Downsized Thanksgiving still means turkey and pie


Thanksgiving is the most widely celebrated American holiday, but this year, it’s going to look a little differemt — families in their homes, eating a festive meal separately, maybe with a Zoom call planned. With people advised not to travel by the nation’s health authorities and COVID-19 cases on the rise, a more solitary affair is in the works.

Tradition is the broad-breasted turkey, roasted to a golden-brown (and in some instances, deep-fried), filling the kitchen with tantalizing aromas. This year you may be cooking for two or four and not 22 or 24, so does it make sense to purchase the whole bird?

Meat departments are looking ahead to help — 10- to 16-pounders are being ordered, not the mammoth ones. If that’s still too much turkey, consider Cornish hens — perfect for solo or duo dining. For a small group, get one for each person; the bonus is that there’s white and dark meat to satisfy each taste.

Then there’s the annual debate: stuffing or dressing? Stuffing is the mixture that’s baked inside the turkey cavity, but bake it in a pan outside the bird and it’s called dressing. Scale down and make just the amount needed in a casserole or mini-loaf pan. The essential accompaniment? Cranberry sauce. My “no cook” relish recipe is tangy and almost instant in terms of making. All four ingredients are chopped in the food processor; it serves double-duty as a cake topping or stirred into vanilla ice-cream at a dairy meal.

Let’s not give up on pies. Usually, there’s a lush and sweet array, a loud hurrah to end the bounteous feast. Sweet potato, pecan, apple — you name it. But if you buy just one, all the choice is gone. Instead, fill homemade tart shells with your favorite fillings.

Short-crust pie pastry can be made in minutes. To prevent puffing, bake the shells on the bottom of muffin pans (see recipes below). The shells may be baked ahead of time and stored in a covered container at room temperature. Prepared puff pastry won’t work; when baked, the flaky layers fill up cavities leaving little room for fillings.

Enjoy these recipes anytime; you may even have leftovers for Shabbat. And remember, there is always something to be thankful for!

Pumpkin, Pear and Apple Bisque (Meat)

Serves 4

Cook’s Tips:•Recipe may be doubled. •For a pareve meal, substitute vegetable broth for chicken broth. •May be prepared two to three days ahead of time and refrigerated. •Substitute olive oil for margarine. •Look for garlic salt in a grinder.


1/2 medium onion, cut into chunks

1 ripe pear, unpeeled, cored and cut into chunks

1 Tbsp. margarine

1-1/2 to 2 cups chicken broth

3/4 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin-pie mix)

1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger root

1 tsp. dried thyme

1 tsp. garlic salt

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Place the onion and pear in the food processor. Pulse till finely chopped, but not puréed. In a medium saucepan over medium heat, melt the margarine.

Add the onion and pear. Sauté until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir often. Do not brown. Add 1-1/2 cups broth and the remaining ingredients. Stir to mix. If too thick, add a little more broth.

Simmer for 10 to 15 minutes. Serve hot.

Roasted Cornish Hens (Meat)

Serves 4

Cook’s Tips: •Substitute any vegetable oil for olive oil. •Rinse Cornish hens, inside and out, in cold water and pat dry.


1 Tbsp. brown sugar

1 Tbsp. lemon pepper

2 tsp. kosher salt

2 Tbsp. olive oil

4 Cornish hens (about 1-1/2 pounds each)

1 medium onion, sliced

1 celery rib, sliced

1 large lemon, cut into quarters


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Line a large baking pan with aluminum foil. Set aside.

In a small bowl, mix the sugar, lemon pepper and salt. Rub the birds with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Place on the baking pan at least 2 inches apart. You may need to use two baking pans.

Stuff the cavities with equal amounts of onion, celery and lemon. Roast in preheated oven for 1 hour, or until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees and juices run clear when inserted into the thickest part of the thighs.

Let rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Couscous and Currant Dressing (Meat)

Makes 2-1/2 cups

Cook’s Tips: •Substitute raisins, dried cranberries or chopped apricots for currants. •I use Near East brand boxed couscous. •Stir 1/4 cup chopped nuts into the mixture before baking.


1 pkg. (5.7 oz.) couscous

1 tsp. chicken granules

2 Tbsp.olive oil

1 egg, beaten

1/3 cup currants

1 tsp. dried sage

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

Freshly ground pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spray a medium baking dish (size 3 to 4 cups) with nonstick cooking spray. Cook the couscous according to package directions. Fluff with a fork and cool slightly.

Add the remaining ingredients. Stir to mix. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish.

Cover with aluminum foil. Bake in preheated oven for 15 minutes until heated through.

‘No Cook’ Cranberry Orange Relish (Pareve)

Makes 2-1/2 cups

Cook’s Tips: •Prepare two to three days ahead of time. •Cover and refrigerate. •Stir 1 Tbsp. grated ginger root into mixture. •Add a little more sugar, if desired.


1 (12-ounce) pkg. cranberries

1 orange, unpeeled, seeds removed and cut in 6 to 8 chunks

3/4 cup sugar

1/4 cup orange juice


Rinse cranberries under cold water. Place in food processor along with remaining ingredients. Pulse until coarsely chopped.

