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Squash and Pear Soup
Roast Turkey with Sage
Cognac Gravy
Apple-Prune Dressing
Green Beans with Cranberry-Balsamic Glaze
Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables
Walnut-Sage Bread
Apple Pie with Comte Cheese Crust
Maple Cheesecake with Pecan Pralines

After years of practice, I’ve finally learned how to manage and enjoy Thanksgiving. Now not even last-minute guests, hurricane-force weather, or dropping the cooked turkey (yes, they’ve all happened) can faze me. What’s my secret? I start by settling a few things well ahead of the holiday, and then simply follow the "Turkey-day countdown," below With this step-by-step planner, you too can impress your guests with a cool, calm smile when you greet them at the door and sit down to a wonderful dinner.

Squash and Pear Soup
Serves 8 / Instead of peeling and cooking winter squash, use frozen organic squash. This easy soup can be made two days ahead; add the evaporated milk and heat thoroughly just before serving.

1 cup chopped leeks, white and light green parts only
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon curry powder
3 10-ounce boxes frozen organic squash, thawed
3/4 cup pear nectar
3 cups chicken broth
1/2 cup evaporated skim milk
Salt and pepper, to taste
Dried apple chips, for garnish

1. Soak leeks in hot water for 10 minutes to remove grit; repeat if necessary. In a large saucepan, heat butter over medium-low heat. Add leeks and sauté until translucent, 5–8 minutes. Add curry and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant.

2. Add squash, pear nectar, and broth. Bring to a simmer and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.

3. Purée soup with a hand blender, or transfer to a food processor or blender and process until thick and smooth. If making ahead, cool and refrigerate.

4. Before serving, reheat. Add evaporated skim milk and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Serve, sprinkled with dried apple chips

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 99 calories
% fat calories: 14
Fat: 2g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 4mg
Protein: 5g
Carbohydrate: 18g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 182mg

Roast Turkey with Sage
Serves 8, with leftovers / This turkey is the perfect size to cook in four hours and should provide ample servings (plus leftovers). Fresh sage tucked under the skin and cheesecloth draped over the turkey keep the rich flavor and moisture inside the bird. The sage leaves also add a dramatic, decorative touch. Serve with organic cranberry sauce, if desired.

1 14-pound turkey, fresh or fully thawed
20 fresh, whole sage leaves
Salt and pepper
1 red apple, quartered (leave peel and core on)
1 onion, quartered (leave skin on)
1/4 cup butter, softened
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup turkey or chicken broth
Cheesecloth, large enough to cover the turkey, single thickness

What size turkey should you buy?
If you’re cooking a whole bird, allow about 1 pound per person; to allow for leftovers, calculate about 1-1/2 pounds per person. You can supplement white or dark-meat amounts by buying extra turkey breasts, legs, or thighs.

1. Preheat oven to 450°. Remove liver, giblets, heart, and neck from inside turkey; discard or save to make stock.

2. Rinse turkey and pat dry. From the front of the breast, slide hands under turkey skin and loosen all the way to the back of the turkey. Place 10 sage leaves (5 on each side) under breast skin in a decorative pattern.

3. Salt and pepper turkey cavities (body and neck). Stuff with remaining sage leaves, apples, and onions. Skewer cavities shut. Rub outside of turkey with soft butter. Fold and tuck wings under turkey.

4. In a small saucepan, mix olive oil and broth. Saturate cheesecloth with liquid, squeezing out extra. Blanket turkey with cheesecloth. Use remaining broth for basting.

5. Place turkey on a rack in a large, heavy roasting pan. Place pan on lowest oven rack and immediately reduce temperature to 325°F. Bake for about 3 hours (17 minutes per pound), basting with oil-stock mixture every 20–30 minutes. (During last hour of cooking, cover lightly with foil, if necessary, to prevent overbrowning.) Remove cheesecloth during last 30 minutes of cooking. Insert meat thermometer in breast and thigh meat to judge doneness. Final breast temperature should be 170º, thigh 180°F.

6. Remove turkey from oven and let juices run into roasting pan. Tightly cover whole turkey with foil until ready to carve. Reserve pan juices to drizzle over slices before serving.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 217 calories
% fat calories: 33
Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 3g
Cholesterol: 89mg
Protein: 34g
Carbohydrate: 2g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 103mg

Cognac Gravy
Makes 6 cups / Gravy-making usually takes place just before the meal is served, when chaos reigns. Reduce kitchen traffic by making this up to one month in advance. Instead of investing in a large, expensive bottle of cognac, buy miniatures at the liquor store, or substitute apple cider.

