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Thanksgiving Planning: Baked Ginger Sweet Potatoes and Mashed Butternut Squash

Since I won’t be cooking the actual Thanksgiving meal myself this year, I thought I would get the month started early and try to make a bunch of Thanksgiving side dishes all month long so you have some new things to choose and try for your Thanksgiving meal this year. I recently made two side dishes that would be perfect to use for Thanksgiving. The first is a very simple baked ginger sweet potatoes dish that I got from Chow.com. it is very simple to make, with a wonderful glaze that adds some great flavor to the potatoes.

Baked Ginger Sweet Potatoes

3/4 cup apricot preserves

1/3 cup freshly squeezed orange juice (from 1 medium orange)

3 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon peeled and grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon kosher salt

4 pounds medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch rounds

Heat the oven to 425 degrees and arrange an oven rack in the middle position of the oven.

Place the apricot preserves, orange juice, butter, ginger and salt in a small saucepan over medium heat. Bring the mixture to a simmer, stirring occasionally, and cook until the butter and the preserves are melted and smooth, about 6 minutes.

Place the sweet potatoes in a large bowl and drizzle them with about 1/3 of the apricot mixture, and, using your hands, toss the potatoes to coat them well with the mixture. Shingle the slices in a 13-by-9-inch baking dish. Cover the dish tightly with aluminum foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Remove the baking dish from the oven and remove the aluminum foil. Drizzle the potatoes with another 1/3 of the apricot mixture and bake the potatoes uncovered for 10 minutes. Drizzle the potatoes again with the remaining 1/3 of the apricot mixture and bake uncovered until the sweet potatoes are tender and the glaze has thickened, about 10 minutes more. Transfer the baking dish to a wire rack and cool for 10 minutes before serving.

The sweetness of the potatoes is enhanced even more by the apricot preserves and orange juice and the ginger adds a nice little bite of spice to the dish. It’s a great tasting dish that goes well not just with your Thanksgiving meal but with any weeknight meal of something like chicken or pork chops.

The second side dish I had made recently is another orange vegetable that is perfect for your Thanksgiving table. It is a very simple mashed butternut squash recipe that I got from Cook’s Country that has a great earthy flavor thanks to the spices it uses in the recipe.

Mashed Butternut Squash

4 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1-inch pieces

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons butter

2 apples, peeled and shredded (about 2 cups)

1 onion, chopped fine

1 garlic clove, minced

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 tablespoons maple syrup

Adjust an oven rack to the upper-middle position and heat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine the squash, vegetable oil, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of pepper in a bowl. Spread the squash out evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Roast the squash until it is tender and starting to brown, about 40 to 50 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway through the roasting process.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the apples, onion, and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and cook, covered, until the apples are soft, about 5 minutes. Uncover the pot and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the apples and onion are golden brown, about 5 to 7 minutes longer. Add the garlic, cumin, coriander, cinnamon and cayenne pepper and cook until the mixture is fragrant, about 30 seconds. Remove from the heat, cover and set the pot aside while the squash finishes roasting.

Add the roasted squash and maple syrup to the Dutch oven with the apple mixture. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until it is mostly smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

The mashed squash has great consistency and flavor and will go well with your turkey and other side dishes if you want to make something a little bit different. The apples really help to add some great depth of flavor to the dish and the maple syrup just gives it a final touch that we all really enjoyed. I actually served this with the slow cooker pepper pork chops I made the other night and the whole meal was fantastic.

That’s all I have for today. Check back next time for some more recipes. I have lots more ideas for your Thanksgiving side dishes, a good turkey recipe, a wonderful lemon cake I making for Michelle’s birthday, a great burger recipe we tried yesterday, some simple battered shrimp and a whole lot more. Until next time, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

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Posted by on November 4, 2013 in Cooking, Holidays, Potatoes, Side Dishes, Vegetables

 

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Guide to Thanksgiving Leftovers

Guide to Thanksgiving Leftovers.

Here’s some more things you can do with leftovers from Thanksgiving, this time courtesy of Williams-Sonoma. The turkey soup sounds really good to me. Check it out and see if you like any of the suggestions.

