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Happy Thanksgiving

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By Susan Lowery

As much as I like cooking (and eating) it's not surprising that Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. No shopping or gifts are required and everybody just wants to get together and eat (and maybe watch a little football.)

In my family, it seems everyone eats so much they have to take a nap, and everyone blames it on the turkey (not the three helpings of dressing and gravy or the extra helpings of mashed potatoes.)

My mother Dorothy used to fix a big relish tray for people to munch on before dinner was ready. It was good to have, especially because Dad was always starving at least an hour before we were supposed to eat. It was kind of like antipasto without the meat.

There would be celery and carrot sticks, green and red peppers, different cheeses and lots of olives of all kinds.

It would hold us over until dinner was ready.

If you have a big family, you might make this elaborate antipasto. I guarantee your guests will be impressed.

It's a beautiful and delicious tray to serve.

This recipe is from Tom Ricci, formerly of Bradfordsville. It is his Italian father's recipe. Besides being used as an appetizer, it makes a great lunch or supper with crusty Italian bread.

Turkey will always be a tradition for Thanksgiving.

I've baked lots of turkeys over the years, but last year I bought a smoked turkey, which I thought was delicious (and certainly a lot less work!) I don't know what I'll do this year, but I'll include here some helpful turkey tips that might come in handy.

You must have mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving. I've run my Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes almost every year in my column, but people still call me for this recipe.

It is extremely good and can be made up to several days ahead of time. Most cooks already know how to make the traditional Thanksgiving dishes, so I've looked for a few different recipes.

Hope you enjoy your food, your family and your holiday!

Here are some turkey tips.

• How much turkey will you need? Plan on 1 pound per person, or if you want a lot of leftovers, 1.5 pounds.

• Make sure you have a pan big enough to roast the turkey in (or get two small ones instead of one big one.)

Don't use those large foil containers to cook anything heavy. They buckle and there goes your turkey on the floor.

• Be sure to allow adequate time to thaw if you are using a frozen bird.

When thawed, rinse the inside and outside of the turkey in cold water before roasting.

• Don't forget the bag of giblets; it's in there somewhere. (I know lots of people who have baked it right along with the bird!)

• If you put your stuffing inside the turkey, don't do it until right before you put it in the oven. I put mine in a separate casserole.

• Use a meat thermometer (inserted in inner thigh). I don't pay attention to those pop-up things some turkeys have. They sometimes pop out too soon.

• Cover turkey loosely with foil and roast for about 20 minutes per pound (more if stuffed) and quit when meat thermometer reads 180 degrees.

• Let the bird sit for about 20-30 minutes before carving.

• De-bone leftovers and refrigerate promptly.

Antipasto

6 fresh ripe tomatoes

3 T. olive oil, plus extra

2 t. kosher salt

1 t. minced fresh oregano

3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. ham, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. hard salami, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. prosciutto ham, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. large pepperoni, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. turkey, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. roast beef, thinly sliced

1/2 lb. provolone cheese

1/2 lb. mozzarella cheese

1/4 lb. Asiago cheese

4 stalks celery

4 carrots

2 red bell peppers

2 green bell peppers

1 head Romaine lettuce, leaves washed and patted dry

2 (8-oz.) cans pitted black olives, drained

2 (8 oz.) jars green pimiento-stuffed olives, drained

1 (4-oz.) jar pepperoncinis, drained

1 (2-oz.) tin anchovies, packed in olive oil, juices reserved

The night before serving, slice tomatoes and layer in a baking dish. As layers are made, drizzle with olive oil, salt generously, sprinkle with oregano and scatter garlic throughout. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator till ready to assemble. You will use the juice created here later. On the day it is to be served, set out meats 30 minutes ahead of time to make them easier to roll. Slice cheeses and vegetables in 1/2 x 3 inch sticks. Cover a large serving tray with sides (there will be juice) with Romaine lettuce leaves. Start by placing a layer of tomatoes on top of lettuce leaves. Roll your meats so they are about 3 inches long and not much over 1/2 inch diameter, placing them on the tray in a circular pattern. Add cheeses and vegetables the same way. Finish up with the remaining tomatoes black olives, green olives, pepperoncinis and anchovies. Dress the entire dish with some of the juice from the tomatoes, salt, olive oil, and the oil from the anchovies. (I have to admit; I left out the anchovies.) Serves a large gang.

