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Your best thanksgiving greens

I've been going to a thanksgiving potluck for the last 5 years and every year I've been assigned "greens" as my dish- I've done creamed spinach (some random recipe I found online, was meh), kale casseroles, mustard greens (host is a vegetarian so I didn't use pork out of respect even though she cooks a turkey...epic fail) and a number of other green dishes and have always had subpar results. I don't generally make "greens" in any way other than quickly sauteed OR with a ton of pork-products, so I don't have much practice aside from these thanksgivings.
And now the time is upon us again. Whats your fave greens recipe? I'm thinking of trying creamed spinach again but the last two times I've done it, it's really been pretty lame. As previously stated, one half of the hosting couple is vegetarian and she always makes a turkey and meaty-seafoody sides, but I try to keep the greens dish veggie-friendly since she has less to eat and, well, is an awesome person/vegetarian for hosting us every year. I try to stick to something that can be easily reheated either in a crockpor (brought to their place) or in the oven quickly, versus something done quickly last-minute on the stove as the kitchen is always full and busy right before dinner.

Any ideas?! 5 years in and I'm feeling defeated, but ready to elevate the game! This is my first thanksgiving as a married woman with my (as of oct) husband, and he's bringing his famous mushroom mac n cheese, so I MUST deliver! Hounds, help a lady out!

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  1. Also worth noting- there will be aprox 15 people this year, but cooking fresh greens for 15 people would mean enough chard to fill a bathtub, so I usually cook for about 10 and am absolutely open to using frozen greens

    5 Replies
    1. re: CarmenR

      Must it be leafy greens? How about a kale salad with dried cranberries and pine nuts? You need much less kale if raw.lacinato is best for this and people love it.
      I would also consider shredded Brussels sprouts either as a salad or sautéed in butter or olive oil.

      1. re: magiesmom

        the salad is already covered- I've basically backed myself into a cooked-leafy-green corner ;) My fault, I volunteer for it, but I want to find something really GOOD...

        1. re: CarmenR

          Then make creamed spinach. Pioneer woman has a classic one based on a roux, or there are decadent easy ones made with cream cheese.
          I make mine with coconut milk and jalapeño.
          There is a Mark Bittman NY Times article with several different interesting cooked spinach preps.

          1. re: magiesmom

            Pam Anderson's "easy" creamed spinach is very good and couldn't be easier. I wouldn't count on 8 servings as her recipe says. I made a half recipe the first time I made it and the two of us finished it off.

          2. re: CarmenR

            Creamed spinach loans itself to all sorts of flavors/add-ins. Red pepper flakes, sautéed mushrooms, parmesan, crispy onion strings...so many ideas!

      2. I have never actually made this but I have always had good luck with Barefoot Contessa recipes. This is a spinach gratin with butter, cream and cheese...definitely not low cal!


        1 Reply
        1. re: valerie

          I was going to suggest this recipe. My sister and law and I pulled this one off for several years while we were having a glass of wine or two in the kitchen and the menfolk were doing their thing in the living room. It's foolproof and delicious.

        2. Don't know if you count green beans as "greens" but yrs ago I started ad libing with the traditional green bean recipe. My kids have all adopted it for their family holiday meals (They all live out of state and used to not write it down and call me every yr for instructions.) It's also what everyone expects me to bring to any pot luck. It's very easy to adapt for different dietery requirements. We also have vegetarians in the family and one who's alergic to nuts, so I usually make more than one version. l start with the traditional green bean/mushroom soup base. I like kitchen cut gr beans-approx 2 or three cans to 1 can of soup. I like to tase the green beans so I use 3 to 1, but some people like it soupier. I prefer to simmer the green beans with a little bacon for those who don't object. I saute approx 1/2 C chopped onions and a clove of garlic to add to the mixture, and add a small can of sliced mushrooms, drained, or saute fresh ones with the onion. For the topping, which is what makes it different and what my family raves over, I start with approx 8 oz of shredded cheddar-I like the sharp. The amount depends on the size of the container. I cover it completely. I fry a pkg of bacon ahead of time, crisp. I usually do that, shred the cheese, and toast the almonds, (approx a 6 oz pkg, slivered or sliced) ahead of time. The bacon is crisper if it cools awhille. Crumble the bacon and add it and the toasted almonds on top of the cheese. Then heat in a 325 degree oven approx 25-30 min till heated through and cheese is melted, which can be right before serving. Caution: I used to prepare ahead of time and keep in the frig overnight. You can prepare all the toppings and the onions, etc ahead of time but if you combine the green beans and soup ahead of time and refrigerate overnight it gets runny after you heat it. Another version is to add sliced water chestnuts to the soup and green bean mixture, but they have to be well drained or they will also make it runny. They do give it a crunchy taste that some people love. I apologize for how vague the proportions are but, what can I say, I come from a German grandmother and mother that never make anything the same way twice. Other than the green beans & soup it depends on how many servings, the size of the container, and what you like. Most people in my family love cheese and bacon & nuts, so the more the better. They think it beats canned onions by a long shot.

