Make-ahead Thanksgiving recipes are as easy as (sweet potato) pie


Welcome to the most wonderful meal of the year. I don’t know about you, but I am looking forward to the Thanksgiving feast more than ever. I know how hectic that day can be, so most of my recipes can be made at least a day in advance. For an easy appetizer, try my Cranberry Bacon Pecan Cheese Ball that’s delicious, salty and smoky with a hint of sweetness. No Thanksgiving table would be complete without some sort of gelatin salad, and Lime Jell-O Delight, my mother-in-law’s family recipe, is a crowd-pleaser. I also make a fantastic Sweet Potato Pie. And because many people are on low-carbohydrate diets right now, and you may have such guests at your table, I make a Keto-friendly Cauliflower Bake. I wish you abundance and blessings this Thanksgiving!

Cranberry Bacon Pecan Cheese Ball

Cranberry Bacon Pecan Cheese Ball

1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup real bacon pieces, chopped
3 green onions, sliced (use everything but the roots)
1/3 cup dried cranberries, minced
Dash of pepper
Dash of garlic salt
1/2 cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded
2/3 cup pecans, chopped
Crackers or French bread for serving

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, bacon, green onions, cranberries, pepper and garlic salt, and stir until thoroughly combined. Stir in cheddar cheese. Form into a ball, and roll in chopped pecans. Cover in plastic wrap; refrigerate 2-6 hours. Remove from refrigerator 30 minutes before serving so cheese ball can soften. Serve with crackers or French bread.

Note: You can make this a day in advance.

Lime Jell-O Delight

Lime Jell-O Delight

1 (6-ounce) package lime Jell-O
1 (3-ounce package) lemon Jell-O
2 cups hot water
1 (20-ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained (reserve juice)
6   ounces cream cheese,softened
1   (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
1/4  cup mayonnaise
1   cup pecans, chopped

In a medium bowl, stir together both packages of Jell-O. Add hot water and reserved juice from crushed pineapple; stir until dissolved. Refrigerate until mixture is syrupy, about 30 minutes.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese. Add Jell-O mixture, crushed pineapple, sweetened condensed milk and mayonnaise. Beat until well-blended. Pour into a 9×13 inch dish. Sprinkle pecans on top. Cover and refrigerate until set.

Note: You can make this 1-2 days in advance.

Sweet Potato Pie

Sweet Potato Pie

3 large sweet potatoes
4 tablespoons butter, melted
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 cup half-and-half
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 homemade or store-bought pie crust
Whipped cream or topping for serving

Heat oven to 425.

Wash sweet potatoes. Using a sharp knife, pierce each potato six times, three on each side.

Line a baking sheet with foil. Bake sweet potatoes for 55-60 minutes, until fork-tender. Remove from oven, and allow to cool. Peel potatoes (skins should come right off).

Mash sweet potatoes with a fork and measure out 1 1/2 cups (save remainder for another use). Reduce oven to 350.

In a large bowl, stir together mashed sweet potatoes with melted butter. Add sugar, brown sugar, eggs, half-and-half, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla extract. Beat with an electric mixer until smooth.

Pour mixture into prepared pie crust placed inside a shallow pie pan.

Bake 45-55 minutes, until set. Cool on counter for at least two hours. Refrigerate several hours before serving. Serve with whipped cream or topping.

Note: You can make this a day in advance.

Cauliflower Bake

Cauliflower Bake

2 (12-ounce) bags frozen cauliflower

Salt and pepper
1 cup mayonnaise
1 (7.5-ounce container) chive-and-onion flavored cream cheese
2 teaspoons garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Italian seasoning or dried rosemary
1 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Splash of heavy cream or half-and-half, as needed
1 1/2 cups cheddar cheese, shredded
2/3 cup real bacon pieces, chopped (optional)

Prepare cauliflower according to package directions. When it is done, place in colander. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Allow to drain.

Heat oven to 375.

In a pot over medium-low heat, combine mayonnaise, cream cheese, garlic, Italian seasoning or rosemary, Parmesan cheese and splash of heavy cream or half-and-half. Stir until melted, and add cauliflower. Transfer to a baking dish. Top with cheddar cheese and bacon, if desired.

Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cheese is melted. (Note, if oven is at 400 for other dishes, you can bake it at that temperature; just shave off 5 minutes of cooking time).

Notes: To make in advance, assemble the day before, cover and refrigerate. Bake on Thanksgiving, adding 5 more minutes of baking time.