Easy, tasty twists on Thanksgiving favorites
FoodSides for the holiday

Easy, tasty twists on Thanksgiving favorites

Cranberry and orange sauce, and sweet potato casserole with pecan crust

Ingredients for cranberry and orange sauce (Photo by Jessica Grann)
Ingredients for cranberry and orange sauce (Photo by Jessica Grann)

Fresh cranberry sauce is a bright addition to any poultry meal, and my version with fresh orange and cinnamon is a special yet simple-to-make complement to your Thanksgiving turkey dinner. The total cooking time is about 20-25 minutes and you can make it several days in advance. Leftovers freeze well and can be served later with duck or chicken, or you can add them to a sweet and sour dish like meatballs.

This recipe makes about 2 cups of cooked cranberry sauce. The color is a beautiful ruby red and its texture is slightly chunky. It is just gorgeous on your plate.

Cranberry and orange sauce (Photo by Jessica Grann)
3 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup sugar, minus one tablespoon
2 large oranges, juiced
zest of 1 orange
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
1 pinch kosher salt

Combine all ingredients in a medium-sized sauce pan. If the fresh orange juice does not equal 1 measured cup, add a little water to make 1 cup of liquid.

Simmer over medium heat for 12-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries burst from their skins. Reduce heat and simmer over low for another 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally to keep the sugar from burning. Let cool completely before transferring to the refrigerator to chill. I suggest storing it in a glass jar. Serve chilled.


My grandmother Alice wrote out this recipe for me more than 20 years ago. I treasure that I still have the recipe card with her handwriting, and I make it at least twice during the holiday season and also sometimes for Shabbat.

As far back as I can remember, this casserole was always served at Thanksgiving, and it is truly very simple to prepare. It can be made dairy or pareve, your preference. It’s almost sweet enough to be a dessert. The brown sugar and pecan topping elevates the casserole into a special holiday side dish.

Sweet potato casserole with pecan crust (Photo by Jessica Grann)
For the casserole:
2 40-ounce cans of Bruce’s Yams (sweet potatoes)
⅓ cup sugar
1 stick unsalted butter or margarine
2 eggs, lightly beaten
⅓ cup whole milk, vanilla flavored plant based milk or Rich Whip
1 teaspoon good quality vanilla extract

For the topping:
⅓ cup melted unsalted butter or margarine
1 cup light brown sugar, not packed
½ cup flour (you can use a gluten-free substitute flour of your choice)
1 cup chopped pecans
1 pinch kosher salt

Set oven to 350 F, with the rack placed in the middle of the oven.

Drain the sweet potatoes and warm over medium heat in a large saucepan for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, and mash by hand with a potato masher. Add one stick of butter, cover with lid, and set aside.

Over low heat in a smaller saucepan, melt the butter or margarine. Be careful not to burn. Once melted, remove from heat. Add brown sugar, flour, pecans and a pinch of salt. Whisk to combine and set aside.

Add the eggs, vanilla and milk to the sweet potatoes and mix by hand with a rubber spatula. I prefer a slightly rustic texture, but my mom used an electric hand mixer to beat the ingredients together for a smooth, more souffle-like consistency. Prepare to your liking.

Scoop the sweet potato mixture into your baking dish of choice, and smooth out the top. I prefer to use a 3-quart round casserole dish. You can use any size or shape, but the topping may not make the same “crust” effect on top if it is too spread out.

Add the topping mixture, spread and gently pat down until it is evenly distributed. Bake for 40-45 minutes. I know it is done when I see slight bubbling around the edges from the butter or margarine in the crust.

Let rest for 10-15 minutes before serving. This can be prepared a day ahead and warmed at 300 F for 20-25 minutes. PJC

Jessica Grann is a home chef living in Pittsburgh.

read more: