Thanksgiving is this Thursday, and if you don’t do it at any other time of the year, please take time that day to reflect on the good things in your lives, especially the little everyday things that we tend to take for granted, and be thankful for them. It wouldn’t hurt to think about some of the bad things as well, and be thankful that they were not worse!

Not to belabor the point, but for those of you who thought I was kidding about jump-starting your Christmas shopping panic a couple of weeks ago: I was not! Black Friday is Nov. 24, and that only leaves 30 days until Christmas Eve. So, “(s)hop to it.” I’m still waiting for those on my list to tell me what I am giving them and to whom I should make out the checks.

At this time of year, many people are busy making, baking and sometimes canning goods to give as Christmas gifts. Generally, this is a great idea, because taking the time to make a gift really makes it a gift from the heart. But be careful. Our friend, family living agent Mary Meehan-Strub shared a website with us: https://fyi.uwex.edu/safepreserving/2017/11/10/canned-breads-and-cakes-an-unsafe-holiday-gift. It talks about a current trend toward giving “canned” breads, cakes and even pies as gifts. Recipes/instructions for these gifts have been popping up on websites as well as in some newspapers and magazines. But checking the article at this website will let you know that these gifts are not a good idea, unsafe even, and why.

The same page has information for safely thawing your turkey and the proper (i.e. safe) way to stuff a turkey. For many years the recommendation has been to bake the stuffing separately rather than inside the turkey.

I found some interesting recipes to share with you; some for Thanksgiving dinner and some for the next day and a couple of days after that.

Butternut squash combined with wild rice and kale makes a somewhat unusual side dish, and one that I have never run across before, but it sounds worth a try to me. Janay Moore, who shared this recipe with betterrecipes.com, says “The texture of the wild rice compliments the tender roasted squash in this dish.” She calls it “subtle ... but satisfying.”

Kitchen gloves really come in handy when doing things like coating the squash and kale with oil. I use them a lot — when working with raw meats, chopping things like onions, and any time you need to get in there with your hands to thoroughly combine ingredients. I buy my gloves at Walgreen’s in boxes of about 200, but you should be able to find them at any pharmacy.

If you like the flavor of pumpkin but don’t care for the pie texture, or just don’t like pie crust, you might be a good candidate for the individual pumpkin Bundt cakes for dessert. They are quick and easy to make. You could let them cool and drizzle a little icing over the tops, or stir a little cinnamon and honey into whipped topping and serve them slightly warm, with a generous dollop of the flavored topping.

Ana, who provided betterrecipes.com with the recipe, enthuses “Try out these vegan pumpkin Bundt cakes this fall for a great seasonal treat.” In order for them to be vegan, however, you would need to find a substitute for the butter and make your icing-drizzle with water rather than milk. I’m not sure if there is a vegan version of whipped topping or not.

What do you usually do with the leftovers? The usuals, like turkey salad, turkey and cranberry sandwiches, turkey soup, open-faced turkey sandwiches with mashed potatoes and gravy? Boil the carcass and make turkey chop suey?

If you are opting for a little variety/creativity when “repurposing” leftovers this year, I might have just the ticket(s) for you!

You could throw whatever vegetables you have handy after the big meal into the turkey casserole — broccoli, green beans, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, etc. Any of them would work just as well as cauliflower. My choice instead of soup would be to make a quick white sauce darkened with sautéed chopped mushrooms and maybe a few drops of Kitchen Bouquet.

The recipe I am most anxious to try, however, is Thanksgiving eggrolls, with cranberry dipping sauce. You might want to finely chop the leftover vegetables and add them to the eggrolls as well. I’ll bet you never thought of gravy as a dipping sauce, but it just might work!

There isn’t much left to say, except I hope everyone is surrounded by loved ones, blessed with safe travel and thankful for all the big and little things that happen every day that make our lives good.

In the words of my then 4-year-old daughter Traci, who has always made my life better, “THANKS HAPPY GIVING!!