 
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Posted by on November 23, 2012 in Cooking, Cooking Websites, Leftovers

 

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Don’t Forget Your Thanksgiving Appetizers

Yesterday I covered the side dishes I am making for Thanksgiving, and on Monday it was the soup for the day, and Sunday I wrote about the turkey, stuffing and gravy. There’s not much left to write about  unless you want to make some appetizers for everyone before the meal. Here’s my advice on appetizers for the holidays. You have enough going on in the oven and on the stove, so try to do things that you don’t have to cook at all if you can avoid it. It’s just one less thing you have to cook for the day and you may not have the room or time to do it anyway. You can go simple, and just do a nice selections of cheeses and crackers, maybe some sliced apples and pears, some grapes and some pepperoni or sliced dry sausage. I am trying to keep it simple by doing some shrimp cocktail and some homemade horseradish cocktail sauce.

Shrimp Cocktail

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

2 bay leaves

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon black peppercorns

1 teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

1 pound extra-large shrimp, peeled and deveined

1 cup Horseradish Cocktail Sauce (recipe to follow)

Bring the lemon juice, bay leaves, salt, peppercorns, Old Bay and 4 cups of water to a boil in a medium saucepan for 2 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat and add the shrimp. Cover and steep off the heat until the shrimp are firm and pink, about 7 minutes. Drain the shrimp and plunge them immediately into ice water. Drain and refrigerate the shrimp until thoroughly chilled, about 1 hour. Arrange a platter and serve with the cocktail sauce.

Horseradish Cocktail Sauce

1 cup ketchup

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 tablespoons prepared horseradish, plus extra for seasoning

2 teaspoons Tabasco or other hot sauce, plus extra for seasoning

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Stir all of the ingredients together in a small bowl. Season with additional horseradish and hot sauce as desired.

The cooked shrimp and the cocktail sauce can be refrigerated separately for up to 1 day, so you can make them ahead if you want to. If you get uncooked shrimp that is already peeled and deveined, you can save yourself some extra work and make things a little quicker for yourself.

You’re likely to have some people who don’t like shrimp cocktail, so you’ll need to have some other things available too. You can always put out an array of different chips and snacks or vegetables and have some dip for them. Instead of using the soup packet for your onion dip this year (I have nothing against it, I do it a lot, but it is often a little stale and always very salty), how about making a simple onion dip on your own. It’s not really any work and it tastes a lot fresher. You can just use straight sour cream or try this dip base and add the onions to it.

Simple Onion Dip

3/4 cup mayonnaise

3/4 cup sour cream

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/2 cup caramelized onions

2 garlic cloves, minced

Salt and pepper, to taste

Stir all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate the dip for at least 1 hour so all of the flavors can blend together nicely. The prepared dip can keep covered and refrigerated for up to 2 days.

For the caramelized onions, if you have never done it before, simply melt 1 tablespoon of butter with a tablespoon of vegetable oil over high heat. Add about 4 onions, halved and sliced thin, 1 teaspoon of light brown sugar and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Cook until the onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring frequently, until the onions are deep brown, about 40 minutes. Take them off the heat, stir in 1 tablespoon of water, season with salt and pepper, and you’re done.

Yes, it takes some planning ahead if you are going to use caramelized onions, but they are so tasty, not just for dips but as a condiment for nearly anything.

If you want to make something ahead of time and like nuts, you can try this recipe for spiced nuts. I tried this with some mixed nuts and a spice blend I got from PepperMary’s Spice Blends and boy was it good. I used the Cajun Blend for the nuts, but Mary was kind enough to send me samples of her other spices, which I plan to try after Thanksgiving on some fish that I got. Thanks Mary, they are awesome. I also used the Mesquite Blend on a London broil I marinated last night for dinner and it had a nice taste and kick to it. Give her stuff a try if you get the chance.

Spiced Nuts

1 egg white

1 tablespoon water

1 teaspoon salt

1 pound of mixed nuts, unsalted

2 tablespoons sugar, maple syrup or honey

4 teaspoons PepperMary Cajun Spice blend (or other spice blend you like) or:

2 teaspoons cumin, 1 teaspoon cayenne pepper and 1 teaspoon paprika

Adjust 2 oven racks to the upper and lower-middle positions and heat the oven to 275 degrees. Whisk the egg white, water and salt together in a medium bowl. Add the nuts and toss to coat. Drain in a colander for 5 minutes.

