Stretching Your Dollar... Tips for Thanksgiving dinner

By Maureen O'Boyle - bio l email

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - More Americans are paring down their Thanksgiving menu and spending less in 2009.

According to a recent survey, 50 percent of those questioned said they planned to only cook for their immediate family.

If you are looking for ways to save, most grocery stores chains are marking down the goodies for a Thanksgiving feast, but we wanted to find even more ways to save.

We went to one of the learning labs at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.  Instructor Robert Brener said if we really want to save in the kitchen, we have to think like restaurant owners and use everything and do not waste.

"This might not look good on a plate," said Brener, "but there is a lot of flavor and nutrients in this end slice of celery."

Making your own broth is easy according to the instructor.  He suggests you take the veggie scraps, use just enough water to cover them, season with salt, pepper and a bay leaf and simmer for 30 minutes.  Use that flavorful and healthy broth for your stuffing.

Brener says we have most of the ingredients we need for our stuffing in our kitchens.  Use stale bread, onions, carrots, celery and spices to make the traditional holiday fare.

"It's ideal if you've got bread leftover from yesterday or last week.  Stale bread is the idea behind this dish," Brener says.

Mix the stale bread cut into cubes, sauté your onions celery and carrots, add your sage and broth just to moisten and you have an inexpensive delicious side dish.

Chef Brener also suggested that we not overlook some of the less expensive gourds, maybe consider replacing the sweet potato casserole with butternut squash.

"Butternut squash is actually a real Thanksgiving food.  This is what the pilgrims and Indians ate at their feast," according to Brener.

Instead of spending a lot on a whole turkey, Brener says we can make a moist breast that costs a lot less and will still feed several people.

"Make a mixture of butter and your favorite herbs, keep the butter cold so it's the consistency of clay.  Push the butter and herb mixture under the turkey breast skin, making sure not to completely separate the skin from the bird."

Brener says this herb butter will serve to baste the bird as it is cooking.  Brener also uses a brine of lightly salted water to lock in flavor and keep your bird from drying out.

Two days before dinner, put the completely thawed breast into a large pot of the brine and refrigerate.

If you are interested in some very basic Thanksgiving recipes we found a great web site that has the 101 of holiday meal prepping.  Click here for a link for all the recipes we grew up with. 

Thanksgiving is not just about the meal, it is a time to be close to the ones we love.  A day to embrace the good in our lives.  We hope, as you prepare your Thanksgiving meal, you can find good in the year that has passed.

We hope everyone can approach this holiday season with some things to be grateful for.

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