Budget-Friendly and Time-Conscious Thanksgiving Tips & Recipes

para español

Thanksgiving is an exciting time to eat some of our favorite holiday foods. We could go on and on about Thanksgiving fare, but the reality is that making too many dishes can be stressful! Check out the following tips to spend less time and money in the kitchen.

  1. Keep it simple by focusing on favorites – choose your favorite 2 vegetable sides & 1-2 starchy side dishes to make and enjoy without going overboard. You can make other dishes any day of the year without the pressure of the big day!
  2. Make only what you will need – Thanksgiving leftovers are great, but buying too much can put you over budget and creates waste.
  3. Basic is best – Often our favorite recipes are the most simple. Choose recipes without extra ingredients. This saves time shopping AND in the kitchen. Making dishes from scratch is often less expensive too.

When it comes to Thanksgiving, thinking ahead can save the day!

Giving ourselves time to decide what’s really important minimizes holiday stress. Prioritizing can keep us focused and on-track to stay within budget and to make healthier choices.

  1. Prioritize only a few of your “Must-Have” favorite dishes and choose recipes in advance. You can make other dishes any day of the year.
  2. Purchase November’s in-season produce while it’s at the lowest price and its peak of freshness (winter squashes, collards, cabbage, sweet potato, kale, carrots, apples, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cranberries etc.)
  3. Make it ahead. Schedule a prep day where you can get some foods done in advance. Many can be stored in the freezer for weeks and just need to be reheated (soup, casseroles, pie, etc.)
  4. Use a slow cooker if you have one. Many recipes can be adapted to be made in a slow cooker. It takes up little space and reduces your active cooking time.
  5. Poultry swap. Turkey is often the most expensive item at Thanksgiving. Cut the cost by:
  • Purchasing store-brand turkey
  • Choosing a smaller bird and focus on the side dishes
  • Substituting chicken and prepare it with the same care you would for a turkey
  • Buying turkey pieces instead of the whole bird
Roasted Turkey Breast

For when you don’t want to cook a whole bird (try it with chicken!)

  • 5 lbs Turkey Breast, bone in & skin on
  • 2 tbsp Butter, softened
  • 2 large Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 tbsp Rosemary
  • 1 tsp Smoked Paprika
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • Black Pepper, to taste
  • 3 cups Water

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. In a small bowl, add softened butter, garlic, rosemary, smoked paprika, salt & pepper. Mix thoroughly.
  3. Rub turkey breast with seasoned butter all around, starting from the bottom with bone side.
    Place turkey breast side up on a rack and then put rack inside the baking dish. Pour water into the pan underneath the turkey.
  4. Bake uncovered for 20 minutes on a bottom rack.
  5. Loosely cover with foil and bake for 70-80 minutes more or until internal temperature in the deepest part of meat reaches 150 – 155 degrees F.
Cranberry Sauce

For a more naturally sweetened sauce

  • 12 oz Cranberries, fresh or frozen

  • 1/3 Cup Maple Syrup or Honey

  • 1/4 Cup Orange Juice (use zest of oranges if fresh)

  • 1/8 tsp Vanilla (optional)

  • 1/8 tsp Cinnamon (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Add cranberries, syrup or honey, and orange juice to a pot.
  2. Cover and bring to a boil. Then reduce heat to medium and cook for 6 more minutes.
  3. Remove lid and add vanilla & cinnamon (optional). Stir and cook for another 3 minutes or until cranberries are broken down and the sauce has thickened.
Thanksgiving Stuffed Acorn Squash

For a new dish to serve featuring seasonal vegetables.

