The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

November 14, 2012

Cheryle Finley: Shortcuts make Thanksgiving easier

By Cheryle Finley
Globe Columnist

JOPLIN, Mo. — It's hard to believe that one week from Thursday is Thanksgiving. I can't wait.

I am under doctor's orders to avoid raw fruits and vegetables, dairy, and spicy foods, so thankfully I'm OK for Thanksgiving dinner.

Other days, though, I'm not so good because I'm also not able to indulge in caffeine and chocolate. So much for my breakfast of Pepsi, little chocolate doughnuts and salt and vinegar chips. But it's for my own good and I'm hoping it isn't forever, so I am following orders. I want to give a quick shout-out to everyone at the Freeman Surgery Center for taking such great care of me last week. I was loopy long enough to say my daughter was my sister so the staff thought my mother either had a lot of children in between the two of us or had a long dry spell between kids.

Thanksgiving dinner is the holiday probably most steeped in tradition, so it's unusual to introduce a new recipe to your special dinner. Those traditions are usually passed down through the generations. One of the Evans traditions is turkey and ham. This is the second year I will miss the tradition of my dad telling my sister and me to take all the turkey leftovers we want but leave the ham and for us to ignore that plea and fill up our Ziplocs with ham. My mother, Wilma Evans, still insists on fixing sweet potatoes with marshmallows even though not one of us would miss them. Last year, she found the sweet potato casserole in the back of her oven one week after Thanksgiving, having forgotten to even serve it. My brother-in-law, Bill Joslen, says he asked where the sweet potatoes were during dinner but apparently everyone was too busy eating to hear. One tradition from the Finleys is that the mashed potatoes have to be sprinkled with paprika. It just isn't the same without that red spice. The Finleys always insist on raw celery for munching, mostly because the sound makes me crazy plus they are hoping for a replay of the year my daughter Sarah took a big bite of celery and it flew from her hand, whacking me on the side of my face. And it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without my mother-in-law's fabulous gravy which I can sit and eat with a spoon. Ah, traditions and holiday memories.

For the past several years, Mom has been fixing her turkey the day before Thanksgiving, carving it up and putting it in a cake pan. She covers it with foil, sticks it in the fridge then warms it up for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm sure she will never go back to that old ritual because it's always just as good as it was when she got up at the crack of dawn to cook the turkey on Thanksgiving Day. I know I couldn't tell the difference, and I'm sure you would feel the same way if you tried this method. Remember, if your bird is frozen, give it a full 24-hour day for each four to five pounds to thaw in the refrigerator.

It's Tasty Tuesday time next week when I join Carol Parker at noon on Channel 16. I will be talking Thanksgiving recipes. Today I am sharing some good ones with you. The turkey breast recipe and the slow cooker dressing free up the oven and make really delicious dishes. These recipes are from the ÒFix-It and Forget-ItÓ cookbook. The make-ahead mashed potato recipe is from That Joplin Woman, and I share it each year. I really urge you to try these milkless potatoes. I usually make them earlier in the day then keep them warm in a slow cooker, but you can make them up to a week or so ahead of time or even freeze them.  Everyone who has tried them tells me they are now a family favorite and not just at Thanksgiving. My son-in-law, Chris Horine, doesn't want gravy on these potatoes because he says they stand alone. All these recipes are great for making sure your Thanksgiving is stress-free. If you are looking for a change to your pumpkin pie tradition, try one of these pumpkin cake recipes. My friend Mary Kirby gave me these easy recipes, saying she got the caramel apple one from our friend Julie Anderson. Please note that one calls for a can of pumpkin and one calls for a can of pumpkin pie mix. The cinnamon chips can be found at Food For Less in Joplin.  Next week, I will have some great recipes for those Thanksgiving leftovers we all plan to enjoy. Stay warm and happy eating!


Easy and delicious turkey breast

1 turkey roast

1 (15-ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce

1 envelope dry onion soup mix

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Place turkey in slow cooker. Combine remaining ingredients. Pour over turkey. Cover and cook on low for six to eight hours. Yields four to six servings.


Slow cooker dressing

14 to 15 cups bread cubes

3 cups chopped celery

1 1/2 cups chopped onions

1 1/2 teaspoons sage

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1 1/2 cups or more chicken broth (enough to moisten the bread)

1/4 to 1 cup melted butter or margarine

Combine all ingredients but the butter; mix well. Toss with butter. Spoon into slow cooker. Cover and cook on low for four to five hours. Yields 10 to 12 servings.


Make-ahead mashed potatoes

5 pounds potatoes, peeled

2 (3-ounce) packages cream cheese

1 (8-ounce) container sour cream

2 teaspoons onion salt

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

Cook potatoes in boiling salted water until tender; drain.  Mash until smooth. Add remaining ingredients until fluffy. Cool, cover and place in refrigerator. To heat in oven, place desired amount in greased casserole, dot with butter, bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.


Low-fat pumpkin cake

1 Angel food cake mix, dry

1 can pumpkin pie mix

Mix ingredients and pour into 9-by-13-inch baking pan that has been sprayed on the bottom with cooking spray. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until done.

Carmel apple pumpkin cake

1 Duncan Hines caramel apple cake mix, dry

1 can pumpkin

1 package cinnamon chips

Mix ingredients and bake in 9-by-13-inch baking pan or bundt pan until done.

Address correspondence to Cheryle Finley, c/o The Joplin Globe, P.O. Box 7, Joplin, MO 64802.