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Taking sides: What to have with the turkey

We love our mashed potatoes, stuffing and cranberry sauce. Turkey is good, but what makes us crave that overindulgent Thanksgiving meal is really the sides.

Now that everyone seems to be on some kind of specialized diet, it can be hard to please the entire table.  People have given up carbs or meat or fat, or they’re embracing heavy protein or raw foods.

Can’t please everyone.

So here’s a mix of traditional foods with a twist and a couple of new tricks.

We tried the Wild Rice Pilaf, and it’s good, and filling. It came from Diabetic Living Magazine, so it has health in mind. Wild rice isn’t rice at all, but the seed of a grass, and brown rice has more nutrients and fiber than white rice.

Mushrooms add flavor and texture, as do the carrots. If you don’t like light sour cream, try Greek yogurt, or just dollop a teaspoon of sour cream on each serving. This recipe will feed a crowd. One option for the leftovers is to mix in pieces of turkey and serve it as a main dish, with a salad on the side. You won’t go away hungry.

It took some shelf searching to find a small box of wild rice, but you can get a small bag of brown rice for around $1.60. The wild rice was more expensive, but its texture is important to the pilaf. We cooked it on high in the slow cooker for 4 hours, and it was tender and creamy.

Trick up the cranberry sauce any number of ways. We used the zest and juice of two oranges, along with a little water, to cook the cranberries. While they simmered, we added 3 slices of potent fresh ginger, a cinnamon stick and just under  one-quarter teaspoon of ground cloves. We also cut back from 1 cup of sugar to two-thirds, because the tartness of cranberries is a good foil for the other, heavier foods.

The cranberries were so good that the sauce is worth making any time of year. It’s good with ham or another kind of pork; it would be great with chicken. Spread it on an English muffin or stir it into your oatmeal.

The problem with some sides is oven space, so whatever you can do on the stove top is a plus. And using the slow cooker also helps.

JON C. LAKEY / SALISBURY POST Wild rice pilaf and cranberry sauce. Salisbury, North Carolina 11/12/18

Creamy Wild Rice Pilaf

1 (10.75 oz.) can reduced-fat, reduced sodium condensed cream of mushroom soup

1 cup uncooked wild rice, rinsed and drained

1 cup uncooked regular brown rice

1 cup sliced fresh mushrooms

1 cup packaged julienned or coarsely shredded carrot

1/2 cup sliced celery (1 stalk)

1/3 cup chopped onion (or shallot)

1 1/2 tsp. poultry seasoning

2 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 tsp. black pepper

1/2 tsp. salt

6 cups water

1/2 cup light dairy sour cream

Lightly coat the inside of a 3 1/2- or 4-quart slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray; set aside. In the prepared cooker, combine soup, wild rice, brown rice, mushrooms, carrot, celery, onion, poultry seasoning, garlic, pepper and salt. Stir in water.

Cover and cook on low for 8-9 hours, or on high for 4 to 4 1/2 hours.

Before serving, stir in sour cream.

Can also use a disposable slow cooker liner. Once dish is finished, spoon the food into a serving dish and toss the liner. Do not move food from cooker by picking up liner.

This is from Diabetic Living Magazine and will serve at least 12.

Very Basic Cranberry Sauce

1 cup water

1 cup granulated sugar

12 ounces fresh or frozen cranberries

Bring the water and sugar to a simmer in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring until the sugar is completely dissolved. Add the cranberries and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer until the cranberries pop open and become translucent, about 15 minutes.

Here’s where to make it all your own:

Spices: Add a cinnamon stick, cardamom pod or slices of fresh ginger to the water and simmer with the cranberries. Remove before serving. Add 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, 1/4 tsp. nutmeg or 1/4 tsp. cloves.

Add a vanilla bean to the water and simmer with cranberries. Remove before serving.

Citrus juice and zest: Add the zest of an orange (no white pith). Use the juice of the orange in place of the water or use a little of both.

Alcohol: Stir in 1 Tbsp. of rum, brandy, orange liqueur or whiskey to the finished sauce.

