Thanksgiving: A New Twist on an Old Favorite Dish

Thanksgiving really snuck up on me this year. It seems we’ve had so many things going on that I haven’t been able to keep track of them all and I’ve been forgetting things. (Kind of like my child on Halloween, swinging her candy bucket…something invariable falls out. My head’s like that.)

In fact, my family can be thankful this week for my iPhone. I used the alert function in the built-in calendar to remind me to take the turkey out the freezer to thaw on Monday. There’s no way I would have remembered that on my own. That phone is practically my personal assistant.

So, our turkey is thawing and I am in planning mode for what will make up the rest of our Thursday’s dinner. Here’s our very basic menu:


Garlic mashed potatoes (a combo of russet and red)

Rosemary-sourdough stuffing (I might post that recipe, too)

Sweet potato casserole

Sauteed green beans

Cranberry sauce

Dinner rolls

Pumpkin pie

Annnnnd…I’m pretty sure I’m forgetting something.

Of course, I will do what I can to make each dish as healthy as possible. One thing I’ll be doing is substituting a healthier dish for an old, fattening, sodium-filled favorite. The old dish: Green bean casserole. The new: Sauteed green beans.

If you’d like to give my “new” dish a try, it’s very simple to throw together. Steam one package of thinly sliced green beans (the package may read “Italian cut,” “French cut,” or “French style”). In a skillet or similar pan, pour a few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Let that heat for a few minutes, and add a quarter of a chopped white onion, a handful of sunflower seeds or pine nuts (sunflower seeds are cheaper), and a sprinkle of bacon bits (optional). When the onion is translucent, add the beans. Sprinkle with sea salt, black pepper, and dried garlic (or minced fresh garlic). Sautee for a few minutes longer until beans are heated through and everything is thoroughly mixed. Delicious!

Do you have plans to make your Thanksgiving dinner healthier this year? Do share!

©2010 Sally Dinius
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Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here.

Cooking With Your Kids This Thanksgiving

By Peggy Baron

Photo courtesy of Libby's

Photo courtesy of Libby's

Thanksgiving can be a little stressful when you have company coming and you have to cook the whole meal. Sure the company is bringing a pie and will help with the dishes and clean up, but you’ve got a whole lot of work ahead of you when you wake up on that special Thursday morning. Don’t despair and stress – rally the troops!

If you’re reading this, you’ve probably got one or two or more children running around that house don’t you? Put them to work and give them all jobs. Just don’t mention the words “work” or “job.” Kids like to be helpful, especially when they see how much you appreciate it. Let them help!

First off, you need to have a plan. Take some time before Thursday morning to plot everything out. Of course you know what you want to prepare and serve – you do the same thing every year, don’t you? So that’s the easy part. Really look at each recipe and see what’s involved. You could probably do it in your sleep, but your kids can’t. Assign a recipe to each child, depending on their skill level. You may even want to find an easier version of the recipe. Go over the steps with your child and explain how it’s all going to work. Do kind of a foodless dress rehearsal with them.

If the child is too young to do a whole recipe, just give them certain tasks in a recipe and have them help you. Little ones can melt butter in the microwave, mash the potatoes, wash the vegetables, toss the salad, and put the marshmallows on the sweet potato casserole.

This is one meal where everything seems to happen at the same time. To help prevent this, the kids can mash the potatoes ahead and keep them warm in the crockpot, ditto with the sweet potato casserole and veggies. If you don’t have a way to keep them warm, time them to come out before the mad rush, put a lid on them and wrap them in several towels. They can stay quite warm that way. The salad can definitely be made earlier in the day or even the night before.

Try to schedule the prep time so there aren’t too many people walking around the kitchen with sharp knives at once.

What about the pies? Kids love to make the pies! Go with the pre-made pie crusts if their pastry skills aren’t quite up to snuff. Maybe they could pick the pies they want this year and shake tradition up a bit. I’m sure a Chocolate Dream pie is a tradition in someone’s home even if it isn’t (yet) in yours.

Keep one step ahead of total chaos by having someone wash the dirty dishes that are accumulating. Perhaps those who are watching football on TV could lend a hand! Not only will there be fewer dishes to do at the end, but it leaves lots more room for the cooks to prepare the grand feast.

