Easy, Make Ahead Accents Spice Up Thanksgiving Dinner

Monday Morning Post

Turkey is the traditional centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner with many families here in Virginia also adding ham to the menu as a nod to our southern heritage. For those who do not eat meat, Tofurkey, a soy based, non meat "turkey", is the entrée of choice and just as festive as a holiday bird.

Whatever you serve as an entrée, it's the sides and flavorful accents that make the meal. Here's some easy, make ahead treats to tickle the taste buds and spice up your festive fare.

Make Ahead, Gourmet Sweet Potato Bisque
A lovely, elegant starter. For a dairy free soup, replace the milk or cream with almond milk, soy milk or extra broth. Taste and adjust the amount of brown sugar or omit. Bisque will be thinner but still very good.

Makes 4 (3/4 cup) servings
Prepare the day before and reheat, gently, for serving

1 large sweet potatoes (about 2 pounds)
1 cup chicken or vegetable broth
1 (12 oz) can evaporated milk (or 3/4 cup light cream)
1 to 3 tablespoons brown sugar (or to taste - optional)
Salt and pepper to taste
Garnish: ground nutmeg

Using a paring knife, peel the sweet potatoes. Cut into random, 1/2 inch cubes using a heavy knife. Rinse cubes under running, tepid tap water. Drain. Put into a medium size sauce pan. Cover with water so there's 1 inch of water above the level of the potato cubes. Bring to boil on high heat (partially covered). Reduce heat to a gentle boil and cook (partially covered) until very soft - about 20 minutes. Remove from heat, drain and cool until easy to handle - about 15 minutes.

Using the blender or food processor, puree cooked potato (in batches) with broth. Place into a large, refrigerator safe storage container. Whisk in milk (or cream) and brown sugar (optional). Refrigerate, covered, overnight. Next day, transfer soup to a pot and heat, uncovered and on low, until steaming. Taste and correct seasoning. Serve sprinkled with nutmeg.

Apricot, Cranberry and Pecan Chutney
A glistening gourmet compote and perfect accent to turkey that's an intriguing alternative to traditional cranberry sauce. So yummy you'll stash away the leftovers to enjoy on your breakfast toast.

Makes 4 cups
Prepare up to 1 week in advance and keep refrigerated

1 (12-16 oz.) package fresh cranberries
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1/4 cup apricot brandy (or 1/4 cup additional water)
1 (7-9 oz.) package dried apricots
1/2 cup pecans halves

Wash cranberries.  Drain.  Remove stems and shriveled berries.  If apricots are small, leave whole.  If they are large, cut them in half.

Put sugar, water and apricot brandy (or additional water) into a medium pot. Cover. Bring to a boil. Remove cover. Stir to dissolve sugar. Add cranberries and apricots. Cook till cranberries pop and apricots soften - about 5 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, remove cooked fruit and put into a heat safe container. Continue cooking syrup until it reduces by half - about 10 minutes. Pour reduced syrup over cooked fruit. Stir to coat. Cool to room temperature (about 1 hour) then stir in pecans. Refrigerate until serving.

Home Made Sweet Potato Butter
A gorgeous, pumpkin and spice jam to spread on your plump, flaky, home made biscuits. So divine you'll be tempted to eat it with a spoon!
Makes about 5 cups
Make up to 1 week in advance and keep refrigerated

3 (29 oz.) cans sweet potato pie filling (like Bruce's brand - available in grocery stores everywhere)
(Nothing else - really!)

Put pie filling into a 5 or 6 quart slow cooker. Cook on low (uncovered) about 6 hours or until reduced in volume by half and darker in color. Stir every hour or so (more often near the end of the cooking time) scraping the sides and bottom of the cooker to prevent scorching. Small bits of browned sweet potato stirred in is OK.

When done, turn off cooker. Stir and scrape down one last time.  Let sweet potato mixture cool 2 hours (uncovered) in cooker then puree in batches in food processor or blender.

 Karla's tip:  If using a hand held blender, remove cooled sweet potato mixture to another bowl so you don't damage the slower cooker with the blender blade.


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