4 pounds turkey or chicken wings
2 red apples, quartered (leave peel and core on)
2 onions, quartered (leave skin on)
1/3 cup cognac or other brandy
2 cups water
4 cups chicken broth
2 medium carrots, unpeeled, cut into large pieces
2 celery ribs with leaves, cut into large pieces
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1 teaspoon dried thyme
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 12-ounce can evaporated skim milk
2 tablespoons butter (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Store-bought and simple
For quick and wonderful appetizers, purchase nuts, artisan cheeses, olives, crackers, and premade dips. Natural foods stores often carry a wide range of frozen or premade side dishes, including organic cranberry sauce and relish, frozen squash for pies or casseroles, and small-batch breads and rolls.

1. In a 400°F oven, cook wings, apples, and onions in a large metal roasting pan for 90 minutes. Remove wings (meat can be saved for soup). Place roasting pan on medium-high heat. Add cognac; cook until all bits of pan drippings are scraped off, adding water as needed to finish.

2. Transfer drippings, apples, and onions to a 6-quart pot. Add broth, carrots, celery, sage, and thyme and simmer for another 90 minutes. Strain stock into a 3-quart saucepan; discard solids and skim off fat. If making ahead, refrigerate up to three days or freeze up to one month (place plastic wrap or waxed paper directly on top of gravy base to prevent freezer burn). Skim off fat before reheating.

3. Reheat gravy base. Whisk flour into evaporated skim milk and add to warm broth. Bring to a low simmer, whisking constantly, and cook until thick. Stir in butter, if using, and season to taste.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving (1/4 cup):
Calories: 40 calories
% fat calories: 4
Fat: 0g
Saturated Fat: 0g
Cholesterol: 1mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 6g
Fiber: 0g
Sodium: 93mg

Apple-Prune Dressing
Serves 8 / This delectable side dish is a version of my Danish grandmother’s recipe; it goes well with roasted duck, pork, and turkey. Use scissors to cut the sticky prunes.

1-1/2 cups boiling water
1/4 cup unsalted butter
6 cups whole-wheat raisin bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
2 cups pitted prunes, quartered
4 cups peeled and chopped Braeburn or Fuji apples
1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. In a small bowl, slowly pour boiling water over butter; stir until butter melts.

2. Place remaining ingredients in a large bowl. Pour water and butter over bread mixture and toss gently.

3. Transfer to a 10x14-inch baking dish and cover with foil. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes. To reheat, pour 1/4 cup hot water over top, cover, and reheat at 350°F for 20 minutes.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 263 calories
% fat calories: 25
Fat: 8g
Saturated Fat: 4g
Cholesterol: 16mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 46g
Fiber: 5g
Sodium: 357mg

Green Beans with Cranberry-Balsamic Glaze
Serves 8 / Surprise your guests with a new take on the green-bean casserole. This one uses cranberries, a Thanksgiving essential. Brussels sprouts also work well as an alternative to green beans. If using frozen green beans, simply rinse under hot water in a colander until thawed and add to onion mixture to heat through.

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
2 tablespoons butter
1 sweet onion (such as Walla Walla or Vidalia), sliced
4 tablespoons dried cranberries
1 medium orange, zested and juiced
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons tangerine-pomegranate juice (such as PomWonderful), or a blend of cranberry and orange juices

1. Steam green beans until fork-tender, 5 minutes for small beans, as much as 15 minutes for larger beans. If making ahead, drain and store in cold water

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2. In a large skillet, melt butter; add onions and cook over low heat until translucent. Turn up heat slightly and caramelize onions until golden, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add dried cranberries, orange zest, orange juice, vinegar, and tangerine-pomegranate juice. Simmer until liquid is reduced by half. Just before serving, add beans; toss to coat and heat through

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Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 91 calories
% fat calories: 28
Fat: 3g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 8mg
Protein: 3g
Carbohydrate: 16g
Fiber: 3g
Sodium: 31mg

Pan-Roasted Root Vegetables
Serves 8 / A nice change from mashed potatoes, these crusty, caramelized vegetables are made on the stovetop to reserve precious oven space for the turkey.

2 large russet potatoes
3 parsnips, each about 8 inches long
1 large sweet potato
3 medium turnips
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste

1. Peel and cut vegetables into uniform 1/2-inch cubes. Rinse away any remaining debris under cold water. If making ahead, store in cold salted water. Before cooking, drain and spread vegetables on paper towels to dry well.