For the Squash

  • 3 Acorn Squash, small

  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • Salt & Pepper, to taste

For the Stuffing

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 3 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 lb Lean Turkey, ground
  • 3 Cups spinach/kale, chopped
  • 2 tsp Dried Rosemary
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Hard Cheese & Parsley for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Cut squash in half and scoop out the seeds. (save them to toast later)
  2. Place squash cut side up on a large baking sheet. Brush with 1 tbsp of oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes.
  3. In the meantime, prepare the stuffing. Place a large skillet over medium-low heat.
  4. Add oil onion and garlic and cook until translucent and fragrant. Add turkey and cook for another 7-8 minutes while mixing and breaking up the meat.
  5. Add remaining ingredients. Mix together and cook for another few minutes.
  6. After the squash have roasted for 30 minutes, remove them from the oven. Carefully stuff the centers with the stuffing & sprinkle on cheese (optional).
  7. Return the stuffed squash to the oven and bake another 25-30 minutes until the top is golden brown and the squash can be easily pierced with a fork.
Toasted Acorn Squash Seeds

For a crunchy & salty snack while waiting for dinner.

  • Acorn Squash Seeds

  • Oil of your choosing, enough to lightly coat

  • Salt, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees F and line a baking tray with foil.
  2. Remove squash pulp from seeds as best as possible.
  3. In a bowl, drizzle oil onto the seeds to lightly coat. Add salt and mix.
  4. Spread the seeds on your baking sheet in a single layer and place into the oven.
  5. Bake for 15-20 minutes, tossing the seeds with a spatula once or twice during the cooking time.
  6. Remove once they are golden and fragrant.
Garlic Green Beans

For a deliciously simple vegetable side dish.

  • 1.5 lbs Fresh Green Beans, ends trimmed

  • 3 Tbsp Water

  • 2 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • 3-4 Garlic Cloves, minced

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat large ceramic non-stick skillet on medium heat.
  2. Add green beans and 3 tbsp water. Cover and cook for 4 minutes.
  3. Remove the lid and if there is any water left, cook green beans until water has evaporated.
  4. Push beans to the side. Add olive oil and garlic. Cook for 30 seconds and then stir with green beans. Season with salt & pepper.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts

For a traditional & simple seasonal vegetable side.

  • 2 lbs Brussels Sprouts, fresh

  • 3 Tbsp Olive Oil

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Trim the ends and remove outer leaves from brussels sprouts.
  3. Place brussels sprouts on baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Mix with hands to evenly coat with oil and seasonings. Spread into a single layer.
  5. Bake for 40 mins, tossing with a spatula 1-2 times after the 30 minute mark.
Slow Cooker Mashed Potatoes

For a hassle-free slow cooker recipe (try it with sweet potatoes!)

  • 5 lbs Potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes

  • 1/2 Cup of Lowfat or Plant-Based Milk

  • 1/2 Cup Low-Sodium Broth

  • 3 Garlic Cloves, smashed

  • 1/3 Cup Plain Greek Yogurt

  • 1/4 Cup Parmesan Cheese, grated

  • Salt & Black Pepper to taste

  • Sliced Green Onions or Chives for garnish (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Place potato cubes along with milk, broth, salt, black pepper, and garlic into a slow cooker. Toss to combine.
  2. Cover the crock and cook for about 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 hours on low.
  3. When the potatoes are tender, mash them directly in the slow cooker to your desired consistency.
  4. Add yogurt and grated parmesan, and season to taste.
  5. Place the lid back on the crock pot and heat through for another 15-20 minutes before serving. Garnish if desired.
Seasonal Squash Soup

For a hearty seasonal soup you can make ahead (try with any winter squash!)

  • 1 Butternut Squash,  peeled, seeded, & cubed (save your seeds to toast later)
  • 2 Tbsp Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Stalk Celery, chopped
  • 1 Medium Carrot, chopped
  • 32 oz Low-Sodium Broth
  • Salt & Black Pepper, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Add oil to a large soup pot. Add onion, celery, carrot and squash and cook for 5 minutes, or until lightly browned.
  2. Pour in enough of the chicken stock to cover vegetables. Bring to a boil then reduce to low heat and cover. Simmer for 40 minutes, or until all vegetables are tender.
  3. Carefully, transfer the soup to a blender (or use an immersion blender), and blend until smooth.
  4. Mix in any remaining stock to attain desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

If Freezing…

  1. Allow soup to cool, and then pour into a freezer-safe container. Leave space at the top for expansion.
  2. Place in the freezer until ready to use.
  3. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator if desired. Reheat in a pot on the stove.
Baked Apples

For a healthy dessert that highlights beautiful seasonal apples.

