Tips for sweets -- and safety -- this Thanksgiving

November 18, 2020 10:30:13 AM

Jan Swoope - [email protected]


Like many of you, our family plans to scale back this Thanksgiving -- fewer people, much simpler menu, and aiming to do whatever we do outside, assuming Mother Nature is kind. No big turkey this year surrounded by more sides than we can (well, should) eat. To be honest, the feeling of release from all the traditional prep is already making me step lighter.


It is a fact that COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations are rising, and that should have us all taking extra precautions next week that reduce the risk of spread. In my personal opinion, there are many reasons to do so -- not only to protect our families but to save what we can of the community Christmas season; to lessen the risk of temporary shutdowns returning, as they already are in other states; and to hasten the advent of a stable, robust economy.


If you're hosting a small holiday gathering, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has some advice at First, know that there is currently no evidence to suggest that handling food or eating is associated with directly spreading COVID-19. It's possible a person can get the virus by touching a surface or object, including food, food packaging or utensils that have the virus on them, then touching their own mouth, nose or possibly their eyes. However, that is not thought to be the main way the virus is spread.



Some general considerations that can mitigate risk are to limit the number of attendees as much as possible and move gatherings outdoors. Avoid crowded, poorly ventilated spaces with people who are not in your household. If you must be inside, increase ventilation by opening windows and doors to the extent it is safe and feasible, or by placing central air and heating on continuous circulation.



Other advice includes


  • Clean and disinfect commonly touched surfaces and any shared items between use when feasible.


  • Wear a mask while preparing food for or serving food to others who don't live in your household.


  • Limit people going in and out of the areas where food is being prepared or handled, such as the kitchen or around the grill, if possible.


  • Have one person who is wearing a mask serve all the food so that multiple people are not handling serving utensils.


  • Use single-use options or identify one person to serve sharable items, like salad dressings, food containers, plates and utensils and condiments.


  • Offer no-touch trash cans for guests to easily throw away food items. Use gloves when removing garbage bags and wash hands afterward.


    The ultra careful may want to encourage guests to bring their own food and drink for themselves and for members of their household; avoid potluck-style gatherings.


    It goes without saying that the CDC recommends wearing masks unless eating, remaining 6 feet apart from others not in your usual household and washing hands well. Make hand sanitizer available.


    Sure, none of this is fun, but a few precautions now could help in the long-run, and we all want to get to the finish line.


    But back to food, because that's on our minds, isn't it? A Thanksgiving menu isn't complete without a sweet. (Our family favors apple cake, apple pie or pecan pie). Here are a few more ideas for your holiday.





    Makes: 10 servings



    3 apples, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks, unpeeled


    1/2 cup raisins


    1/2 lemon, juiced


    1/2 cup old fashioned oats


    1/4 cup whole wheat flour


    1 teaspoon cinnamon


    3 tablespoons brown sugar


    1/4 cup pistachios, walnuts or almonds, unsalted, chopped


    2 tablespoons margarine or butter, melted



  • Place rack in center of oven and preheat to 350 F.


  • Place sliced apples, raisins, and lemon juice in 8x8 inch pan or baking dish. Toss.


  • In a bowl, mix remaining ingredients except melted margarine.


  • Add melted margarine and mix until texture is consistent. Sprinkle over apple-raisin mixture.


  • Bake uncovered 45-50 minutes or until apples are tender.


    (Note: Sweet varieties of apples like Honeycrisp, Fuji, or Gala work best for this recipe since there is very little added sugar. Adding nuts and oatmeal to the top of this crisp adds fiber, making it heart healthy.)








    1 package (18.25 ounces) white cake mix


    1 can (15 ounces) pumpkin


    1 teaspoon cinnamon


    2/3 cup apple juice


    3 eggs


    1 teaspoon vanilla


    Nonstick cooking spray and flour



  • Preheat oven to 350 F.


  • Combine cake mix, pumpkin, cinnamon, apple juice, eggs, and vanilla in large mixing bowl.


  • Beat at low speed for 30 seconds. Beat at medium speed for 2 minutes.


  • Pour into a 12 cup bundt pan or a 9-by-13-inch cake pan that has been sprayed with cooking spray and floured.


  • Bake for 35-40 minutes or until wooden toothpick inserted in cake center comes out clean. Cool 10 minutes. Then invert onto wire rack to cool completely.


    (Note: This is an ideal cake to bake in cans and give for gifts. Cans should be well greased and filled 2/3 full. It is best to use cans with smooth sides and without a lead seam. Baking times for cans: 18 ounce can, 45 minutes or until done; 16-17 ounce can, 40 minutes or until done; 6 ounce can, 30 minutes or until done.)







    Makes: 16 servings



    1 1/2 pounds sweet potatoes (about 2 to 3 medium, or 2 large)


    1 cup all purpose flour


    1 cup whole wheat flour


    1 3/4 teaspoon baking powder


    1/2 teaspoon baking soda


    1/2 teaspoon salt


    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon


    1/4 teaspoon ground ginger


    Two pinches ground cloves (add more if you like)


    1/2 stick unsalted butter


    1/4 cup vegetable oil


    1 cup packed light brown sugar


    1/2 teaspoon vanilla


    2 large eggs



    For the frosting:


    1 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt


    1 teaspoon vanilla


    1/2 cup confectioner's sugar



  • Preheat oven to 350 F. Line bottom of an 8-by-8-inch square pan with parchment paper and then butter the paper and sides of the pan (a 9-by-9-inch pan works fine too).


  • Prick potatoes with a fork and microwave on high for 5 minutes, or until soft.


  • Peel cooled sweet potatoes and mash until very smooth. Measure 1 1/2 packed cups from sweet potato mash and set aside.


  • In a large bowl, beat butter and brown sugar together with an electric mixer until light and fluffy. Add oil, vanilla and eggs, and beat until just combined. Mix in sweet potato puree.


  • Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and spices together in a medium bowl.


  • Stir dry ingredients into wet ingredients until they are just mixed in. Do not over mix.


  • Spread batter in prepared pan, and bake about 35 to 40 minutes. Let cake rest in pan for 5 minutes on a cooling rack, then invert onto cooling rack, and let cool completely.


  • For the frosting: Whisk all ingredients until they become a bit thick. Place in the fridge to thicken even more (at least 30 minutes). Spread on the prepared cake.


    Serve at room temperature cut into squares.




    Jan Swoope is the Lifestyles Editor for The Commercial Dispatch.