Thursday, November 16, 2017

Thanksgiving 2017 Ideas: All About Sides

The week of pre-Thanksgiving planning continues! I think most people would agree that the big day revolves around the bird (the main event) and the sides. Me? It's all about the sides and dessert.  Today, I'm talking about the sides!

But first, let's talk the bird.  Some people devote days upon days for thawing and then brining their birds.  I don't. My turkey goes straight from the freezer and into the oven. And it's glorious.  For years, I've used the freezer to oven turkeys.  First, it was Jennie-O, but now I've moved on to Butterball. The turkey tastes amazing and is super juicy, but the best part is that I literally just pull it out of the freezer and put it in the oven. Miracle people, it's a miracle!

The Butterball turkey from last year!
Now, on to the real potatoes (ha!) of this post - all my favorite sides!

Mashed Potatoes
I'm not going to link to a recipe for mashed potatoes, because, really, it's an art. Half art, half science. And a lot of tasting! Here's how I make them:

Cube a 5 lb bags of russet or red potatoes. If I do russet, I peel them. If I do red, I don't. Cut them in about 2-inch cubes. You want them to hold up when you boil them, but also easy enough to mash. Tip - I cube my potatoes the night before.  Just make sure that you put them in water so they don't oxidize and turn black!  If your fridge is big enough, just use the pot you're going to boil them in the next day.

Cover the potatoes with plenty of water and boil them for about thirty minutes. To test the doneness, stab with a fork.  If the potatoes come apart fairly easily, they are done.  If not, give them a few more minutes. Once done, drain out the water.

From there, I add about half a stick of butter. I cube the butter and throw in with the hot potatoes.  I use a fork to mash them at first.  Add a splash of milk. Don't add too much, you can always add more, but you can't take it back! After I add the milk, fork mash a few more times, then switch to a hand mixer.  The hand mixer gets them really creamy. If you like them more rustic, you can just mash by hand with a fork or potato masher.  Add more milk, or to make them richer, add some half and half.  It's my favorite thing to add! Once the consistency is right, season with salt and pepper to taste. I tend to go lighter on the salt and let people add more if they want. But really, you just keeping adding the milk and/or cream, salt and pepper until it's where you want it.  Another tip - you can make these in the morning and then put them in the crock pot until you're ready to eat. Then you have time to clean up the dishes! Make sure to use a liner, though, so you don't have to chisel off the baked on potatoes later!

Butternut Squash Casserole
This is one of my favorite casseroles that my mom makes. It's so good! It's kind of like a sweet potato casserole, but a little different. And the topping is almost orgasmic. It's made using Williams Sonoma Butternut Squash puree, which sells out really quickly.  So if you want to make this, get your jars now!  The recipe can be found here.

Here's the link for the puree.  You're welcome!

Shrimp and Grits Dressing
True story - I have never made this. I've wanted to and it's been on my Pinterest, but the downside of potluck is you have to pick and choose what you make. But man oh man does it look amazing! So I'm sharing it with you so that you can make it! I've never been a huge dressing fan, but add shrimp and grits to anything and I'm game! Check out the recipe here.

Photo: Iain Bagwell; Styling: Amy Burke. Photo courtesy of
Corn Pudding
For some reason, I never had corn pudding until my mother-in-law made it for Thanksgiving one year. I've been hooked ever since! It's like cornbread...but with corn! One year, I tried to make corn pudding and used another recipe that was more like a custard than a cornbread. It wasn't bad, but it wasn't melt in your mouth good like this one.  If you're a carb lover like me, this needs to be on your table!  Here's a recipe similar to what my mother-in-law makes here.

Dijon Green Beans
Confession - I don't love green bean casserole. Mostly because I don't like onions - even fried ones.  But I love green beans and feel like you need some sort of vegetable on the table.  I make these green beans on a regular basis, but they are a great quick side to add to the menu.  The dijon and red wine sauce make them feel a little special and give a little zest to them! Also, this recipe is out of my Taste of Home Diet Cookbook, so it's actually not going to kill your calories! Double win!  You can find the recipe here.

Dijon Green Beans Recipe photo by Taste of Home
Hope this helps and gives you some ideas for sides for the big day! What are some of your favorite sides?

Tomorrow, we're going to end the week with the best thing ever - desserts!

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