  • 4 Large Apples

  • 3 Tbsp Unsalted Butter, softened

  • 1/4 Cup of Brown Sugar or Honey

  • 1/2 tsp Ground Cinnamon

  • 1/8 tsp Ground Nutmeg

  • 1/3 Cup Whole Rolled Oats

  • 2 Tbsp Raisins/Dried Cranberries/Chopped Nuts (optional)

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, mash butter, sugar/honey, oats, cinnamon, and nutmeg together until combined. Add raisins/dried cranberries/nuts, if using. Set aside.
  2. Core the apples: Use an apple corer or a sharp paring knife and a spoon. Cut around the core, about 3/4 down into the apple. Use a spoon to carefully dig out the core.
  3. Place cored apples in a baking pan with sides. Spoon filling into each apple p to the top.
  4. Pour water into the pan around the apples to cover the bottom.
  5. Bake for 40-45 minutes or until apples are to your desired softness.
  6. Remove apples from the oven and allow to rest 5 minutes. Serve warm.
Prep-Ahead Pumpkin Pie

For a traditional dessert you can make in advance

  • 1 Store-Bought Pie Dough

  • 3 Eggs, large

  • 15 oz can 2 cups pumpkin puree (not pie filling)

  • 1/2 cup your choice of milk

  • 1/2 cup maple syrup or honey

  • 1/2 tsp vanilla

  • 1.5 tsp pumpkin pie spice**

  • 1/4 tsp salt

**Make & store your own pumpkin pie spice in a jar by mixing 1/4 cup ground cinnamon, 1 Tbsp ground nutmeg, 1 Tbsp ground ginger and 1 tsp ground cloves

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a medium bowl, add eggs and whisk for 30 seconds.
  3. Add pumpkin puree, milk, maple syrup, vanilla, pumpkin pie spice, salt and whisk together.
  4. Pour your pie filling into pre-baked crust and bake pie for 55 minutes.

Freeze & Store…

  1. Let the pie cool completely.
  2. Wrap the pie tightly in a few layers of plastic wrap.
  3. Label the pie with the freeze date and place in freezer.
  4. Thaw overnight in refrigerator before serving.

Holiday Gift Drive to Benefit Those in Need

Donate a gift cards to benefit those we serve. Your gifts empower parents to purchase holiday gifts for their children.

Please help by purchasing gift cards in denominations of $15 or $25 from the following retailers:

  • Amazon
  • Walmart
  • Old Navy
  • Target
  • VISA

Please deliver donations by Thursday, December 23. Questions? Contact Eden Aaronson at EdenA@jfcsonline.org.

 

Download and share the flyer!

Virtual Bereavement Group Ahead of the Holidays

When so many traditions and observances are focused around the gathering of family and friends, it can be especially hard to celebrate when grieving the loss of a loved one. Our Handling the Holidays series is held ahead of the major Jewish holidays, Passover, Yom Kippur & Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah, to help those who are grieving.

Light in the Midst of Darkness: Chanukah for those who are bereaved

THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 18, 2021 | 2:30 – 3:30 PM | VIA ZOOM

 

 

Join for a one-time virtual support group to help you through the dark days of this difficult year. Facilitated by Chaplain Beverly Rubman.

No fee to attend, advance registration required.

 

CLICK TO REGISTER

1st Annual JFCS Wheels for Meals a Success!

The 1st Annual JFCS Wheels for Meals welcomed over 250 cyclists on a foggy autumn morning to Mercer County Community College. To date, the event has raised over $93,000 in support of JFCS food programs.

