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Two tasty Thanksgiving dishes to prepare ahead of time

Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner is a daunting task, not because a turkey is difficult to cook but because of the logistics of cooking the fixings as well.

Cooking a Thanksgiving dinner is a daunting task, not because a turkey is difficult to cook but because of the logistics of cooking the fixings as well.
My first Thanksgiving in Duluth can be best described as chaotic.
Months before we moved to Duluth, I invited my in-laws and my parents to come for Thanksgiving at our house. I also invited my brothers and sister, my sister-in-laws and their families.
When we arrived in Duluth, I invited my husband's co-workers and their families. Finally, I invited some friends from France who were in the States. When the dust settled, we had 14 around the table, of whom six were houseguests for the long weekend.
To keep Thanksgiving traditions from both sides of the family -- this was the first time I had hosted Thanksgiving for either my parents or my in-laws -- I ended up planning a meal with 10 dishes. If this was not enough, we had moved into our new house on the Saturday before Thanksgiving.
With the help of my in-laws, we were able to get most of the boxes unpacked before guests started arriving. Although we were unpacking pots, pans, utensils and china in the kitchen as we needed them, in the dining room, the meal was a success.
Afterward, everyone helped to clean up, asking questions like: "Where do you keep this platter?" and getting the reply: "Where do you think we should keep it?"
I learned many lessons from that first Thanksgiving. The most important ones are to prepare as many dishes as possible ahead of time and to keep the number of dishes at a reasonable level.
While writing this article, I debated whether to include a turkey and dressing recipe and decided against it.
There are many resources for cooking turkeys including a toll-free number that Butterball has set up for people who need help with their turkeys (1-800-323-4848). Instead, here are two recipes that you can make ahead or volunteer to bring to someone else's house.
Roast butternut squash soup
Eight servings
(Can be made a day ahead)
I love making this soup because the bulk of the cooking is done in the oven. This leaves you free to do other things, like play with your children, while it cooks.
2 pounds butternut squash unpeeled, cut into 8 pieces, seeds removed
1 small unpeeled garlic head
1 large onion, unpeeled, cut vertically in half
2 golden delicious apples peeled, cored and cut in half
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 a cup half-and-half
2 cups chicken stock or canned low sodium chicken broth
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut one-third inch off top of garlic head exposing cloves. Arrange garlic, squash, onion and apple cut side up in large baking dish. Drizzle vegetables with oil. Sprinkle thyme over the vegetables. Cover dish tightly with foil and bake until squash is tender when pierced with a knife, about 1 1/2 hours. Uncover vegetables and allow to cool.
Scrape the squash from its skin into a food processor bowl. Peel and trim the onion and nine garlic cloves from head and add them to the food processor. Add the apples and half-and-half and puree until smooth.
Transfer puree to heavy large saucepan. Stir in 2 cups of chicken broth. Cook over medium heat until heated through stirring often. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Cranberry Sauce
This sauce is a great accompaniment to turkey, pork and game.
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
(Can be made several days ahead of time and stored in the refrigerator)
2 cups cranberries
3/4 cup tawny port
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 1/2 tablespoons orange juice
3/4 teaspoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
Pinch of ground cloves
Pinch of ground ginger
1/4 cup golden raisins
1 tablespoon grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon lemon peel
Combine berries and port in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Cook until berries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes. Add sugar and a pinch of salt, stir for 1 minute. In a medium bowl combine orange juice, cornstarch, dry mustard, lemon juices and spices. Whisk until smooth, then stir into berry mixture. Add raisins, orange peel and lemon peel. Simmer until thickened, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Season with more sugar if desired. Cool.
Barbara Weinstein is a stay-at-home mom with two children, Andrew, 4, and Leanna, 2. She can reached by e-mail at budgeteer@mx3.com .

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