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Pass the cauliflower, please

I don't like turkey very much, but I sure like the stuff that goes with it

So I'm not going to tell you how to cook the exalted bird; that's the easiest part of making Thanksgiving dinner and there are dozens of websites that specialize in Turkey 101. Instead, here are the sort of scrumptious side dish and desserts we only seem to make for the holidays. They're all quite easy to prepare so you can enjoy time with your family rather than being chained to the stove.

EASY CRANBERRY SAUCE

There's absolutely no excuse for buying cranberry sauce in a can - this recipe is simplicity itself and once you taste it you'll never buy the canned stuff again.

1 12-oz. bag fresh or frozen cranberries

1 cup granulated sugar

1 strip of orange zest, plus

½ tsp grated orange zest

2 Tbsp water

¼ tsp cinnamon (optional)

Empty the cranberries into a saucepan and add the sugar, strip of orange zest and water. Cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar dissolves and the cranberries are soft, about 10 minutes. Increase the heat to medium, add the cinnamon (if using) and cook until the cranberries burst, about 12 minutes. Remove the strip of orange zest and stir in the grated zest. If you prefer a thinner sauce stir in a little fresh orange juice.

CAULIFLOWER AND BRUSSELS SPROUTS GRATIN

Even the most die-hard Brussels sprout hater will like this; choose small sprouts, they're more tender and sweet than the large ones.

1 cauliflower, cut into medium florets

4 cups halved Brussels sprouts

3 Tbsp butter

1 ?3 cup all-purpose flour

½ tsp salt

¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper

3 cups milk

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup fresh bread crumbs

1 cup grated Cheddar cheese

Cook cauliflower in a large pot of boiling water until just tender, about five minutes. Remove from water with slotted spoon and rinse with cold water; drain well. In the same pot of water cook the Brussels sprouts until just tender, about seven minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water, then drain again. Wrap vegetables in a clean kitchen towel and gently press.

In a saucepan melt butter over medium heat; whisk in flour, salt and pepper. Reduce heat and cook, stirring, for one minute. Gradually whisk in milk, stirring until thickened, about five minutes. Remove from heat and gradually stir in Parmesan cheese. (The sauce should be fairly runny, about the consistency of a thick cream soup - if it has thickened too much add milk).

Spread vegetables evenly in a greased 13x9x2-inch casserole dish. Pour sauce over top; toss bread crumbs and Cheddar cheese together and sprinkle on casserole. (It can be prepared to this point and refrigerated for up to eight hours before baking). Bake at 400 degrees until bubbly, about 25 minutes, then broil until topping is golden.

CARAMELIZED BUTTERNUT SQUASH

From the Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten, so you know it's going to be good.

2 medium butternut squash (about 4-5 lbs total)

6 Tbsp butter, melted

¼ cup light brown sugar, packed

1 tsp kosher salt Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut the squash in half crosswise, then very carefully cut each half in two lengthwise and remove seeds. Cut squash into 1.5-inch strips; peel each strip and cut into 1.5-inch cubes; place cubes on baking sheet. Add the remaining ingredients and with your hands toss everything together until well mixed. Spread in a single layer on the baking sheet. Roast for 45-55 minutes, until squash is tender and glaze starts to caramelize. Turn the squash a few times with a spatula while rosting to ensure that it brownevenly. Taste a piece once it's cooked and add more salt and pepper if desired.

PUMPKIN PRALINE DESSERT

1 398-ml can pumpkin puree (not pumpkin pie filling)

1 370-ml can evaporated milk

3 eggs

¾ cup sugar

4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 package (515 gr) yellow cake mix

1½ cups chopped pecans

¾ cup butter, melted Whipped cream

Heat oven to 350 degrees; grease the bottom and sides of a 13x9x2-inch pan. With a whisk, beat together pumpkin, milk, eggs, sugar and pumpkin pie spice in a medium bowl until smooth; pour into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix over pumpkin mixture and then sprinkle with pecans. Pour melted butter evenly over top. Bake 50-60 minutes, until a tester inserted in centre comes out clean. Serve squares of dessert slightly warm or chilled, topped with whipped cream. Store leftovers in refrigerator.

ashellard@hotmail.ca

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