          1. One of my favorite simple ways to do greens might make a good vegetarian side. Cut the greens (usually kale) in ribbons, and rinse but don't dry. Slice up some onion (long strips, not diced) and chop plenty of garlic, sauté them in olive oil in a big skillet until soft. Then add the greens, salt to taste, cover, and cook down until nicely wilted and tender (may need to add in batches if there's a lot), remove from heat and squeeze lemon juice over. They cook down pretty quickly, maybe 15 minutes.

            I like adding chickpeas for a vegetarian meal (that's what the original recipe I got this technique from did) but the greens are great on their own.

            You can also do the same thing, using swiss chard and leaving out the lemon juice, add some raisins at the same as the greens, and add toasted pine nuts at the end.

            1. Are you specifically looking for a cooked MUSHY green leafy veg recipe?

              Maybe a base of kale, chard, or spinach cooked down with a splash of cream, onions, garlic, then layered in a baking dish with a topping of sharp cheese and breadcrumbs?

              I would go with stewed green beans, sautéed green beans, roasted broccoli, or shredded Brussels sprouts if you're allowed to use other cooked green veg instead of leafy ones.

              1. If you consider Brussels sprouts a leafy green, my Brussels sprout gratin was a MAJOR hit with my family last Christmas. Similar to creamed spinach, but with sliced sprouts.

                1 lb. Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced into 1/8-1/4" pieces
                2 T. butter plus additional for dotting
                3 cloves garlic, minced
                10 sprigs thyme
                1 cup heavy cream
                3 oz. grated Parmesan cheese
                salt and pepper

                Preheat oven to 375. Heat the butter in an ovenproof 10-12" skillet. Saute the garlic until light golden, then add the Brussels sprouts. Saute for a minute, until just barely starting to soften, then add the thyme sprigs, salt and pepper and stir to combine. Flatten the sprouts into an even layer and pour the cream evenly over the sprouts (it should come about three-quarters of the way up the sprouts; use more or less as necessary). Bake for 15-20 minutes, until cream has reduced and browned a bit on the sides of the pan. Remove from oven and top with grated Parmesan. Broil for 3-4 minutes or until the top is brown and bubbly.

                You can remove the thyme sprigs before topping with cream, but I usually just tell people to pick them out as they eat. You could also just rip off the leaves, but I'm usually too lazy. Anyway, these are incredibly delicious - rich, but worth it, and IMO, a little more special than creamed spinach (which I also love!). If you want to double the recipe (which I usually do), a 14" skillet is just the right size.

                5 Replies
                1. re: biondanonima

                  I love this because I can prepare ahead and then throw it into a baking dish to finish at her house. This might be the winner!

                  1. re: CarmenR

                    Yes, they work beautifully in a baking dish as well - choose a shallow one so you get lots of surface area for the parmesan crust. Brussels sprouts absorb cream in such a delicious way!

                    1. re: CarmenR

                      Brussels sprouts braised in cream are to die for. And if topped with a parmesan crust they could only get better. If sprouts can count as greens, I would go for this one.

                    2. re: biondanonima

                      This was exactly what I was thinking - halved Brussels sprouts either with the cream and parm as above or sauteed and lightly broiled with shredded Gruyere and breadcrumbs.

                      1. re: Chefpaulo

                        Interesting how brussels sprouts have become the hip vegetable, and there are so many interesting ways to prepare them. I'm all for it!

                    3. This red cabbage dish is a great contrast to some of the heavier thanksgiving sides, i swapped in hazelnuts for the sunflower seeds and used a goats milk feta- also quick to make!

                      1. This brussels sprouts hash dish is a winner every time. You can make it vegan by dropping the butter and using more olive oil, no problem.


                        The only problem with the recipe is the description of how to caramelize shallots. If you do a proper caramelization, the flavor will be infinitely better.

                        1. Add some nutmeg to whatever creamed spinach recipe you decide on. It adds just the hint of "something."

                          1. I suggest doing something like a stuffed collard green roll; basically a blanched collard leaf (blanch in veg stock & cut out the large stem at the bottom of the leaf), drain & cool. Stuff with sautéed veggies like mushrooms, chopped onions or leeks, celery, sweet potato & granny smith apples.

                            Season with thyme, s & p, cumin etc. Roll up jelly roll style; place seam side down in a casserole or baking pan, add a combination of apple cider or juice mixed with veg stock to the pan and cover with foil wrap. Bake @ 350F until collards are tender or about 40 minutes. Plenty of sauce recipes online that would go well drizzled over the top of these.

                            1. Braised Chinese Green Cabbage with enoki mushrooms and tofu.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                Even better: Braise baby Bok Choi, and add some chopped scallions and ginger to the enoki and tofu.

                              2. You could bake cooked seasoned greens (and leeks) in phyllo which would be really nice for something more substantial. Of course, you could make spanakopita.

                                Maybe this recipe will appeal to you. There are lots of Saag recipes and you can use tofu or paneer instead of potato. I used fresh ginger and more garlic (I love garlic) in this recipe and have made this both with spinach and then with kale and mustard greens. I bet frozen turnip, mustard greens, etc would work well.