Transfer to a serving dish. Stir, cover and refrigerate until needed.

Short-Crust Pie Pastry (Pareve)

Makes 8 shells (4 for the Lemon Meringue and 4 for the Black-Bottom Chocolate)

Cook’s Tips: •A pinch of salt is just enough to pick up between your thumb and forefinger (less than 1/8 tsp.). •I use the lid of a coffee can to cut 4-inch circles. •Bake two to three days ahead of time. Store in a tight-lidded container at room temperature.


1 cup all-purpose flour

5 Tbsp. margarine, cut in 5 pieces

pinch of salt

2 to 3 Tbsp. water


Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. In the food processor, place the flour, margarine and salt. Pulse until mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs.

With the motor running, gradually add 2 to 3 Tbsp. water until the mixture holds together. It should not form a ball. Wrap in plastic wrap. Chill 15 minutes.

On a lightly floured board, roll out pastry into a 13-inch circle. Cut 8 circles with a 4-inch cookie cutter. Turn a muffin pan over and spray 8 cups with nonstick baking spray. Fit circles over the back of muffin cups. Prick all over.

Bake in a preheated oven, 8 to 10 minutes, or until golden-brown. Cool slightly.

Remove to a wire tray to cool completely. Fill with lemon curd or chocolate-whip mixture.

Lemon Curd (Pareve)

Makes 2-1/2 to 3 cups

Cook’s Tips: •Lemons should be at room temperature to release the most juice. •Grate lemon rind on large side of grater. •Use food processor if you don’t have a blender. •For orange curd, substitute grated rind of 1 orange and ¼ cup fresh orange juice for lemon rind and juice. Reduce sugar to 1/2 cup. •Use remaining lemon curd as a breakfast spread.


Grated rind and juice of 2 large lemons

3/4 cup sugar

3 eggs

8 Tbsp. margarine, melted


In the blender jar, place the grated lemon rind and juice, sugar and eggs. Whirl for a few seconds to blend. With the motor running, gradually pour in the melted margarine.

Transfer to a medium saucepan. Heat over medium-high heat, whisking madly until thickened, 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and continue whisking another minute. Pour into a bowl to cool completely.

Chill and use as needed.

Lemon Meringue Tarts (Pareve)

Makes 4 tarts

Cook’s Tips: •Lemon curd may be made three to four days ahead of time and refrigerated. •For piping meringue, a large star pipe #4 and disposable piping bags are available in kitchen-supply shops. •Incorporate egg yolks into omelets or baked goods.


3 egg whites

3 Tbsp. sugar

4 baked pastry tart shells

1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups lemon curd


Place tart shells on a baking sheet. Spoon in enough lemon curd to fill shells about 3/4 full. Set aside.

Whisk the egg whites until peaking softly. Add the sugar and whisk until stiff, 30 to 40 seconds. Spoon over the lemon curd, roughing with a fork or spoon mixture into a piping bag fitted with large star pipe. Pipe the mixture to cover the lemon curd.

Finish off under the broiler until peaks are golden. Watch carefully. Check every 20 seconds.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.

Black-Bottom Chocolate Whip (Pareve)

Makes 4 tarts

Cook’s Tips: •Melt chocolate and margarine in microwave. •Stir 1 tsp. rum or 1/2 tsp. orange extract into the chocolate mixture before combining the whipped topping.


4 tart shells

1 cup pareve chocolate chips

2 Tbsp. margarine

1-1/2 cups pareve whipped topping

pareve chocolate to garnish (optional)


In a small saucepan, heat the chocolate and margarine over very low heat until just beginning to melt. Stir to make a smooth mixture.

Drop a rounded teaspoonful into each tart shell. Cool slightly. Stir the whipped topping into the remaining chocolate mixture. Don’t worry if some white streaks remain.

Spoon mixture, dividing equally, into tart shells. Garnish with a sliver of pareve chocolate.

Serve at room temperature or chilled.


Cardamom Breakfast Cake (Dairy)

Serves 6 to 8

For the morning after Thanksgiving breakfast. We tucked into this Swedish cake at a Niagara Lakes vineyard bed and breakfast. May be whipped up and baked at the last minute. Freezes well.

Cook’s Tips: •No need to use the food processor. •Pearl sugar is small, hard sugar granules. It’s used to decorate Swedish cakes and pastries.


6 Tbsp. butter, softened

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1-1/2 tsp. baking powder

3/4 cup sugar

1 tsp. ground cardamom

3/4 cup milk

2 tsp. dry fine breadcrumbs

cinnamon or pearl sugar to sprinkle (opt’l)


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spray an 8-inch round cake pan with cooking spray and sprinkle lightly with dry breadcrumbs. Set aside.

Rub the butter into the flour with fingers or cut into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse breadcrumbs. Stir in the baking powder, sugar and cardamom. Make a well in center. Add the milk, stirring to make a smooth batter.

Transfer into prepared pan, sprinkle with pearl sugar or cinnamon (optional).

Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

Cut into wedges and serve warm from the oven.

Ethel G. Hofman is a widely syndicated American Jewish food and travel columnist.