If you give it some thought and plan ahead of time, this Thanksgiving could be a lot easier on you and a heck of a lot more fun for the whole family. Have a good attitude and lots of patience and just enjoy yourself. Your kitchen will be filled with those you love, and that’s something to be thankful for.


Peggy is the editor of the popular Cookin’ Kids Newsletter. Interesting themes, fun facts, silly clip art, easy recipes, kid jokes, cooking terms, and safety tips make this newsletter a hit with kids! Learn more about it at

The Best Holiday Stress Reliever

Does this ever happen to you?

The holidays go by in a crinkly blur, and you’re left standing in the middle of wadded-up wrapping paper and worn-out decorations, scratching your head and asking:

“What in the heck just happened?”

Most of us, I think, go into the holiday season that way — we just let it happen. I’ve found, though, that the holidays I’ve enjoyed the most have been the ones I’ve taken time to plan. When I write down my Thanksgiving menu and the ingredients I need, meal prep is easier and the day is more enjoyable. Sending out Christmas cards isn’t so difficult if I make a list beforehand of who we’ll be sending them to. Having the cards, envelopes, pictures and stamps together in one box or basket that I can carry around with me (to fill them out wherever and whenever the mood strikes) is helpful, too.

Another wise practice is to keep all of your Christmas decorations in one place. My family and I broke that cardinal rule this year. I found two plastic totes in our utility room full of Christmas things (mostly my snowman collection), and various other things were in what I call our “Christmas Trunk.” It’s an old steamer trunk at the foot of our bed. Most years, it’s no big deal getting into the trunk: just flip the latches and lift the lid. But earlier this year, it was forced into double duty as a TV stand. The TV is an older one that is too heavy for me to lift on my own, so my sons helped with that.

After the totes and trunk had been gone through, along with a cupboard in our laundry/utility room, I found out why being unorganized can bite you in the rear: Our Advent wreath is missing. And because Sunday was the first Sunday of the Advent season, we weren’t able to begin our celebration, which includes candle lighting, the singing of carols or hymns, and reading Bible verses and a Christmas story or two.

The search for the wreath will continue tomorrow. Hopefully it won’t culminate with me buying a new one, because that’s when I’ll find the one that’s missing (it always works that way). And then I’ll have two.

If you’re like me and tend to let the holidays happen to you rather than the other way around, here are a few links to help you reign in some otherwise crazy days:

1. If you’re hosting a Christmas party or family get-together, Party411‘s Christmas Party Planning Guide will give you lots of ideas and help you feel at least a little bit sane. It’s a fun site to go through, so be ready to print out ideas you like — or at least have a notepad ready to write them down.

2. The interior decorating channel at has a fantastic, short and simple article on how to plan for Christmas. I’m not going to recommend any other “get organized” list to you. This one’s pretty much perfect. Why? It’s the KISS principle: Keep it Simple, Sweetheart (or as I learned it years ago: Keep it Simple, Stupid…which isn’t very nice). This article tells you a few great ways to simplify without getting too complicated. I don’t know about you, but if I have too many things on my list, my brain shuts down and I start playing games on my computer. Yes, I did just admit that.

3. Once you’ve decided what you need to plan for, write it down.
There are many ways to keep track of your list (or lists) electronically (such as in a note to yourself on your iPhone, et al), but I really like the good, old-fashioned write-it-down method, and I prefer to do that in a planner. The Busy Body Book is my all-time favorite planner. Each week is broken into five columns, which gives you five boxes to write in for each day. These columns can be used for anything: different family members (good for seeing what each child has going on that week at one glance), or use them to organize household tasks, work-related activities, or even…yes…the holidays. It’s very inexpensive and I think you’ll love it as much as I do.

So, if you haven’t already figured it out, the best holiday stress-reliever is…planning. Delegating follows at a very close second — please don’t think you have to do it all yourself.

Do you plan or delegate to lessen the stress of the holidays? I’d love to hear your strategies!

