Maybe Thanksgiving can’t be totally stress-free if you’re cooking for a large group, or even just your family. But you can take steps to reduce your stress. Choose simple side dishes that are flavorful, but not time-intensive. Use a crockpot. Or two. Or even have your guests bring several sides while you concentrate on the turkey and gravy.
Last year, I made dinner for us, the daughter and her boyfriend, and the bro- and sis-in-law. That’s not a large group for most people, but it’s about the max we can fit in our small place. And with a small kitchen, large meals aren’t easy. But it can be done.
The rolls I love to make (Pioneer Woman’s No Knead Dinner Rolls) can be started a day or two ahead of time and stored in the fridge. My candied sweet potatoes can be partially done the day before and refrigerated until you’re ready to pop them in the oven. And you can cook your dressing and green bean casserole in crock pots. Just get things ready early, pop them in the crockpot, and you’ve got two side dishes with minimal fuss.
Speaking of dressing, my mom usually makes hers from scratch using stale bread and homemade cornbread. It’s really good. And I need to learn how to make it. But to shorten things, I use a box of stuffing. Yes, I do. But to make it more my own, I sauté an onion and some celery and add it to the mix. I also add dried sage (I really like a lot of sage in my dressing). Add those things, and use chicken broth for your liquid and it’ll taste just as good as homemade!
Here are a couple of recipes for some tasty side dishes that aren’t too hard to make. I really like the carrots, while the entire family just LOVES the sweet potatoes. I believe I originally found these recipes in my Better Homes and Gardens CookBook. I have a newer edition (the pink plaid one), but I actually prefer the recipes in the much older edition my mom gave me. I need to put it in another binder, though, as it’s falling apart. There are some seriously good recipes in there (the cinnamon rolls are amazing) and it’s a great reference. I’m constantly looking up cook times for meat and veggies – it has several references based on the type of cooking you’ll be doing.
On to the recipes!
Candied Sweet Potatoes
4 med sweet potatoes (~2 lbs)
1/4 c. packed brown sugar
3 Tbsp butter, melted
1/2 c tiny marshmallows
(you could also use chopped nuts, but we all prefer the marshmallows – it really makes the dish, trust me)
1. Peel your sweet potatoes and then cut into 1 1/2″ chunks. Cook them in just enough boiling water to cover until tender – about 10-12 mins or so. Drain. (You just barely want them tender, or they’ll overcook later.)
2. Transfer to 2-qt baking dish. Add melted butter & brown sugar, stir to combine.
** Now, you can stop here if you’re doing prep the day before. Just cover and chill up to 24 hours. When you’re ready to start again, uncover and bake as directed in step 3. Don’t forget to let it come to room temp before putting it in the oven. Cold dish + hot oven = broken dish & a big mess. **
3. Bake at 375 degrees for 30-35 mins or until potatoes are glazed, stirring gently twice during baking. Then sprinkle on the marshmallows and bake an additional 5 mins more.
Brown Sugar-Glazed Carrots
1 lb. med carrots peeled (baby carrots will also work just fine)
1 Tbsp butter
1 Tbsp brown sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste
1. Cut carrots in half, cross- and length-wise.
2. In med. saucepan, cook carrots covered in a small amount of boiling salted water for approx. 8-10 mins or until crisp-tender. Drain and remove from pan. (You definitely want the carrots on the crisp side so they don’t get mushy.)
3. In same pan, combine butter, brown sugar, and salt (a dash). Cook and stir over medium heat until combined, then add carrots. Cook uncovered, about 2 mins, until glazed. Stir frequently. Then season to taste w/black pepper.
There you go – a couple of my Thanksgiving standbys. If you want the green bean casserole recipe, it’s always on the side of the french-fried onions can. And yes, I do make it every year. Total comfort food for us.
What’s YOUR favorite side dish for Thanksgiving?