Healthy and New Sides for Thanksgiving

Until I was around 30 years old, my family was unspokenly rigid about the “traditional” Thanksgiving meal. We might have shared in the labor, but it boiled down to this: one roasted turkey (carved with electric knife by my Dad), mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole, stuffing, cranberry sauce, dinner rolls, and pumpkin pie. Period. Eventually our tastes changed because our lives changed and expanded, our palates evolved, we wanted healthier options, or we simply wanted to try new things. I am thankful I have a family that is willing to experiment! The important thing, after all, is that we were together around the table.

This season I am in the thick of my personal chef business. Today I had to triple-dip. These recipes are delicious, healthy, newish sides I’ve discovered that I 1) cooked for my Monday client 2) cooked and photographed for this column and 3) all in preparation and practice for a 14-person Thanksgiving dinner for a new client. WHEW.  I am having FUN. And everyone seems happy and nourished, including my own household!

Following you will find the classic green bean casserole, lightened up. Fresh green beans instead of canned. Homemade mushroom sauce instead of the condensed canned version. Freshly cut red onions with panko and parmesan for the crispy topping instead of the fried and canned onions. YUM. Simple to make yet complex-tasting mashed sweet potatoes. Still sweet, but not sickeningly so with marshmallows. These are a bit tart with the balsamic and sour cream mixed in with a bit of brown sugar. YUM AGAIN. And last, a dash of Morocco, where curry-roasted veggies pair with a stunningly fresh chermoula sauce. MIND BLOWING. Try something new this year, injecting some nutrition for a healthier, happier, satisfied family this holiday season. Enjoy!

Lightened up green bean casserole

Serves 8-10



2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-sized pieces
1 batch mushroom Alfredo sauce (see below)
1 batch crispy onion topping (see below)


1 tablespoon butter or olive oil, divided
1 medium red onion, peeled and thinly-sliced
1/4 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 teaspoon each fine sea salt and freshly-cracked black pepper


2 tablespoons butter or olive oil
8 ounces baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup vegetable stock
1 cup milk (any type)
1/2 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly-ground black pepper


Heat oven to 375°F. Trim, cut and briefly boil the green beans. Heat a large stockpot of water over high-heat until boiling. Meanwhile, trim and cut the green beans. Then add the beans to the boiling water and cook for 3-5 minutes, depending on how crispy you like your green beans. (Keep in mind that the beans will cook more in the oven, so err on the side of undercooking them to your taste during this step.) Then use a slotted spoon or large strainer to transfer the beans immediately into a large bowl of ice water, and give them a quick stir. This will prevent them from cooking longer.  Set aside.

Prepare your crispy onion topping. Melt 1/2 tablespoon butter (or olive oil) in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion and sauté for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onion is partially cooked but still holds its shape. (You don’t want the onion to get too soft.) Transfer the onion to a clean bowl.  Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon butter to the sauté pan, along with the panko, and stir to combine.  Cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring constantly, until the panko is lightly golden. Remove from heat, and transfer the panko to the bowl with the onions. Add in the Parmesan, salt and pepper, and toss the onion mixture until evenly combined.  Set aside.

Prepare your mushroom alfredo sauce. Briefly rinse and dry the sauté pan. Then return it to the stove. Melt the butter over medium-high heat. Then add the mushrooms and sauté for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned and soft. Add the garlic and sauté for 1-2 more minutes, stirring occasionally, until fragrant. Stir in the flour and sauté for 1 more minute, stirring occasionally. Then add in the vegetable stock, and stir until the flour is evenly dissolved.  dd the milk and Parmesan, and stir to combine. Continue cooking the sauce until it reaches a simmer and thickens. Then remove from heat, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put it all together. Combine the green beans and mushroom alfredo sauce in the stockpot, and stir the green bean mixture until evenly combined. Transfer to a 9 x 13-inch baking dish, and spread the green bean mixture out in an even layer. Sprinkle evenly with the crispy onion topping mixture.

Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the crispy onion topping is golden and crispy. (Keep an eye on it so that it does not burn. If it does start to char, simply lay a piece of aluminum foil on top of the casserole.) Serve warm. Remove from the oven and serve warm, garnished with extra freshly-cracked black pepper (plus maybe some parsley) if you’d like.

-Gimme Some

Sour cream balsamic sweet potatoes

Serves 6


3 to 4 pounds sweet potatoes (4 to 5 medium potatoes), baked and peeled
1/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


Chop the peeled sweet potatoes into bite size pieces. Cover with water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer until potatoes are tender. Drain and return to sauce apn. Mash the still-warm sweet potatoes with a fork or a masher. Add the brown sugar, sour cream, balsamic vinegar, and salt. Stir to combine. Adjust seasonings if needed. Top with more sour cream and toasted chopped pecans. Serve warm or at room temperature. 


Cauliflower Toss with Moroccan Sauce

Serves 6-8



1 large head cauliflower cut into large bite-size florets (about 7-8 cups)
3 cups carrots chopped into 1/2-3/4” pieces (about 4-5 carrots)
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon yellow curry powder 
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 tsp each pepper, garlic powder


1/4 cup unsalted pepitas or sunflower seeds
1/2 cup craisins
1/4 cup chopped red onion


1 cup packed cilantro
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons lemon juice
3-4 cloves garlic peeled
1/2 tsp each paprika, ground cumin
1/4 tsp each ground ginger, dried thyme, salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Line a large baking sheet with foil and lightly spray with cooking spray. Add cauliflower florets and carrots. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with curry powder, salt, pepper and garlic powder. Spread veggies out in an even layer so the florets aren’t touching.

Bake at 425 degrees F for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower and carrots are tender-crisp. Meanwhile, make Chermoula. Add all Chermoula ingredients to your food processor and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the bowl a few times. 
Remove roasted cauliflower and carrots to a serving bowl. Add pepitas to the same baking sheet and toss in the leftover oil/spices from the veggies. Spread in an even layer and toast at 425 for 5 minutes. Add pepitas to veggies along with craisins and red onions. Add desired amount of Chermoula (you may not use all of it) and gently toss. Serve warm or at room temperature.