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<strong>Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Sides</strong>

Updated: Nov 20, 2023

Last week I shared my family’s favorite traditional side dishes. But what if you want to shake things up a bit and serve something non-traditional? You are not in the mood for pumpkin pie, and green bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows just don’t tempt your palate. Following are my favorite non-traditional Thanksgiving sides—apple crostata, broccoli casserole, and twice-baked sweet potatoes. Wishing you and yours a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Carol Ann’s Apple Crostata Serves 8

Crostata is an Italian rustic version of an open fruit tart. The French call this same dessert a galette. To make crostata, the Italian place their rolled pastry dough on a baking sheet and pile fruit or savory fillings in the center. The edges of the dough are folded about an inch or two over the filling to create a free-form crust. Apple crostata is delicious topped with vanilla ice cream. For the crust (makes enough dough for 2 crostata or 1 covered tart): 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour 2 teaspoons sugar ¼ teaspoon salt 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, chilled and cut into ½-inch cubes 7 tablespoons ice water, or more if needed

In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, sugar, and salt. Add 4 tablespoons butter and cut in with a pastry blender or fork until the mixture resembles cornmeal. Add the remaining 8 tablespoons butter and cut in with the pastry blender until the mixture is the size of small peas. The smaller the pieces, the more tender the pastry. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon water over the mixture and gently toss with a fork. Repeat this process until the mixture is moist. The less water that is added, the more tender the pastry. It is not necessary to add all of the water.

Divide the dough into 2 halves. Form each half into a disk and wrap tightly with plastic wrap. Refrigerate the dough for at least 30 minutes before rolling. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. When ready to roll out the dough, remove from the refrigerator and let soften slightly. Unwrap the dough and press the edges so that there are no cracks. Lightly flour a clean surface. Using a floured rolling pin, roll the disk from the center out to the edges into an 11-inch circle about ⅛-inch thick. Transfer rolled dough to a baking sheet. For the filling: 1 ½ pounds Jonathan or Granny Smith apples (about 3 to 4) 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice ¼ cup flour ¼ cup granulated sugar ¼ teaspoon salt ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon Dash ground nutmeg 4 tablespoons (½ stick) cold unsalted butter, diced

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.

Using a paring knife or vegetable peeler, peel, core and cut apples into 8 wedges. If you prefer to leave the peel on, it won’t affect the outcome. Cut each wedge into 2 slices. Place apple slices in a medium bowl and toss with lemon juice. Place apple slices on the dough, leaving a 1 ½-inch border around the edge.

In a medium bowl, combine flour, sugar, salt, cinnamon, and nutmeg.  Transfer to a food processor fitted with a steel blade. Add butter and pulse until the mixture is crumbly. Pour into a bowl and rub the mixture with your fingers until it starts holding together. Sprinkle evenly on the apples. Fold the border of exposed dough up and over itself at regular intervals, crimping and pushing it up against the fruit, creating a rim. Make sure there are no breaks that will allow juices to leak out. Bake crostata for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the crust is golden and the apples are tender. Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Broccoli Casserole Serves 8

I prepare this dish early in the day, usually after I get my turkey on to cook, then cover it with plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator. I take it out of the fridge about 30 minutes before I plan to put it in the oven. You can use fresh broccoli in this recipe if you prefer. With the cost of preparing Thanksgiving dinner this year, frozen broccoli will be more affordable; and your guests will never know the difference.

1 package (16-ounces) frozen chopped broccoli, cooked according to package directions and drained

Arrange broccoli in an 8 X 12-inch shallow ovenproof dish.

For the sauce:

¼ cup butter ¼ cup flour 1 cup half-and-half ½ cup canned beef broth 2 tablespoons sherry 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice Large grind black pepper to taste ½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese ½ cup slivered almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium saucepan, melt butter over a medium-low heat. Add flour and stir until the mixture is smooth. Add half-and-half and beef broth and stir continually until the mixture is smooth and thickened. Add sherry, lemon juice, and pepper and stir until well blended. Pour sauce through a strainer to remove any lumps that may have formed. Pour sauce over broccoli and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and almonds. Bake at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.

Tip for toasting almonds: To toast nuts, place them on a baking sheet in a 350 degree F preheated oven for 5 to 10 minutes, or until golden brown. Watch closely as nuts turn from golden brown to black very quickly. I personally prefer to toast nuts by sautéing them in a small skillet that has been lightly coated with vegetable or olive oil. For this method, stir continually over medium heat for 5 to 7 minutes.  Again, watch closely as nuts turn black easily.

Twice-Baked Sweet Potatoes Serves 6

3 large sweet potatoes Salt to sprinkle Large grind black pepper to sprinkle 4 tablespoons butter 4 ounces gouda cheese, shredded ¼ cup crème fraiche 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup 2 tablespoons fresh sage, chopped ½ teaspoon salt ¼ teaspoon large grind black pepper 4 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Using a vegetable brush, scrub potatoes and remove any strings.

Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place sweet potatoes on the baking sheet. Using a paring knife, cut a few slits in each potato to allow steam to escape. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until potatoes are pierced easily with a knife.

Remove the potatoes from the oven and cool, about 10 minutes. When potatoes are cool enough to handle, using a sharp knife, cut potatoes in half lengthwise. Using a spoon, scoop out the flesh into a medium bowl, leaving about ¼- to ½-inch shell of sweet potato. Return the potato shells to the baking sheet and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Add butter to the sweet potato flesh in the bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add gouda, crème fraiche, maple syrup, sage, salt, pepper, and bacon and stir until well combined. Spoon the sweet potato mixture back into the shells. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes, until lightly browned. Serve hot.

Shopping for sweet potatoes: Look for firm sweet potatoes with smooth skin that are free of bruises and cracks. Avoid wrinkled or sticky sweet potatoes or ones that have sprouts.

Storing sweet potatoes: Do not refrigerate sweet potatoes, but keep them in a cool, dark place. This vegetable will keep for 1 to 2 weeks.

Carol Ann

Carol Ann Kates is the award-winning author of cookbook, Secret Recipes from the Corner Market and Grocery Shopping Secrets. She’s an expert in how to shop, select, and store produce for maximizing home cooking outcomes and minimizing time and money spent. As a former supermarket and deli operator, Carol Ann shares grocery-insider wisdom—the same expertise you used to receive when patronizing a mom-and-pop establishment. Contact her at and explore her website,

Copyright 2022 All Rights Reserved Carol Ann Kates

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