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Creative recipes for Thanksgiving sides

Thursday - 11/21/2013, 7:48am  ET

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The turkey is the star of the Thanksgiving table, but have you given thought to the sides? Some recipe ideas to fill out your Thanksgiving spread. (AP)

WASHINGTON - Turkey is the symbol of Thanksgiving for a traditional holiday spread, but what about the side dishes that accompany the 20-pound star of the table?

If you're still undecided about what to serve alongside your Thanksgiving turkey, Aviva Goldfarb, author and founder of The Six O'Clock Scramble, has some suggestions.

Here are the recipes from some of Goldfarb's favorite family-friendly Thanksgiving side dishes.

Sweet Whole Wheat Cornbread

  • 1 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup cornmeal
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar, packed
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 1 cup nonfat or low fat milk
  • 1/4 cup canola or vegetable oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray an 8 x 8-inch baking pan thoroughly with nonstick cooking spray. In a mixing bowl, combine all the dry ingredients and then add the wet ingredients. Stir until just combined with no lumps (don't overmix), and transfer it to the baking dish. Bake it for 30 minutes or until it is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Alternatively, fill a muffin tin with the batter and bake for 20 minutes.

Butternut Squash and Apple Soup with Crispy Sage

This butternut squash, apple and sage soup is a tasty and seasonal addition to any Thanksgiving menu. (Courtesy Kirsten Wisniakowski)

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 sweet yellow onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, chopped
  • 3 - 4 lb. butternut squash, peeled, seeded and diced
  • 1 red apple, such as Fuji or Gala, peeled and diced
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger, or use 1 Tbsp. fresh minced ginger
  • 1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups reduced-sodium vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil (optional)
  • 1/4 cup fresh sage (optional)
  • 2 Tbsp. apple cider, or use apple butter or apple juice
  • 1/2 cup nonfat sour cream or plain Greek yogurt (optional)
In a large stockpot, melt half the butter over medium heat, and when it is bubbling, add the onions. After about three minutes, add the squash and apples, and sauté with the onions for about five minutes. Add the curry powder, ginger and cinnamon and cook for two more minutes.

Add the broth, raise the heat and bring it to a boil, then cover and simmer it for 15 minutes, reducing the heat as needed, until the squash is tender. (Meanwhile, warm the baguette, if you are serving it.)

Puree the soup in a standing blender or in the pot with an immersion blender. Meanwhile, to make the crispy sage leaves, in a small skillet, heat the remaining butter and the oil over medium to medium-high heat. When it is hot, add the sage leaves and cook them until they are brown and crispy, about two minutes. Remove them from the heat.

Stir the apple cider into the soup, and serve it hot, seasoned with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste, and topped with crumbled leaves of crispy sage (or you may enjoy it with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream).

Alternatively, refrigerate it for up to three days or freeze it for up to three months.

Cornbread Stuffing with Pomegranate Seeds

The tang from the pomegranate seeds in this stuffing brightens a normally rich dish. (Courtesy Linda Wolpert)

  • 1 pomegranate
  • 2 Tbsp. canola oil
  • 1 cup chopped dried apricots
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 2 - 3 stalks celery, chopped (about 1 cup)
  • 3 - 4 scallions, sliced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 12 oz. cornbread stuffing mix
  • 4 Tbsp. butter, melted
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 20 oz. reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

To remove the pomegranate seeds from the fruit, deeply score the pomegranate and place it in a bowl of water. Break it open underwater to free the seeds (also called arils).

Keep breaking and freeing seeds until they're released from the pomegranate's skin. Remove the white membranes that are floating in the water and drain the seeds. Reserve 1 cup of seeds and refrigerate the remainder for another use (or, if you're like me, eat them immediately).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a large round casserole dish with nonstick cooking spray.

In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium heat. Sauté the apricots, cranberries, celery, and scallions for about five minutes until softened. Remove them from the heat.

Place the stuffing mix in a large bowl; add the apricot mixture, pomegranate seeds, melted butter, egg, and broth, and mix well. Smooth the stuffing mixture into the casserole and cover it with foil. Bake it for 25 minutes, remove the foil, and return it to the oven for 15 more minutes or until the stuffing is golden brown.

Wheat Berry Salad with Grapes and Feta

  • 1 cup wheat berries, or use farro, orzo or other grain, or use 3 - 4 cups cooked lentils
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pecans, broken, or use pepitas
  • 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
  • 1 1/2 cups red grapes, halved
  • 1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp. honey
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only, about 2 Tbsp.
  • 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Cook the wheat berries in 2 1/2 cups water according to the package directions until they are tender with a little bit of bite and most or all of the water is absorbed, about one hour (unless they are parboiled, in which case they cook in 15 minutes. You can also cook them in a rice cooker.)

Meanwhile, with a fork, whisk together the lemon juice, honey, oil and vinegar. In a bowl, combine the cooked wheat berries, grapes, celery, pecans, mint and the dressing. When it has cooled a bit, stir in the cheese and season it with salt and pepper to taste. Serve it immediately or refrigerate it for up to three days.

Thanksgiving Sweet Potato Pie

No Thanksgiving table is complete without a pie. Try this recipe, made with sweet potatoes. (Thinkstock)

  • 3 Tbsp. butter
  • 3 medium sweet potatoes
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg or cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. sugar
  • 1/4 cup nonfat or low fat milk
  • 1 prepared pie crust, or make your own (see directions below)

Remove the butter from the refrigerator to soften it. In a medium pot, bring enough water to cover the potatoes to a boil. Meanwhile, peel and cut the potatoes into large cubes, and add them to the heating water and boil for 15 - 20 minutes until they are fork tender. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Drain the potatoes thoroughly and put them in a large bowl (alternatively, use an electric mixer). Mash the sweet potatoes with the butter and all the remaining ingredients except the crust. Whip the mixture until it is mostly smooth. (At this point, you can refrigerate the filling for up to 48 hours).

Spoon the sweet potatoes into the crust and bake it for an hour (or up to 1 1/2 hours if you like a browner top). Let it cool for 10 minutes before serving it.

To make your own 20 minute pie crust: Combine 1 cup of flour and 1/2 tsp. salt in a bowl. With two forks, cut 1/3 cup plus 1 Tbsp. butter or Crisco into the flour mixture until it looks like coarse cornmeal. Sprinkle 2 Tbsp. ice water, 1 Tbsp. at a time, over the pastry mixture, tossing lightly with the fork after each addition and sprinkling only the dry portion.

Pastry should be just moist enough to hold together, but not sticky. With a large piece of waxed paper underneath and on top of the dough so it doesn't stick to the rolling pin, roll the dough into a circular shape. Lift off the top piece of wax paper, and flip the dough into a pie plate, gently pressing it into the plate and removing the waxed paper.

With your fingers, flute the crust to the rim of the pie plate to adhere it. Trim the edges with a paring knife and patch the crust if needed. Refrigerate the crust until you are ready to fill it.

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