                                I rarely use meat in my greens, but seasoning as well as cooking is key. I have had much better results with most greens by blanching first. How long depends on the green, freshness, and time of year. For me, collards (not my favorite) generally needed a longer time. Chard I generally enjoy only when it is very fresh (when I get my CSA type delivery, I cook and eat the chard right away).

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: mscoffee1

                                  I really think you can't go wrong with a saag paneer dish. Even people who haven't had or think they don't like Indian food generally like it. I like the one in Madhur Jaffrey's World of the East Vegetarian Cooking, but you will find hundreds if you search online. One of the great advantages is that it can be made a day or so in advance and reheats very well - it may even taste better. Frozen greens are fine, thus saving you having to fill up your bathtub with greens. If you don't live near a grocery that carries Indian products, farmer cheese or something similar can substitute for paneer, (and tofu also works well if the dish must be vegan) and McCormick actually makes a perfectly decent garam masala mix.
                                  If you want to work more from scratch, you could check out this thread from 660 Curries COTM :

                                2. Shaved Brussels sprouts, I first blanch them for a few seconds, towel dry. Drizzle a bit of olive oil in a large skillet. Add the sprouts. Add craisins, Add chopped bacon that I have previously candied. Salt. Pepper, a bit of balsamic. Let it cook for a few minutes.

                                  1. I agree with jarona that brussels sprouts can be fabulous. For those who fret about the cruciferous odors, just note that not cooking them to mush will minimize that. In addition to the shaved and suateed approach, I also recommend simply cutting the sprouts in half lengthwise and roasting them on a sheet pan at 375 or so until browned (use some oil/butter and salt).

                                    If it were not so difficult logistically with 15 people, I'd recommend sauteed greens. My absolute favorite is uncommon: beet greens. My grocer actually cuts them from the beets and gives them to me for free, because they are so neglected and commonly thrown away. But check it out: they are insanely nutritious and tasty. Basically a milder version of chard.

                                    1. I like mixes, dislike most cooked greens, and enjoy experimenting, even when placing others at risk of a yucky dish. I'd trim the ends off of Brussels sprouts and a few Belgian endives, trim up some shallots, toss in salt, pepper, and olive oil, and roast. I'd toss it all in a light dash of balsamic right before serving. I may try it myself, another random risk composed of things that I like.

                                      1. With my customary creamed onions, red cabbage, sweet potato casserole and turnips, I need some green color on the plate so I go with peas and sautéed mushrooms. I really like Brussels sprouts but not everyone does.

                                        1 Reply
                                        1. re: Veggo

                                          my mom used to steam thoroughly a head of cauliflour and serve green peas (cooked, frzen) surrounding the head with a whit sauce over the cauliflower. beautiful presentation; yummy veggies.

                                        2. This collard green gratin recipe is similar to biondanonima's fantastic-sounding Brussels sprouts and can also be prepped in advance. The white beans stretch out the greens nicely and make it a more substantial dish for vegetarians. http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/20... . When I was looking up the link, I came across this easier version and a funny essay that goes with it: http://www.gourmet.com/food/2009/06/h...

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: ninrn

                                            15 people bringing dishes means 15 dishes, no? Nobody will be eating tons of your greens, so 3 or 4 bunches of green curly kale would be plenty. You can wash the whole load in a clean sink full of water. Chop it roughly (leave the stems and drain. You can wilt batches in a pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt. Cover and cook for about 10 minutes. Transfer to a large bowl. Repeat until all stems of the kale are just tender. Rinse the pan and dry. Return to the stove with some olive oil. Heat on medium heat. Add as much chopped fresh garlic and chile flakes and/or smoked paprika as you think will be appreciated, season with a hearty pinch of salt and saute until the garlic gives off a nice aroma. Add a few handfuls of kale back to the pan and toss together. Pour on top of the full mass of greens and toss. Taste and adjust seasonings. All this dish needs is a reheat.

                                            When I make these greens, I've been known to add liquid smoke and raw apple cider vinegar (at serving time). I've served with a smoked turkey thigh, chopped, but these greens are perfectly tasty without pork or smoky products.

                                            1. re: ninrn

                                              I think ninrn's collard green gratin recipe sounds fantastic! I'd definitely give this one a try!

                                            2. I've made this before, it's a bit time consuming chopping the brussel sprouts, but its pretty easy, reheats well, and pardon my French, is fucking delicious!!!


                                              2 Replies
                                              1. re: schrutefarms

                                                I posted the same recipe upthread -- totally delicious. If you have a food processor, just use the slicing blade to julienne the brussels sprouts. SO much easier than slicing by hand!

                                                1. re: schrutefarms

                                                  Trader joes sells shredded sprouts! I've also seen them at my supermarket for more $, but for those of us without a food processor its worth it.

                                                2. I always struggle to find tasty recipes for all greens that I get in my CSA bag. I've had really good luck with this blog for searching her recipes.


                                                  I've made the massaged kale salad many times. Today I made the New Years Eve Greens with kale and collard greens. It was really good. I'm looking forward to eating it for breakfast in the morning.

                                                  1. http://food52.com/blog/9103-trent-pie...

                                                    Just came across this recipe for miso creamed kale. It looks pretty fantastic!