Sunday, June 23, 2024

News and Ideas Worth Sharing

OFF RANGE w/ ANNE E.: Saddle up! Thanksgving tips

Anne E. answers readers questions about preparing dishes ahead of time for Thanksgiving dinner, and offers a delicious roasted butternut soup recipe.

Ashley Falls — Thank you for writing in to and letting me into your kitchens!

It’s a colorful autumn here in the Berkshires and folks are looking forward to comfort foods and holidays. This week we have a Q & A, a food tip, and a Q & recipe. I’ve enjoyed answering your queries, and sharing my knowledge, so, please, continue to write in to:

You ask, I’ll tell.

*     *     *

Marie asks a great question for this time of year:

Good morning, Anne,

I would love your suggestions as to what dishes stand up best to being made ahead and frozen for Thanksgiving dinner. Our schedule will be tight the week before the holiday, and if I could begin preparing and setting aside a few dishes, it would lighten the load that week.

Thank you in advance, and this is a great idea for a column!

Service pieces for Thanksgiving, one of the tasks that can be prepared ahead of time. Photo: Anne E. Dwyer
Service pieces for Thanksgiving, one of the tasks that can be prepared ahead of time. Photo: Anne E. Dwyer


Thank you for your question, Marie. It’s a good one! Yes, there is a lot of Thanksgiving prep that can be done. Ahead of time.

Soups generally freeze very well as long as they don’t have potatoes in them. Potatoes do not freeze well. If the soup has potatoes in it, just leave them out, freeze the base, and add potatoes the day of service. If it’s a cream based soup, the same applies. Leave the cream out, freeze the base, and add cream day of service.

If planning on a salad, most dressings will keep for at least a week refrigerated. If adding lardons, or bacon, that can be done 2 – 3 days ahead and kept in the fridge.

Fresh vegetables do not freeze. But, sides like butternut squash can be done ahead and frozen. I make my cranberry sauce ahead and freeze. You can leave your bread out to stale for stuffing, then Ziploc, and freeze.

Dishes such as peas and onion, or green beans must be made fresh that day.

Most desserts can be made ahead of time, or at least prepped. Piecrust dough freezes great. Then, let thaw in fridge, roll, fill, and bake, the night before, or day of.
It’s important to think of your oven space and timing in the oven. If you only have one oven, remember it will probably have a turkey in it for the better part of the day. Make a reheating plan.

Back to desserts. Cheesecakes freeze well. Dough for tart shells freeze. Of course, your à la mode ice cream will be in there as well. Sauces like chocolate, or caramel, or even a fruit couli can be made days ahead.

The day before Thanksgiving you can chop and sauté the remaining ingredients for the stuffing. Take everything out of the freezer and let thaw slowly in fridge. Wash, chop, or slice the fresh veggies, then refrigerate. Get all of your serving dishes and service utensils together, so your not hunting around in the morning. Put the white wine in to chill.

You may even consider setting your table if dinning early in the day. And don’t forget, that if you are using a frozen turkey, they can take days to thaw. I’m sure there are other things you can do as well, but this will give you a good head start. If you’re looking for a recipe, you can always email me back, and I’d be glad to help. If you live in the area, I can also make suggestions of where to order pre-made dishes to lighten your load. The more thorough the plan, the smoother things will go, and, hopefully, fewer surprises.

Thank you again for your question, and I hope I’ve helped. Enjoy Thanksgiving with your family and friends!

Marie responds:

Dear Anne,

This was wonderfully helpful — thank you! I will draft an outline of my meal and note the dishes that have make-ahead components. (My sister once forgot to thaw her turkey ahead of time, so we had to substitute spiral ham at the last minute, and the poor dear was mortified…we can’t even tease her about it.)

With your tips, I can visualize how things might come out together — we have out-of-town tickets the weekend before Thanksgiving, and won’t be back until that Tuesday, so I had better start preparing now… you’ve alleviated some of the butterflies I got just thinking about everything — thank you again.


 *     *     *

I’d like to share this tip that I didn’t know about, from Marion in Ireland:
Ever since I discovered most popular commercial mayonnaises contain sugar, I make my own. Adding the teaspoon of water to the base before the oil seems to make the emulsifying much easier. The mayonnaise has never separated since I started this little trick.

I think this is a keeper!

 *     *     *

Alexandra writes:

With fall here, do you have a good soup recipe that is delicious, yet has that comfort food home feel?

Well, of course I do. This may be the easiest and tastiest soup you’ve ever made.

Roasted butternut squash soup. Photo: Anne Dwyer
Roasted butternut squash soup. Photo: Anne Dwyer


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup

3 pound butternut squash, halved and seeds removed

2 medium yellow onions, peeled and halved

2 small, or 1 large bulb of garlic

1 quart of chicken stock (I make my own, I’ll tell you later)

Salt and pepper

1 lemon

Recipe makes two quarts of this soup

Butternut squash, before roasting.
Butternut squash, before roasting.

Place butternut squash, onions, and garlic on a parchment lined baking sheet. Drizzle with olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast, in oven, covered loosely with foil, at 375 degrees, for a total of 1 and ½ hours. Remove garlic after 45 minutes (your kitchen will smell delicious), cut bulbs in half and squeeze out the roasted garlic into a large saucepan. Continue to roast squash and onions into until the squash is tender throughout – like boiled potatoes.

Let cool a bit so the squash is easier to handle. Remove squash flesh from skin with a spoon into saucepan, with garlic, add onion, and a pint of chicken stock. (the aroma is making you hungry now). Purée everything in saucepan with an immersion blender – but you can use your blender or vitamix, your choice – until smooth.

Squash and onions after roasting.
Squash and onions after roasting.

This is the fun part. It’s great just like this, or let your personality show. Allow yourself to season the soup to your liking. Do you like spicy things? Consider a little cayenne, or chili powder. Do you like sweet? Try maple syrup and nutmeg. Feeling international? Try curry or garam marsala.

Just season slowly, and it’s important to taste after each addition. My final step is the juice of 1 lemon. Lemon juice, in many dishes, is an ingredient that really brings out all of the flavors and marries them together. It completes it.

Serve with salad and bread for a light meal, or use as a first course. Either way, it’s good.

So there you go Alexandra, enjoy, and thank you for writing in! Keep it coming.

*     *     *

Hopefully, you can take at least a little from this OFF RANGE with ANNE E, and use it in your own kitchen!

Please, send in your questions to, and we will continue to explore all things food. Remember, you ask, I’ll tell, and there are no stupid questions.

Thank you for your interest and well wishes, Anne E


The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.

Continue reading

Haven Café and Bakery in Lenox never disappoints, a restaurant review

Haven is one of my favorite places to eat breakfast in the Berkshires.

From the kitchen of Monica Bliss

A recipe for Fiddlehead Pizza.

The Edge Is Free To Read.

But Not To Produce.