This is week 2 of what I’m dubbing “The Thanksgiving Series.” Last week I wrote about an alternative to the traditional turkey. Sometimes we actually serve turkey, but I’ll save that for another week. I’ll keep it to side dishes this week.
It’s usually easy to choose our main entree for a holiday meal. For the traditionalist, turkey is a must. Of course, you can’t just serve meat. Once again, there are traditionalists who like to serve or eat the same thing each Thanksgiving. If you don’t believe me, ask former and present Bryan County Schools employees about the one year broccoli salad wasn’t served for the school holiday meal.
One problem in the Hires household is that Jimmy is a strict vegan and very seldom sways from his diet. If he sways, it is by one small bite of something. So, when planning our celebrations we have to ask ourselves “WWJE” (What will Jimmy eat). As Southerners, we tend to let meat or some type of fat enter our cooked vegetables because, well, that’s just what we do. Personally, I love them “as is” and that’s good because of Jimmy.
Focusing on the side dishes, we can help out others on special diets by tweaking our usual recipes to be healthier or just easier to prepare. I mean, instead of that traditional green bean casserole, we can have green beans, right? It doesn’t have to be complicated. Honestly, “complicated” just isn’t in my vocabulary when it’s time to prepare a feast!
Here are a few simple side dishes that don’t take a culinary arts degree to create, but will still be a holiday favorite.
Crockpot sweet potatoes
• 1 cup packed brown sugar (light or dark)
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• 8 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½-inch slices
• ¼ cup butter, melted
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• ¼ tsp. salt
• 2 tbsps. cornstarch
• 2 tbsps. cold water
1. Combine brown sugar and granulated sugar in a medium bowl.
2. Grease a 5- or 6-quart slow cooker.
3. Divide sweet potatoes into thirds. Place one third of the sweet potatoes in bottom of crock. Sprinkle with one third of sugar mixture.
4. Continue layering sweet potato/sugar mixture (1/3 each) in crock.
5. Combine the melted butter, vanilla and salt in bowl. Drizzle mixture over potatoes.
6. Cover and cook on low for 5-6 hours or until sweet potatoes are tender.
7. Remove cooked potatoes with a slotted spoon and transfer to a serving dish.
8. Cover with foil to keep warm.
9. Pour remaining juices in crock into a small saucepan. Bring mixture to a boil.
10. In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir slowly into juices in saucepan.
11. Return to a boil, stirring constantly. Cook 1 to 2 minutes or until thickened.
12. Spoon over sweet potatoes and serve.
My sister Joy helped me with this recipe a few years ago. Cut potatoes only in half and bake until tender.
• 3 pounds red (new) potatoes
• 1 large Vidalia or red onion
• 2 tbsps. Italian seasoning
• ¼ tsp. garlic powder (optional)
• ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil or oil-based Italian Dressing
• 1 tsp. Kosher salt
• ½ tsp. ground black pepper
1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
2. Rinse and scrub potatoes, then cut in half.
3. Coarsely chop onion.
4. Combine all seasonings and oil in a large bowl.
5. Place potatoes and onion in the seasoning mixture in bowl. Toss to coat potatoes evenly.
6. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. (optional, but great for cleanup).
7. Place potatoes and onions evenly on baking sheet.
8. Roast at 425 degrees for about 40 minutes, or until tender and lightly browned.