2. Transfer vegetables to a large bowl. Toss with olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper. Heat a large, deep nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add vegetables and cook until tender and browned, about 20 minutes. Keep warm on stove or in a 200°F oven.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 159 calories
% fat calories: 30
Fat: 5g
Saturated Fat: 1g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 2g
Carbohydrate: 27g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 28mg

Walnut-Sage Bread
Serves 10 / A simple, savory bread with a cakelike texture that’s great with dinner—or for sandwiches made with Thanksgiving leftovers.

1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour1-1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons yeast
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1-1/4 cups warm water (110°F)
1 cup chopped walnuts
1/3 cup finely chopped fresh sage

1. In a large mixing bowl, stir together flours, salt, and yeast. Whisk together oil and water; add to dry ingredients. Stir until dough comes together. Add walnuts and sage. Knead in mixer with a dough hook or by hand for 5–8 minutes. Dough will be slightly sticky; if too wet, add 1 tablespoon flour at a time.

2. Gently pat dough into a rectangle on a floured board. Shape into a log by folding in half lengthwise. Cover with a tea towel; let rest for 30 minutes

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3. Roll dough again into a rectangle, then into a loaf shape by folding both long sides toward the middle, forming a seam. Place in an oiled 9x5-inch bread pan (turn once to coat), seam side down, tucking ends under. Cover loosely with a tea towel or plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled.

4. Preheat oven to 400°F. Fill a cast-iron skillet or baking pan with ice cubes and place on lowest oven rack. (This method creates steam in the oven, essential for great crusts.) Place bread on middle oven rack. Bake 30–35 minutes, until an instant thermometer inserted reads close to 200°F. Cool completely on a rack before slicing or wrapping in foil to freeze.

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 256 calories
% fat calories: 46
Fat: 13g
Saturated Fat: 2g
Cholesterol: 0mg
Protein: 6g
Carbohydrate: 30g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 430mg

Apple Pie with Comte Cheese Crust
Serves 8 / Comte cheese is made from the rich milk of pampered cows fed on grasses and wildflowers near France’s Jura Mountains. Its nutty, bold flavor makes a slightly tangy crust perfectly matched for apple pie. (You can also substitute sharp white cheddar.) This recipe dispenses with a bottom crust and features a sturdy top crust, allowing it to be made ahead of time and warmed before serving.

Crust
3/4-1 cup grated Comte cheese, packed
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons cold evaporated skim milk

Filling
4 Braeburn apples (about 1-1/2 pounds)
4 Granny Smith apples (about 1-1/2 pounds)
1 lemon, zested and juiced
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar or sucanat
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small slices

Delegate!
Guests always ask how they can help. Here’s an organized way to enlist others: Tape a turkey-day timeline on your kitchen cupboard that shows tasks that need doing, and when. Include every detail, from pouring the wine, to setting out the cranberry sauce, to choosing the dinner music. As people arrive, ask them to pick a project or two, and check off each task as they complete it.

1. Place cheese, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and stir. Pulse in butter, forming large chunks. Add milk and pulse just until dough holds together. Collect dough into a ball and flatten into a thick disk. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

2. Preheat oven to 425°F. Peel and thinly slice apples. Transfer to a large bowl and add lemon zest and juice; toss. Stir in spices and sugar or sucanat; toss until well-coated. Pour into a deep-dish, 10-inch pie plate. Sprinkle with flour and dot with remaining butter.

3. On a lightly floured board, roll dough to fit top of pie and place over filling. Trim and flute edges. Cut 5 steam vents in crust. Place in oven; immediately reduce temperature to 350°F. Bake for 35–45 minutes until crust is brown and filling is bubbly. If crust gets too brown, cover lightly with foil. Serve warm (reheat at 350°F for 20 minutes).

Nutrition Facts Per Serving:
Calories: 358 calories
% fat calories: 40
Fat: 16g
Saturated Fat: 10g
Cholesterol: 43mg
Protein: 7g
Carbohydrate: 49g
Fiber: 4g
Sodium: 138mg

As usual, food writer Kimberly Lord Stewart will plan Thanksgiving ahead so she can spend time on her book project and enjoy the holiday with family and friends.

More dessert, please
If you like to have a taste of a few different Thanksgiving desserts, try our second dessert recipe for Maple Cheesecake with Praline Pecans, available at www.deliciouslivingmag.com. You’ll also find links to other delectable sweets for your holiday table.