Thanksgiving Make-Ahead Starter and Sides

Mom's Sausage Stuffing Image 1 Thanksgiving Day fast approaches and I know for some, conjures up images of them sweating out in the kitchen all day while friends and family eat, drink and enjoy. Well what if this year it could be different? What if you could enjoy the day as much as your guests and get on with more of the business of being thankful – spending time with friends and family and spending less time in the kitchen fretting over the meal.

The key to pulling this off is organization and preparation. Start with simple, easy and elegant recipes that you can make ahead. Today we are talking starter and sides. The following recipes are always part of my Thanksgiving Menu.

STARTER: A delicious winter salad works well as a first course. You can have it completely ready to rock n roll only needing to be dressed and tossed right before serving.

Endive, Blue Cheese, Cranberry & Walnut Salad

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, paring knife, chef’s knife, cutting board, large mixing bowl, small bowl or ramekin

Serves: 8 – 10

  • 8 endive lettuces
  • 1 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1 1/2 cup blue cheese
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Kitchen Moxie Vinaigrette
  • salt & pepper to taste

Take any bruised outer leaves of the endive lettuces. Chop about 1/4 inch off the bottom.  Carefully peel 3 – 4 leaves from each endive – yielding 30 leaves. Set aside. (If you are putting the salad together later – carefully place the leaves in a Ziploc with a paper towel and keep in the fridge.) Take the remaining endive and chop. Toss chopped endive, chopped walnuts, dried cranberries and blue cheese in the Kitchen Moxie Vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper.

Tip: I like to put a few scoops of the dressed salad into a small single serving bowl or ramekin and then turn it upside down on the plate to create a dome of the salad in the center of the plate.

To Serve: Divide salad evenly on plates and add three whole leaves to each plate for decoration.


SIDES: Choose make-ahead side dishes that will only need to be reheated or can be completely prepped and ready to pop in the oven.

Horseradish Cheddar Potatoes

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, peeler, large casserole dish (about 3 1/2 – 4 quart), chef’s knife, cutting board, large pot, strainer, medium heavy bottomed pot, whisk, wooden spoon

Serves: 8 – 10

  • 1 five lb bag Yukon Gold potatoes (peeled & quartered)
  • 1 stick salted butter
  • 8 tbs plain flour
  • 3 cups whole milk
  • 1/2 lb horseradish cheddar (shredded)
  • 1/2 lb sharp cheddar (shredded)
  • 1/4 cup herbed panko breadcrumbs
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Parboil potatoes in generously salted water for about fifteen minutes. Drain and set aside. Melt the butter in a heavy bottom saucepan. Add in the flour. Stir with a wooden spoon until it becomes a paste and begins to brown. Slowly add in the milk and whisk until thickened (this can take a few minutes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Place about 4 tbs of the white sauce in the bottom of your casserole dish. Once the potatoes have cooled, slice them and place in a layer over the white sauce. Add salt and pepper, a quarter of the grated cheese and then more white sauce. Repeat two more times, ending with a layer of potatoes. Spoon any remaining white sauce on top of the last layer of potatoes and cover with the remaining cheese. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs on top of the cheese and cover with aluminum foil (spray the foil with a non-stick cooking spray to keep the foil from sticking to the cheese). Bake for 1 hour, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the top layer of cheese or place under a broiler for about 5 minutes to crisp up that top layer before serving.

To Serve: Let the potatoes sit for about 10 minutes and you can cut out squares to serve as a plated dish or simply serve the entire casserole dish and allow people to help themselves.

Mom’s Sausage Stuffing

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, large casserole dish (about 3 1/2 – 4 quart), chef’s knife, cutting board, large pot, large sauté pan, broiling pan, can opener

Serves: 8 – 10

  • 12 oz mushrooms (sliced)
  • 1 can sliced water chestnuts (approximately 8 oz)
  • 1/2 cup walnuts
  • 4 stalks celery (diced)
  • 1 large onion (finely chopped)
  • 2 tsp garlic puree
  • 1 lb sausage links (Irish Pork Bangers if you can get them, but you can use any kind)
  • 14 oz herb season stuffing bread cubes (you can use any brand you like)
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 stick butter + more to butter baking dish
  • 2 tbs olive oil

Preheat broiler to high. Broil the sausages until cooked through and set aside to cool. Once cool slice them into bite size pieces. Preheat oven to 350 ˚F. Heat the olive oil in the sauce pan over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic. Cook till translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the celery, walnuts, mushrooms, water chestnuts and cooked sliced sausage. Sauté until veggies are tender. Place the butter and chicken stock in a large pot and gently heat until boiling. Remove from heat and add the stuffing bread cubes. Fluff with a fork. Add in the sauté mix and gently stir to combine. Place in a buttered casserole dish and cover with foil. Bake for 35 – 45 minutes, removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown and crisp up the top layer.

To Serve: Spoon some onto each plate or simply serve the entire casserole dish and allow people to help themselves.

Roasted Broccoli and Cauliflower

This recipe is a combination of Ina Garten’s Roasted Broccoli and Emeril Lagasse’s Roasted Cauliflower. Being British, roasted vegetables are a part of every Sunday roast;  however the addition of lemon juice and Parmesan cheese, well that creates the perfect simple, yet elegant holiday vegetable dish everyone will love! 

What you need: measuring spoons/cups, large baking pan, cutting board, paring knife, chef’s knife, aluminum foil

Serves: 8 – 10

  • 4 cups cauliflower florets
  • 4 cups broccoli florets
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 3 tsp garlic puree
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 lemon juiced
  • salt
  • pepper

Preheat oven to 450˚F. Place the broccoli and cauliflower in a large baking pan. Add the olive oil, garlic and lemon juice. Stir to combine, making sure all the pieces are coated.

Season generously with salt and pepper. Bake covered with aluminum foil for 10 minutes. Uncover and stir. Put pan back in the oven uncovered and roast for a further 10 – 15 minutes or when just fork tender and slightly browned. Top with Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Tip: Roast the veggies in a foil baking pan and toss once you transfer to a serving dish. One less roasting pan to clean at the end of the evening.

To Serve: Place in a heated serving dish. Enjoy!

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