hat cookies

By Mary Heyl

Thanksgiving is next week: time to get the turkey thawed, the pies baked and the table set for guests! With so many last minute preparations, the week before Thanksgiving feels like a never-ending to-do list, but there are lots of ways to get the whole family involved! From kid-friendly side dishes to hands-on crafts that everyone will enjoy, Turkey Day will provide lots of reasons to be thankful!

Tired of hauling out the same recipes every year? If so, try something new. This Bavarian Pretzel Stuffing features lots of fresh veggies plus soft pretzel pieces and can easily be made as a vegetarian side dish. First, preheat the oven to 350 degrees and coat a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. In a large skillet over medium heat, melt 1 stick of butter. Add 1 cup each of chopped celery and chopped onion and saute for 10 to 15 minutes or until the onions begin to brown.

While the veggies are cooking, cut the pretzels (1 13-oz package heated according to package directions without salt) into 1-inch pieces and place them in a large bowl. Add 3 cups of herb-seasoned cubed stuffing, 4 cooked sausage patties (heated and coarsely crumbled), 1 cup of thawed and chopped broccoli florets, sautéed veggies and 3 cups of chicken or vegetable broth (warmed). Mix until well combined. Spoon the stuffing into a baking dish and cover. Bake for 30 minutes; then remove the cover and bake 15 to 20 minutes or until heated through.

For an easy dessert and a fun kids activity (perhaps while they’re watching the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade!), try Peanut Butter Cup Pilgrim Hats! Place 12 or more chocolate-striped shortbread cookies (chocolate side face up) on a wax paper lined tray. Unwrap a dozen or more mini peanut butter cups. Use a generous dab of colored icing (whatever color you’d like the “ribbon” on the hat to be), and place an upside down peanut butter cup on the center of the cookie so that the icing is visible around the candy. Cut a small wedge of a gold or orange gumdrop and place it next to the peanut butter cup in the icing to serve as the buckle on the hat. Slide the tray full of pilgrim hats into the fridge and let harden—eat and enjoy!

Before the guests arrive, set the table with some easy and festive place cards that they will probably want to take home. For a simple, elegant look, gather some large fallen leaves that aren’t too brittle. Spray them with gold paint and allow to dry. Use a paint pen or permanent marker to write each guest’s name on a leaf and place on their plate at the table.

For another easy place card idea, place a mini pumpkin on or beside each guest’s plate. Go with the natural look or paint the pumpkins white or gold, depending on your décor. Because the round pumpkin is a difficult surface to write on, write or type each guest’s name on a small card and pin it to the mini pumpkin or cut a slit in the stem and place it there!

Of course, don’t forget to decorate the kids’ table—they can help! Cut a piece of burlap the length of the table. Create an autumn color palette with different washable acrylic paints. Let the kids use brushes or their fingers to decorate the runner with polka dots or repurpose a few old cookie cutters (turkey shaped, pumpkin shaped, or leaf shaped) and let the kids use them as stencils.

Lastly, celebrate the true meaning of the season by leaving a small card (an index card) next to each guest’s plate. Invite them to write down the date and a few things they are thankful for this year. They can share their ideas aloud or simply take the card home as a reminder of Thanksgiving 2017 and the things they appreciated most that year.