Mansfield Opinion

Keep it simple for Thanksgiving dinner


While I love to cook and make lots of goodies for our Thanksgiving dinner, get out my mother’s fall-themed plates, etc., what my family really wants is for me just to make a few simple dishes and use paper plates. They don’t like a big fuss. They really treasure the time we get to simply visit with each other.

And in the spirit of simplicity, included in this month’s column are some very simple, but yummy Thanksgiving recipes. Enjoy!

Buttery Yam Casserole with Pecan Crumbles

2 cups heavy cream

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

3 to 4 medium yams (sweet potatoes), peeled and cut into 1/8-inch thick rounds

1 ½ teaspoons salt

¾ teaspoon freshly ground pepper

¾ teaspoon dried thyme

1 cup crushed saltine crackers (about 20)

2/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

½ cup chopped pecans

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter, melted

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Lightly grease a 13 x 9-inch baking dish with oil or coat with cooking spray. In a small bowl, whisk together the cream and cayenne pepper. Arrange one third of the yams in an even layer on the bottom of the prepared dish. Season with ½ teaspoon salt and ¼ teaspoon each of black pepper and thyme. Pour in 2/3 cup of the cream mixture. Repeat for two more layers.

In a small bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, Parmesan cheese, pecans and melted butter. Give it a good stir so that the butter coats the crackers and pecans. Scatter the mixture over the top of the casserole.

Cover the dish with foil and bake for 15 minutes. Uncover and bake until the top is golden brown, the yams are tender, and the house is filled with the most wonderful sweet and buttery smells, 30 to 45 minutes longer.

Paula Deen’s Ol’ No. 7 Yams

4 large yams (sweet potatoes)

1/3 cup Jack Daniel’s Old No. 7 whiskey

1 cup packed light brown sugar

4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) butter

¼ teaspoons grated nutmeg

1 cinnamon stick (3 to 4 inches)

1 long strip orange peel

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Bake the (whole) yams until they are tender when pierced with a fork, about 1 hour. Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees. Remove the yams but leave the oven on. When the yams are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut crosswise into ½-inch-thick rounds.

Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, combine 3 cups water, whiskey, brown sugar, butter, nutmeg, cinnamon stick and orange peel. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce to a simmer and cook until the sauce in slightly thickened and syrupy, 30 to 45 minutes.

Place the yams in a medium baking dish. Pour the syrup over them and return to the oven to bake until the yams are fork-tender, about 30 minutes.  

Note: To make the dish faster – bake the yams the night before, leave the skin on, and pop them in the fridge overnight. When you’re ready to make the casserole, peel and slice the tams while the syrup is simmering.   

Golden Apples

1 Granny Smith apple, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

2 Rome apples, cored and cut into ¼-inch-thick slices

½ cup orange juice

1/3 cup honey

3 tablespoons apricot preserves

Combine apple slices and orange juice in a large skillet; bring to a boil over high heat. Stir in honey and apricot preserves into apple mixture; reduce heat, and simmer, uncovered, 4 to 5 minutes or until apples are tender. Serve warm.

Caramel Pecan Crunch Cheesecake

1 cup graham cracker crumbs

¾ cup chopped pecans, toasted

¼ cup butter or margarine, melted

4 (8-ounce) pkgs. cream cheese, softened

1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¾ cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ cup firmly packed dark brown sugar

¼ cup chopped pecans, toasted

Combine graham cracker crumbs, ¾ cup pecans and butter. Press into the bottom on a 10-inch springform pan. Beat cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until smooth. Add sugars, beating until blended. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Add vanilla, beating just until blended.

Pour mixture into prepared pan. Bake at 325 degrees for 55 minutes or until almost set. Turn oven off, and partially open door, leaving cheesecake in oven 1 hour.

Remove cheesecake from oven, cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes. Cover and chill 8 hours. Run a knife around edges of pan, and release sides. Sprinkle cake with ¼ cup brown sugar. Broil 5 ½ inches from heat 2 to 4 minutes or until sugar begins to melt. Sprinkle with ¼ cup pecans. Store in refrigerator.  

Quick Sweet Potato Pie

1 (16-ounce) can cut sweet potatoes, drained and mashed

1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

2 large eggs

1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell

Beat first five ingredients at medium speed until well blended. Pour filling into pastry shell. Bake at 425 degrees for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees, and bake 35 additional minutes or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.