Two of my favorite side-dish recipes for Thanksgiving Dinner


Tomorrow will be my cooking day, but I have it easy because my sister is hosting our Thanksgiving celebration, and my only chore is whipping up two side-dish recipes which are always a big hit with my family.

The first is a Cranberry-Pear Chutney recipe I found in the Real Simple magazine a few years ago.  The other is Sauteed Mushrooms with Garlic which I learned from my mother-in-law many years ago as well.  Both are extremely easy to do, fast, and yummy – And pair well with roasted turkey.

Before I begin, here is a collage I made of a turkey photo we captured last year under our bird feeders.  To see more about these wild turkeys visiting in my Connecticut yard, click HERE for a previous post.



Makes 8 servings (I think it makes plenty more, for up to 12-15 people, because you only really need it as a side dressing to your roasted turkey. You take a scoop and that is usually enough on your plate.)

Total time: 25 minutes (hands-on and cooking – it is fast and easy, and smells great when cooking on the stove!)

“The sweet and spicy heat in this savory chutney makes it perfect for roast turkey.  It’s also great on leftover-turkey sandwiches.” – Real Simple.

I agree!  It has a very slight kick to it because of the jalapeno in the recipe.


  • 4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (I’ve always used fresh for this, and I got fresh organic cranberries at Whole Foods yesterday sold in the clear bags.)
  • 1 1/2 cups brown sugar, tightly packed (Probably the only bad part of the recipe cause that’s a lot of sugar.  I cut this down, you don’t have to have it that sweet and it is still delicious – especially if you like the taste of fresh tart cranberries.)
  • 2 Bosc or Asian pears (peeled and cut into small dice (2 cups).  (I never really pay attention to the type of pears, just pick the ones that are firm and fresh looking and it works just fine.)
  • 1 jalapeno, seeded and minced. (Don’t rub your eyes when you are cutting it up – as I did one year – big mistake! Remember to wash your hands after mincing it).
  • 1 cup golden raisins
  • 2 tablespoons lime juice (Whenever possible, use fresh limes versus the stuff in the bottle).

In a large saucepan, heat the cranberries, brown sugar, and 2 cups of water over medium-high heat to boiling. Simmer, stirring occasionally, until the cranberries start to pop and release juices, about 10 minutes.  (I love the popping noise as the cranberries start to crack open, and the scent begins to release as well, which is very cozy in the kitchen.)

Add the pears, jalapeno, raisins, and lime juice and simmer for another 5 minutes. (EASY PEASY!)

Remove from heat.  Cool.

Cover and refrigerate up to 2 days ahead. (Another reason I love this recipe, you make it ahead, it is better that way, tastes wonderful with your roasted turkey, and the left-overs.)

The deep red color, sweet and tart flavor with a hint of heat, and wonderful scent of this recipe is a keeper in my recipe book.  Don’t forget to serve it in a pretty, glass or clear dish to make it look wonderful too.


My mother-in-law has taught many of her recipes to me – all of them are easy, have a secret ingredient or style, and always taste spectacular.  Years ago, I suggested she teach cooking classes because she is so good at cooking and baking.  And she finds recipes that are easy requiring limited ingredients.  She has a knack for that.

So, here’s one side dish I learned from her.  It is super easy and requires literally only 3 main ingredients (unless you count the bottle of wine my mother-in-law stated you must open when you start cooking anything for the holidays.  Oh, she also taught me to take my time enjoying the wine and the process of cooking.)


  • Chopped fresh garlic (My husband’s family is Italian, so I use a lot of cloves in this recipe, 5 to 6 chopped; sometimes more.  Depends how many mushrooms you want to cook up.)
  • 5-6 packages of button mushrooms, wiped clean (FYI, the only alteration I’ve made to this recipe is I don’t buy only the white type of button mushrooms, I add those brown ones (called?, I’ll check and add to this post after tomorrow, my cooking day).  I will use at least 3 packages of each type of mushrooms used, if serving a really large group.  Sometimes more – guess you have to judge for your group.)
  • Lemon juice (fresh preferred, get like 2 fresh lemons)
  • Extra virgin olive oil (1 Tablespoon approximately)


Slowly warm up the olive oil in your pan on low, add the chopped garlic and saute lightly.  (One of the first things I learned from my MIL is to not to allow the pan to get too hot because it will burn the garlic; this was years ago when I began cooking her recipes for my hubby.  She taught me to take it easy, don’t panic, and enjoy. Open the wine first, sip, then begin your cooking.  Another thing she always did was buy “fresh” herbs for her recipes – and this does make the big difference, of course.)

Add the chopped mushrooms.  (I chop them them into large pieces after cleaning and trimming the stems.  I don’t slice the mushrooms in thin pieces.)  Add a batch of the mushrooms in the pan and start tossing them around with the garlic, always on low or low-to-medium heat.  As they reduce in size, add more of the mushrooms.

SLOWLY sautee the mushrooms in the pan.  If they look dry, cut that fresh lemon you bought in half, and squeeze a bit of its juices over the mushrooms to moisten them. Keep the heat on low and simmer slowly.

When I say this saute recipe is slow, I mean take your time, let it slowly cook, not quickly and it can take an hour. Finish the wine as you wait.

So, when it looks all done with the yummy juices, transfer the mushrooms with juice to a container if you are taking it to your family Thanksgiving Dinner and let cool.  (When I get to my host’s home, I use a chafing dish with the warming candle to serve it but be careful the dish doesn’t get real hot, just warm it enough.)

Everyone devours these mushrooms.  And again – its extremely easy to make both of these recipes above ahead and refrigerate until you head out for your dinner.

Enjoy Everyone.  I’ll post photos later as I cook these up tomorrow.

Cathy Testa