Thanksgiving’s Best: Do-ahead delicious

Thanksgiving dinner is much more fun when you’re not cooking frantically until dinnertime. These scrumptious sides are tasty, health-friendly and perfect for preparing a few days in advance. More to be thankful for!

Mashed sweet potatoes


Makes 8 servings, about 1/3 cup each

Baking turns sweet potatoes into nature’s candy. Sweet potato’s Glycemic Index and Load climb with baking, so savor this soulful side-dish “dessert” in moderation.

2 pounds red-skinned sweet potatoes

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

¼ teaspoon cinnamon

½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 tablespoons lowfat evaporated milk

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

3 tablespoons firmly packed dark brown sugar

2 teaspoons granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking sheet with aluminum foil. Wrap potatoes in foil; tightly seal tops. Pierce tops several times with fork.

Place on baking sheet and bake until very soft, about 1¼ hours. Meanwhile, stir nutmeg and cinnamon together. Stir vanilla into milk. Remove potatoes from oven and cool just until you can handle.

While potatoes cool, heat butter in small saucepan over low heat until golden brown, about 4 minutes. Don’t walk away from stove.

Peel hot potatoes and place in mixing bowl. Mash with potato masher until they begin to soften. Immediately add sugars and spices. Mash until soft and smooth. Drizzle in butter. Mash. Add milk mixture and beat with a wooden spoon until light. Cover and refrigerate up to two days.

Dinnertime: Warm gently in microwave at serving time.

Nutritional information per serving: 140 calories; 1.5g fat; 1g saturated fat; 5mg Cholesterol;  68 mg sodium; 30 g carbohydrate; 4g fiber;19 g sugar – 13g from sweet potatoes; 3g protein; 440% Daily Value Vit. A; 35% Daily Value Vit. C 

Glass bowl with cranberries on white background


Go to my blog,, for my fantastic fruit-sweetened Cranberry Pineapple Sauce with fewer than half the calories and sugar of popular canned sauces. They sweeten theirs with high fructose corn syrup and corn syrup. You won’t look back!

Beans thanksgiving


Makes 8 servings

A sure favorite for you and your family.

½ cup slivered almonds

2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed

Large bowl ice water


1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest, about 1 lemon

2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or unseasoned rice vinegar

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 cup thinly sliced red onion

4 teaspoons olive oil

2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

½ teaspoon black pepper combined with ¼ teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F. Spread almonds on baking sheet. Bake until golden, about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally. Don’t walk away; nuts burn suddenly! Pour into bowl. Cover until dinnertime.

Line two baking sheets with paper towels. Bring large pot of water to a strong boil. Cook beans, uncovered, until crisp-tender, about 4 minutes. Drain, then plunge into ice water. Drain and spread on baking sheets. Pat dry. Refrigerate between dry paper towels in covered container up to two days.

Dinnertime: Set zest aside. Stir vinegar and lemon juice together.

Carla F. Williams is a South L.A. resident, cookbook author and certified nutrition and wellness consultant. Her lifelong love of all things food and cooking launched her on her mission to guide Los Angeles residents into the kitchen to prepare tasty, practical, affordable dishes that reward their taste buds and their health.

Cooking questions?  Email Carla at: