaining ¼ tsp salt; bring to a simmer. Increase heat to medium-high. Add green beans and bring to a simmer, cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Whisk cream and flour together in a small bowl. Add to the green bean mixture and cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened, 2 to 3 minutes. Serve topped with bread crumb mixture.

Pumpkin Cheesecake for Two with Salted Caramel Sauce

■1 ½ ounces broken gingersnaps or graham crackers

■2 tsp canola oil or melted butter

■4 ounces reduced fat cream cheese, softened

■2 tbsp granulated sugar

■2 tbsp heavy cream

■½ tsp vanilla extract

■1 large egg

■½ cup unseasoned pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

■1 tsp pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line two 6-ounce ramekins with foil and coat with cooking spray. Place gingersnaps or graham crackers in a food processor. Process until finely ground. Or place in a zip top bag and roll with a rolling pin until finely ground. Mix with melted butter. Divide between the two ramekins and press to cover the bottom. Beat the cream cheese, sugar, cream and vanilla until combined. Add egg and beat well. Add pumpkin puree and pumpkin pie spice, and beat, scraping the sides of the bowl as needed, until just combined. Divide the batter between the ramekins. Place the ramekins in a small roasting pan.

Add hot water to the roasting pan to come halfway up the sides of the ramekins. Carefully transfer to the oven; bake until the centers of the cheesecake are set, about 40 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool to room temperature; then cover and refrigerate for at least three hours. Lift the cheesecakes out of the ramekins and peel away the foil. This can be made ahead. Refrigerate cheesecakes, covered, for up to two days. Top with caramel sauce before serving.

Salted Caramel Sauce

This will make much more than is needed for the two cheesecakes, which is great! Hello ice cream, brownies, apple crisp, oatmeal, or drizzled on a chocolate martini.

■1 cup granulated sugar

■6 tbsp salted butter, room temperature and cut into 6 pieces

■½ cup heavy cream

■1 tsp salt

Heat granulated sugar in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring constantly with a high heat rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Sugar will form clumps and eventually melt into a thick brown, amber-colored liquid as you stir. Be very careful not to burn. Once sugar is completely melted immediately add the butter. The caramel will bubble rapidly. Stir in the butter until it is completely melted, about 2 minutes. If you notice the butter separating, or if the sugar clumps up, remove from heat and vigorously whisk to combine it again (could take 3-4- minutes). Return to heat when it is combined again. Very slowly drizzle in the cream, while stirring constantly. Again, it will rapidly bubble up. Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and stir in 1 teaspoon salt. Allow to cool slightly before using.

This can be stored tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to one month, or frozen for up to three months (thaw in the fridge). Reheat in the microwave to desired consistency.


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