Thanksgiving With a Twist – Off to the Side

A melody sounds good but even better with harmony.

A nice succulent turkey is wonderful…but served with some great sides, the meal becomes more memorable.  Today, the focus is on the stuffing, the vegetables, the potatoes, and everything else that fills the rest of the plate.

Cornbread Stuffing with Sausage and Apples


I could tell you a horror story about the time I was making dressing and ended up in the hospital but we don’t have time for that.  But over the years, I think I’ve perfected a recipe that I like.  It’s a blend of HOMEMADE  cornbread and white bread, Italian sausage, celery, apples, celery, onions, carrots and sage.  It’s my recipe because it’s old school – no exact measurements.  Just a little of this & a little of that until the perfect blend is achieved. 

Here’s a link to the Neely’s from the Food Network as they make a their dressing:

Other ways to dress up your dressing:

  • Rice
  • Cranberries
  • Oysters (not my favorite)
  • Chestnuts
  • And many more


Vegetables are challenging.  We need them for vitamins, minerals and nutrients.  But veggies can be…well…boring.  So we usually cook them with something that with give more flavor and excitement.  And some of those choices may not be healthy (lots of salt and fat).  And some of you may be like me…I get tired of seeing the same thing over and over again.  Let’s go through the list:

  • Green Bean Casserole
  • Broccoli Cheese Casserole
  • Creamed Spinach
  • Glazed Carrots

Nothing is wrong with these dishes.  It’s just that we see them at every Thanksgiving table with the same ingredients.  You can put a twist on it by making some basic changes:

Green Bean Casserole

  • Add some spice with onion straws
  • Add some diced chorizo and top with crisp tortilla strips for a Mexican flavor
  • The Horizons Buffet at the Ameristar has BBQ Green Beans with Bacon and Carmelized Onions…mmmmhh!

Broccoli – Cheese Casserole

  • Add some Gruyere cheese for a nuttier flavor
  • Add some pepper jack for a little spice
  • Use a low-moisture, low fat cheese to cut some fat and calories

These are just a few ideas but don’t forget other vegetables. 

  • Peas
  • Brussel Sprouts (shredded and sauteed with onions)
  • Oven roasted root vegetables (turnips, parsnips, carrots, etc.) with herbs
  • Butternut or spaghetti squash


Here’s where you have a lot of options:

  • Mashed potatoes with butter, heavy cream, cream cheese, shredded cheese, chives, onions…whatever tastes good
  • Roasted red potatoes with herbs
  • Sweet potatoes with cinnamon, brown sugar, and various other toppings

But don’t limit yourself to potatoes.  If you’re doing mac and cheese, do something different this year by using a different cheese, a penne noodle…or add bacon…or maybe LOBSTER, if you’ve got the budget to handle it!

Want lobster in your mac and cheese? Costco has it for you...5 lbs. for only $80!

Or really switch it up with one of my favorites – butternut squash ravioli in brown butter sauce with cranberry raisins and pecans.

Butternut Squash Ravioli in Brown Butter Sauce (photo credit:


Thanksgiving has to have cranberry sauce.  I try not to be a food snob but I really am not too crazy about canned sauce.  Especially if it’s just that LOG of cranberry sauce with the ridges in the side. 

Watch it wiggle, see it jiggle...oh, sorry...that's the Jello song

Eat this instead:

Cranberry Sauce with Toasted Pecans 

1 cup of orange juice

1 cup of sugar

1 (12 oz. package of fresh cranberries, picked over)

½ cup of toasted pecans (can be oven toasted or sautéed in a pan with 1- 2 tablespoons of butter)

 Pour orange juice into a large heavy saucepan and heat at a medium temperature.  Add the sugar and stir to dissolve.  Add the cranberries and cook for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. As they cook, the cranberries will burst.  Remove from heat, add pecans and allow sauce to cool and thicken.  Refrigerate until time to serve.

Yield: 3 cups

Variations:  Peel an orange, divide into wedges and add to the cranberries as they cook.  Or add a couple of dashes of ginger or nutmeg to the sauce.  Or slices of candied ginger can be added as well.


There are so many choices in terms of bread.  If you don’t bake bread, check out the bakery section of your grocery store.  Or the freezer section.  Or try my new favorite, Bisquick Cheese Garlic Biscuit Mix.  For a little over $1, just add some water, mix and drop onto a baking sheet. 

Almost like Red Lobster...but probably with less fat and calories

Food Network has done a very good job of creating an entire Thanksgiving section on their website this year.  Lots of great ideas to add a different flavor to your recipes this week.

Also check out the new Cooking Channel website.  If you are a true foodie, you love the network and should check out the website:

Tomorrow, I’ll give you some choices for the Thanksgiving dinner finale…the sweet ending!



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