“We were astounded at the turnout for our inaugural event,” said Michelle Napell, Executive Director. “The enthusiasm of all the cyclists, from the experienced riders to the young cyclists representing local synagogues, it was a true demonstration of the power of community coming together for a cause.”

The support of 20 sponsors helped jump start the success of the event. Each cyclists who registered then had the opportunity to set up fundraising pages and have their networks donate towards a personal fundraising goal. Fundraisers could also form teams, which proved popular with local riding groups, synagogues, businesses, and even bar & bat mitzvah projects.

“We are thrilled to have set such an exciting precedent and only growing the event in future years,” adds Napell.

See the Wheels for Meals site for full cyclists info and to continue to contribute to the cause.

Event Sponsors:

Crook & Marker | Lisa & Mark Tobias

Bristol Myers Squibb | Susan & Michael Falcon | Firmenich Charitable Foundation | Lennar | Stark & Stark
Elaine & Barry Sussman | Vending Trucks Inc
David Adams | Bank of Princeton | Bob’s Discount Furniture | The Gershen Group LLC | Patty & Adolf Herst 
NJM Insurance GroupOrland’s Ewing Memorial Chapel | PJ’s Pancake House | Rick Pollock & Eric Risberg
Clive & Teresa Samuels Pat & Ray Schlaefer | Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton |   Szaferman Lakind
Taft Communications

Event Partners: 

Jay’s Cycles Princeton | NJ Sings | Wegmans | Witherspoon Media Group

Enjoy select photos from our event and view all in our Facebook Photo Album.

Individual Actions, Community Impact: A Message for the High Holidays

The high holidays are a time when we come together as a Jewish community in celebration and solemn observance; yet, when you consider the holidays, our observance is in fact very much focused on individual reflection, atonement, and giving. This time of year which holds great significance to our collective all begins with our individual choices and acts.

Between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, we reflect on our individual actions – what could I have done differently – and review our choices – what am I proud of this year – in an attempt to honestly evaluate ourselves. We evaluate, we redeem, we give, and we set our own path for the year ahead and, while doing so, we create a more connected, supportive, compassionate community.

This theme felt incredibly poignant given all we have endured and continue to face because of the pandemic.

It has taken each of us making individual choices – helping a neighbor, giving a donation, wearing a mask, getting vaccinated – to bring our community to a better place, a more hopeful place, this fall compared to last fall.

Over the past year, JFCS has witnessed first-hand how the generous actions of one individual can have far reaching effects, like the mother-daughter efforts of Sujaya and Anushka Majumdar who hand-sewed masks to donate to JFCS and other local organizations to distribute to clients in need, and Samantha Burnside, a local teen who rallied family and friends to raise almost $1,000 for the JFCS food pantries. This July, the entire world witnessed how the voice of an individual, Olympic gymnast Simone Biles, could raise awareness, and inspire others to prioritize their own mental health.

One person’s action can make all the difference to a neighbor, a community, a country, a world.

While we have come so far since last year, there are still many who need our help on the long road to healing. There are the seniors working through the impact of a year of isolation, there are the individuals struggling with mental and emotional turmoil, and there are families continuing to live in a state of financial uncertainty, unsure if they can afford their next meal.
We turn to you, to your power as an individual to act. In honor of the high holidays, we ask that you consider how you can make a small choice that can benefit the community.

A donation now means that when you reflect next year, you already know you have made a difference, an action to be proud of.

Michelle Napell, Executive Director
Jill Jaclin, Board President

Back-to-School School Supply Drive 2021

NOW THROUGH AUGUST 13th!

Now more than ever, let’s continue to help children in need start the school year off right.

Our goal is to outfit 150+ children with the supplies they need to look forward to beginning a successful school year. Items donated benefit the children of JFCS pantry and partner agency clients in the Greater Mercer community.

