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Well, we have successfully met two of the holiday hurdles, Thanksgiving and the dreaded “Black Friday.” I hope whichever you participated in was time well-spent.

As I’m sure you are all too well aware, the Big Day is less than a month away, and if you blink, it will be upon us. So kick your baking and gift wrapping into high gear.

I received numerous Thanksgiving recipes/tips after the last column had been turned in, but all of them are applicable to Christmas and New Year’s entertaining as well, so I will be passing some of them on to you.

Are you out of ideas for using up leftover turkey? And you know that a month from now you will face the same dilemma? Try the following turkey manicotti recipe. It might appear lengthy, but you’d be surprised at how quickly it comes together. Save a little time and energy by using manicotti shells or egg roll wrappers instead of making the crepes, although the crepes are simple and I’m sure they would complement the turkey nicely.

If your go-to cheese ball seems to be getting a little been-there-done-that-got-the-apron, go to http://allrecipes.com/recipes/404/appetizers-and-snacks/dips-and-spreads/cheese-dips-and-spreads/cheese-balls/?page=2, where you will find 100 or so cheese balls, ranging from savory to sweet and everything in between. Cheese balls are pretty quick to put together, and always a welcome treat.

Another very popular munchie is spinach dip, and I have a recipe for a hot one for you today. The “hot” might mean a couple of things — the dip is served heated; and it contains crushed red peppers, which will make it hot in a heartbeat. I would advise adding a pinch or two of the peppers and testing it. One half teaspoon might not seem like a lot, but with crushed red peppers it doesn’t take a lot.

The dip recipe was shared with allrecipes.com by Becky of thetwobiteclub, who suggests serving it in a bread bowl. Since spinach dip will taste just as good when cooled, a bread bowl would make for a nice presentation, plus you can tear off pieces of the bowl once the crudites and crackers are gone. But you could keep it warm in a small crock pot.

For a little different texture, add some chopped water chestnuts or artichoke hearts.

Some of you out there are extremely organized when it comes to putting a big meal like for Thanksgiving or Christmas on the table. Everything is timed perfectly, so it is all ready to go at once, and you don’t even have to dust yourself with flour to make it look like hard work.

I don’t have to dust myself with flour either. By the time everything is ready, I look like I have showered in it. It’s a good thing my family believes that the upper crust likes eating their meals in stages. Just serve the courses in the order in which they are ready. So what if dessert is ready between the mashed potatoes and the green bean casserole? I tell them pumpkin pie and ice cream cleanse the palate for the next course. It’s very continental!

But allrecipes.com has timing dinner down to an art. And if you need a good laugh, read the turkey dinner timetable that follows.

Turkey Manicotti

Crepes:

2 eggs

¾ cup all-purpose flour

¾ cup water

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon olive oil

Filling:

1 cup diced cooked turkey

1 cup whole-milk ricotta cheese

1 egg

½ cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

½ cup shredded mozzarella cheese

¼ teaspoon dried marjoram

⅛ teaspoon red pepper flakes

¼ cup chopped Italian parsley

Salt to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil, or as needed

1½ cups marinara sauce, divided

2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

⅓ cup freshly shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Chopped Italian parsley

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk 2 eggs, flour, water, salt, and ½ teaspoon olive oil together thoroughly in a bowl to make a very smooth batter. Cover bowl with plastic wrap; refrigerate 1 hour. Mix turkey, ricotta cheese, 1 egg, ½ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, mozzarella cheese, marjoram, red pepper flakes and ¼ cup Italian parsley in a bowl until thoroughly combined; salt to taste. Place a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat; brush generously with 1 teaspoon olive oil or as needed. Swirl about ¼ cup batter in bottom of pan; tilt to form a thin pancake covering bottom of skillet. Cook until bottom of crepe is dry, 60 to 90 seconds. Flip crepe and cook until other side has small browned spots, 60 to 90 seconds more. Repeat with remaining batter to make 6 crepes. Transfer crepes to a plate as you make them. Spread about ½ cup marinara sauce in bottom of a 9-x12-inch baking dish. Use a brush to spread about ½ teaspoon olive oil in a thin layer up sides of dish. Place a crepe, dimpled side down, on work surface; spread about ⅓ to ½ cup filling on crepe in a line down the middle. Roll crepe over filling; tuck in ends if desired. Lay filled crepe in baking dish. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling to make 6 manicotti rolls. Spread remaining marinara sauce over manicotti in a line down the middle of the crepes, covering middle ⅓ of manicotti. Sprinkle ⅓ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese all over manicotti. Drizzle manicotti with remaining 1½ teaspoons olive oil. Bake until manicotti are slightly browned and puffy, about 45 minutes. Let stand 5 minutes to cool. Garnish with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and Italian parsley before serving. (Chef John, allrecipes.com)

Hot Spinach Red Pepper Dip

1 cup water

1 cup diced red bell pepper+2 tablespoons finely diced, for garnish

½ cup thawed frozen chopped spinach

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese

2 tablespoons milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

¼ teaspoon salt

1 pinch freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon finely diced red bell pepper

Bring the cup of water to a boil in a small saucepan over high heat; add diced red pepper and chopped spinach. Bring water back to a boil; reduce heat to medium and simmer until pepper is very soft, about 10 minutes. Drain spinach and red pepper in colander, pressing out as much liquid as possible. Combine cream cheese and milk in saucepan; cook over medium heat until hot and softened. Stir in cooked spinach and red peppers, Parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper flakes, salt, and ground black pepper. Continue to stir until well combined and heated through. Spoon hot dip into a serving dish and serve with the tablespoon of finely diced red bell pepper sprinkled on top for garnish. (Becky, thetwobiteclub; allrecipes.com)

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Turkey Dinner Timetable

9 a.m.: Peel, chop, and measure out all the vegetables and fruits you need for the turkey, stuffing, and mashed potato recipes. Submerge the potatoes in water to keep them from turning brown. Cube and toast the bread for the stuffing. Note that for this timeline, the stuffing will be baked in a casserole dish later.

10:30 a.m.: Assemble the pumpkin pie. You’ll bake it in the morning to free up the oven for the turkey later.

11 a.m.: Pull the turkey out of the fridge and prep it for roasting. Bake the pumpkin pie.

Noon: Take the pie out of the oven and put the turkey in. Break time!

1 p.m.: Assemble and refrigerate your stuffing and green bean casseroles. They’ll go in the oven when the turkey comes out.

1:30 p.m.: Boil and mash your potatoes; keep them warm in a slow cooker.

2:30 p.m.: Make the gravy; you’ll add extra flavor with pan drippings from the turkey later. Now take a little break.

3 p.m.: Set the table so it looks festive and inviting. Remove green beans and stuffing from refrigerator; microwave briefly to take the chill off.

3:30 p.m.: Take the turkey out of the oven and put the casseroles in. Let the turkey rest for at least 20 minutes before carving.

4 p.m.: Turkey is carved, casseroles are done, potatoes and gravy are hot. Dinner is served! (allrecipes.com)

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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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