Make-Ahead Mashed Potatoes

9-11 large potatoes, peeled

1 (8-oz.) pkg. cream cheese

1 c. sour cream

2 t. salt

1/2 t. pepper

2 T. butter, melted

Cook peeled potatoes in boiling salted water till tender. Drain well. Mash potatoes and add other ingredients. Beat till fluffy. Place in greased casserole dish. Dot with additional butter, if desired. Refrigerate till needed, then bake at 350 degrees for 40-45 minutes. Serves 12-15.

Cornbread Salad

2 boxes Jiffy cornbread mix, prepared

1/2 c. diced celery

1/2 c. diced green pepper

1/2 c. diced green onions

2 medium tomatoes, diced (or cherry or grape tomatoes)

1 can whole kernel corn, drained

3 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and grated

1 c. mayonnaise

Salt and black pepper, to taste

Dice or crumble cornbread in a large mixing bowl and mix with celery, green pepper, green onions, tomatoes, corn, eggs and mayonnaise. Combine well, season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 8-10.

Aunt Marge's Spinach Casserole

1 c. crushed round crackers

1 c. milk

1 (10-oz.) pkg. frozen spinach, cooked and drained (or fresh spinach, steamed (much better)

2 eggs, beaten

1/2 stick margarine, melted

1/2 t. nutmeg

Salt, pepper to taste

2 c. grated cheddar cheese, divided

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart baking dish. Mix together cracker crumbs, milk, spinach, eggs, margarine, nutmeg and 1 cup cheese. Put in baking dish and put remaining cheese on top. Bake 45-60 minutes. Serves 6-8.

"Barbeque" Beans (in the crockpot)

1 (15-oz.) can green beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can yellow wax beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can black beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can pinto beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can red kidney beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can white Northern beans, drained

1 (15-oz.) can green lima beans, drained

1 bottle barbeque sauce (your choice)

Gently mix the drained beans in large mixing bowl. In crockpot, layer sauce and beans until they are all used. Heat till hot and cooked down, keeping lid ajar. Serves 10-15.

EZ as 1-2-3 Muffins

1 c. self-rising flour

2 T. mayonnaise

1/2 c. milk

Combine ingredients and put in greased muffin pan. Bake at 425 degrees for 10-12 minutes. Makes 6.

Connie's Spoon Rolls

1 pkg. dry yeast

2 c. warm (not hot) water

1 1/2 sticks melted butter

1 egg

1/4 c. sugar

4 c. self-rising flour

Put yeast in water and add a pinch of sugar. Set aside 5 minutes to "work." Melt butter and add sugar, then beaten egg. Add yeast mixture, then flour and stir until well mixed. Place in airtight bowl and keep refrigerated. To cook, drop by spoonfuls into well-greased muffin tins. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Makes about 2 dozen. Dough will keep for several days.

Dinah Shore's Pecan Crunch "Pie"

3 eggs

1/2 t. baking powder

1 c. sugar

11 graham crackers

1 c. chopped pecans

1 t. vanilla

1/2 pint whipping cream

Beat eggs together with baking powder. Add sugar slowly and beat till stiff. Crush graham crackers and add them and the pecans (fold in) to egg mixture, then add vanilla. Spread in well-buttered pie pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Chill 4-5 hours, then whip cream and spread on pie. Serves 6.

Tiramisu Trifle

1 (14-oz.) can sweetened condensed milk

3/4 c. cold water

1 small pkg. chocolate instant pudding

1-2 T. instant coffee

2 c. Cool Whip

Small yellow cake, cubed (bought or homemade; can also use pound cake)

Beat milk, water, pudding and coffee together. Fold in Cool Whip. Layer cake cubes; pudding; repeat. Put chocolate curls or chips on top. Serves 8.