Help us by donating:

  • Sturdy backpacks for middle-school and high-school students
  • Notebooks (spiral, wide rule and marble)
  • Pencil cases/pouches
  • Pocket folders
  • #2 Pencils
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • Highlighters
  • Glue Sticks
  • Index Cards
  • Markers
  • Boxes of Tissues

2 Ways to Donate

  1. Order and ship supplies of your website of choice ship to 707 Alexander Rd, Suite 204 Princeton NJ 08540
  2. Drop off items in our donation bin outside of: 707 Alexander Road, Suite 102 AND Suite 204 Princeton NJ 08540

Our Year in Review: Celebrating Community & Stories of Impact

JFCS was thrilled to host an almost “normal” Annual Meeting on June 1, welcoming staff, Board and community award winners and their families to an outdoor celebration held at JCC Abrams Camp.

We took the opportunity to recognize staff anniversaries, celebrate the winners of the Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Awards, and present our annual awards to community partners. We also reflected on the past year, sharing stories of impact across our programs, and what stories are coming in the next year.

View a short recap of the full event below:

2021 Rose & Louis H. Linowitz Mensch Awards

8th Grade Mensch-in-Training:

Zachary Miller

12th Grade Mensch Award Winners:

Jeremy Brandspiegel

Yoni Livstone

Mark Sheffield

2021 JFCS Community Award Winners

Tzedakah Award Winner:

Ilana Scheer

Kehillah Award Winner:

The Big Thinkers Group

Gemilut Chasadim Award Winner:

Hayley Aaronson

Shavout Reflection and Recipes

Shavuot/ May 16 (evening)-May 18 (evening), 2021

Passover begins the Jewish historical year cycle with our freedom from slavery in Egypt. Fifty days later Shavuot (the Feast of Weeks or Pentecost) celebrates God’s giving of the Ten Commandments (also seen as the entire Torah, the first five books of the Hebrew bible) to the Jewish people on Mount Sinai, At this time, we entered into a covenant, based on Divine law, that we observe and renew to this day, thus giving purpose to our freedom.

Shavuot began in the Bible as an agricultural pilgrimage festival (like Sukkot and Passover) but its significance is much greater.  Jewish tradition emphasizes the importance of everyone in every generation standing at Sinai, just as everyone of every generation relives the escape from slavery in Egypt at the Passover seder. One of the major traditions of Shavuot is that of all-night study (Tikkun Layl Shavuot), to provide each individual person direct access to Jewish from the Bible and other sources. We read the Biblical Book of Ruth at this time because Ruth, as a convert, entered into her own personal relationship with God and the Jewish people. In a similar way, many Liberal congregations hold Confirmation services for students who are approximately three years past their Bar/Bat Mitzvah,  reflecting ongoing commitment to Jewish learning.

Shavuot also is a time of great rejoicing, both in community in the synagogue and at home. Ashkenazi tradition includes the eating of dairy foods, such as blintzes and cheese cake, because the Torah is likened to milk and honey.  Sephardic communities have more elaborate Shavuot dishes many of which also involve cheese but in different forms such as special rice and cheese pies and Turkish-style rice pudding (sutlatch). 

 

A Blessing for Kindness on Shavuot, by Devon Spier 

Between those who have much and those who have little, let us sprinkle kindness like grain seeds.

And let our kindness burst forth like a bountiful harvest.

Growing, life-giving, and available to every single one who seeks nourishment from the field. 

And if we should find our self standing across from a stranger, or if we should happen to be a stranger in the company of one who is not, may we rise to meet the other with love in our hearts and the wholesomeness of good deeds.

And may our kindness sustain our selves and each other through this and every season of life.

Recipes:

Sutlach

Mediterranean Shavout Recipes

Traditional Shavout Foods

Beyond Blintz – A Culinary Tour of Shavout

MORE Shavout Recipes

 Please note that the JFCS offices will be closed in observance of the holiday on Monday, May 17 and Tuesday, May 18. 