Savory Squash Wild Rice

3 cups wild rice

1 to 1½ pounds (2 to 3 cups when chopped) butternut squash, peeled

1 cup kale, chopped

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil, as needed

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook rice according to package instructions. Cut squash in bite-sized pieces. Place squash in a large bowl, add a little olive oil (start with 3 to 4 tablespoons) and lightly toss. Spread on a parchment-lined, rimmed baking sheet; season to taste with salt and pepper. Bake 20 minutes or until tender. Massage kale with a little olive oil (1 or 2 teaspoons); stir into rice. When squash is done, fold into rice. (janaymoore9; betterrecipes.com)

Mini Pumpkin Bundt Cakes

3 cups flour

1½ teaspoons baking soda

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon nutmeg

½ teaspoon allspice

½ teaspoon salt

¾ cup butter, softened

2 cups granulated sugar

1½ large bananas, mashed

2 teaspoons vanilla

15 ounces pumpkin puree

¼ cup vegetable oil

¾ cup almond milk

Icing: Thin glaze of confectioners’ sugar and water or milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a mini Bundt cake pan. Whisk together flour, baking soda, pumpkin spice, nutmeg, allspice and salt. In a separate bowl, cream together butter and sugar. Mix in banana and vanilla. Stir in pumpkin puree, vegetable oi, and almond milk. Slowly add flour mixture; mix until just combined. Pour batter into a piping bag or ziplock bag with tip of one corner cut off. Pipe batter into cake pans until each is half-full. Bake 18 to 20 minutes. Cool; drizzle with icing. (Ana; betterrecipes.com)

Cauliflower and Turkey Casserole

¾ cup cauliflower florets, cooked al dente

1 red bell pepper, finely chopped

1½ cups leftover turkey, diced

1 can cheddar cheese, cream of mushroom or cream of chicken soup plus ¼ soup can water

4 to 6 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese

¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Place cauliflower in a lightly greased baking dish. Sprinkle red peppers and turkey over cauliflower. Whisk soup and water together until smooth; pour over turkey mixture. Top with cheese. Bake 30 minutes or until cheese has melted and casserole is heated through. Garnish with parsley before serving. (adapted from dank26660, betterrecipes.com)

Thanksgiving Egg Rolls

12 egg roll wrappers

2 cups stuffing

2 cups mashed potatoes

1½ cups diced turkey

Vegetable oil for frying

Cranberry dipping sauce:

1 cup canned cranberry jelly

2 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon maple syrup

Heat about 2 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat until it reaches 360 degrees. Prepare egg rolls: With an egg roll wrapper at a diagonal, top with about 2 tablespoons of stuffing, 2 tablespoons of mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of diced turkey. Don’t worry about being exact. Use as much or as little of each item as you like. With a small dish of water at the ready, roll bottom corner of wrapper over filling and give it a little tuck. Fold in left and right corners, dipping your finger in water to brush corners to seal them. Continue rolling up until closed and wet; press and seal last corner down. Repeat with remaining filling and wrappers. Once oil is heated, use tongs to drop in egg rolls for frying, 2 to 3 at a time. Overcrowding will cause temperature to drop. Turn occasionally; fry until wrappers turn golden brown and cooked through. Remove from oil; transfer to a paper towel lined plate or cooling rack to drain and cool. Cranberry sauce: In a small saucepan over medium heat, combine cranberry jelly, orange juice and maple syrup. Cook sauce until bubbling; reduce heat to simmer and reduce 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Serve alongside egg rolls. (fortunegoodies.com)

Liven up your Thursday mornings by tuning in to Coulee Region Cooks from 10 to 11 a.m. on WIZM-AM radio, 1410 on the dial. Spend an hour with Mike Hayes and a different guest(s) each week in his studio kitchen, sharing recipes and cooking tips, along with a generous serving of fun.

Send requests, recipes and/or cooking tips and techniques to Alice P. Clark at: Reader Exchange, c/o La Crosse Tribune, 401 N. Third St., La Crosse, Wis. 54601; e-mail: readerexchange@lacrossetribune.com; or send a fax to 608.782.9723, attn: Reader Exchange.

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