Jennifer Ruple

Thanksgiving is a time to gather with family and friends and to give thanks for the blessings of the harvest – a joyous occasion indeed. However, anyone who’s ever been in charge of hosting the meal knows the event can be a bit stressful. To help ease some of that anxiety for hosts, I checked in with several area experts for their best tips and tricks to make the holiday flow more smoothly.
Corinne Cassis of Sitto’s Bakery wants you to relax on the holiday and enjoy your guests. “Most of my meal is done by the day before,” she said. Cassis makes her cranberry sauce on Sunday, her stuffing on Tuesday, and her turkey on Wednesday. “It’s really an easy meal if the work is spread out.” Kyle Baker, owner of Gertie’s Barbecue Sauce agreed, “Start early and don’t worry about there being enough to eat.”
“Instead of making everything from scratch, buy high-quality, artisan baked goods,” suggested Paula Adam of Mahalo Bake Shop. She also advised cooks to, “Make your gravy the day before. Make it extra thick then thin it out with the turkey drippings just before the meal. Also, mashed potatoes can be made earlier in the day and kept warm in a slow cooker.”
For those serving friends and family who are vegan, Susan Herhold of The Leaf and Seed recommended an easy way to convert favorite side dishes such as mashed potatoes and gravy, green bean casserole and stuffing to vegan dishes. “Simply change out the butter or milk for plant-based alternatives.”
Liz Donaldson, chef at Walt Churchill’s Market in Perrysburg said Thanksgiving is a time for thanks with your friends and family. “It’s not about how clean your floors are,” she said. “I used to stay up late and mop floors and no one noticed. It took me years to figure that out.”
So, take it from the pros and prep, prep, prep. To help you get started, here are a few of my favorite Thanksgiving side dish recipes. Gobble Gobble!

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes with Goat Cheese, Cranberries and Pecans
Instead of making a casserole, twice bake your sweet potatoes. Then embellish with tangy goat cheese, dried cranberries and candied pecans.

5 medium-sized sweet potatoes, scrubbed
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 tablespoons butter, softened
2 tablespoons balsamic reduction
1/3 cup goat cheese
1/3 cup candied pecans
1/3 cup dried cranberries

Heat oven to 375 F. Pierce potatoes with a fork several times and bake for 60 -75 minutes or until tender inside.

Slice off the top 1/3 of each potato lengthwise. Scoop out the insides of potatoes, leaving about a ¼ inch of flesh along the insides. Transfer potato filling to a food processor and add cinnamon, nutmeg, brown sugar, pepper and butter. Process until smooth.

Spoon the filling back into 4 potato shells (discard one) and bake for 15 minutes.

Drizzle each potato with balsamic reduction. Top with goat cheese, cranberries and pecans.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)

Brussels Sprouts Gratin with Caramelized Shallots
An alternative to roasted brussels sprouts, this recipe adds buttery Panko crumbs and Gruyère cheese – sure to please even the pickiest of veggie eaters.

For the topping:
3 cups breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 1/2 teaspoons lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
For the gratin:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 large shallot, diced
Kosher salt, to taste, plus 2 teaspoons
2 pounds brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
8 ounces Gruyère cheese, grated
1/2 ounce Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
1 teaspoon lemon zest
3/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 cup heavy cream

Heat oven to 375 F.

To make the topping, in a bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs, butter, lemon zest, salt, pepper and parsley. Set aside.

To make the gratin, grease a 9 x 13 dish with the butter.
In a pan, melt 1 tablespoon butter. Add shallots and sauté until they caramelize.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the brussels sprouts and cook until just tender, 5 to 7 minutes. Drain, then transfer to a bowl of ice water. Drain and pat dry with paper towels.

In a bowl, stir together the flour, Gruyère, Parmigiano-Reggiano, lemon zest, the 2 teaspoons salt and the pepper. Stir in the cream, then the brussels sprouts and caramelized shallots. Transfer the mixture to the prepared dish and smooth the top. Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture evenly on top.

Bake until the breadcrumbs are golden brown, about 35 minutes. Let the gratin rest for 15 minutes before serving.
Serves 8.
(Recipe adapted from williamssonoma.com)

Cranberry Apple Relish
I love many so many things about this relish – the spices, the apples, and the fact that it makes my house smell so good.

3⁄4 cup orange juice
3⁄4 cup sugar
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
Dash ground cloves
12-ounce package cranberries
1 large apple, peeled and chopped

In a saucepan, combine orange juice, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves.

Add cranberries and apples. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and cook and stir for 6 to 8 minutes until cranberries are soft and liquid begins to gel.

Chill and serve.
(Recipe by Jennifer Ruple)