the easiest thanksgiving side dishes ever

Our Thanksgiving plans are exciting: Everyone’s coming to Nashvegas! My parents and Alex’s family will be joining us for a few days of eating, exploring the city, and more eating. ❤

We’re also hosting two furry friends while our neighbors are out of town. Everyone, meet Flash and Django:

Luckily, our families are cool. Really cool. We’re very lucky. And the dogs are also chill little dudes. No fuss, all cuddles. It’s gearing up to be a really lovely time.

I love Thanksgiving. I love the food, I love the fact that it’s an inclusive, non-religious holiday, and I love that it’s a holiday that my family of immigrants can embrace as our own. It’s really exciting and humbling that everyone is coming here to spend their holiday with us. ❤


I won’t say that I haven’t stressed about the logistics of the holiday — not only the meal itself, but making sure we have activities, restaurant reservations, etc. squared away before everyone arrives, so we don’t have to play the dreaded, “I don’t know, what do you want to do?” game with 7 people. I want to show everyone a good time. I want them to leave with wonderful memories from our home. I don’t want to be a ball of stress, as I’ve been known to be when I have a lot going on.

But also, even though I’m coordinating this stuff, I want to be able to be present, spend time with my people, and sit down every once in while. That is what’s important here: Not a perfect menu, immaculate table settings, or a spotless kitchen. Just the fact that almost all of my people will be in one place. My sister, her boyfriend Rob, and our sweet Laszlo won’t be joining us, but we’ll save some macarons for them.

I want to be able to be calm, mindful, and present while everyone’s here. So here are a few things I’ve done to take the pressure off:

(Note: Stay tuned for a report after Thanksgiving where we’ll all learn whether or not these tactics were effective. Fingers crossed.)

practice thanksgiving

Yes, I’ve had a practice Thanksgiving. I invited friends over, tried out a few new recipes, and got their opinions on which should make the final cut. It was awesome! And a great way to get some jitters out. I made roasted turkey legs, not a whole bird, because…

outsource the damn bird

There are lots of strong opinions on whether or not it’s imperative to cook the bird. Here’s the scoop:

  • It’s way cheaper to cook your own bird than to buy a cooked one.
  • Cooking a turkey isn’t actually hard — it’s just a big chicken. Brine, rub, roast, and use a meat thermometer and you’ll have a great bird.

If I had two ovens, I’d totally do a turkey. However, I have one oven, want to spend as little time in the kitchen as possible (so I can spend more time with family), and love cooking vegetables a lot more than making meats.

So…. I’m outsourcing the bird. And I’m happy with that decision. This way, I’ll be able to use my oven to reheat things, and bake and broil things, instead of just making a good bird. I made turkey bone broth to make a beautiful homemade gravy, so that counts for something, right?

look at the color on this broth! ❤

very strategic grocery lists

Usually, I would do a very large grocery run a day or two before Thanksgiving like most people. Several issues there:

  1. Pandemonium
  2. Risk of necessary ingredients being out of stock

Yeah, no. So instead, I wrote down everything I would need. I ordered many non-perishables online (things like multigrain crackers, spices, extra chicken stock, pumpkin puree, macaron ingredients), then put everything else into one of two lists:

  • The first list is things I’ll get about a week in advance: sweet potatoes, bacon, cheeses, etc.
  • The second list includes things I’ll need to get two days before: greens, cheeses, fruits, flowers, etc. This way, I’m not fighting the crowds to get ALL THE THINGS two days before Thanksgiving.

outsource things that aren’t your thing

My mom always crushes the cranberry sauce, and since she’s in driving distance, she’s on sauce duty. She’s also bringing her incredible plates that were made by Nashville potter Caroline Cercone. :hearteyes: Everyone else is flying here, so their job is to relax and enjoy. ❤

schedule in some self-care

I’m taking the day off before everyone arrives so we can clean the apartment, finish any last minute planning/prep, and have some downtime before everyone arrives. I’m going to take a workout class and will definitely take a nice, long bath. This will help me feel calm, prepared, and mindful for the eventful days ahead. ❤

my menu


Here’s my menu and when I’m cooking it all. As you can see, several dishes are outsourced, made in advanced, or at least made partially in advance. My menu is low on the traditional carb-y dishes, since neither of our families expressed particular interest in those — but it’s still definitely high on comfort.

We’re starting with a butternut squash soup with parmesan-sage croutons, then moving our way into the main course, which is very colorful and comforting: twice-baked sweet potatoes, cranberry-orange sauce, my arugula, crispy Brussels, and fresh bread from a local bakery. For dessert, I’m making two tried-and-true desserts that I can make ahead: dark chocolate macarons and pumpkin pie (with fresh whipped cream, of course).

  • Butternut squash-apple soup with parmesan-sage croutons (made this week and froze)
  • Roasted whole turkey (outsourced to Whole Foods)
  • Turkey gravy (made turkey bone broth this week, will making actual stock day-of)
  • Ina Garten’s twice-baked sweet potatoes (make day-of)
  • Cranberry-orange sauce (outsourced to mom)
  • Arugula salad (make dressing in advance, toss day-of)
  • Mashed red potatoes with buttery shallots (make day-of)
  • Brussels sprouts with bacon and mushrooms (slice in advance, cook day-of)
  • Fresh baguette from Dozen Bakery (ordered in advance)
  • Epi-seed bagette from Dozen Bakery (ordered in advance)
  • Dark chocolate macarons (making this week)
  • Pumpkin pie (make ahead and freeze)

It might sound like a lot, but on the actual day, I’ll have maybe two hours of cooking. Since it’s only a few dishes, I won’t be as stressed, and I’ll be able to calmly get it done while everyone sips on bourbon and wine. Or we can cook it together! No problemo.

easiest side dishes

If you’re short a side dish for your Thanksgiving or Friendsgiving menu, try these super easy options that made it onto my shortlist.

arugula salad with lemon vinaigrette (serves 8)



  • large clamshell of arugula
  • 1 cup shaved parmesan
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 lemons, juiced
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • hefty amount of sea salt & pepper


  1. Combine lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper. Adjust salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Toast pine nuts over low-medium heat in a small pan. When they’re golden and fragrant, remove from heat and toss with a little salt.
  3. When ready to serve: toss arugula with vinaigrette, parm, and pine nuts.

ina garten’s twice-baked sweet potatoes

Photo credit: Barefoot Contessa

These are easy, fool-proof, and really, really good. All you do is bake some sweet potatoes, scoop out the warm insides, mix with an egg, some good cheese, thyme, and sauteed shallots, then bake some more. Get the full recipe here.

butternut squash soup

Photo credit: Well Plated

This soup is great for many reasons.

  1. Paleo, dairy- and gluten-free (without trying to be).
  2. Can be made ahead of time and frozen!
  3. Really yummy.
  4. A healthy, filling start to an otherwise gluttonous meal.
  5. Easy to make in large quantity.

I experimented with a few butternut squash soup recipes, but in the end, this simple, nutmeg-spiced version with apples won me over. I’ll probably serve it with the croutons they suggest because those just sound delicious. Recipe here.

happy thanksgiving!

I’m taking next week off to be present with my family. Enjoy your holidays everybody! Remember, Thanksgiving meal only comes once a year. No regrets. Eat that pie like you mean it. 


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