Thanksgiving dinner complete with dessert for a small stay-at-home holiday

  • If you follow the directions in this recipe for Simple Brined Turkey Breast, you'll end up with a juicy bird every time.

    If you follow the directions in this recipe for Simple Brined Turkey Breast, you'll end up with a juicy bird every time. Courtesy of Biz Velatini

Updated 11/23/2020 11:43 AM

Thanksgiving is going to look a lot different this year. Most likely, you won't have your whole family, friends and neighbors over, but that doesn't mean you can't make a delicious meal for your immediate family and give thanks for what you do have, not what you don't.

This menu was specifically designed for a family of four. Even with roasting a turkey breast, I promise you will have leftovers.


The secret to my turkey breast is to brine it. If you haven't brined a turkey before, it is easy; you just need to do it ahead of time. Unless you spend lots of money on a fresh turkey breast, you most likely will get a frozen one. They are available in most grocery stores this time of year.

You need to defrost the turkey in your refrigerator slowly. My turkey breast was just under nine pounds and took three days to defrost in my refrigerator. The turkey is then brined for 24 hours, so start this process four days before Thanksgiving.

The question I get asked all the time is, "how long do you cook turkey breast?" It's not so much how long it takes, but at what temperature to take the turkey out of the oven. You need to invest in a meat thermometer. You can get one for under $15. Turkey needs to cook to 165 degrees. I pull my turkey at 160 degrees at the breast's thickest part because the residual heat will continue to cook the turkey breast. I also am a firm believer in letting the turkey breast rest for at least an hour. It will still be quite warm when you cut into it.

I did a twist on my twice baked potatoes by adding mashed butternut squash and topping it with sharp cheddar cheese and chopped cilantro. The potato/butternut squash puree is so light and fluffy with a hint of saltiness from the cheese and a tiny spicy kick from the crushed red pepper.

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My Mom usually made scalloped potatoes at Thanksgiving. Since I already had my starch with the twice baked potatoes, I made scalloped zucchini. This is comfort food at its finest. The zucchini will still be a bit crisp-tender, and you will want to spoon this cheese sauce over everything on your plate.

And last but not least, what Thanksgiving is complete without something pumpkin? These pumpkin pie bites are the perfect ending to a delicious dinner. The phyllo dough tart cups are available in the freezer section in most grocery stores in the dessert section. You don't need to defrost them, just fill and bake. One side note is that these are best eaten within hours of making. Left longer than that, they are still delicious, but they won't have that flaky crispness they would have if eating soon after baking. My suggestion would be to put these in the oven right when you sit down for dinner.

However you spend your holidays this year, I hope you try these recipes anytime this holiday season. Be safe!

Simple Brined Turkey Breast

For the brine:

8 cups water

¼ cup salt

¼ cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

2 tablespoons whole peppercorns

4 springs of rosemary

8-9 pound turkey breast

Right before roasting:

1 tablespoon avocado oil

1 teaspoon salt


1 teaspoon pepper

Put the water, salt, brown sugar in a large stock pot. Bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Let cool completely. Put the turkey in a large container and pour the brine over the turkey and add the crushed red pepper, peppercorns and rosemary. Brine for 24 hours.

Heat oven to 325. Remove turkey from the brine. Pat completely dry with paper towels. Place in a roasting pan. Pour the oil over the bird, and using your hands cover all parts of the turkey. Salt and pepper the turkey and bake until it reaches 160 degrees. After resting it will reach the correct temperature. It took me just under two hours for my turkey to get to temperature.

If you like, you can roast root vegetables with the turkey such as carrots, turnips and celery.

Let rest at least 60 minutes if possible, to allow the juices to redistribute. You'll have perfectly juicy turkey every time.

A scalloped zucchini dish is twist on the usual scalloped potatoes.
A scalloped zucchini dish is twist on the usual scalloped potatoes. - Courtesy of Biz Velatini
Scalloped Zucchini

1 teaspoon avocado oil

1 tablespoon minced garlic

3 tablespoons butter

3 tablespoons flour

2 cups milk of choice (I used unsweetened almond milk)

1 pound zucchini, sliced

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

½ teaspoon crushed red pepper

4 ounces good cheese (a good choice is a sharp cheddar. This is not a time to use fat free!)

½ cup panko bread crumbs

1 tablespoon parmesan cheese

Heat oven to 375. In a stock pot add the oil and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the garlic starts to get golden. Add the butter and melt. Add the flour and stir constantly for one minute. Slowly add the milk, about 1/3 cup at a time, and continue to slowly add the milk until you have a thick sauce. Remove from heat. Stir in the salt, pepper, crushed red pepper and cheese, and stir until cheese is completely melted.

Arrange the zucchini slices in layers into a casserole dish. Pour the cheese sauce over the top of the zucchini and sprinkle the panko bread crumbs over the top. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and add Parmesan cheese. The sauce may seem a bit loose when it comes out of the oven, but it will thicken as it starts to cool.

These Twice Baked Butternut Squash Potatoes aren't that difficult to make for a smaller Thanksgiving meal this year.
These Twice Baked Butternut Squash Potatoes aren't that difficult to make for a smaller Thanksgiving meal this year. - Courtesy of Biz Velatini
Twice Baked Butternut Squash Potatoes

2 large potatoes

1 medium butternut squash

¼ cup unsweetened almond milk

1 tablespoon butter

1 teaspoon crushed red pepper

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

2 ounces shredded cheddar cheese

1 teaspoon paprika

2 tablespoons cilantro

Wash the potatoes, dry and then spray with olive oil spray. Rub the oil into the potato skin. Place the potatoes and butternut squash into the air fryer, and bake for 45 minutes, or until fork tender. You could also bake on a baking sheet for 40 minutes at 400, or until fork tender.

Let the potatoes and squash cool for about 20 minutes. Slice the potatoes in half. Cut the butternut squash in half. Scoop the seeds out of the squash. Reserve half of the squash for another use.

In a large bowl, add the softened butter. Add the pulp from the half butternut squash to the bowl. Scoop out the potato, leaving about a half inch border in the skin. Add in the milk, crushed red pepper, salt and pepper and using a potato masher, mash the potatoes.

Divide that filling into the potato shells. Top with ½ ounce shredded cheese, sprinkle with paprika and broil for 3-4 minutes, or until the cheese is melty and browned. Garnish with chopped cilantro.

Enjoy these pumpkin pie bites this year for dessert at Thanksgiving.
Enjoy these pumpkin pie bites this year for dessert at Thanksgiving. - Courtesy of Biz Velatini
Pumpkin Pie Bites

1 egg

¼ cup pumpkin puree

1 tablespoon sugar free pancake syrup

1 teaspoon Truvia (or other no calorie sweetener)

1 tablespoon flour

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon cinnamon

Pinch of salt

15 mini phyllo pastry shells

Canned whipped cream

Heat oven to 350. In a large bowl, mix the egg, pumpkin, pancake syrup, no calorie sweetener, flour, vanilla, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. Whisk until combined.

Place the phyllo pastry shells on a baking sheet. Using a spoon, scoop the pumpkin mixture into the shells. You may have a bit more filling than shells, but any leftover filling is great in oatmeal.

Bake for 13-15 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Allow to cool before serving. Top with whipped cream.

• My Bizzy Kitchen runs once a month in Food. Follow Biz Velatini on her blog at, on Instagram at and Facebook at

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