Thanksgiving has come and gone and this year I made some different side dishes that were much healthier than the really rich ones I made in years past.  I’m sure you know the ones–sweet potato casserole with tons of butter, sugar, and topped with marshmallows or mashed potatoes loaded with heavy cream and butter, and green bean casserole with cream sauce, cheese and topped with fried onions, just to name a few.  Then there were the “salads”, which are not really salad at all–think “pink stuff” such as cool whip mixed with canned cherries and chopped nuts with jello, and other such fruity, sweet salads.  With four children each one had a favorite that couldn’t be omitted.  My oldest daughter, Helen, has to have homemade yeast rolls (but she has the recipe now and makes them for her family), Glenn always wants the green bean casserole, John David only wanted canned jellied cranberry sauce, and Alexandra had to have the sweet potato casserole and “pink stuff” (cherry salad).  Steve has to have mashed potatoes, cornbread stuffing, and gravy, but ham instead of turkey.

I grew up eating a traditional Thanksgiving dinner a la Army mess hall style.  My father was an Army food service manager, former Army cook, who was in charge of planning Thanksgiving for hundreds.  At home he liked to cook the same meal for our family, starting with a massive turkey rubbed with butter, stuffed with a very rich bread stuffing and roasted with frequest basting using a big spoon.  He worked on the gravy for hours, making his own stock, saving the giblets and adding them to his dark, salty gravy.  My mother could be heard in the background saying, “Zack-san, don’t put so much salt and pepper in everything!”, because his Army-style cooking tended toward overseasoned food since he was used to cooking in gigantic quantities.  My mother insisted on having canned candied yams covered with brown sugar and dotted with a little butter.  Vegetables were more of an afterthought, generally canned green beans or corn.  There was always a big relish tray filled with raw vegetables, black olives, pickles, and pickled hot peppers and another dish of sliced jellied cranberry.  Rolls were the kind you buy and “heat and serve”.  Dessert was always pumpkin pie and sometimes mincemeat pie (I never ate it–yuk). 

I enjoyed the Thanksgiving feasts of my childhood, particularly the leftovers, turkey sandwiches, and even my mother’s turkey noodle soup made with stock using the turkey carcass.  Now, however, I can’t really eat like that or soon I will expand back to my former 20+ pound body, not to mention loading my aging bloodstream with cholesterol and fat.  I also enjoy food in its natural form much more now.  Several years ago I had Thanksgiving dinner at my daughter, Helen’s house in Bryan, Texas.  She made a simple meal of roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, steamed green beans and rolls.  Nothing was too fatty or rich and everything tasted wonderful.  Recently, I recalled that dinner and knew that I would have that type of Thanksgiving dinner this year.

My menu would have a mix of the usual Thanksgiving foods such as cornbread stuffing with sausage, glazed ham, and mashed potatoes, but I changed a couple dishes and added brussel sprouts as one of the vegetables.  So, in addition to traditional mashed potatoes I made Rosemary Garlic smashed potatoes, instead of a sweet potato casserole I made Roasted Sweet Potatoes, and the Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese for a vegetable side.

Rosemary Garlic Smashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into quarters
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 tablespoon canola oil (can omit this and use Pam)
2/3 cup unsweetened soy milk
1/4 cup Earth Balance (dairy free margarine) (can reduce this to 2 T)
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground dry rosemary (get it in the bulk section at Central Market)

In a skillet on medium-low heat, heat the oil and add the garlic.  Saute being careful not to burn the garlich, cooking just long enough to infuse the oil with garlic.  Set aside.
Boil the potatoes in a pot filled with water just above the potatoes.  Add a teaspoon of salt.
Bring the water to a boil, reduce to medium heat ans simmer for about 15 minutes, or until soft.
When potatoes are done boiling, drain and place in a large bowl.  Add all the ingredients and mash either by hand or with a hand mixer.

These potatoes were very popular with my 9 year old granddaughter, who preferred them to the traditional mashed potatoes. 

Roasted Sweet Potatoes

4 large sweet potatoes, washed and pricked with a fork
1/4 cup Earth Balance
1/4 cup organic dark brown cane sugar
freshly ground sea salt and black pepper to taste

Roast sweet potatoes on foil lined baking sheet sprayed with cooking spray at 425 degrees for 1 hour or until tender.  Cool slightly, then remove skins and place the cooked potato in a bowl.  Add the Earth Balance and sugar and mix well.  Season with salt and pepper.  Place mixture in a baking dish and bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes.

Shaved Brussel Sprouts with Walnuts and Parmesan Cheese

40 whole brussel sprouts, cut as thinly as possible with a sharp knife
2 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
sea salt and black pepper
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons toasted walnuts  (Place walnuts in 350 degree oven for 5 minutes, then chop small)

Mix the shaved brussel sprouts with the oil, garlic, salt and pepper.  Roast in a 450 degree oven for 20 minutes, turning at 10 minutes to ensure brown edges.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and walnuts.  Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired.

By the way, this is so delicious!
2 replies
  1. G Kobayashi
    G Kobayashi says:

    Hi Julia
    I saw your mother's photo in black and white and had to look at it several times to make sure it was not my mother's photo! Same dress, same hair style, same black and white photo from late 40's / early 50's. My mother passed away June last year. I have dozens of recipes in her handwriting in mixture of Japanese and English.
    I'm in process of translating and then testing out the recipes and maybe create a blog.
    I enjoy your recipes and your journal.

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