Today's Paper Newsletters LEARNS Guide Asa Hutchinson 2024 Today's Photos Public Notices Crime Distribution Locations Obits Puzzles Digital FAQ Razorback Sports

Dinner For Two

Thanksgiving favorites pared down for couple’s meal by Allison Carter | November 19, 2014 at 1:30 a.m.
STAFF PHOTO ALLISON CARTER Green bean casserole is a staple on a Thanksgiving menu, but most recipes make too much for two people. This recipe pares down the size and still makes more than enough for Friday leftovers.

The first Thanksgiving was celebrated in 1621 at Plymouth Plantation, and according to Mayflower passenger Edward Winslow, 53 pilgrims and about 90 Wampanoag Indians took part in the event. The feast lasted three days and was a time of thanksgiving and prayer.

And those who attended had a lot to appreciate.


Cornish Game Hens with Cornbread Stuffing

Sweet Potato Balls

Mini Green Bean Casserole

Mushroom Mashed Potatoes

Buttery Acorn Squash

Fruit Crumble

Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Cake

The pilgrims landed in the New World the year before and were a bit unprepared for life in North America.

The passengers came ashore on Dec. 21, 1620, and two days later experienced a winter storm that would prevent them from building houses and searching for food. Most of the women and children stayed on the ship to stay warm, and all able-bodied men worked tirelessly to make the settlement habitable.

But it wasn't enough.

Forty-nine of the original 102 pilgrims died that winter from hunger, disease and hypothermia.

So when the next year's harvest rolled around, the survivors were thankful. It was bountiful and made possible by some helpful natives. They celebrated this wonderful time surrounded by loads of family and friends.

That was 1621. I feel stuck back in the year before.

No, I'm not dying of smallpox, but it's cold and I have few people to celebrate the warmth with this year. My family lives back east, my best friend is going out of town, and all Thanksgiving dinner invites are just a smidgen out of my single day-off travel capability.

It seems I've found myself, like many other working professionals, once again looking at a rather quiet and isolated holiday.

But I'm not completely alone.

Luckily, I'll be sharing my homesickness with someone sitting in the same boat as I am, and I've decided to make the most of it through a bountiful meal.

But how does one make for a Thanksgiving dinner for two that amazes, impresses and maybe chases away the nostalgic longing for home?

I don't know, but I think it starts with chicken.

Cornish Game Hens with Cornbread Stuffing

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 small leek, finely chopped and rinsed

1 small apple, peeled and diced

11/2 teaspoons minced fresh sage

1 tablespoon minced flat-leaf parsley

2 cups cubed day-old cornbread

1 cup low-sodium chicken broth

2 Cornish hens, giblets discarded, patted dry

Salt and pepper

In a medium skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-low heat. Saute the leeks for 8 to 10 minutes, until softened. Add the apples and cook for 3 minutes more. In a medium bowl, combine the leek mixture with the sage, parsley, cornbread and enough broth to moisten. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Stuff the birds with the cornbread mixture and tie the legs of each hen together with kitchen twine. Melt the remaining butter. Brush the birds all over with butter and season with salt and pepper. Put the hens on a rack in a large roasting pan, breast-side up. Roast until an instant read thermometer inserted in the thigh registers 170 degrees, about 80 minutes.

Set the birds aside at room temperature, loosely covered with foil, for 10 minutes before carving. Split the hens in half through the breast with a sharp knife or poultry shears and keep the stuffing intact. Arrange birds skin-side up, on a platter, garnish with sprigs of herbs and serve.

Notes: You won't need all of the stuffing this recipe makes. Place leftover stuffing in a small casserole dish. Mix in 1 minced clove of garlic and 3 ounces cubed Gouda cheese. Place in a 400 degree oven for 10 minutes before serving for a delicious side that compliments the stuffed game hens perfectly.

Sweet Potato Balls

1 large can yams, mashed

2 tablespoons butter, melted

1/4 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

4 large marshmallows

1/2 cup coconut, toasted

Heat oven to 400 degrees

In a large mixing bowl, stir together yams, sugar, spice and butter.

Press mixture around each marshmallow, creating a 3- to 4-inch diameter ball. Roll the balls in toasted coconut.

Bake for 10 to 15 minutes, watching carefully to make sure the balls do not burst open.

Notes: These can be made ahead and frozen. They also reheat easily, making them a great holiday leftover that's just a tad different than your typical Thanksgiving yams.

