Thanksgiving meal prep

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving this year, you may already be thinking about how you’re going to pull off the big day. You can save yourself loads of time by cooking many of the dishes a few days ahead of time! Thanksgiving afternoon should be spent with a glass of wine or cider in hand, talking to your relatives and only occasionally basting the turkey or checking on something in the oven.

You can make dessert, rolls, pie or pie crust, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, yams, soup, and dip several days before Thanksgiving; just make room in your fridge or freezer to keep them fresh. In fact, sometimes it’s better to make them beforehand, as the flavors will have more time to mingle. You could even make the stuffing a few days in advance, and add the breadcrumbs or pieces right before it goes in the oven for a heat-up.

Below are a few recipes you can make ahead (even this weekend!) and freeze or refrigerate, all of which will reheat beautifully for Thanksgiving.

Simple Cranberry Puree
This recipe is super simple—just gather your ingredients, and process! It also makes a great spread for the next day on a bit of cream cheese on toast, or over pancakes. You can use a blender if you don’t have a food processor, though you may have to scrape down the sides more often.

Serves 10 as a side

1 bag of cranberries
zest and juice of 1 orange
2 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp cinnamon
3 tbsp honey
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (optional)

Add all ingredients to your food processor and pulse until the cranberries are in tiny pieces. The mixture will be bright pink. Taste-test, and add more honey as needed, blending again. If it seems like it’s lacking something else, try a sprinkle of ginger! Serve cool or at room temperature, or heat if you prefer to spread it over slices of turkey.

Nutritional info per serving: 48 calories, .1 g fat, 1.8 mg sodium, 45 mg potassium, 12 g carbohydrates, 2.2 g fiber, 7.7 g sugar, .3 g protein. 18% DV Vitamin C.

Squash Soup
Soups make great starters on Thanksgiving, especially one bursting with fall flavors. You can have this re-heated and ready in just a few minutes in the microwave.

Serves 8

1 butternut squash
1 sweet potato
1 large yellow onion, chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
4 cups broth
4 oz cream cheese
1 tbsp nutmeg
1 tsp ground ginger (½ tsp if using fresh)

Cut the butternut squash in half (or in quarters) and put it on a baking sheet along with the sweet potato, and bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees or until both are easily pricked with a fork.

While the squash and potato bake, add the olive oil to a large skillet over medium heat, and add the onions, stirring to coat. Cook until beginning to soften and turn golden, about 8-10 minutes. Set aside.

When the squash and potato are ready, take them out of the oven and remove the orange flesh in cubes if you can. When removed, add them to the skillet with the onion, returning to medium heat. When the edges are beginning to caramelize, add the broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce and let simmer for 10 minutes. Pour into a larger pot and use an immersion blender, or blend in batches in a food processor or blender. Add the cream cheese, nutmeg and ginger in right before you blend. Taste and adjust spices to your preference. Serve hot.

Nutritional info per serving: 146 calories, 9 g fat, 18 mg cholesterol, 532 mg sodium, 614 mg potassium, 16 g carbohydrates, 3.8 g fiber, 2 g sugar, 3 g protein. 164% DV Vitamin A, 30% DV Vitamin C.

Garlic and Tomato Salad
You can prep the dressing up to a week in advance, and chop up the tomatoes for this simple salad a day or two beforehand. Wait until at least the morning of the big day to tear up the lettuce, tomatoes, and herbs, and serve in a big bowl so people can easily help themselves.  

Serves 8 as a side

½ cup olive oil
¼ cup Balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp honey
4 cloves garlic, diced
Handful of herbs like basil, oregano, and dill
1 large head romaine or green leaf lettuce
2 large tomatoes, chopped

Whisk the vinegar, herbs, and garlic together until combined. Slowly pour in the olive oil in a thin stream until it’s all thoroughly combined. Keep in the fridge for a week or more, then dice the handful of herbs and tomatoes and add at the last minute. Whisk the dressing together again before serving. Pour over the lettuce and tomato and toss in a large serving bowl. Let guests serve themselves with tongs.

Nutritional info per serving: 150 calories, 14 g fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 22 mg sodium, 108 mg potassium, 7 carbohydrates, 1.3 g fiber, 2.6 g sugar, 1.3 g protein.  89% DV Vitamin A, 25% DV Vitamin C.

Make sure you ask the relatives to chip in with a few side dishes to help lighten your cooking load, too!

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