Thanksgiving is a tricky holiday to cook for. The meal is often critiqued according to the moistness of the turkey and the number of elegant vegetable and dessert dishes accompanying it. Picking up a bunch of sides at the supermarket deli-counter is frowned on. Instead, the sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, green vegetable, squash dish, parsnip or turnip dish, stuffing, and cranberry sauce are typically expected to be homemade, all prepared on Thanksgiving, and while a large turkey occupies the oven. Sometimes this culinary feat is accomplished with a Thanksgiving potluck. After all, the "first Thanksgiving" was a potluck. But more often, the meal is prepared in a single kitchen, albeit through the efforts of multiple women, - all of whom are complaining that they are spending the holiday in the kitchen.
So over the years, I have sought out recipes that are either incredibly easy to fix, combine several of the required foods into one dish, or can be prepared ahead of time - say in July, (no, not really. It's too hot to be in the kitchen in July. Better to make them in September.) Below are some easy winners.
But in creating this page, I couldn't resist adding a few recipes that are time-consuming and involved, but so delicious that if you're in the mood to cook, they're worth the time to make. Live the gourmet life!
Below are recipes for some of the dishes. For others I give the link to the post that has the recipe and a description of what on earth possessed me to make it. Just click on the name of the recipe to get to the post.
I've ordered the recipes alphabetically, more or less. Well, in some cases, less.
Apple-Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Winter Squash From Asparagus to Zucchini
- 1 1/2 - 2 lbs winter squash (butternut, buttercup, etc.)
- 2 medium sweet potatoes
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary or 1 teaspoon dried
- about 1 1/2 cups apple cider
- salt and pepper
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Peel squash, cut them open, and remove seeds. Peel sweet potatoes. Cut squash and sweet potatoes into even-size chunks. Place in a baking dish just large enough to hold all the vegetables in 1 layer. Toss with olive oil and rosemary to lightly coat. Pour in enough apple cider to reach about halfway up the vegetables. Season with salt and pepper. Bake until vegetables are tender and juice is reduced to a glaze, 40-50 minutes. Makes 4-6 servings.
Here's the link to a post I wrote about cooking with fall colors. In it I describe how I bake acorn squash in such an easy way that young children can help make it and in such a yummy way that young children will eat it.
This recipe combines the great tastes of fresh apples and Wisconsin cheddar cheese into one pretty-easy pie. No peeling apples for this pie; the recipe calls for applesauce which just gets dumped in and spiced up. Easy as pie, after you make the cheese crust, that is. The recipe comes from Apples Everything by Jean Hill and Jody Littler.
This relish tastes fresh and delicious! It's my new favorite. For years I insisted that canned cranberry sauce from Ocean Spray be on our Thanksgiving table. - It's what I grew up with. It's tradition. But this year one of my best friends gave me a taste of this cranberry relish from the Dominican sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, and I instantly loved it. I made it and contributed it to my host's Thanksgiving table. Yes, she had canned cranberry sauce on the table already. But when she added mine to the table?... Well, you can guess which cranberry sauce leftovers got put into the fridge. Sorry Ocean Spray. __________________________________________________________________
This relish tastes fresh and delicious! It's my new favorite. For years I insisted that canned cranberry sauce from Ocean Spray be on our Thanksgiving table. - It's what I grew up with. It's tradition. But this year one of my best friends gave me a taste of this cranberry relish from the Dominican sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, and I instantly loved it. I made it and contributed it to my host's Thanksgiving table. Yes, she had canned cranberry sauce on the table already. But when she added mine to the table?... Well, you can guess which cranberry sauce leftovers got put into the fridge. Sorry Ocean Spray.
Mashed Potato Balls
Taken from: Foods That Made Wisconsin Famous
A bowl of mashed potatoes (approximately 1/2 to 3/4 cup per ball)
- Butter, melted
- Salt to taste
- White pepper to taste
- 1 egg, slightly beaten
- Crushed corn flakes
Combine potatoes, melted butter, salt, and pepper. Chill. Form into balls (somewhere between golf ball and tennis ball size.) Roll in beaten egg and then in crushed corn flakes. Place balls on ungreased baking sheet and heat at 350 degrees for about 1/2 hour (any longer and they have a tendency to flatten out).
