Kitchen Focus

Thanksgiving means good food shared with good company. It can also mean headaches and frustration if you don't plan ahead. But it doesn't have to be that way ... just take a little time now and you can be relaxing your way through the big day without sacrificing any of your favorite traditions.

This month, I'm offering some tips to help save time, energy and sanity when planning and preparing Thanksgiving dinner.

  • Appetizers can be a lifesaver. Mix simple ingredients and feel free to opt for packaged options from the grocery store.
  • Make sure you have wine and cocktails available for pre-dinner yummies. Having everything on hand in advance will save you a lot of time and effort.
  • Make a turkey that will give you at least two more servings than you will need for your guests. It will make sure you have enough and give you some tasty leftovers for days when you don't feel like cooking.
  • Try to mix items in your menu. If you have one side dish that's very labor-intensive, try to pair it with other dishes that can be made in advance, use a lot of convenience ingredients or are easy to make.
  • Desserts should be made in advance. Keep last minute details to a minimum.

I'm also offering a recipe that can either be served as a side dish or as a vegetarian main dish (just use larger squashes) for the big event. Enjoy!

Roasted Winter Squash Stuffed with Curried Quinoa

  • 2 softball-sized acorn or other hard winter squash, halved and seeds removed
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 c. quinoa
  • 2 c. vegetable broth
  • 2/3 c. shredded carrot
  • 4 shallots, diced
  • 1-2 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2/3 c. dried cranberries
  • 1/4 c. chopped green onions

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Lightly spray the squash halves with the cooking spray and place them, cut side down, on a cookie sheet. Bake in the oven for 25-35 minutes or until the flesh can be easily pierced with a fork.

Meanwhile, combine the quinoa and vegetable broth in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the carrots, shallots, curry powder and salt and lower the heat to low. Cover the saucepan and simmer for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and add the cranberries; simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Add the green onions and mix to combine.

Carefully spoon the quinoa mixture into the hollows of the squash and warm in a gentle oven (300 degrees), if necessary. Place any remaining quinoa mixture around the bases of the squash halves to keep them from rocking.

  • Yields: 4 servings
  • Preparation Time: 50 minutes
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