Shiitake mushrooms with garlic and oregano

When you need ideas for more than just turkey and stuffing

Right about now the internet is filled with Thanksgiving blog posts teaming with recipes created by trained chefs and designed to make you feel bad about yourself. It’s not that you can’t follow directions and make a meal that rivals the professionals. Far from it. You just can’t necessarily do it and work an eight hour day, fight traffic, bring your kids to soccer, walk the dog and grocery shop too! The beautiful pictures in the glossy magazines never show the disastrous mess left in the kitchen or the team of food stylists that painstakingly assembles the individual ‘stuffed acorn squash with quinoa and slow roasted pork’. The captions never ever read, “I do this all day, every day and get paid for it.”

Stop scrolling my friend. Step away from Pinterest. I have 5 classic side dishes that will make you feel good about yourself, your family and your undeniable cooking prowess. They will even leave you with a little extra time, to sit back with a glasses of wine and contemplate all the things you have to be grateful for. After all…that is the point of this holiday, right?

These dishes take just a few easy-to-find ingredients and maximize their flavor so that the food does most of the work. You can even make some of them ahead of time. Perhaps when you’re all wound up on Tuesday night because you just found out your 3rd grader’s pilgrim costume is due the next day. Pour that glass of wine, count your blessing and engage in some therapeutic meal prep.

1. String Bean Salad In Garlic And Olive Oil

Let’s start with a really easy one to get your confidence soaring and help your forget about the pilgrims. The thing I love about this recipe is that it’s served at room temperature. I’m super finicky about vegetables retaining their heat throughout the meal, but this dish is supposed to get cold. This means that you can make it a night or two in advance and it won’t take up burner space on your stove when you’re cooking the big meal. String Bean Salad in Garlic and Olive Oil.

2. Shiitake Mushrooms With Garlic And Oregano

Any mushrooms will do in this dish, but if you’ve never had shiitake, I urge you to try them. They’re soft and savory and the flavor becomes a mix of taste and olfactory sensation. They’re a step up from button mushrooms, but no less simple to prepare. The most work you’ll have to do for this recipe is to clean these little guys. It’s controversial I know, but you shouldn’t submerge them in water. Simply wipe them clean with a damp cloth and remove and discard the tough stem. You’ll find everything you need to know right here.

3. Broccoli Sauteed In Garlic And Olive Oil

So by now you’ve spent a small fortune for express, late night, next day delivery from Costume World. Your child will be the talk of the Thanksgiving Day pageant at school, but you still have to round out the menu for Thanksgiving dinner. The good thing about this side dish is that it can easily satisfy the vegetarians at your table or the cousin who counts every calorie even on Thanksgiving. There are so many ways to make broccoli, but I still think my mom knows best. She keeps it simple and even though she doesn’t add anything fattening, you’ll still find yourself craving this dish. You can vary the cook time for texture so that the broccoli is as soft or crunchy as you prefer. And the hot pepper flakes combined with the essence of garlic create a delicious tingle at the back of your throat with each bite. Here’s how to make it.

4. Creamy Mashed Potatoes

No Thanksgiving meal is complete without potatoes and I have two kinds for you today. Mashed potatoes earn their spot on the menu because they are the single best play-with-your-food option of the season (and people love them). Don’t just eat these potatoes. Pile them onto your dish one soft, creamy spoonful at a time and shape them into a tiny volcano. Fill the center with turkey gravy and then smash it all together to watch it erupt. Seriously, it takes two seconds and it’s not as messy as it sound. It’s poor etiquette, but just do it anyway. Life is short. Potatoes are here.

5. Sweet Potatoes Baked In Butter And Brown Sugar

Food writers are supposed to love and eat ALL foods. We’re discerning but democratic, opinionated but open minded. I completely fall down on this description when it comes to sweet potatoes. I try them once a year in the hopes that I will one day magically adore them. So far, no magic. I’ve added them here because I realize I am the minority and most folks (outside of my immediate family) love them. I managed to come up with a sweet and simple way to serve them that pleases the two sweet-potato eaters at our table every year. If you’re using this ‘top 5’ list for your Thanksgiving Day meal (and I hope you are), this dish really will round out your menu because it’s the only one that isn’t savory. Go ahead. Try it.

We’re getting ready for holiday travel and family time

Fancy presentation, trendy ingredients and complicated technique all have their place. I encourage you to try out all of that when you have time. And if you can manage it in the middle of the work week with one, maybe two days off, then you’re my hero. But if the mere thought of that stresses you out, bookmark these recipes or print them out. They will save your sanity when the guests start arriving. If you’re the guest this year, you can delight your host with any one of them. I recommend the string beans because they travel well and can be made in advance. Make one or all five and above all enjoy Thanksgiving!

We’re getting ready for holiday travel and family time, but check your inbox next week for some updated recipes and stories you may have missed last year. Happy cooking and remember we’re just a click away if you have questions or comments about the post. We’d love to hear from you!