SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (KELO) — Thanksgiving is just days away, and that means that many people will be planning out their Thanksgiving dinner recipe strategies.

KELOLAND News reached out to two local Chefs, Chef Ellen and Chef Jeni, who took the time to tell us about their favorite Thanksgiving dishes, and have given us a look at their tips on preparing them!

Chef Ellen

Chef Ellen is a Sioux Falls native, who left the state in 2013 to attend culinary school in Colorado.

After graduating and returning to Sioux Falls, I worked in local restaurants for several years before settling down with my husband and two boys. I missed the culinary world too much, and Chef Ellen was born as an in-home Personal Chef service in 2018,” she said.

In 2020 (mid-pandemic) the doors to our storefront opened, where we offer grab and go meals for one, two, or the whole family, keeping a focus on diet and allergy friendly fare, and sharing our love of food with culinary lessons both public and private.

Asked about her favorite Thanksgiving dishes, Chef Ellen first gave a rather unique answer:

Cucumber Salad. It might not be a traditional side dish, but I recall it gracing the dinner table for the holiday meal as far back as I can remember, and it has always been a favorite. Aside from being a great way to get some extra vegetables on your plate, there’s a lot of simple ways to tweak the recipe from the basic Italian dressing with sliced cucumber and onion dish most of us are familiar with.

This was followed up with a much more traditional fare:

Mashed Potatoes. Full disclosure, these were not always a favorite. In fact, I don’t recall enjoying potatoes much until spending a whole week preparing (and eating) them in culinary school. Holiday potatoes beg for extra butter and cream, but you can boil celery root or parsnips with the potatoes for a great flavor twist aside from the regular garlic or parmesan flavor additions.

Chef Ellen also provided recipes for her take on both the dishes listed above:

Cucumber Caprese SaladToss sliced cucumber with halved cherry tomatoes, pearl mozzarella balls, and torn fresh basil. Mix with a nice tasting olive oil, salt and pepper, and top with a balsamic reduction for a crowd pleasing side dish! Make this dish close to dinner time so the balsamic does not stain the cucumber. English cucumbers (sometimes called greenhouse cucumbers) have a thinner skin and smaller seeds, and are often preferred for cucumber salads.

Mashed Potatoes Combine 1 lb potatoes with 1/2 lb parsnip and 1/2 lb celery root. Make sure the ingredients are peeled and cut roughly the same size. Cover with water in a pot and boil until easily pierced with a fork. Drain, and mix with salt, pepper, heavy cream and butter to desired consistency. Garlic, cream cheese, parmesan cheese, sour cream, and herbs can all be added as desired.

You can find the Chef Ellen storefront at 2210 W. 69th St #130, Sioux Falls.

Chef Jeni

Chef Jeni runs Dinner Birdie, a Sioux Falls-based meal service.

I started my career over 25 years ago working for a caterer as a prep cook and server. When I branched out on my own, I cooked right in people’s kitchen making them meals for their fridge and freezer,” she explained.

Catering parties quickly took over the majority of my business, but then, when the pandemic canceled almost all of our parties, we went back to our roots and started Dinner Birdie to give the company a lifeline and people good home cooked food!

At Dinner Birdie, Chef Jeni and her team take comfort food family recipes and make them in small batches for people to take home and bake.It’s a different experience than restaurant food because you sit at your own table and pull a beautiful pan of home-cooked food out of your oven like you have worked in the kitchen all day.  Your house, your family, and your friends eat together without any of the cooking or grocery shopping hassle!”

Chef Jeni calls Thanksgiving the ultimate family, friends and food holiday.

“When it comes to Thanksgiving, I am a traditionalist.”

She says that her food isn’t fancy and that the goal isn’t to “take it up a notch,” but rather: to make it taste like mom or grandma (if she was a great cook) used to make, and to remind you why you gather.”

With that in mind, Chef Jeni had a simple dish as her favorite.

At my house, the pinnacle of the meal is the gravy. I learned from a great teacher. The first time I had her gravy, I wanted to eat it like a big bowl of soup it was so good.

Her tip for the best gravy?

It needs to have just the right consistency and blend of flavors so you can pour it over the mashed potatoes, and, let’s be honest, everything else on plate. Good gravy is when you know you have nailed Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving is being together with people, it’s passing on the traditions from those who came before us to those who will be here after us. I don’t try and upgrade Thanksgiving.  Some things don’t need to be tweaked and changed—If anything, I just try and make Thanksgiving more itself! We only eat this meal once a year so I say just make it the best you can make it to evoke the old memories and make some new ones,” said Chef Jeni.

You can find Dinner Birdie at 3638 S. Southeastern Ave. Sioux Falls.