It’s all well and good to prepare new recipes that you have come across for the Thanksgiving dinner.

If there’s cranberry relish that calls for whole grain Dijon mustard or smoky dried chipotles, you might feel compelled to make it just to get out of that cranberry sauce rut, where year after year you feature the berries combined with clementines, sugar and walnuts.

But sometimes what we crave is the same-old, same-old routine, even if we have had it umpteen times before. I’m talking about those simple sides that taste just like how grandma made it.

Drop slender whole carrots (without the green top) in a pot of boiling water that has brown sugar and butter, so they get coated with a thin glaze. Drain, and garnish the root vegetables with chopped fresh thyme or parsley or dill before serving. The only caveat is that you don’t have to overcook the carrots like grandma would.

Russet is the way to go when it comes to mashed potatoes. Cook two pounds of spuds in cold water, which is generously salted, until they are tender, or for about 45 minutes. Drain and peel before returning them to the saucepan. Add a cup of hot milk along with a stick of butter. Mash the potatoes the old-fashioned way with a hand masher, and season with salt and pepper to finish the dish. Granted you could also add cream cheese and sour cream and any kind of cheese. But, why? In this case, less is a lot better.

For something green and snappy, saute tender green beans in olive oil for about 10 minutes, until they are slightly blackened. Then spike them with minced garlic and season with salt and freshly ground pepper, and cook for a few minutes longer. That is all that is needed for this side to get a shout-out.

Sweet caramelized Brussels sprouts also will bring unity among the feasters, and make a believer out of anyone. Combine honey or brown sugar with chopped garlic, crushed red pepper and balsamic vinegar or soy sauce, and then drizzle it over slightly charred sprouts.


Brussels sprouts are so prep friendly. Trim the tough end and slice the sprout into half lengthwise. Then place it in the pan, with the flat-side facing down, so that it can get charred nicely.

Makes 4 servings

1 pound Brussels sprouts

3 tablespoons canola oil

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon hot water

1 tablespoon minced garlic (about 2 cloves)

1 tablespoon soy sauce

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

1/2 cup torn fresh mint leaves

Heat 12-inch cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat for 5 minutes.

Remove outer leaves and stems from Brussels sprouts, and cut in half lengthwise.

Add oil to skillet, and tilt skillet to evenly coat bottom. Place sprouts, cut sides down, in a single layer in skillet.

Cook, without stirring, 4 minutes or until browned. Sprinkle with kosher salt; stir and cook 2 more minutes.

Stir together honey and hot water. Stir garlic, soy sauce, red pepper and honey mixture into sprouts. Stir in mint leaves, and serve immediately.

“The Southern Vegetable Book” by Rebecca Lang (Oxmoor House)