During this time when most of us are cutting back on our spending and trying to find ways to beat the economic slump, entertaining family and friends may be quite a challenge, especially during the Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays. Americans love to eat. Some wait all year for that one day they can "pig out" and feel okay about it. Everyone stuffs themselves with all manner of food and drink on Thanksgiving. It's been a tradition since the pilgrims sat down with the Indians for the first Thanksgiving in Plymouth in 1621.
Keeping the cost down
Even if you are out of work, on employment or temporarily living with your parents, it is still possible to create an incredible Thanksgiving dinner if you give it some thought. The secret is in the planning and in doing most of the work yourself. Rather than rushing out and buying up expensive bags of ready made dressing, cans of cranberry sauce and canned gravy, you might want to consider making these things from scratch. It is much cheaper and, in most cases costs less and tastes better.
Planning your dinner
You first have to decide whether or not you can afford to buy a turkey. That might depend on the size of your family and the amount of money you have to spend. Turkeys are more expensive than chicken or other fowl and are usually quite large, so you might consider buying a chicken instead or Cornish game hens, if you're cooking for a smaller group. Chicken goes just as well with all the thanksgiving trappings. However, if you absolutely have to have a turkey, remember that if you buy one a little bigger than what you'll need for the big day, you can have at least three meals out of it by making wonderful dishes with the left overs.
Food and Drink
After the meat, probably the easiest and least expensive dishes to include in your meal are potatoes (white or sweet), vegetables, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. The first two items will probably be on sale at your grocer during the season. Vegetables vary is cost from inexpensive green beans, corn, and broccoli and zucchini to more expensive mushrooms, artichokes and asparagus. A big cost saver would be to make your own dinner rolls or biscuits and pie, as well as the cranberry sauce, the dressing, and the gravy. They really are not difficult to make and you can actually have fun doing it, if you allow enough time. Figure your schedule out ahead of time and make some of your food and drink items the day before.
While the kids most likely will drink milk, and some of the adults too, for something a little more festive, you might try a cranberry punch (http://www.cdkitchen.com/recipes/recs/1801/Cranberry-Punch75550.shtml) or serve a lovely white wine with your turkey. Riesling, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio all go well with turkey , as does Pouilly Fuisse (which is a little more expensive, but might be an interesting choice if you are a guest and want to bring something special to the host or hostess). And, of course after the main meal, lots of delicious strong coffee to keep everyone from falling asleep from the tryptophan in the turkey.
Making a fabulous pie
If you don't like pumpkin, apple pie goes well with this type of meal. And if you have children, they really enjoy helping in the kitchen and can be assigned various jobs to help you out. Making pie crust seems to strike terror in the hearts of many cooks. So, buying them ready made has become common place. However, they are more expensive than homemade and, in most cases don't taste as good. For those of you who are adventurous, here is a video with exact instructions. Once you have your crusts made, you can decide whether you prefer pumpkin pie or apple.
Recipes: Pie crust (video), Apple Pie, Pumpkin Pie
And for something very special
Fabulous Pumpkin Cheesecake
1 1/2 cups graham crumbs
5 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. sugar
3- 8oz.pkgs. cream cheese, softened
1 cup sugar
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup canned pumpkin
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. allspice
Mix crust ingredients together, just till coated and crumbly. Press onto the bottom and 2/3 up the sides of an 8" springform pan. Bake for 5 min. at 350. Set aside.
Combine cheese, sugar and vanilla in large bowl, mix until smooth with an electric mixer. add pumpkin eggs, and spices, beat till smooth and creamy. Pour into the crust. Bake for 60-70 min. or till the top turns a bit darker. Remove from oven and allow to come to room temperature, then refrigerate. After it has thoroughly chilled, remove the pan sides and cut. Serve with whipped cream.
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