Published on November 18th, 2012 | by Mary Gerush


Your Bird’s Wingmen: Three Recipes For Classic Thanksgiving Sides

Thanksgiving Table

My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving, because it’s not about gifts — it’s about family, friends, and food.

This year, I’ve ordered a local, organic turkey for the first time. (It’s being delivered today!) And though the turkey is always the star, it would be nothing without its wingmen. In honor of family, friends, and food, I’m sharing three of my favorite (and non-negotiable) turkey companions. Give ’em a try, and share your favorites in the comments section at the end of the post. Happy Thanksgiving!

Deb’s Grandmothers Cornbread Dressing

My friend, Deb, taught me this one — mostly hands-on during our annual practice Thanksgiving celebrations. (Each year we pick a well-timed Dallas Cowboys game to gather friends together and try variations of our Thanksgiving recipes.) Because the recipe comes from Deb, there are no exact measures — she cooks by feel, taste, and soul, as I imagine her grandmother did.

This recipe will feed about six, but you can easily multiply it for a crowd or for leftovers.


  • 1 box cornbread mix prepared according to the package directions
  • 1 yellow onion, chopped fine
  • 1 stalk celery, chopped fine
  • About 4 tablespoons butter
  • About 2 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth if you prefer)
  • 1 can cream of “something” soup (mushroom, chicken, celery all work)
  • Lots of dried sage
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Prepare the cornbread the day before according to the directions. You can obviously substitute your favorite cornbread recipe for the box variety.
  2. Let the cornbread sit out overnight covered lightly with a paper towel. (If you have cats, beware. One year Robespierre enjoyed a midnight snack.)
  3. Crumble the cornbread in a large bowl. Don’t overcrumble. Oh, and don’t undercrumble! You’ll know it when you see it.
  4. Saute the vegetables in the butter until tender. Salt and pepper to taste. Stir them into your perfectly crumbled cornbread.
  5. Stir in the can of soup.
  6. Add the chicken broth about half cup at a time and stir. You may not need two cups, or you may need more. You’re looking for a moist consistency.
  7. Add dried sage, salt, and pepper to taste. We start with about a teaspoon of sage and always add more, because we like it good and sagey. Same with the pepper.
  8. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 35 to 40 minutes.

My Family’s Creamed Onions

Also known as “d’onions,” this dish always graced my mom’s Thanksgiving table, as it will mine, even though it’s a pain in the butt to peel all those little onions. It’s not a low-fat side, but you can use skim milk if you prefer to save your calories for pumpkin pie. Since I only make this a couple of times a year, and most people usually eat small servings, I go all out with the fat.

This recipe feeds six, but again, you can multiply easily. You can substitute frozen pearl onions for the boilers if you aren’t inclined to boil and peel all those critters, but I don’t think it tastes as good, and the boiling and peeling has become part of my holiday ritual. (If you’re in a diabolical mood, you can assign this task to someone who has recently ticked you off.)


  • 12 to 15 white boiler onions
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup toasted breadcrumbs (homemade if possible; Panko would work well too)
  • Salt to taste


  1. Boil the onions for about five minutes. Remove them from the water (but don’t toss the water just yet). Let them cool a little and peel them under running water using a small paring knife. (I added this step, because it’s much easier to peel them after they’ve softened a bit.)
  2. Cut some of the stems off, but leave them intact to hold the onions together as they cook. (My family always cut a cross in the stem, but I did away with that step, and it didn’t seem to make a difference.)
  3. Boil the onions for another 10 to 15 minutes or until they are fairly tender but not overcooked. Drain and place them in a greased casserole dish.
  4. Meanwhile, make a cream sauce by melting the butter over medium heat, adding the flour, stirring and cooking for about a minute, and then slowly whisking in the milk. Cook until thickened, adding more milk if necessary. Salt to taste. (You might also consider adding some nutmeg, pepper, or other spices to make the sauce your own.)
  5. Pour the cream sauce over the onions. Top with toasted breadcrumbs, and bake in a 350 degree oven for 30 to 35 minutes until brown and bubbly on top.

The Simplest Of Pea Recipes

I always feel the need for something green on the table, and my family doesn’t eat salads, so I pull out the frozen peas for an easy but tasty veg. And while using frozen peas may seem like cheating, studies show that fresh green peas lose most of their nutritional value, including 77% of their Vitamin C, after a week of storage. Thank you Clarence Birdseye!


  • Frozen peas
  • Zest from one medium orange
  • Butter, salt, and pepper to taste
  • Optional: A handful of chopped mint, basil, or parsley


  1. Cook the peas according to the package directions. Make as many as you need for the group you’re hosting.
  2. Drain the peas and place in a serving bowl.
  3. Toss with the orange zest, butter, salt, pepper, and chopped herbs if using.
  4. Voila! Easy-peasy.

What’s On Your Table?

What will you be serving alongside your turkey, ham, or other choice of main dish? Share your favorites in the comments section below. Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Credit: vxla via Flickr/CC

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About the Author

Hi all! I'm Mary Gerush - a recovering corporate worker bee turned good-farm-real-food advocate and writer who wants to help people understand what they're eating. I tend a tiny urban farm in Dallas, TX, and hope to scale up one day soon. Omnivore through-and-through, there's not much I love to eat more than a butter-basted grass fed steak fresh from a searing hot cast iron skillet. Follow me on , , and !

6 Responses to Your Bird’s Wingmen: Three Recipes For Classic Thanksgiving Sides

  1. Pingback: Eat Drink Better | Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Sauce | Page: 1 | Eat Drink Better

  2. Ann says:

    Great recipes! Does anyone have one for homemade cranberry sauce?

    We always have spinach quiche. I double it and freeze half.

    5 eggs (or Egg Beaters)
    1 pkg. frozen spinach, thawed
    1 4-oz. can sliced mushrooms, drained
    1 cup grated cheddar or whatever you like
    1 small onion, chopped

    Saute onion. Add spinach and mushrooms. Cook until water evaporates. Add cheese and eggs. Bake 45 min. at 350.

  3. Deb says:

    Thank you Mary for remembering our traditions as well as honoring my grandma! I look forward to making the dressing this week! Good luck with the organic turkey. Maybe you can share some with me. –

  4. Julie Gerush says:

    These were all so delicious! Thank you for the wonderful Thanksgiving dinner, and the recipes. I’m truly thankful for you (and to Big Tex, the organic turkey, for his sacrifice).

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