Toss in dried figs, cherries or cranberries to the warm mixture for extra texture and flavor. Add a handful of chopped pecans or walnuts to the finished sauce.

Or add a cinnamon stick, nutmeg, cloves, orange and candied ginger and 1 Tbsp. of Grand Marnier for a sauce that will be velvety and unforgettable.

I’ve got to put in a plug for Brussels sprouts, whose cabbage-y flavor I enjoy. There are so many ways to cook them or use them in salad, and roasting them is absolutely the best way I’ve tried. This recipe is simple and could be made while the turkey is resting and you’re perfecting your gravy. Just do the prep early.

Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Balsamic and Honey

2 pounds Brussels sprouts

1/4 cup olive oil

1 tsp. kosher salt

3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tsp. honey

Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat to 425 degrees. Trim the bottoms from the sprouts and peel away the loose outer leaves. Cut each one in half through the stem.

Place the Brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet. Add the oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and toss again. Arrange cut side down.

Roast, stirring halfway through, until the leaves are dark brown and crisp and the cut side is browned, 25-30 minutes. With about 5 minutes baking time left, combine the vinegar and honey and sprinkle over the sprouts. Toss to coat, finish cooking and serve.

Want green beans but don’t want them to be boring? Try these from Ina Garten. They cook on top of the stove.

Green Beans Gremolata

1 pound French green beans, trimmed

2 tsp. minced garlic (2 cloves)

1 Tbsp. grated lemon zest (2 lemons)

3 Tbsp. minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

3 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

2 Tbsp. toasted pine nuts (or walnuts)

2 1/2 Tbsp. olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add the green beans and blanch them for 2-3 minutes, until tender but still crisp. Drain the beans in a colander and immediately put them in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking and preserve their bright green color.

For the gremolata, toss the garlic, lemon zest, parsley, parmesan and nuts in a small bowl and set aside.

When ready to serve, heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Drain the beans and pat them dry. Add the beans to the pan and sauté, turning frequently, for 2 minutes, until coated with olive oil and heated through. Off the heat, add the gremolata and toss well. Sprinkle with 3/4 tsp. salt and1/4 tsp pepper and serve hot.

Here’s a side that doesn’t require cooking

Apple & Cheddar Side Salad with Mustard Vinaigrette

1 Tbsp. chopped shallot

1 Tbsp. whole-grain mustard

2 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

1/4 tsp. ground pepper

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

8 cups mixed salad greens

1 cup thinly sliced celery

1 large red apple, chopped

1/2 cup shaved or cubed extra-sharp cheddar cheese

1/2 cup toasted chopped pecans

Combine shallot, mustard, vinegar, pepper and salt in a large bowl (or small bowl, if making ahead) Whisk in oil until well combined.

Just before serving, add greens, celery, apple, cheese and pecans. Toss gently until greens are coated with the dressing.

Makes 8 servings. From Eating Well.

Do you have vegetarians coming to your feast?

Sure, they can eat the sides, but why not offer this filling dish?

Sweet Potato Hash Portobello Stuffed Mushrooms

4 large portobello mushrooms

3 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided

3/4 tsp. salt, divided

1/2 tsp. ground black pepper, divided

1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced

1/4 cup water

1 large apple, peeled and diced

1 medium red bell pepper, diced

1/2 cup chopped shallots

1 tsp. poultry seasoning

1/2 cup walnuts, toasted

1 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Remove the stems from the portobello mushrooms. Set the caps aside and chop the stems.

Lightly brush the mushroom caps with 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper. Place on a rimmed baking sheet and roast until soft, 10-15 minutes; keep warm.

Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add sweet potato and water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until just cooked through, 6 to 8 minutes. Uncover and stir in remaining 1 Tbsp. oil, the chopped portobello stems, apple, bell pepper, shallots, poultry seasoning and remaining 1/2 tsp. salt and remaining 1/4 tsp. pepper. Cook, stirring until soft, about 5 minutes. Stir in walnuts and parsley. Fill each mushroom cap with about 1 cup filling.

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