Top 5 tips to save time, money, stress and calories for Thanksgiving dinner

Are you having guests over for dinner on Thanksgiving?  Dreading the extra stress, expense and calories? Here are some helpful ideas.

 

Do not go overboard with variety. You do not have to have everyone’s favorite holiday food at one meal.  Do you serve mashed potatoes, stuffing, and sweet potatoes?   Do you serve two meats?  Think about eliminating some of the options.  With more variety, the more ingredients you will have to buy and store, the more serving and leftover dishes there will be and the more everyone will eat.

Take guests up on their offer to bring something. Be ready with a list of dishes you can have guests bring.   Some of your guests would love to show off their cooking skills with a salad or dessert.  Others with less time or ability could be asked to bring a dozen rolls from the bakery, a purchased dessert, or some type of beverage.

Simplify your recipes.  Every dish does not have to be fancy.  I love fresh or frozen green beans with a touch of olive oil more than green bean casserole.   I would rather have our Holiday Fruit Salad than a salad with a little fruit and lots of whipped topping or sweetened condensed milk.  I also love our Guiltless Pumpkin Pie.

Use some convenience foods. Homemade stuffing will cost less, especially if you save bread crusts or buy your bread at the day old store.   However, boxed stuffing is often on sale around the holidays and adding sautéed onions, celery and peppers is always a good substitute.

Know how many people are attending dinner. This is important so you do not end up making too much food and spending extra money. Make only as much as you need for the people that are attending unless you are deliberately planning for leftovers.  Here’s a planning guide to get you started

A couple of years ago we planned a dinner using these tips from Healthy Holiday Dinner for 8, including the recipes and shopping list.  The cost might be a little more than $30 now, but this holiday meal will not break your budget, make you fat or stressed out.

Holiday Fruit Salad

This month we are featuring the Holiday Fruit Salad recipe.  This salad is great anytime, and looks so good and tastes so fresh it is perfect for special meals.

Here are some tips if you would like to try it now to see if you want to include it for your holiday meals.

  • Use any canned, frozen, or fresh fruit.  When you combine different fruit colors and shapes I think the salad looks more interesting.
  • If you want to use fresh fruit, consider oranges, grapefruit, tangerines, pears, pomegranates, apples and papayas because they are plentiful or “in season” in the winter months and usually cost less.   (Bananas are also a good buy year round.)
  • The fruit can either be arranged on the plate with the sauce drizzled over the top, or for a faster version, just combine the cut up fruit with the cooled sauce and serve.
  • The juice in the recipe adds flavor and nutrients, but you can get by without it.
  • You can vary the color and flavor of the sauce by using different flavors of gelatin.  One package of gelatin mix makes enough for 2 salads. Store and label the leftover gelatin for the next time you want to dress up your fruit.

I like this recipe because it looks special, but does not add a lot of sugar and fat (i.e. calories) to the fruit.

I would love to know how it works for you.

Holiday Fruit Salad

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons (1/2 small package) dry sugar-free favored gelatin (any favor/color)
  • 3/4 cup water
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons lemon or lime juice (optional)
  • 1 or 2 packets non-caloric sweetener or 2 to 3 teaspoons sugar (optional)
  • 4 cups cut-up fruit (apple, orange, kiwi, banana)
  • Optional garnish: Pomegranate seeds

Instructions

  1. For sauce, stir cornstarch and gelatin together in a small saucepan. Add water and stir to dissolve. Add the orange juice and, if desired, the lemon or lime juice.
  2. Cook over medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Stir constantly to prevent sticking and burning.
  3. Gently boil for 1 minute. Cool completely. Stir in sweetener or sugar, if desired.
  4. Arrange fruit on plates and pour sauce on top. Or pour cooled sauce over cut-up fruit in a bowl and stir to coat.
  5. Chill until ready to serve.

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