The Side: An Unsung Hero of Thanksgiving!

Thanksgiving is not only a classic time of year to spend time with our families, but it is also an ideal opportunity to learn about the food we eat. While turkey tends to be the centerpiece of the feast, side dishes are the perfect way to bring a palate of colors and flavors to the table to complement whichever protein you feature. Luckily, the fall harvest is a bountiful one, so you have some terrific, tasty options for vegetables to bring life to the dinner table!

The Red Rabbit Team has put together some recipes to make your side dishes this year healthy, fresh and full of flavor. Below you'll find simple, healthful recipes spotlighting vegetables. Remember, you can always substitute dairy items for their non-dairy counterparts and exchange nuts or other ingredients as you see fit--you're the chef!

Garlicky Mashed Potato and Cauliflower Gratin- Serves 8

My Red Rabbit Mashed Potatoes

While potatoes are rich with fiber and vitamin C, they are also caloric and high in refined carbohydrates. One way to lighten up your potato recipes and add fiber is to mix in cauliflower! Cauliflower is highly nutritious and jam-packed with vitamins C, folate and carotenoids. It pairs well with potatoes because it is low in calories and carbohydrates while imitating the color and texture of potatoes when boiled. You and your kids will love this reinvented mashed potato recipe!!

What you'll need:

* 2 pounds russet (baking) potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

* 1 (2- to 2 1/2-pound) head cauliflower, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces, including stems and core

* 3 garlic cloves, peeled and smashed

* Salt (to taste)

* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

* 1 1/4 cups whole milk, divided

* 1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, divided

* 4 ounces coarsely grated Italian Fontina or Gruyère (about 1 cup packed)

* 3/4 to 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, divided


- Put potatoes and 2 teaspoons salt in a large heavy saucepan and generously cover with cold water (about 2 1/2 quarts). Bring to a boil, then reduce heat; simmer, partially covered, until potatoes are tender, for 15 to 20 minutes.

- While potatoes are boiling, heat 3/4 cup milk and 3 tablespoons butter in a small saucepan until butter is melted and milk is hot but not boiling. Keep warm off heat, covered.

- Drain potatoes in a sieve or colander; return to hot saucepan. Add milk mixture, Fontina, and pepper. Mash with a potato masher or fork to desired consistency. Season with salt and keep warm, covered.

- Bring a pot of well-salted water to a boil, then add cauliflower and garlic; simmer until cauliflower is very tender, for 13 to 15 minutes. Drain cauliflower in a colander and pulse with remaining 1/2 cup milk, 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, and 3 tablespoons butter in a food processor until its a chunky purée.

- Stir together mashed potatoes and cauliflower mixture in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper.

- Transfer to a buttered 3-quart flameproof shallow baking dish (not glass).

- Heat oven to 425°F. Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter and gently brush over potato-cauliflower mixture, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/4 to 1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano (to taste). Bake on the middle rack until it bubbles around edges, about 20 minutes.

- Turn on broiler and broil 6 to 8 inches from heat until topping is browned in spots (1 to 2 minutes).

Thanksgiving Activities for the Kids:

This recipe offers many opportunities for your child to play chef! Just make certain an adult is present while your young culinary master is in the kitchen.

* Let your child grate the different cheeses, ensuring they keep their fingers curled inward and discontinue grating once there is less than an inch of cheese left. Have your child hold the cheese from the top, as far away from the grater as possible.

* Peel the garlic cloves and smash them.

* Add the milk mixture, Fontina, and pepper, and mash away!

* Add ingredients to the food processor and pulse.

* Stir together the potato-cauliflower mixture and add salt and pepper.



My Red Rabbit Cranberry Sauce

Homemade Cranberry Sauce- Serves 6-8


Instead of cranberry sauce from a can, why not make it from scratch? Not only does making it at home allow you to control the taste of your cranberry sauce, but it also allows you to decide what kind of sweetener you use and avoid additives that food manufacturers often integrate.