JFCS Pantry Welcomes Donations from Individual & Community Gardens

May 11, 2021

Jewish Family & Children’s Service of Greater Mercer County (JFCS) is asking the community to help keep the agency pantry stocked with fresh produce throughout the spring and summer by harvesting from their very own gardens.

In years past, the JFCS pantry has been able to accept limited donations of fresh produce but now with the mobile food pantry going out 3-5 times per week, there is significantly increased demand for a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables. The on-site food pantry also continues to see high use, with 80-100 visits per month.

“We always appreciate the donations from local individuals or even community gardens as it provides variety to the produce we usually offer,” said Beth Englezos, JFCS Manager of Hunger Prevention. “While we are able to store and distribute fresh and frozen produce from our regular food providers, there is something extra special about being able to give out locally grown, fresh from the garden items to our clients.”

JFCS is tying into the national Plant-a-Row initiative which encourages individuals to plant items in their personal or communal gardens for the specific purpose of harvesting to donate to local food pantries.

In addition to encouraging local gardeners to contribute to the food pantry, JFCS is also working to provide clients the tools to grow their own produce as well. Recently, the agency was able to provide tomato plant seedlings to clients. JFCS agency has a relationship with Abe’s Acres Farm, located in Hightstown, where agency staff bring specific cardboard waste – collected through regular, large-scale food deliveries to the pantry – to the farm which is turned into composting material. In early May, when dropping off cardboard, Abe’s Acres provided 200 tomato plant seedlings for JFCS to share with pantry clients.

Taryn Krietzman, RDN, JFCS Pantry Coordinator created easy to follow care instructions to provide along with the plant to pantry clients.

“Clients coming to our food pantry are food insecure and low-income. Growing one’s own produce is a simple way to get more food into the refrigerator and to save money,” says Krietzman.

Through an ongoing partnership with ONEProject, a Robbinsville-based organization, JFCS received a donation of 250 painted planters and cilantro seeds to provide our clients with additional resources.

“Food pantries are at the end of human-food production chain, making it difficult to acquire perishable foods such as fresh produce. By providing these resources directly to our clients, we can circumvent many of those challenges allow the client to have the freshest source of produce, right in their home,” added Krietzman.

If you have questions about donating from your personal or community garden, reach out to Taryn Krietzman at TarynK@jfcsonline.org. For those outside of the Mercer County region, individuals can utilize the pantry finder on AmpleHarvest.com to locate a local food pantry accepting donations from personal or community gardens.

Spotlight on Volunteers: Making Connections in a Distanced World

Our new monthly feature – Volunteer Spotlight – will share testimonials direct from our incredible volunteers. JFCS Volunteers are critical to our delivery of core programs and services, providing everything from delivery of Kosher Meals on Wheels, to helping at Mobile Food Pantry distributions, and making friendly calls to isolated seniors.

Matt Erman 

I first reached out to JFCS to volunteer in October. After seeing how people throughout our community have been stepping up and helping each other through this trying time, I wanted to try to do my part in whichever way possible. 

Since starting to volunteer with JFCS, the greatest part has been the people I interact with through the Kosher Meals on Wheels and Senior Shopper programs. When you get to see the same people each and every week, you get to really know them, and a simple food drop off can often turn into a fifteen minute conversation.

I had been volunteering in the Mercer County area since middle school, but since coming back from college in March 2020, JFCS has been the only organization I have worked with.

I will be going to law school at the end of August, but until then I plan on working with JFCS and to continue delivering meals and groceries!

Each week, I deliver groceries to a senior in East Windsor. Whenever I talk to her, be it on the phone when she is giving me her list, or when I drop off the groceries at her house, our conversations are never short. Over the past months, we have become a fixture in each other’s lives – she asks about my sister or how my law school search has been going, and I ask about her grandkids and her friends. The people have been my favorite part of working with JFCS, and interacting with Iris is definitely something I look forward to each week.