It’s almost here, the day when everyone wishes for two ovens, four arms, and six stomachs. We love mixing, mashing, boiling, blanching, and baking up feastings for the loved ones we’re thankful for.
While the turkey steals the show, side dishes make the meal. This year I’m putting a spiced spin on green beans, sweet potatoes, and mac and cheese. (An unlikely, but welcomed addition to northern tables.)
Each recipe is customizable and can be prepped ahead of time. On the big day, all you have to do is fire and garnish your sides. Thus, leaving you with more kitchen space, sanity, and time to noogie your nieces and nephews.
Twice-Baked Cinnamon Sweet Potatoes
I want something zestier than the classic marshmallowed sweet potato casserole.
The sweet and slightly bitter flavor of Korintje cinnamon in this recipe complements the sweet potato and other spices, rather than shouting over them—like that one uncle we all have…
The garnish of sumac works well here. Try using our limited lot of Cured Turkish Sumac. Its cranberry with sour cherry flavor is unreal. The sumac is cured in salt, so it holds a dual purpose. You can swap the pine nuts for pecans.
Maple-Garlic Green Beans Almondine
Fresh green beans are the best and Gateway to the North is my favorite blend for them. It has sweet maple sugar with garlicky goodness and black pepper to perk it up. The beans and Gateway play well together when served almondine. The lemon juice and maple sugar form a tasty glaze of sorts.
Pearl onions offer a subtle sweetness when lightly caramelized. Try using the fresh ones, there’s a peeling trick in the recipe. The almonds bring a rich, toasted flavor over the sweet, tangy beans and onions.
As with the potatoes, preparing your vegetables the night before saves time. Double this recipe if serving a large crowd, but I recommend cooking it in batches. When prepped ahead of time, you can cook and serve this in about five minutes.
Subtly-Spiced Mac and Cheese
As a midwesterner I’ve never had mac n’ cheese for Thanksgiving, which is why you see it here. Mac takes many forms, and it’s easy to get carried away. I’ve spiced this mac with ground mustard seed, fenugreek seed, fresh grated nutmeg, and smoked paprika.
There’s enough going on here to raise an eyebrow but not a controversy. Cooking the garlic, onions, and carrots in butter before forming your roux adds a savory body to the mac. If you’re a purest, just skip that step, but try the mustard trick at least.
Ground mustard cuts through the fat, balancing flavors and improving the texture. Ground mustard is also useful for turkey gravy. It adds a nice zip to rich flavors and helps thicken it to a desirable consistency. Try a small batch of mustard gravy with some pan juice from your turkey. A teaspoon per cup is a modest start.
Avoid pre-shredded cheese! The shredded stuff contains cellulose to prevent clumping, leaving a gritty, undesired texture in your mac sauce. Yet again this dish is a time saver when prepped the day before. Cook your noodles, make your sauce, and butter your bread crumbs. Just reheat, mix, plate, and bake!
If you have your own spicy spins on Thanksgiving favorites, we want know about them. A cinnamon stick in the cranberry sauce? Cayenne pepper in the pecan pie? Whatever tricks you’ve got stuffed in your cornucopia, feel free to share the recipe with us.
Geoff Marshall is Web Content Manager at the Spice House. He loves writing stories and recipes for the blog. When he’s not nose deep in one of Tom and Patty’s many spice encyclopedias, you’ll find him daydreaming of dinner prep or riding his bicycle.