Thankful for Thanksgiving Side Dishes

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I can’t believe that Thanksgiving is a little over a week away (Hanukah too!). Leave it to time to keep on ticking. We’re heading to my parent’s place in Charlottesville, VA, and although my mom is taking charge of the turkey and then some, she asked me to take care of a couple side dishes and one of the desserts since we will be feeding a small army. I knew I wanted to make one of the side dishes as healthy as possible and keep one traditional, however, I wanted both to be packed with thanksgiving flavor. Thus, I decided to go with cauliflower mash with garlic and chives for the healthy side and stick to sweet potato casserole for the authentic side. I had to do a practice round because, well, I’m a perfectionist and I don’t want to show up to Thanksgiving unprepared. Both side dishes were delicious and I can’t wait to share them with my family (and now you).

I live by the quote, “everything in moderation, even moderation.” I find Thanksgiving embodies the saying because we all know Turkey Day is meant for ridiculous amounts of eating—and giving thanks, of course. Although I’m fine with doubling (or tripling) my caloric intake for one day out of the year, I’m still the type to cut out unnecessary calories by trying lighter variations of traditional dishes. And that’s exactly what I did with my garlic and chive cauliflower mash. By using lighter ingredients, the cauliflower mash comes out to 334 calories for the entire dish and 83.5 calories per serving. Regular/traditional mash potatoes have a caloric count of 748 calories for the entire fair (three cups of potatoes plus other ingredients) and 187 calories per serving. It doesn’t have to be Thanksgiving for me to be thankful for cutting over half the amount of calories without sacrificing the taste.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are some holiday dishes that should not be tampered with. Sweet Potato Casserole is one of those said dishes. The first time I had it was a recipe of my aunt’s and I thought I had accidentally dipped into a dessert instead of a potato dish. Sweet potato casserole is so amazing because it’s full of complimenting flavors that are enjoyable regardless of what time of the year it is. My recipe is very traditional and consequently not so healthy, but sometimes a girl just needs to live a little. The pecan streusel topping is the proverbial cherry on top—seriously, I could eat the candied pecans all day like it was my job. The sweet potato casserole puts all other casseroles to shame. Sorry I’m not sorry (especially to all those green bean casseroles vying for attention).

I hope you all have a Happy Thanksgiving. And remember, Thanksgiving side dishes are anything but!


Chive And Garlic Cauliflower Mash



-1 medium cauliflower

-1 to 2 cloves of garlic, chopped (if you want more of a garlicy flavor, I suggest 2 cloves)

-3 cups of chicken broth (low sodium)

-2.5 cups of water

-1 tsp salt for the broth

-2 tbsp fat-free half and half

-1/4 cup whipped cream cheese

-1 tbsp margarine

-1.5 tbsp fresh chives, chopped

-Salt and pepper to taste


-Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.

-Chop the stalks off of the cauliflower and place the florets in a medium sized pot.  Cover the cauliflower with the water, chicken broth, chopped garlic, and salt and bring to a boil. Once the liquid is boiling, lower the heat to a simmer and let cook for twenty minutes.


-Drain the cauliflower in a colander. It’s important the cauliflower is as dry as possible, so let the liquid drain for at least five minutes.

-Once cooled and drained, place the cauliflower back in the pot. With a masher, mash the cauliflower until the consistency resembles that of mashed potatoes.


-Place the pot of cauliflower on a burner on low heat and stir in the half and half, cream cheese, and butter. Stir until the cream cheese and butter are melted and well incorporated.

-Add in the chives and salt and pepper to taste and stir until all the ingredients are well incorporated and cook on low for about five minutes.


-Grease a baking dish and carefully pour/spread the cauliflower mash evenly into the baking dish.


-Bake for approximately 15 minutes.

-Let cool for at least five minutes before serving.

-Lastly, enjoy!

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Sweet Potato Casserole



Sweet Potato Mixture:

-2.5 lbs sweet potatoes (5 smaller sized sweet potatoes)

-4 tbsp packed dark brown sugar

-2 eggs, lightly beaten

-1/2 tsp cinnamon

-1/2 tsp ginger

-Pinch of nutmeg

-1 tsp salt

-2 tbsp melted butter

Pecan Topping:

-1/2 cup brown sugar

-1/2 cup flour

-1/3 cup (5 tbsp) melted butter

-1 cup pecans, chopped


Sweet Potato Mixture:

-Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

-With a fork, pierce each sweet potato at least three times (I pierced three times on the side facing up and once for the side making contact with the baking sheet).

-Place on a baking sheet and cook for about 45 minutes.


-Once cooked, let the sweet potatoes sit out and cool for at least ten minutes before skinning them.

-Lower your oven to 350 degrees.

-Once cooled, cut the root end off of the potato and remove the skin from the sweet potatoes. I just cut the sweet potato length wise in half and the skins peeled off very easily.


-Place the skinless sweet potatoes in a large bowl and with a masher, mash the sweet potatoes until the mixture is smooth.


-Pour in the melted butter, eggs, sugar, spices, and salt and whisk together until all the ingredients are well incorporated and the mixture appears creamy and smooth.


-Butter a baking/casserole dish.

-As evenly as possible, spread the sweet potato mixture into the baking dish.


-Set aside (the rest of the directions are listed below).

Pecan Topping:

-Place all of the topping ingredients in a bowl and mix/stir together until the ingredients are well incorporated.


-Sprinkle the topping over the sweet potato mixture.


-Bake the casserole at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.

-Let cool before serving.


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