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Whether you're looking for the perfect gift for your dad, grandfather, or a father figure in your life, we have something special just for you. Save 15% off selected items until 6/16/24. Use code DAD. ⮞
Whether you're looking for the perfect gift for your dad, grandfather, or a father figure in your life, we have something special just for you. Save 15% off selected items until 6/16/24. Use code DAD. ⮞

Simple Sides - Thanksgiving Sweet Potatoes

By Dennis Linden
Image of recurring kids
Competing schedules in the day-to-day lives of a busy modern family make it difficult to share a home-cooked meal together, but not impossible. In fact, with a little planning, cooking together can become a fun family event and learning opportunity. This feature will focus on providing a child or a group of children, working together under the supervision of an adult, with one uncomplicated, healthy and delicious side dish recipe. The dishes will be centered on seasonal fresh produce items; the recipes will always contain tasks will allow even the youngest kitchen helper to contribute to the family meal. Parents should always read through each recipe carefully to judge the division of labor based on age and ability as well as to identify where adult attention might be especially needed.

Many of the recipes presented here will seem very basic -- this is by design. It is hoped that these simple preparations will provide the culinary foundation and confidence to inspire kids to try more challenging recipes as their experience in the kitchen develops. Melissa’s encourages parents to find the time to gather as a family unit at least once a week for a dinner that everyone pitches in to prepare. It’s a wonderful way to teach children some basic cooking skills and, more importantly, cooking with your children will build memories in all of your hearts forever.

Thanksgiving dinner is all about cooking, so it’s also a perfect opportunity to allow your aspiring young sous chefs to participate in the culinary festivities. On the other hand, there are usually enough relatives crowding your kitchen already trying to be helpful. The solution: a recipe that you and your kitchen helpers can have fun preparing a few days ahead that can be popped in the oven for a quick warm-up just before serving on the big day.

Garnet Sweet Potatoes
There is very little knife work involved in making these festive sweet potato cups. Your helpers can use a standard potato peeler to skin the sweet potatoes; then an older child can cut them into large chunks for boiling. Juicing the oranges is a task for a child of most any age, either by hand or an electric juicer. Once the juice is extracted, there is the job of removing the leftover membranes to create the cups. What seemed to work best for me was scraping the interior rind with the edge of a melon baller or a serrated grapefruit spoon. Another tip is to scour the cups out with cold water using a plastic dish pad, bought new just for the occasion.

Thompson Seedless Raisins
Once the sweet potatoes are cooked and cooled, it’s just a matter of the kids mashing them, measuring out the seasoning and raisins, adding it all in the bowl for a good mix and filling the cups. Cover the cups with plastic wrap for storage in the refrigerator until the big day; recipe can be made two days in advance. Just pop the tray of cups in the hot oven when the turkey is removed; they will be nice and hot in the time needed for the bird to rest and then be carved. When presenting the cups to those at your holiday table, be sure to give credit to your kids’ contribution to the meal; a tablespoon of recognition is the yeast of culinary confidence!

Sweet Potato Orange Cups
Serves 12

6 Garnet Sweet Potatoes
6 large Valencia or small Navel Oranges, depending on availability
1 stick Butter (4 ounces), softened
6 ounces Orange Juice
1 cup Raisins
1 Tablespoon Cinnamon Powder
1 Tablespoon Nutmeg
1 Tablespoon Ground Ginger

What the kids can do:
Measure out all dry ingredients before starting.

Peel the sweet potatoes, then cut into large chunks for cooking.
Image of peeled and cut sweet potatoes
Slice oranges into halves and juice, retain juice and measure out 6 ounces.

Scoop out remaining interior pulp of each orange half.
Image of orange halves
Once cooked and cooled, transfer sweet potatoes to a bowl and mash.

Stir in butter, orange juice, raisins and spices to mashed sweet potatoes -- mix well.

Fill each orange shell with the potato mixture.
Image of orange cups filled with mashed sweet potatoes
Arrange filled shells on a baking sheet.

What the supervising adult should do:
  1. Cover peeled sweet potato chunks with cold water in a large pot and boil until fork tender.
  2. Drain and then cool before handing back to your kitchen helpers for mashing and mixing.
  3. Also preheat oven to 375° while the kids are filling the orange cups.
  4. Once the kids have filled the cups, pop them in the refrigerator until Thanksgiving Day.
  5. The oven should already be plenty pre-heated after hours of turkey roasting.
  6. When the turkey comes out, the orange cups go in!
  7. Bake them until hot, about 15 minutes.
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