Downsized Thanksgiving dinner recipes

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WVLT) – No one could imagine back in March what Thanksgiving would look like. COVID-19 has influenced people in so many ways.

Holiday traditions are important and bind people together as families and friends. When there’s a break in tradition, it can be unsettling. Food traditions around holidays are particularly important. Everyone wants the sweet potatoes prepared by Aunt Mable, so don’t even think of changing that up!

But now we people finding themselves in new territory. The casserole that serves 16 we always carry to Mom’s house may be the only holiday dish we’ve ever had to worry about. Celebrating a holiday with just two or four people needs recipes sized just right.

These recipes will help people to downsize their holiday meal, making it simpler, more affordable, and perfect for smaller families. Even if a person has never made Thanksgiving dinner before, I know they’ll be successful with these easy recipes made with whole foods we love.

No matter how you choose to celebrate, I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.

A Few Tips

§ Turkey stock is the secret weapon. You can make it now and keep it in the fridge until it’s time to cook! Homemade stock adds a depth of flavor to foods not easily achieved with canned stock and can be used in many different recipes. You can also use it to keep leftovers moist.

§ An instant digital thermometer is a cook’s best friend. You’ll never worry about whether or not the turkey is done if you are cooking it to temperature. Rest any cooked turkey a few minutes before carving.

§ The best way to avoid overcooking Thanksgiving dishes, in addition to cooking to temperature, is to cover things that are browning too quickly with foil. The foil will help preserve moisture and keep foods from burning.

§ Purchase the best ingredients your food budget allows. Use real butter and cream. Thanksgiving is no time to skimp on calories. To coat baking dishes, use oil or a spray if you prefer it instead of butter.

§ The three sisters of Thanksgiving herbs are rosemary, sage and thyme. Substitute the herb combinations freely. Sage is a quintessential Thanksgiving taste. Parsley will brighten the flavor of any dish as well.

Sheet Pan Cornish Hen Meal

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Start to finish time: 1 hour, 15 minutes

Serves: 2 or 4 (see quantities for 4 in parenthesis)

This is a simple one-pan solution to Thanksgiving This sheet pan dinner serves up the main dish Cornish hens, and sides of roast potatoes and green beans all in one.


· 1/2 (1) pound new potatoes, halved or quartered

· ½ (1) Pound sweet potatoes, halved and quartered

· 2 (4) medium sweet onions, each cut into 6 wedges, divided

· 1 (2) lemon, thinly sliced

· 2 (4) tablespoons olive oil, divided

· 2 (4) Cornish hens

· 3 tablespoons butter, divided

· 4 (8) fresh rosemary sprigs

· 4 (8) fresh thyme sprigs

· 1 (2) tsp Salt

· 1 (2) tsp Freshly ground black pepper

· 1/2 pound fresh green beans, trimmed

· 1 (2) leek, trimmed, white part thinly sliced, rinsed well

· 2 sprigs parsley

· 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour


1. Heat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray. If doubling the recipe, prepare two baking sheets.

2. Toss the potatoes and the onion wedges with the oil in a medium bowl. Spread out on a baking sheet. Top with lemon slices.

3. Pat hens dry and cut up either side of backbones to remove.

4. Rub outside of hens with 1 tablespoon of the butter and place skin side up over potatoes and lemons. Slip a rosemary sprig under each hen.

5. Move the baking sheet to hot oven and roast 30 minutes. Toss green beans and leeks in remaining tablespoon oil and scatter over potatoes around hens. Roast an additional 20 minutes, until the thickest part of the thigh on a hen reaches 160 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

6. When hens have come to temperature, remove from oven and either serve from the sheet pan, or transfer hens to a serving platter and move vegetables to a serving dish.

Classic Gravy

Total: 3 hr

Prep: 30 min

Yield: 4 cups

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For the broth:

· 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

· 1/2 medium onion or leek, or 1 shallot, sliced

· Backbones from hens

· 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth

· 2 sprig thyme, parsley, rosemary and/or sage

· 1 bay leaf

For the gravy:

· Hen Drippings from your roasting pan

· 1/4 cup all-purpose flour

· Dash of Worcestershire sauce

· Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

· 1 tablespoon cold butter


1. When your hens go into the oven, start the broth: Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium-low heat.

2. Add the onion and backbones; cook, stirring, until the bones are browned, about 15 minutes. Add the chicken broth, herb sprigs and bay leaf; cover and simmer while the hens roast, about 1/2 hour. Strain the broth and keep warm.

3. When your hens are done, transfer them to a cutting board and pour all the pan drippings into a degreasing cup. Add 1/2 cup of the prepared broth to the roasting pan and scrape up the browned bits with a wooden spoon. (If the bits are stuck, put the pan over a low burner to loosen them.) Add the bits and liquid to the degreasing cup.

4. Let the fat rise to the top of the degreasing cup, then spoon off 1/2 cup fat and transfer to a large saucepan over medium heat. Make a roux: Sprinkle the flour into the pan and cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the flour browns slightly, about 4 minutes. If you need more fat add some oil or butter.

5. Gradually add the hot broth to the roux, whisking constantly to prevent lumps. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Pour the dark roasting juices from the degreasing cup into the gravy, discarding any remaining fat. Simmer, whisking occasionally, until the gravy thickens, about 10 minutes. Add the Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the butter.

Rustic Caramel Apple Tart

Apple pie without a pan, this yummy tart has a crispy crust that cuts nicely and a caramel topping.

Total Time

Prep: 20 min. + chilling Bake: 25 min.

Yield 4 servings


· 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

· 1 tablespoon sugar

· 1/8 teaspoon salt

· 1/4 cup cold butter, cubed

· 6-1/2 teaspoons cold water

· 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract


· 1-1/2 cups chopped peeled tart apples

· 3 tablespoons sugar

· 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour


· 1 teaspoon sugar

· 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

· 1 large egg

· 1 tablespoon water

· 2 tablespoons caramel ice cream topping, warmed


1. In a large bowl, combine flour, sugar and salt; cut in butter until crumbly. Gradually add water and vanilla, tossing with a fork until dough forms a ball. Cover and refrigerate until easy to handle, about 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough into a 10-in. circle. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Combine the filling ingredients; spoon over crust to within 2 in. of edges. Fold up edges of crust over filling, leaving center uncovered. Combine sugar and cinnamon; sprinkle over filling. Whisk egg and water; brush over crust.

3. Bake until crust is golden and filling is bubbly, 25-30 minutes. Using parchment, slide tart onto a wire rack. Drizzle with caramel topping. Serve warm.

Copyright 2020 WVLT. All rights reserved.

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