©2009 Sally Dinius

Sally Dinius is writer-in-chief here at, a blog created to inspire and motivate busy mamas everywhere to feel healthy, fit, and in control of their lives. Follow her on Twitter at, and come join the CrazyBusy Mama Facebook page by clicking here.

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Happy Thanksgiving!

Here’s a little something fun my dad sent to me by email. From my family to yours, Happy Thanksgiving! May you find much to be grateful for today! Among all the blessings of my life, I am also thankful for you, my wonderful readers. :-)

‘Twas the Night of Thanksgiving

‘Twas the night of Thanksgiving,
But I just couldn’t sleep.
I tried counting backwards,
I tried counting sheep.

The leftovers beckoned –
The dark meat and white.
But I fought the temptation
With all of my might.
Tossing and turning with anticipation,
The thought of a snack became infatuation.

So I raced to the kitchen, flung open the door,
And gazed at the fridge, full of goodies galore.
I gobbled up turkey and buttered potatoes,
The pickles and carrots, the beans and tomatoes.

I felt myself swelling so plump and so round,
When all of a sudden I rose off the ground!
I crashed through the ceiling, floating into the sky
With a mouth full of pudding and a handful of pie.
But I managed to yell as I soared past the trees,
“Happy eating to all! Pass the cranberries, please!”

So may your stuffing be tasty,
May your turkey be plump.
May your potatoes ‘n gravy have nary a lump.
May your yams be delicious,
May your pies take the prize,

Take a minute to enjoy this fun e-card from me to you, then pass it on:

Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your day!

Five Great Sites for Turkey Day Inspiration

Every once in a while, we need to invest in our relationships with our kids. Not only does it strengthen your bond, but it can be a lot of fun. On Saturday, my daughter Erica and I went to a concert at a nearby church. It was easily one of the best concerts we’d ever been to. (Many thanks to my dear husband, who bought the tickets for us!)

That evening, Erica and I shared ham sandwiches (hastily made before the concert, then eaten in the car), a traffic jam on the highway (on a Saturday, no less) and…a bad cold. She’d come down with it the week before, and while sitting at the concert, I started feeling the first pains of a sore throat. I knew I was in for it, but wouldn’t you know it — my sweet daughter gave me the only lozenge she’d brought with her. It got me through the rest of the concert.

She feels bad, of course, for sharing the virus with me — and now with both of her brothers — but I told her she shouldn’t. After all, someone else shared it with her first.

In this same spirit of “sharing” (well, not exactly the same…no viruses included), I’m posting some great links for you to peruse. My favorite link is the one that will take you to the Better Homes and Gardens site…I could stay there all day.

This week promises to be a crazybusy one for most people, so while you’ve got a few minutes, just click through these and enjoy!

  • For all things Turkey Day-related, check out this page at Better Homes and Gardens. Don’t forget to enter their Daily Giveaway, which you’ll see on the right side of their page.
  • Need to find some last-minute recipes but don’t want to drag out your cookbooks? Find what you need quickly at All Recipes. I use this site often.
  • Want to gain fame in your family for making the most unusual stuffing? Surprise them with Snyder’s Pretzel Stuffing. Sounds strange, but you never know…could be good. ;-)
  • Need to quickly put together a centerpiece for your table? has a list of centerpieces you can make yourself.
  • Country Living’s Holiday Recipes are absolutely mouthwatering. Stay there and click around awhile — there’s almost no end to the inspiration you’ll find.

Regarding the recipes you may find at the above-mentioned sites, just be mindful of the ingredients and make healthy substitutes whenever you can. Transforming a dish into low-sugar and/or low-fat doesn’t have to mean you’ll lose flavor. If you have a recipe you want to make healthier but aren’t sure how, post it in the comment box and I’ll be happy to help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed these links and gotten some fun (and delicious) ideas you can use. Enjoy your Thanksgiving week!

Right now, you can get a 1 year subscription to Country Living, one of my all-time favorite magazines, for just $10.

©2009 Sally Dinius
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Want a FREE Turkey With Your FREE Grocery Delivery?

It’s like tradition for me: Every holiday season I order groceries online at least once, sometimes twice. There have been various reasons for doing this, but the biggest and best if getting to skip the crowds.

