Tips for Unique Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Get tips for working with some of Thanksgiving's most finicky vegetables and dishes, and make your holiday prep even easier this year.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reseverved

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reseverved

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reseverved

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reseverved

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reserved.

©2012, Television Food Network, G.P. All Rights Reseverved

Assign Tasks to Little Helpers

Prepping herbs is an easy task to delegate to eager kids who offer to help out in the kitchen; just teach them how to rinse, dry and pick the leaves from each sprig, and you'll have a pile of fresh herbs in no time.

Make Boxed Stuffing Better

You'll use those herbs in everything from your turkey and side dishes to the holiday favorite: stuffing. This recipe dresses up boxed seasoned stuffing mix with fresh herbs, nuts and fruit.

Get the Recipe: Better Than the Box Stuffing

Working With Brussels Sprouts

To prepare Brussels sprouts, discard a few outer leaves and trim off the stems. Quarter bigger sprouts and halve smaller ones to keep all of them the same size so they'll cook evenly.

Get the Recipe: Brussels Sprouts, Kale and Celery Root Gratin

Potatoes vs. Yams

Potatoes and yams aren't actually related at all. Both are root vegetables, but yams come from the morning glory botanical family while potatoes hail from the nightshade family (which also includes tomatoes and eggplants). They may grow in entirely different climates — warm for yams, cooler for potatoes — but science tells us they're still both great served mashed with butter.

Get the Recipe: Southern Style Candied Yams with Gingersnap Crunch

Make-Ahead Potatoes

Your guests will never know this dish was prepared ahead of time: Fill twice-baked potatoes (or sweet potatoes) the day before you plan to serve them, then refrigerate. Bake them for a few more minutes the next day to make up for the extra chill time.

Get the Recipe: Stuffed Sweet Potatoes with Sweet and Spicy Walnuts

Nuts for Cranberries

Toasting walnuts on the stovetop or in the oven brings out their nutty flavor and aroma. Shake them frequently while toasting and watch closely, letting them go until the edges just begin to brown. Then, immediately remove from the heat so they don't go from toasty to burned. They add tremendous flavor to this vinegary cranberry relish.

Get the Recipe: Cranberry Relish with Pears and Walnuts

Shall I Stuff or Dress?

The difference between stuffing and dressing comes down to location: Stuffing is cooked inside the turkey, while dressing is cooked separately and served alongside.

Get the Recipe: Oyster Sausage Herb Dressing

Isn't That Supreme?

When cutting citrus fruits, slice the middle segments free from the membranes (chefs call this cutting supremes) for beautiful, easy-to-eat pieces. If you'd rather skip the extra work, you can still get a perfectly nice slice by removing the peel and pith, halving the fruit, then cutting it into half-moons.

For Greater Green Beans

Those citrus segments add brightness to the holiday table — and your same-old plate of green beans. When prepping your green beans, enlist someone to help you trim them. It's easy to explain to even the most unseasoned cook; since we leave the tails on the beans anyway, they'll just have to trim the tops.

Get the Recipe: Green Beans with Blood Orange and Tangerine Dressing

Bake a Fluffy Spoon Bread

When making a spoon bread, you will need to pour hot milk into eggs, a technique also known as tempering. Add the milk slowly and stir constantly to prevent the eggs from curdling.

Get the Recipe: Fresh Corn Spoon Bread Puff

Dress Up Your Dressing

Mixed-grain rice makes for a heartier dressing than the bread-only variety. Worried about overcooked rice? No worries: Make mushy rice crispy by toasting it in hot oil as you would for fried rice.

Get the Recipe: Mixed Grain Dressing with Shiitakes, Parsnips and Apricots

Get Smart With Stems

Mushrooms are a popular ingredient during Thanksgiving — though usually just the caps. Don't throw out your stems! Save them in a bag in the freezer, and use them to add depth to soups, or chop them finely to stuff mushroom caps.

Next Up

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Meatless Monday: Vegetarian Thanksgiving Side Dishes

It may be Turkey Day and all, but everyone knows Thanksgiving is all about the sides, and many of the best ones are meatless.