Mini Green Bean Casserole

1 can french style green beans, drained

1/2 can cream of mushroom soup

1 ounce cream cheese, softened

5 tablespoons french-fried onions, divided

1/4 cup sour cream

Heat oven to 400 degrees

In a small bowl, beat soup and cream cheese until blended. Stir in beans, four tablespoons of onions and sour cream.

Transfer into a greased 3 cup baking dish. Sprinkle with remaining onions.

Cover with foil and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Notes: This recipe is creamier than your typical green bean casserole but still manages to taste like home. Instead of using the entire can of mushroom soup for a huge dish of green bean casserole, I used half and used the other half to make some rather fabulous mashed potatoes.

Mushroom Mashed Potatoes

2 medium potatoes

1/2 small onion, diced

1/2 can cream of mushroom soup

1/2 cup milk

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, diced

Salt and pepper to taste

Place the potatoes and onion into a 4-quart saucepan and add water to cover. Heat over medium-high heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low. Cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Drain the potatoes and onion well in a colander.

Stir the soup, milk and butter in a medium microwaveable bowl. Microwave for 21/2 minutes or until the mixture is hot.

Mash the potatoes and onion with the soup mixture until smooth. Add garlic and spices. Serve hot.

Notes: These don't have as strong a flavor of the mushrooms, so if you're like me and not a huge mushroom fan, this recipe goes over well. Utilizing a mixer with a flat beater, I made this recipe very fluffy and smooth by whipping the soup, milk and butter together before adding the potatoes, onion, garlic and spices.

Buttery Acorn Squash

1 medium acorn squash

11/2 tablespoons butter, divided

3 fresh sage leaves, shredded

salt and pepper to taste

Olive-oil, non-stick spray

Heat oven to 400 degrees

Split squash into halves and scoop out seeds and fibers. Place halves on a shallow baking dish.

Mix sugar, spices, and salt, and sprinkle over squash halves. Drizzle with melted butter. Lightly spray the cut halves with cooking spray to prevent the meat from drying out.

Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another half hour until the squash is tender when pierced with a fork. Serve one half per person.

Notes: When I was a child, my mother would make acorn squash this way, and I hated it. Now in my 30s, I enjoy both the healthiness of this dish and the rich, nutty flavors a slow roast will bring out in the squash. And it's easy.

Fruit Crumble

11/4 cups fresh chopped apples

11/2 teaspoons brown sugar

4 teaspoons all-purpose flour, divided

11/2 teaspoons orange juice

1/4 cup old-fashioned oats

3 tablespoons chopped pecans

4 teaspoons brown sugar

Pinch of cinnamon and nutmeg

1 tablespoon canola oil

Heat oven to 400 degrees.

Combine fruit with sugar, 11/2 teaspoons flour and orange juice. Divide between two 6-ounce ovenproof ramekins.

Combine oats, almonds, brown sugar, the remaining 21/2 teaspoons flour and cinnamon. Drizzle with oil and stir to combine.

Sprinkle over the fruit mixture.

Place the ramekins on a baking sheet and bake until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is golden, 20 to 25 minutes.

Notes: This is as delicious as a typical apple crumble but in a tiny size. Serve hot with a small scoop of vanilla bean ice cream or dollop of whipped cream for a decadent touch.

Pumpkin Pecan Crunch Cake

1 can (15.5 ounces) pureed pumpkin

1 can (12 ounces) evaporated milk

3 large eggs

11/2 cups sugar

1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 package yellow cake mix

1 cup butter or margarine, melted

1 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13- by 9-inch pan.

Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, pumpkin pie spice and salt in large bowl. Stir until blended.

Pour pumpkin mixture into prepared pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture and drizzle with butter.

Bake 25 minutes; remove from oven and sprinkle with chopped pecans. Tightly cover with aluminum foil and bake an additional 25 minutes.

Cool completely. To serve, cut into squares.

Note: Admittedly, this isn't a cake for two. It's a cake for 20, but it's so good, two people can put it away faster than you would think. In my small family, we have it the next day for breakfast. And again about mid-afternoon. And a small slice before bed. It's gone by Saturday.

-- Follow Allison Carter at for healthy Thanksgiving dishes, delectable desserts and budget-friendly holiday decor ideas.

NAN Life on 11/19/2014

Print Headline: Dinner For Two


Sponsor Content