Picking Sides!

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By Paula Deen

Thanksgiving is one of my favorite holidays because it brings together two of my most favorite things—family and food. I don’t mind cooking for just Michael and me, but you add a dozen more Deen’s, Groover’s, Paul’s and Hiers’ to the mix (just to name a few) and I’m over the moon.

That said, I know all too well that us cooks have a lot riding on our drumsticks come Thanksgiving. I just can’t stand a dry turkey. And an undercooked bird is worse yet because it means dinner has gotta wait. After already waiting four days for the turkey to thaw, and another four hours for it to cook, my boys are chompin’ at the bit.

But with all that worrying over Mr. Turkey, we sometimes forget about the side dishes that truly make a Thanksgiving dinner unique. Y’all can probably remember a side dish you loved so much growing up that you wouldn’t come to the Thanksgiving table unless it was there. Maybe it was string bean casserole, rice and gravy, or good old fashioned mashed potatoes. For me, it was always Southern Cornbread Stuffing. But the more I get talking to folks about their favorite sides, the more I see how their recipes are as unique as their families and the places they live. Take Southern families for instance. We’re more likely to serve up Mashed Sweet Potatoes than white potatoes, but that just may depend on what “side” of the South you’re living on: Did you know that most Coastal Southerners prefer white rice over potatoes? I say cover all your bases by making both.

Now, if all this talk about picking sides has you thinking about scrapping the whole thing and ordering in, let me assure you that I’ve got a ton of great recipes to help out. Some are more traditional sides, but others put a new twist on an old standby, like my Sweet Potato Balls, Broccoli Casserole and Mrs. Hoggle’s Stuffed Cranberry Sauce. And as we like to say down South, “They’re all so good they’ll make your tongue slap your brains out!”

Sure, serving up a Thanksgiving meal is a load of work. But when it’s all said and done and my family’s full and happy, it’s all worth the trouble. With just a little prior planning in these weeks leading up to the big day, y’all can expect to have the most memorable Thanksgiving meal, leaving time for what matters most: family.

Super Southern Sides
Southern Cornbread
Aunt Peggy’s Sweet Potato Souffle
Cheesy Squash Casserole
Oyster Dressing
Apple Cranberry Stuffing

Read More From Holidays and Entertaining.

Read More From Thanksgiving.

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Reader Comments:

54321

Dear Paula, We have 3 generations that have been vacationing together for over 40 years every Thanksgiving. Our favorite sides even before they were "super foods" were home grown butternut squash and kale! My question is how do we get the next generation interested in cooking? I am afraid our long time tradition will go the way of the Dodo unless we can get some cooking going on!

By Barbara Martin on September 22, 2013

54321

I try Creamed spinach befor And i love it . Yall.

By Donna marie Eichhorn on April 18, 2013

54321

Paula, I love reading your recipes and comparing them to our old favorites! I always learn something from you. Thank you! For Thanksgiving, I try to serve a side that is a favorite of each member of the family, or guest. One of my children's favorite is an old southern tradition, Great Grandma's corn pudding- with lots of sugar! Their Great Grandma said, "You can catch more flies with honey than you can with vinegar!"

By Annette Meek on November 14, 2011

54321

I am a big fan of yours and i like the way you handle a kitchen. Watching you cook reminds me of my grandmother and how greata cook she was. I also like to cook and i owe it to my grandmother who would sit me down and share with me her favorite recipes. My watching your show brings me so much joy and hope because its sharing in its rarest form. I want to thank you for bring back memories and bringing me joy from your kitchen. You really make my days and show me so many great ideas when it comes to cooking for my five girls. Thanks a bunch.

By Yulonda love on November 13, 2011

54321

My mother always made the best stuffing and my mother in law always made mandarin orange salad and waldorf salad for the holidays.

By Debbie McHenry on November 13, 2011

54321

Honey, I got my sides down pat....what I want to know is how to cook a moist turkey that taste simple and good. I DESPISE A DRY TURKEY! I don't even like baking/eating - yet- I gotta. I'd much rather bake/eat ham:)

By pdub on November 13, 2011

54321

i luv ur recipes every holiday i do some of ur recipes luv that southern cookin. and u r my favorite chef. luv u paula deen!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

By eboni shockley on November 13, 2011

54321

Of course their has to be sweet cornbread dressing on the side. I normally follow a low carb diet, except for thanksgiving dinner and christmas dinner. My contribution this year is my cranberry sauce made with artificial sweetener. I'm diabetic and have been able to not take any meds for two years due to my low carb diet. So I make the cranberry sauce. My sons make the turkey, dressing, sweet potatoe casserole, which has brown sugar and pecans in it. They also make the pumpkin pies. I'm such a lucky woman with two grown adult sons who love to cook. I have my first grandchild, a son, on the way. I'm so excited and this is my last thanksgiving as just a mom. Next thanksgiving i'll be a grandma, or as our family says Mamaw!!! I'm so excited.....