Toss the sugar, maple syrup or honey with the spice blend or desired spices with the nuts. Spread the nuts evenly on two parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake until the nuts are dry and crisp, about 50 minutes, stirring occasionally and rotating the baking sheets halfway through. Remove from the oven and let the nuts cool completely on the baking sheet, about 30 minutes. Break the nuts apart and serve.

These can also be made ahead and stored at room temperature wrapped tightly in plastic wrap for up to 1 week.

If you still aren’t sure what to make, you can always try going for an antipasto platter. This lets you put out a variety of meats, cheeses, olives and vegetables that people like and you can pretty much choose what suits your crowd the best. I put together just a few ideas in this one.

Antipasto Platter

1/2 pound soppressata salami or other dry sausage, skin removed and sliced thin

2 cups mixed olives, black and green, marinated, such as Kalamata, Nicoise or others

1 jar marinated roasted red peppers

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts

1/2 pound fresh mozzarella, sliced thin

Arrange all the items on a platter for people to choose as finger foods. You could always add other cheeses, like marinated mozzarella, or other meats like ham, or even some marinated and grilled vegetables like eggplant, asparagus or zucchini, and some sliced tomato. The options are endless with this. Have some good extra-virgin olive oil on hand if you want to do any marinating of anything.

Okay, I think that covers the appetizers. There are a lot of other choices out there, that I didn’t go into, but I could be here all day writing suggestions and I still have prep work myself to do. Later on today, I will post a couple of dessert options if you are still looking for ideas. Check back and see what I have. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day!

 

 
 

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Some Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Okay, so Sunday we did the turkey and stuffing, yesterday we did the soup, today we’ll do some side dishes. I wanted to choose some classic sides but maybe try something a little different with them, and I ended up choosing both of these recipes from Cook’s Country. The first takes the traditional sweet potato casserole and makes it a little differently. I am not a fan of marshmallow and didn’t want to make something that was going to use them and this recipe seems just perfect and it is not hard to make.

Sweet Potato Casserole with Bacon-Brown Sugar Topping

3 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

1/4 cup packed brown sugar

5 slices bacon

4 tablespoons butter, cut into 6 pieces

1/4 cup heavy cream

1/2 teaspoon grated orange zest plus 2 tablespoons juice

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay two 24 by 12-inch sheets of heavy-duty aluminum foil perpendicular to each other inside a rimmed baking sheet. Place the sweet potatoes in the center of the foil and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar. Fold opposite sides of the foil toward each other and crimp edges to seal tightly. Transfer the baking sheet to the oven and bake until the sweet potatoes are tender, about 60 minutes. Remove the baking sheet from the oven and heat the broiler.

Cook the bacon in a large skillet over medium heat until crispy, about 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. When the bacon is cool enough to handle, crumble it into bite-size pieces. Pulse the bacon and the remaining 3 tablespoons of sugar in a food processor until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses; set aside.

Carefully open 1 end of the foil pouch, taking care to avoid escaping steam, and pout the potatoes and accumulated liquid into the food processor. Add the butter, cream, orange zest and juice, salt cinnamon, pepper and cayenne and process until smooth, 30 to 60 seconds, scraping down the bowl as needed.

Transfer the potato puree to a 2-quart souffle dish and sprinkle evenly with the reserved bacon-sugar mixture. Broil the sweet potatoes until the topping is lightly browned and bubbling, about 2 to 4 minutes.

You can make part of this ahead of time to save you time on Thanksgiving. The processed potatoes can be refrigerated without the topping for up to 2 days. To serve it, cover the dish with aluminum foil and bake on the middle rack of a 400 degree oven until hot throughout, about 30 to 40 minutes. Remove the foil, add the bacon-sugar topping and broil as directed.

I think it is going to turn out quite nicely and I’ll be sure to take some pictures of it so you can see it on Thursday.

My second recipe frees up some stove or oven space for you by making good use of your slow cooker. it is a version of the classic green bean casserole, but made using the slow cooker to make things a little easier for you along the way.

Slow-Cooker Green Bean Casserole

1 cup canned fried onions

3 tablespoons butter

10 ounces cremini or white mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices

Salt and pepper

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/4 cups chicken broth

1 1/4 cups heavy cream

2 pounds green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces

2 slices white bread, torn into pieces

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 cups canned fried onions

To make the sauce, pulse the canned onions in a food processor until finely ground; set aside. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add mushrooms, 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and cook until the mushrooms release their liquid, about 5 minutes. Increase the heat to medium-high and cook until the liquid is evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and thyme and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and ground onions and cook until golden, about 1 minute. Stir in the broth and the cream and bring to a boil. reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is thick and creamy, about 10 minutes.

