Thanksgiving is known as a family-bonding holiday, but the cooks in the family (i.e. me!) spend most of it stuck in the kitchen. Rather than taking the entire day to prepare one meal, you can prepare a number of Thanksgiving recipes in advance to serve or re-heat the next day. Here are some of my favorite healthy Make Ahead Thanksgiving Recipes that you can use this year.
Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Mashed sweet potatoes are a great alternative to traditional mashed potatoes or sweet potato casserole with marshmallows on top. They store well in the fridge, so you can cook them the night before and reheat them for your meal. Cube 3 pounds of sweet potatoes and put them in a 6 quart stockpot. Add enough water to cover the potatoes and bring to boil. Reduce heat and cook for about 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Drain, mash, and gradually stir in 3 tablespoons of orange juice to make them creamy. You can also use 2 tablespoons of brown sugar or maple syrup for sweetener, or you can add a dash of pumpkin spice, salt or pepper to taste. This tasty side is LACTOSE FREE!
Apple-Pecan Brown Rice
The great thing about this dish is that it tastes good at almost any temperature. Cook 1 1/4 cups of brown rice in a large pot in chicken or vegetable broth per the instructions on the packaging. In a separate skillet, melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Sauté 1/2 cup pecans until golden brown. Then add 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1 cup chopped onion and 1 cup chopped apple to the pan. Sauté until the onions are translucent. Top with a dash of nutmeg, salt and pepper, and then stir into the rice when it is cooked. This is a side dish I use again and again with plenty of flavor flexibility.
Microwave-Friendly Green Beans
What I love about this recipe is that it cooks in the microwave, not the oven or the stove. I usually have every piece of cooking equipment covered on Thanksgiving Day, so this clears up space for other sides. You can prepare it the night before and then cook it just before it’s time to eat. Combine 1 pound of green beans, 1 smashed garlic clove, and 1 tablespoon of butter in a shallow microwave-safe bowl. Season with a pinch of salt and cover with a lid. Heat it in the microwave for 7 minutes or until the beans are tender in the middle and crisp on the outside. Pour off the excess melted butter, and you’re good to go!
You can prepare almost all Thanksgiving dessert dishes a day or two in advance. If you’re making something warm like pecan pie or apple pie, just put it in the oven after you are finished cooking everything else. Don’t turn the oven on – let the resting heat inside the oven warm up the dish for you. Keep an eye on it so the crust doesn’t burn, and you will be ready when everyone is finished with the main course. This year, I’m just ordering all my desserts and focusing on the meal itself!