The store I order from 90% of the time is Safeway. It seems like I’m always getting a coupon in the mail for free delivery, so I’m thinking I may start utilizing their services more. I’ve never had a bad experience with delivery from (you’ll also see links below for Genuardis and Vons, who are in the Safeway “family”).

Give them a try! It’ll save you at least one headache this season. currently delivers in these areas: California, Arizona, Maryland, Oregon, Virginia, Washington and Washington D.C. Click here to get your free turkey and free delivery from Safeway. delivers to customers in The Greater Philadelphia Metropolitan area. Click here to get your free turkey and free delivery from Genuardis. currently delivers in these areas: Los Angeles, Inland Empire, Orange County, San Diego, Ventura, and Las Vegas. Click here to get your free turkey and free delivery from Vons.

Hurry! This promotion ends on Tuesday, November 17.

A Healthy Thanksgiving…Hard to Imagine?

If you’ve read my post on the ExerciseTV blog about my hard-to-believe holiday plans, you know those plans include making healthy versions of the “usual” holiday dishes, starting with Thanksgiving. I’m talking about marshmallow-covered sweet potato casserole, peanut butter fudge, mashed potatoes and gravy, homemade cranberry sauce, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie. Each and every one will be getting a makeover.

Also, as you’ll see in the post I mentioned above, my daughter and I are following a health challenge to maintain our weight and gain not even one pound during the holiday season. Yikes, right? More on that in a later post!

Following is a list of each dish as it used to be (a torpedo of fat aimed straight for the hips), and what it will become (delicious and nutritious):

Sweet potato casserole, previously made with eggs, spices, brown sugar, and topped with marshmallows and canned pineapple, will now be sweetened with turbinado sugar (“sugar in the raw”), with a crispy streusel topping.

Mashed potatoes will no longer be made from baking potatoes (or, as was the case on some Thanksgivings, from a box). This year, my “mashed potatoes” will actually be made from red potatoes, cauliflower (that’s right), and roasted garlic.

As far as the gravy is concerned, I used to make it by whisking together turkey broth, water, and a couple of MSG-laden packets of turkey gravy. No monosodium glutamate on our turkey day table this year! We’ll have gravy, but it’ll be made in a more nutritious way.

The Best Life Diet Cookbook: More than 175 Delicious, Convenient, Family-Friendly Recipes
I personally love this cookbook. It’s full of great recipes that can be used any time of year. (I plan to use quite a few of them myself during the upcoming holidays.) Click the link above to get it for less than half price.

Our usual homemade whole berry cranberry sauce will be sweetened with turbinado sugar this year instead of white sugar (hint: the addition of frozen blueberries makes it even sweeter).

Green bean casserole…now that will be a tough one. I’ll either use the low-fat version of cream of mushroom soup in it, or may just replace the casserole with a healthier veggie dish. I’ll let you know.

Peanut butter fudge is also stumping me, I’ll admit. I’ve made it for years from a stick or two of real butter, what seemed to be a ton of sugar, peanut butter (of course), and a jar of marshmallow cream. You know — and I know — that for someone who’s trying to get and/or stay healthy, that’s a dangerous thing to have sitting around. I’ll either make a healthier version (perhaps with turbinado sugar) or I’ll just make less, considering how my 17 year-old son begged me not to ditch the fudge this year.

And, last but never least: Pumpkin pie. I’m really pretty excited about this one. While shopping in the natural foods section of my favorite store last week, I found a can of organic pumpkin pie filling! Who’da thunk it? Organic pumpkin pie filling? I grinned from ear to ear when I held that can for the first time. It contains nothing but pumpkin, organic cane juice, and spices. I just have to add eggs and a crust. I bought a second can today because I’d love to try making some pumpkin pie biscotti with it.

The turkey, as usual, will be roasted inside a Reynolds Oven Bag. I’ve cooked it in one of those for the past 10 years (at least), and it’s been perfect every time.

I am really excited about the changes I’ll be making to our Thanksgiving menu! I plan on posting recipes all next week for you to try, so you can have a healthy (but tasty) Thanksgiving, too.

©2009 Sally Dinius
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