Children Enjoy Thanksgiving More When They Help Prepare the Feast
A few years ago, my nieces were sitting around watching TV while the adults sweated over the timing of the turkey and who makes the best stuffing and whether apples or nuts or both should be added to the final sage dressing.
I asked one of them whether she would like to see my secret and easy cranberry sauce recipe to which she replied, “I don’t like cranberries!” I responded that she would like these, and, sure enough, a cranberry sauce lover was born that day. My own daughter, Charlotte, had long been converted and loved nothing more than the popping of cranberries simmering over a low flame as we added the natural ingredients and orange juice and maple syrup.
My nieces all fell in love with this sauce, taking turns slowly stirring and watching the cranberries meet their demise as they popped and became a chunky stew (be careful of splatters!) Now the recipe is easily tripled or quadrupled to allow the red sauce to ooze out of the leftover turkey sandwiches the next day. And nothing artificial is added if you use pure orange juice and maple syrup.
Natural Cranberry Sauce
1 bag of cranberries
1 cup pure orange juice
½ cup pure maple syrup
- 1. Put cranberries in a saucepan and add half the orange juice. Cook on medium heat until berries begin to pop then reduce heat and add remainder of orange juice and all of the maple syrup.
- 2. Cook until the majority of berries have popped, avoiding splatter. Maple syrup can be increased for sweetness. Let cool.
Holiday Roasted Vegetables
Another winning and easy recipe for kids that also gets them to eat their vegetables is roasted vegetables. Have the kids pick their favorite vegetables, say carrots and potatoes, then choose a few more like cauliflower, sweet potatoes, turnips, parsnips, eggplant, squash and whatever may be available in the produce aisle or is going soft in the fridge. Peppers, broccoli and any root or onion work, too.
The trick with roasted vegetables is adding enough onions so that they caramelize and make the entire group ooze with sweetness. I like to add either chopped garlic or whole garlic cloves for the sweet roasted garlic taste, too.
Put vegetables to cover a roasting pan fully and toss in at least three tablespoons of olive oil (I will use rosemary or basil flavored sometimes or truffled olive oil) and both a teaspoon of kosher salt and ground sea salt and pepper. Feel free to add other spices like herbes de provence or rosemary. Put in an oven at 450 degrees and check every 15 minutes to toss and add more oil or salt if necessary. Total cooking time is 45-60 minutes. These will be scarfed up by all ages, so make a few batches!
The Thanksgiving recipe that has truly brought my nieces into the prep process is, without a doubt, the striped sweet potato casserole. Having both mini marshmallows and pecans topping the delicious and creamy sweet potato mash is a true winner for kids and adults alike.
It is a throwdown as to who gets to cook with Aunt Barbara every year, so now we all take turns on the different tasks and even create new recipes that will become part of the next generation’s family traditions.
Typing this has made me hungry for this yummy dish. I’ll take the pecans and leave the marshmallow to my young helpers.
Striped Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Casserole
4-6 large sweet potatoes
1 cup brown sugar or coconut sugar
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 cup milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 teaspoon maple syrup
Ingredients for the topping
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup butter, melted
1 cup chopped pecans
2 cups mini marshmallows
- 1. Bake sweet potatoes at 400 degrees for 45-60 minutes until tender.
- 2. Peel and mash the baked sweet potatoes. Add sugar, eggs, milk, salt, melted butter and maple syrup. Mix well and transfer into a greased 9-by-13-inch dish or oval.
- 3. Mix the brown sugar, flour, melted butter and pecans in a separate bowl. Crumble mixture evenly over sweet potatoes in diagonal rows. Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes.
- 4. Add mini marshmallows to alternate rows and bake for an additional 15 minutes until the marshmallows are golden brown.