The following recipe uses freshly squeezed orange juice and honey to sweeten the classic side dish, providing a natural sweetness. Also, it has a great jelly texture and vibrant cranberry flavor! This sauce can be made in advance and stored in the fridge.

What you'll need:

* 1/4 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

* 1/4 cup 100 percent cranberry juice (not cocktail)

* 1 cups honey

* 1 pounds fresh cranberries, approximately 4 cups

- Wash the cranberries. Discard any soft or wrinkled ones.

- Combine the orange juice, cranberry juice and honey in a 2-quart saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

- Add the cranberries and cook for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst and the mixture thickens.

- Do not cook for more than 15 minutes, as the pectin will start to break down and the sauce will not set as well. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

- Carefully spoon the cranberry sauce into a 3 cup mold. Place in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours and up to overnight.
- Remove from the refrigerator, overturn the mold and slide out the sauce. Slice and serve.

Thanksgiving Activities for the Kids:

* Juice the oranges--have your little chef roll them on a hard surface to loosen the juices, twist them on a juicer, and squeeze out any remaining juices.

* Look through the cranberries to remove soft or wrinkled ones.

* Stir occasionally.


Roasted Root Vegetables- Serves 8

My Red Rabbit Roasted Root Vegetables

This is a fun, creative recipe because you can modify it to include your favorites! Take this opportunity to teach your children about how some vegetables grow above ground and some grow below. Show them the veggie with the greens attached and let them guess which part grows underground! Many root vegetables are naturally sweet, making them appealing to children’s taste buds while also filling them up with nutrients. Roasting root vegetables brings out this natural sweetness even more!

This recipe also provides great justification for a field trip to your local farmers market! Root veggies are generally some of the lower-priced items at the market and are available all winter long. Feel free to substitute or add to this recipe at will. No matter what you do, it will all taste great!

What you'll need:

* 4 pounds of root veggies

Our suggestions (scrubbed and cut into 1-inch pieces):

▪ 1 pound multi colored carrots

▪ 1 pound celery root, peeled

▪ 1 pound parsnips

▪ 1 pound sweet potato or butternut squash

* 2 onions, cut into 1-inch pieces

* 2 leeks (white and pale green parts only), cut into 1-inch thick rounds

* 2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary

▪ you could also use sage and thyme

* ½ cup olive oil

* 10 garlic cloves, peeled

* ¼ tsp grated nutmeg (optional)


- Position 1 rack in bottom third of oven and 1 rack in center of oven and preheat to 400°F. Use two heavy large baking sheets.

- Combine all remaining ingredients except garlic in very large bowl; toss to coat. Season generously with salt and pepper. Divide vegetable mixture between prepared sheets. Place 1 sheet on each oven rack. Roast 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

- Reverse positions of baking sheets. Add 5 garlic cloves to each.

- Continue to roast until all vegetables are tender and brown in spots, stirring and turning vegetables occasionally, about 45 minutes longer. (Can be prepared 4 hours ahead. Let stand on baking sheets at room temperature. Re-warm in 450°F oven until heated through, about 15 minutes.)

- Transfer roasted vegetables to large bowl and serve.

Thanksgiving Activities for the Kids:

* Scrub the root veggies with a veggie scrubber brush (except for the celery root - this should be peeled by an adult).

* Peel the garlic.

* Remove the herbs from the sprig and chop. This activity is best reserved for an older child with experience wielding a knife; of course, always supervise this type of activity!

* Mix the root veggies, olive oil and herbs in a bowl.


Leftover Tip:

Take the leftover root veggies and put them in the food processor with a few cups of veggie broth. Blend until smooth for a tasty holiday soup!

Whether you’ll be in the kitchen cooking away or outside competing in a fun run, watching the balloons at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, or your own combination of turkey-day festivities, we hope your holiday is filled with warmth, fun and (we wouldn’t be Red Rabbit without saying this!) conversations about (healthy) food!




The Red Rabbit Team

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