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Whip up a fabulous holiday feast in a hurry.

I don't know how this happens every year, but before I know it, it's the Tuesday before Thanksgiving! Suddenly, I'm stressing about how many side dishes to make, the appetizers that no one really needs, thawing the turkey, making pumpkin pie for the traditionalists plus "something else" for the dessert rebels ...

But remember, the important part of this holiday is enjoying the company of loved ones and taking time to reflect and be thankful. It's not about spending hours making countless Thanksgiving dishes.

You know the saying, "choose your battles?" It works for Thanksgiving dinner, too. When your time is limited, choose which dishes you want to make yourself and which you can pull together using convenient products from the supermarket.

Dressing Up Store-Bought Products

Here are some tips and tricks for dressing up store-bought products so that they'll taste and look special to your guests.

Mashed Potatoes

Add punch to frozen or boxed mashed potatoes by:

  • Adding some lower-fat sour cream and freshly chopped chives.
  • Stirring in some reduced-fat sharp cheddar and turkey bacon bits (cook the turkey bacon until crisp, then break it into bits).
  • Stirring in roasted garlic cloves and fresh, finely chopped parsley while you're whipping up the mashed potatoes with your mixer.

Stove-Top Stuffing

Instead of following the directions on the box, use 2 tablespoons of butter or margarine to sauté some added vegetables (like 1/2 cup chopped onion, 1/2 cup finely chopped celery, 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic, and 1/2 cup finely grated carrot). Then add the seasoning packet and 1 3/4 cups water and bring to boil. Cover, reduce heat to a simmer, and cook 5 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in bread cubes from the mix, cover and let stand 5 minutes. (For a healthier stuffing, check out the new low-sodium stuffing variety).

Green Beans

Buy a bag of French-style green beans, and you're halfway to a side dish. Microwave them right before serving and dress them up in the serving dish with any or all of the following:

  • A sprinkle of one of the Mrs. Dash salt-free herb blends
  • Some shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Toasted slivered or sliced almonds
  • A drizzle of olive oil or pat of butter/margarine (just enough to add a slight glaze to the dish)
  • Red pepper strips sautéed in canola cooking spray or a little canola oil, olive oil, or butter/margarine
  • Caramelized onions (thinly sliced onions sautéed in a nonstick frying pan with a little canola oil, olive oil, or butter/margarine until golden brown)

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