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Thanksgiving: It's in the Bag

Create flavorful dishes using just five ingredients each. That’s one quick shopping run!

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What is it about the fourth Thursday of November that makes everything taste so darn good? A big part is the heartfelt, homemade cooking-the hours we lovingly put into choosing recipes, chopping veggies, and stirring gravy. But it's the spirit of Thanksgiving that's the real clincher. As it turns out, you can have just as meaningful and delicious a holiday meal without quite so much fuss. Claire Robinson, host of 5 Ingredient Fix on the Food Network, can show you how. She's come up with an easy-as-pie way to put dinner on the table any day of the week-including November 26-using recipes that call for just five ingredients per dish.

The Kid in the Kitchen
Having grown up in Memphis, TN, Claire Robinson can't remember a time when she wasn't enthralled by the idea of cooking. "As a young kid I preferred the soothing sounds of TV chefs like Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, and James Beard to cartoons," she says. Every day, she helped her mother, a "well-traveled hippie and talented cook," concoct dish after delicious dish. Claire was the girl in the school cafeteria who would show up with lamb shish kebab for lunch instead of macaroni 'n' cheese like the other kids.

One of Claire's fondest childhood memories is spending full days shopping with her mother and then making homemade bread for dinner. "It was amazing," she says, "but very labor intensive." That memory was on her mind when she developed her signature kitchen strategy of creating recipes with just five ingredients. "It makes grocery shopping and cooking simpler, less expensive, and much more approachable."

Simple Yet Sublime
With so few ingredients per recipe (not counting a few staples like salt and pepper to season), Claire says you can really taste each individual flavor in her dishes. "It's a particularly great way to cook with kids," she adds. "Some of the dishes are so simple that you can get children involved with the Thanksgiving cooking, a time that's often too busy to pause for teachable moments." That simplicity makes it easier for kids to understand the basics of cooking. (Another bonus: You can get the food on the table more quickly!)

But simple doesn't mean bland. "These recipes alone will knock people's socks off," says the star chef. Rather, Claire sees her concoctions as a jumping-off point for getting creative and improvising. She encourages you to play around with flavors and add things if you want to use your imagination. Let your kids add their ideas, too. Cooking with her young niece and nephew has inspired many of Claire's recipes. She particularly enjoys letting them choose one fruit or vegetable at the grocery store and then building an easy recipe around it together.

Tiny and Tidy
Less to set up means less to clean up. "I have a tiny New York City kitchen," Claire explains, "and if I can make these dishes in my apartment, I can guarantee that they don't require a lot of tools, space, or cleanup-my sink only holds one pot at a time!" The goal is to make cooking and eating together as fun as possible. Reducing the hassle of tidying up a messy kitchen makes a big difference.

Roasted Turkey Breast with Gravy

Ingredients
2 3-lb bone-in turkey breast halves
1 stick unsalted butter plus 2 Tbsp, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 shallots, peeled and sliced
2 cups low-sodium chicken stock
2 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Dry the skin of the turkey breasts with paper towels and put in a roasting pan on a wire rack, breast side up. Rub 4 tablespoons butter all over the surface of each breast and season well with salt and pepper. Add the shallots to the bottom of the roasting pan and cover with the stock. Transfer the pan to the oven and roast until an instant-read thermometer registers 165 degrees F and the juices run clear, about 1 hour. (Begin checking the internal temperature after 45 minutes to prevent overcooking.) Remove the turkey breasts from the oven to a cutting board, and tent with foil. Allow to rest while making the gravy.
3. Strain pan drippings into a small pot over low heat and bring to a simmer. In a small bowl mash together the remaining 2 tablespoons butter and flour with a fork until a paste forms. Whisk into the simmering stock, season with salt and pepper, and cook until thickened.
4. Carve turkey breast meat from the bone and arrange the slices on a serving platter. Serve with gravy.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

Brussels Sprout Gratin

Ingredients
2 pints Brussels sprouts, trimmed (about 11/2 lbs)
3 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
2 cups milk, at room temperature
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
5 oz Gruyere, grated (about 1 cup grated)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
2. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over medium heat. Add the Brussels sprouts and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until bright green and beginning to soften. Remove the sprouts with a slotted spoon and drop them into a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.
3. Make the sauce by melting the butter and flour together in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring, until smooth and bubbling, about 1 minute; slowly whisk in milk and continue to cook, whisking frequently, until thick and creamy, 2 to 3 minutes. Season the sauce well with salt and heavily with pepper.
4. Halve the Brussels sprouts through the core and put them in an even layer in a 2-quart baking dish. Pour the sauce over the sprouts and sprinkle the cheese evenly over the top. Bake them in the center of the oven for 10 to 15 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

For more delicious and simple recipes from Claire Robinson, click here.

About the Author

Samantha Brody is the senior editor of Scholastic Parent & Child.

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