NORTHWOODS COOKS: Thanksgiving dinner simplified

The University of Minnesota Extension website offers advice for choosing a turkey based on family size and a recipe for roasting it, sure to bring smiles to those gathered around the table. (Adobe Stock)
Brent Hofacker -

With gatherings between households not allowed under the new mandate to help stop the spread of COVID-19, the University of Minnesota Extension has advice on how to choose and a turkey based on household size.

If buying a whole turkey, there should be one pound per person, 3/4 pound per person if buying a turkey breast with bones and 1/2 pound per person if purchasing a boneless turkey breast.

Thaw the turkey safely by using either the refrigerator or cold water method. While thawing, the turkey must be kept below 40 degrees.

Thaw in the refrigerator by allowing 24 hours of thawing for every five pounds of turkey. Once completely thawed, cook within one to two days.

Thaw in cold water by leaving the turkey in its wrapper and placing it breast side down in enough cold water to completely cover it. Change the water every 30 minutes to keep the surface cool. Allow 30 minutes of thawing time for every pound of turkey. Cook the turkey immediately after thawing.


Don't wash the turkey before roasting, because washing can spread bacteria around the kitchen and proper cooking will kill any bacteria on the turkey.

Cook dressing outside the turkey to ensure it reaches a safe temperature.

Here is the turkey recipe from the Extension website, along with some side dishes and desserts from the Gooseberry Patch 5 Ingredients or Less cookbook.

Roast Turkey

The University of Minnesota advises to be sure the turkey is completely thawed. Place turkey breast-side up on a rack in a shallow roasting pan (2-1/2 inches deep). Lightly coat the skin with oil, shortening or vegetable cooking spray to prevent the skin from drying out.

Internal temperatures must reach a minimum of 165 degrees in the thigh and the thickest part of the breast before removing from the oven. Cooking turkey to a higher temperature (170 degrees in the breast and 180 degrees in the thigh) yields a golden, tender bird.

Let stand for 20 minutes before carving to allow juices to absorb back into the meat. Refrigerate any leftovers within 1 hour of serving.


Cornbread Corn Casserole

8-1/2 oz. package cornbread muffin mix

2 15-oz. cans creamed corn

1 egg

1/3 cup butter, melted

Combine all ingredients and pour into a greased 13-by-9-inch baking pan. Bake at 375 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes.


Apple Celery Salad

1 cup diced celery

1 cup apples, cored and diced

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

3/4 cup mayonnaise

salt to taste

Gently fold ingredients together in a serving bowl. Cover and chill until serving. Serves 4.


Sweet Potato Apple Bake

29-oz. can sweet potatoes

21-oz. can apple filling

16-oz. can whole berry cranberry sauce

Carefully fold ingredients together and spread into a buttered 2-quart casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees until potatoes are heated, about 30-45 minutes.

Upside Down Baked Potatoes

4 tablespoons butter or margarine, melted


2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese

4-6 potatoes cut in half lengthwise

Coat the bottom of a 13-by-9-inch baking pan with butter or margarine. Sprinkle cheese on top of the butter. Place potatoes cut side down in a pan and bake at 400 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes.

Pumpkin Mallow Pie

1 pint whipping cream

15-oz. can pumpkin

2 10-oz. packages mini marshmallows


1 teaspoon cinnamon

2 8-inch graham cracker pie crusts

Whip cream until soft peaks form. Set aside. Combine pumpkin, marshmallows and cinnamon in a heavy saucepan. Stir over low heat until marshmallows are melted. Cover and chill thoroughly. Blend chilled mixture until fluffy, then fold in whipped cream. Divide and spread evenly into pie crusts. Chill until firm. Makes 16 servings.

Pecan Bites

1 cup brown sugar, packed

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup chopped pecans

2/3 cup butter, melted

2 eggs, beaten

Combine sugar, flour and pecans and set aside. Blend butter and eggs together and mix into flour mixture. Fill greased and floured mini muffin tins 2/3 full. Bake at 350 degrees for 22-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Decorating ideas from Gooseberry Patch

  • Make a "Be Thankful" sign on cardstock, cloth or construction paper. Punch holes on each end of the sign and loop through thread or string. Find a branch to tie the sign to and hang near the dinner table.

  • Hollow out a mini pumpkin and pop a tealight inside.

  • Fill a colander with apples and mini pumpkins.Tie on a gingham ribbon and add a few sprigs of bittersweet or a few fall leaves.

  • Brush glue swirls on miniature pumpkins and gourds. Sprinkle them with glitter and place in a bowl in the middle of the dinner table.

Readers are invited to submit four to five of their favorite recipes to enjoy, along with a note about what makes them special. Send recipes to or by mail to the Park Rapids Enterprise, 203 Henrietta Ave. North, Park Rapids, MN 56470 and they may appear in a future issue.

Lorie Skarpness has lived in the Park Rapids area since 1997 and has been writing for the Park Rapids Enterprise since 2017. She enjoys writing features about the people and wildlife who call the north woods home.
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