Thanksgiving is just around the corner, 2 1/2 weeks away to be exact, and if there's anything I've learned about the holidays the past few years since becoming an integral part of the holiday cooking responsibilities that are shared among the Crist women, it's that preparation is key. If you wait until the last minute, you'll inevitably settle for the same-old, same old recipes that your grandma, grandma's grandma, and--well, you get the picture--handed down and whipped up for generations of Thanksgivings' past. And while I'm definitely not criticizing heirloom, tried-and-true recipes that have been passed down through generations (In fact, we love family recipes around here. Check this out), I am challenging the notion that what you've grown up eating and preparing is the best thing out there. Contrary to what you may believe, there are healthier, fresher, more exciting and exceptionally-more delicious ways to prepare some of the classic Thanksgiving dishes that you're used to with just a few tweaks. Now, I understand that may sound like heresy to you, and if you stand by the belief that the dried out stuffing, gummy mashed potatoes, and gel from a can--that end up on your table each year only because of your diehard commitment to tradition--are your favorite, cherished Thanksgiving dishes, then more power to you. But for the rest of us who are always looking to improve our culinary prowess and improve what could use improvement, these 5 uptakes and updates on classic Thanksgiving side dishes are for you. We've done the research for you, so all that's left to do is make a shopping list, friends.
Instead of gummy mashed potatoes, try these ultra-silky Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes.
Thanksgiving is one of the few times throughout the year that I indulge in mashed potatoes without abandon, so while I'm definitely a huge fan of 'taters as a key component on the Thanksgiving table, I am so over gummy, chalky, boring, stick-to-the-roof-of-your-mouth mashed potatoes.
This upgraded side dish calls for a blend of Yukon gold potatoes and red potatoes rather than traditional Russet, and includes the skins--although you can peel them first if preferred. Olive oil and a little milk coat the starches in a layer of fat to keep them from becoming gluey. If you're looking for a warm, rich, and satisfying recipe that cuts back on the traditional cream-loaded dish, you've found it. The swift prep time and short ingredient list make this dish a snap to pull together, but because it calls for so few ingredients, make sure to use a good-quality olive oil, kosher salt, and freshly ground black pepper (if you have it). Pro tip: To add richness, use half-and-half instead of milk and feel free to stir in your favorite cheese--I suggest Gruyére--but keep in mind that these two additions will bulk up the calorie count from its current 173 a serving. For more ideas, check out Our Best Mashed Potatoes.
Do everyone a favor and skip the boxed stuffing--try Crisp-Top Sourdough Stuffing instead.
Soggy stuffing is the worst. I repeat: Soggy stuffing is the absolute worst. The only thing worse than soggy stuffing is completely dried-out, sandpaper stuffing. The best stuffing recipes deliver softness in the middle and perfect, crisp-crunchiness on the outside. This homemade sourdough version is not as quick to make as the boxed stuffing, but it far outshines the quick-fix variety in flavor, texture, and appearance--really in every category that counts. Oh, and while we're on the topic, let's talk about stuffing vs. dressing. Is there a difference? Why yes, yes there is. Get the scoop here. Want to explore more stuffing recipes? Check out these Must-Have Thanksgiving Stuffing Recipes.
Instead of sugar-laden sweet potato casserole, try impressive Scalloped Sweet Potato Stacks.
In place of the typical sugar-loaded sweet potato and marshmallow casserole, try these beautiful sweet potato stackers. After slicing the potatoes and creating the creamy filling, simply layer and stack the potatoes, cheese, and cream mixture into muffins tins. These extra-special stacks make for a beautiful presentation that stands out amid the casserole dishes, and they look more impressive and difficult to make than they actually are. This recipe lets the natural sweetness of the potatoes shine without masking them with tons of added sugar. For more updated Thanksgiving sweet potato recipes, click here.
Just say 'no' to Grandma's green bean casserole from-a-can, and make this slow cooker Green Bean Casserole instead.
This recipe replaces canned cream of mushroom soup with a mixture of Alfredo sauce, water chestnuts, sliced mushrooms, and Parmesan cheese. A few hours in the slow cooker means the ultimate blending of flavors and extra room in your oven, so what's not to love? We top it off with chopped, toasted pecans and French fried onions. Feel free to sprinkle extra Parm on top. For more green bean casserole ideas, you can click here.
And, please, for the love of all that is good, avoid the canned gel and make homemade cranberry sauce.
Seriously, though, this Roasted Cranberry Sauce is bright, fresh, and just requires 10 minutes to pull together. A bag of cranberries and seedless black grapes, a handful of pantry-staple spices, and maple syrup for added sweetness are all you need to get started. Once combined on a jelly-roll pan, simply broil the mixture for a few minutes, drizzle with extra oil and vinegar, and you're ready to serve! Now that was easy.