By mona boyer on November 13, 2011

54321

Thanksgiving was and is a great food day my Mom used to have bread stuffing, peas. boiled onions, mashed potatoes. butternut squash, yellow turnip,cranberry sauce whole and jellied, pumpkin pie chocolate ceram pie, date nut bread and we'd all be happy at the end of the day

By Ellen on November 13, 2011

54321

ME ENCANTAN LAS RECETAS Y CONSEJOS DE PAULA, VEO SUS PROGRAMAS EN T.V !FABULOSA! ME AGRADA CON EL GUSTO QUE PREPARA Y DISFRUTA CADA RECETA:¡¡¡¡ FELICIDADES!!!! ES MI FAVORITA. ME ENCANTARIA ENCONTRAR SUS RECETAS TAMBIEN EN ESPAÑOL. GRACIAS UN ABRAZO

By LIDIA ZALETA on November 04, 2011

54321

I love my great gram's dressing!it has been a favorite of anyone who tries it.I love to get my kids involved in traditions.i have 2 boys of my own an 4 step boys so it is a ball.But this year will be hard I was diagnosed with coilitus chron's and it is real bad.You can die if left untreated but I have no choice due to no insurance also I have severe arthritus an degenerative discs in my back.But i have faith the Lord will send me the help I need.(I hope)also lost my home an having to live with a friend in a very small trailor.I pray for the day when God will send me relief it is so hard at times an with panic attacks it is awful.I am thankful this thanksgiving for you Paula for being an inspiration to us all who struggle an been threw some pretty tuff stuff.You have gotten me threw alot with good food,books,receipes an you sharing what you have been threw.Thank you so much.Love an best dishes from Clanton Albama.

By marquita Bean on November 04, 2011

54321

In addition to all the other things, I really like a variety of salads. Would love to hear any suggestions and ALWAYS up for new recipes.

By Mary Jo Harrison on November 02, 2011

54321

My favorite side is my mother's bourbon baked sweets. In a saucepan combine bourbon, brown sugar and butter until well mixed. Slice your peeled, cooked sweet into disks. Pour half the sauce in a pyrex baking dish, add your sweets in a single layer and cover with the remaining sauce. Bake at 350. until glazed. Enjoy!

By Joanne on November 02, 2011

54321

Do you ever come to Nevada. I never miss a show and have several of you cook books. Just Love them.Your use of butter reminds me so much of my grandmother she never used a recipe and always lots of butter. God Love her.Linda

By Linda Abel on November 02, 2011

54321

Mine was stuffing too. My mom's homemade stuffing with sausage and apples. I don't know anyone else that puts apples in their stuffing. I'll eat any stuffing but if there's no stuffing, it's not Thanksgiving.

By Jackie on November 02, 2011

54321

Hello Paula!!!! I love your shows, cook books, magazines and your recipes!! I'm a full time police dispather /jailer for 24 years/ full time mom/grandmother and I LOVE to cook & eat. I live in the Most southern county in Alabama and I have been taught to cook by my Grandmother (born in 1903 from Ms.) and my mother from Ala. Shall I say..... I might be a little like you "Cooking don't get no more southern" lol if ain't got butter or bacon in it why bother!! Keep up the great ideas, I can't wait to see you in person. In food and fun, Jana Bennett PS I make a great Southern Seafood Gumbo.

By Jana Bennett on January 11, 2011

Gosh, I wish I would have had that information eraielr!

By Kyanna on November 04, 2011

HEY PAULA LOVE THE FOOD AT THANKSGIVING ALSO.  I WANTED TO MAKE A COMMENT ON YOUR NEW CHICKENS VEIDO IT WAS SO CUTE YOU AND THOSE CHICKENS…  THANKS SO MUCH FOR RESCUEING THOSE CHICKENS.  ITS REALLY AWFUL HOW MANY ANIMALS ARE MISTREATED HERE IN AMERICA.  I’M A GREAT LOVER OF CATS. MY MOTHER LOVES THE BIRDS.  SHOW US YOUR CATS SOMETIME ON ONE OF YOUR SHOWS.  I’D LOVE TO SEE THEM THANKS AGAIN

By margaret on April 25, 2010

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Paula Deen
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hi! wink i was wondering if you could share the recipe for the chiken/grape salad-the one that is pictured on the croissant above? thanks! wink sandra
Sandra Neuheimer-Huller in Chicken Salad: A Southern Staple on April 19, 2014 at 10:37 am

Where do I buy these magazines
in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 8:22 am

I WISH I COULD COOK. COULD I COME WORK FOR JUST ROOM AND BOARD AT YOUR NEW RESTURAUNT IN PIGEON FORGE FOR THE SUMMER? I WENT TO COLLEGE NOT FAR FROM THERE - HIWASSEE COLLEGE. YOU WOULDN'T HAVE TO PAY ME, I WOULD WORK FOR FREE JUST FOR THE EXPERIENCE. TAMMY LEVAN 19 SPENCER WAY KINGS PARK, NY 11754 HAPPY EASTER! CHRIST IS RISEN!
TAMMY L LEVAN in A Basketful of Traditions on April 19, 2014 at 4:31 am

Hi Bubbles, You have some great tips. Can't wait to read your other blogs! Please give Aunt Peggy a big hug from me and here is one for you! (((HUGS))) See you in May!
Jaci Pardun in 10 Quick Household Tips on April 18, 2014 at 11:05 pm

Paula, I am glad to know that I am not the only person who makes Easter Baskets for their adult children and mail them across the United States. My Daughter lives in Long Beach, CA and I not only sent her a basket but her husband and my granddaughter Reese. We also buy special Russel Stover Bunnies for each child too. My husband has the list in his phone... Sara .. Cookies 'n Crème.... Sidney and Stephen.. Peanut Butter Etc. It one of my favorite things to do for my kids.. no matter how old they get. And passing it along to my Grandchildren. It's even more special to me knowing we share a family tradition. Blessings and Happy Easter!!
Sharon Cason-Card in A Basketful of Traditions on April 18, 2014 at 11:03 pm