You can use instant potatoes if you wish, but the balls will have a little less body. Garnish each potato ball with a sprig of parsley. Place the balls around beef/pork/ham slices or around a platter of turkey pieces. This recipe doesn't sound like anything special but it has a lot of merit:
- Can be made up a day in advance and held in refrigerator
- The balls don't take long to warm up
- Each family member or guest takes one or two balls - a unique way to serve ordinary mashed potatoes
Stewed Pumpkin and Apples
- 4 cups fresh pumpkin or squash, peeled and cut into 1" cubes
- 1 quart water
- 4 cups Granny Smith apples, cored and cut into 1" cubes
- 2 Tablespoons craisins (dried cranberries) or raisins
- 1/3 cup sweet butter
- 2 ounces Cointreau
- 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
- pinch of ground or fresh ginger
Bring water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Add pumpkin and cook until a fork or skewer can be inserted without resistance. Drain pumpkin, toss together with apples and craisins and transfer to an oven-proof casserole.
In a 1-quart saucepan, melt the butter. Add ginger, brown sugar and Cointreau and heat until the sugar is dissolved. Season with salt and pepper and pour over pumpkin apple mixture. Bake, uncovered, in a preheated 300 degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes or until apples are semi-soft. Dot each serving with a pat of butter. Serves 4-6.
To create Pumpkin Apple Bisque, process the mixture with 1 quart heavy cream and 2 cups chicken or vegetable stock in a food processor or blender. Salt and pepper to taste.
Brussels Sprouts with Walnuts
Taken from: The Northwoods Table Cookbook
- 1 1/2 lbs Brussels sprouts, damaged leaves trimmed
- 3/4 cup walnut halves or large pieces
- 4 Tablespoons butter
- salt and freshly ground pepper
Rinse Brussels sprouts. Cut an "x" into the bottom stem of each sprout with a paring knife (cut larger ones in half) and set aside. In a large saucepan bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil, add the sprouts and simmer about 4 minutes until the color is bright green and the sprouts still have a crunch inside.
In a large saute pan melt the butter on medium high heat; add the sprouts and walnuts and cook 2-3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot.
Taken from: Wisconsin Country Gourmet
- 1 1/2 cups ginger snap crumbs
- 6 Tablespoons butter, melted
- 1/4 cup granulated sugar
- 2 1/2 lbs cream cheese, at room temperature
- 1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
- 4 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 3 egg yolks, lightly beaten
- 3 Tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cloves
- 1 1/2 teaspoons ground ginger
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- 1 Tablespoon vanilla extract
- 2 Tablespoons rum
- 2 Tablespoons brandy (or 4 Tablespoons brandy and no rum)
- 1 can (16 ounces) mashed pumpkin
- 4 Tablespoons crystallized ginger, chopped
- 5 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, cut into pieces
- 2 Tablespoons butter
- 2 Tablespoons cream
- 2 teaspoons vanilla
In a small bowl combine the ginger snap crumbs, melted butter and sugar. Press the crumb mixture onto the bottom and partly up the sides of a greased 10-inch springform pan. Smooth the crumb mixture along the bottom to an even thickness. Chill the crust 10 minutes or until set.
In a large mixer bowl beat together the cream cheese and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, and yolks, combine until smooth.
Add the flour, cinnamon, cloves and ginger; beat in the cream, vanilla, rum, brandy, and pumpkin, beating at medium speed with an electric mixer until just mixed thoroughly. Fold in crystallized ginger and set aside.
In a small sauce pan over low heat combine the chocolate, butter, and cream until just melted. Remove from heat, mix well; add vanilla. Pour chocolate mixture into prepared crust, smooth and cool. Pour pumpkin mixture on top of chocolate and smooth.
Bake cheesecake in a 425 degree preheated oven for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 275 degrees and bake an additional 60 minutes. Turn off heat and leave cake in the oven overnight to cool. Serves 12.
This recipe is another ultra-rich, go-the-extra-mile, gourmet dessert recipe from Wisconsin Country Gourmet. I made it for Thanksgiving and had extra filling leftover which I baked into an additional pie shell. I got double the pie - all the more to share with friends! _______________________________________________________
These baked yams are a cinch to make and everybody loves them. They are essentially sweet potatoes roasted with butter and onion. Click on the link for the recipe and story.
I found this recipe in Urban Processings Sweetened Dried Cranberry Cookbook. All that's required to make this fall-colored side-dish is a few packages, water, one hour, and an oven. I know with Thanksgiving, getting oven space is difficult. But if you can make room, or are contributing a side-dish to a Thanksgiving feast at someone else's house, consider making this pilaf. It will go smashingly well with turkey.