The best make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes to try this year - WCAX.COM Local Vermont News, Weather and Sports-

The best make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes to try this year

Updated: Nov 18, 2011 09:41 AM EST
No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without a turkey, but remember: It's not always necessary to cook an entire turkey. (©Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock) No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without a turkey, but remember: It's not always necessary to cook an entire turkey. (©Brand X Pictures/Thinkstock)


By Coletta Teske

Seems there's always such a hustle and bustle during the holidays. Everything is in such a rush. There are parties to plan, gifts to buy, Christmas trees to decorate and holiday meals to cook. With so much to do, finding ways to save time can help keep the stress away.

Here's a simple twist on a classic Thanksgiving feast that will take the rush out of Thanksgiving day. This menu contains the basic recipes for an easy to prepare and quick to fix Thanksgiving dinner. Every dish can be prepared days in advanced and kept in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day. These recipes use fresh ingredients that are available at any grocery store. Add salt to taste.

The following recipes will reasonably feed four people and possibly provide leftovers for a meal or two the next day.

Sweet Potatoes

This simple way to fix sweet potatoes doesn't take much more effort that cutting up a few sweet potatoes, adding a few ingredients and popping them in the oven.

- Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
- Cut 3 large sweet potatoes or yams into 1 inch cubes.
- Place in an ungreased 8x8 inch square baking dish.
- Spread 1-1/2 cups unsweetened applesauce over sweet potatoes.
- Sprinkle with ¼ cup chopped nuts and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon.
- Cover and bake for 30 minutes. Remove cover during the last 10 minutes.

For variety, mix the sweet potatoes with dried cranberries or raisins.

Baked sweet potatoes, mashed sweet potatoes and sweet potato casseroles can be stored in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days. Put in the refrigerator within 2 hours of cooking in a covered container. Baked sweet potatoes can be wrapped in aluminum foil.

Potato Salad

Potato salad is another recipe that can be fixed well in advance, is easy to fix and doesn't require a lot of ingredients or time.

- Boil 6 medium potatoes in a 3 quart saucepan until tender. Allow potatoes to cool before cutting into cubes.
- Chop 1 small pickle and mix with potatoes.
- Make a dressing using ½ cup mayonnaise or salad dressing, 1 tablespoon mustard and 1 tablespoon vinegar.
- Mix dressing with potatoes.
- Chop 2 hard boiled eggs and add to potato mixture.

To change up the mix, substitute chopped pimento stuffed olives for the pickle. Chopped celery and onion can also be added.

Potato salad will last 3 to 5 days in the refrigerator in a covered container.

Coleslaw

Coleslaw makes a fast and easy accompaniment to any meal, even Thanksgiving dinner.

- Combine 4 cups grated cabbage and 1 cup grated carrots.
- Make a dressing by mixing 1/3 cup mayonnaise or salad dressing, 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar and 2 tablespoons honey.
- Combine the cabbage mixture and the dressing.

For color, use a mix of green and red cabbage. Add flavorful, fresh herbs such as chopped basil.

Coleslaw can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 5 days in a covered container.

Stuffing

Stuffing does not need to be cooked inside the turkey. This simple stuffing recipe can be made in advance and warmed up after the turkey comes out of the oven. 

- Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
- Put 4 cups bread cubes (about 8 slices) into a mixing bowl.
- Mix ½ teaspoon thyme, ½ teaspoon sage and ¼ teaspoon pepper to bread cubes.
- Chop 1 medium onion and 2 celery stalks.
- Sauté onion and celery in 2 tablespoons olive oil until tender.
- Toss onion mixture into bread cubes. Mix until bread is evenly coated.
- Bake in a greased 8x8 inch square baking dish. Bake covered for 30 minutes. Uncover and bake for 15 minutes.

Sweeten up the stuffing with apples, raisins or other dried fruit.

Cooked stuffing can be kept in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Put in the refrigerator within 2 hours after cooking and store in a covered container.

String Beans And Baby Potatoes With Bacon

Fresh, steamed vegetables make a light side dish, while the bacon adds heartiness and flavor.

- Steam fresh string beans and baby potatoes (any color) until desired tenderness.
- Cook bacon until crispy. Allow to cool before crumbling.
- Combine beans, potatoes and bacon in a serving dish.

This recipe will keep in the refrigerator for 3 to 4 days. Refrigerate within 2 hours of cooking in an airtight covered container.

Dutch Apple Pie

After dinner, sit down and relax with a piece of Dutch apple pie and a cup of fine brewed coffee.

- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Slice 2 apples and place in a 9 inch pie plate.
- In a medium bowl, make the custard by beating together: 1 cup canned pumpkin 1/3 cup sugar ¼ cup milk 2 tablespoons flour ½ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice 1 egg
- Pour the custard over the apples.
- Make the crumb topping by mixing: ¾ cup flour ¾ cup packed brown sugar ¼ cup butter or margarine ¼ teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- Sprinkle the crumb mixture over the apples.
- Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until golden brown and the custard is set.

Unbaked apple pies can be kept in the refrigerator for 1 or 2 days. Baked apple pies can be kept at room temperature for 2 days. Cover sliced pies with plastic wrap.

Turkey

No Thanksgiving dinner would be complete without a turkey. It's not always necessary to cook an entire turkey. When cooking a dinner for 2 to 4 people, consider purchasing parts of a turkey. For those that enjoy white meat, select just a turkey breast. Dark meat lovers may enjoy a single drumstick and thigh.

When time is limited, don't spend a lot of time in the kitchen. Keep the Thanksgiving menu simple and prepare as much in advance as time allows. Thanksgiving isn't about the food. It's about enjoying time spent with family and friends.

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