Instant appetizers: Need something for guests to nibble on while the turkey finishes roasting? Try these:
Thawed, frozen puff pastry dough cut into strips, twisted and sprinkled with any of the following toppings, and then baked: sesame seeds or fennel seeds, dried herbs, finely grated cheese, smoked paprika, sea salt and black pepper.
Purchased seeded-top rolls or bread cut into pieces and served with flavored dipping oils such as basil, roasted garlic, lemon, or orange.
Roasted almonds or pistachios.
A blend of blue cheese and cream cheese spread on a dried apricot and topped with a pecan half.
Dress up your vegetables: A simple, slightly fancied-up roasted or steamed vegetable dish is a welcome addition to the Thanksgiving table. Toss hot cooked vegetables with one (or more!) of the following:
Homemade herb butter (your favorite fresh herb blended with softened butter)
Chopped, toasted nuts
Chopped, sauteed caramelized garlic, shallots, or onions
Finely zested lemon peel and coarsely ground black pepper
Toasted, buttered bread crumbs
Diced bits of prosciutto or crumbled, crisp-cooked bacon
Finely chopped fresh chives or green onions
Any finely grated grana-style (grating) cheese, such as Parmesan, Romano, or Asiago
Butter's better: For basting a turkey and making crust for pumpkin pie, use butter; nothing beats its flavor and richness. If you do decide to use margarine instead of butter, use only a stick margarine that contains at least 80 percent vegetable oil.
How to tell if your pumpkin pie is done: Insert a table knife near the center of the pie. If it comes out clean, the pie is done. (The knife test may cause the pumpkin filling to crack as it cools.) You can also shake the pie gently on the oven rack; when the filling is set, the pie is done.
Shortcut piecrust: If the thought of making homemade piecrust is overwhelming, take one of these shortcuts: Frozen unbaked pastry shells, which come in regular or deep-dish foil pans; folded refrigerated unbaked crusts (a 15-ounce package contains two 9-inch piecrusts); pie sticks, each of which can be combined with water and rolled into a 9-inch single-crust pie (they come in packages of two or four sticks); or a package of piecrust mix, which -- when combined with water -- yields enough pastry for a 9-inch double-crust pie.