Combine the sauce and the green beans in the slow cooker. Cover and cook on low until the beans are tender, 5 to 6 hours.

Meanwhile, pulse the bread and butter in a food processor until coarsely ground. Toast the bread crumbs and onions in a skillet over medium-high heat until golden brown, about 3 to 5 minutes. Top the green beans with bread-crumb mixture and serve.

You can also start making this ahead of time as well to save you some effort on Thanksgiving. The sauce and the topping can be made and refrigerated in separate airtight containers for 2 days. To finish it, microwave the sauce, covered, for 1 minute before proceeding with slow cooking. Crisp the bread-crumb mixture in a skillet before topping and serving.

I like the idea of using the slow cooker, but I also like the not using canned green beans or cream of mushroom soup to make it. Personally, I am not a big fan of canned vegetables and soups. If you like them better, stick with what you like, but I think giving the freshness is worth the little bit of extra time it takes to prep everything.

Okay, so we almost have a complete meal for Thursday. Tomorrow, I am going to talk a little bit about some appetizers and a dessert to round out the meal if you want to check back and see. Until then, enjoy the rest of your day and enjoy your meal!

 

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A Thanksgiving Day Soup

Since I posted what I plan to do with the turkey and stuffing on Thanksgiving in yesterday’s post, I thought I would put down today the soup I plan to make as well. I had planned to make a butternut squash soup all along, and I have several recipes that I like, so I was trying to decide which one would be the best to go with. I finally settled on this one from America’s Test Kitchen and am combining it with some others I have seen to sort of make my own. This recipe also uses some Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons, which are a nice little touch at the end.

Butternut Squash Soup

4 tablespoons butter

2 medium shallots, minced

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

5 cups chicken broth

2 sprigs thyme

Pinch of nutmeg

1/2 cup heavy cream

Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a large Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the shallots and cook until softened, about 3-4 minutes. Stir in the squash, broth, thyme and nutmeg. Bring to simmer, cover and cook until the squash is tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

Remove the thyme sprigs and puree the soup in batches in a blender or food processor until smooth. Return the pureed soup to the pot. Stir in the cream. Bring to a brief simmer, then remove it from the heat. if the soup seems too thick, thin it out with additional broth or water. Season it with salt and pepper to taste before serving. Sprinkle individual servings with nutmeg, if desired.

You can make this soup ahead of time, which I plan to do, right through the puree step, and cool, cover and refrigerate it for up to 3 days or frozen for up to 2 months. Just re-heat the soup over low heat, adding additional water or broth to adjust the consistency before proceeding with adding the cream.

There are a number of things you can top this soup with to suit your tastes. You could use the nutmeg, or paprika, a little balsamic vinegar, some crumbled bacon, slices of crispy prosciutto or even slices of apple or pear. I saw this quick little recipe for CInnamon Sugar Croutons from America’s Test Kitchen, so I am going to try that one.

Cinnamon-Sugar Croutons

4 slices white sandwich bread, cut into 1/2-inch cubes with the crusts removed

2 tablespoons melted butter

4 teaspoons sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Toss the bread cubes with the melted butter in a medium bowl. In a small bowl, combine the cinnamon and sugar; sprinkle over the bread cubes and toss to combine.

Spread the bread cubes in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined baking sheet until crisp, 8 to 10 minutes. The croutons can be stored in an airtight container for several days. Sprinkle over the soup just before serving.

I think they will add a nice flavor and crunch to the soup. Overall, I think it is the perfect opening course to Thanksgiving dinner.

Okay, so we have the turkey, stuffing and soup taken care of, so tomorrow I will talk about some of the side dishes I am planning, which are a slow cooker version of the classic green bean casserole and a sweet potato casserole. Check back and see if you like them. I plan to post pictures of everything after I cook it all on Thursday, so check back for that as well. Until then, enjoy your day and enjoy your meal!

 
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Posted by on November 19, 2012 in Cooking, Dinner, Holidays, Soups & Stews

 

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