On TODAY – Giada Puts a New Twist on Traditional Thanksgiving Side Dishes

Giada De Laurentiis Thanksgiving Sides on the Today  Show

Chef, author & television personality Giada De Laurentiis made a pre-Thanksgiving appearance on this morning’s Today Show.  Her contribution to the Thanksgiving meal was a novel take on a few classic side dishes: Bacon bourbon Brussels sprout skewers; Sweet potato salad with maple syrup dressing; and Cranberry soup with curried breadcrumbs.

I always love her seemingly casual recipes that result in deceptively delicious dishes.  Not to mention the bonus of being reminded how to properly pronounce “mascarpone” (and other Italian ingredients).

It might be time to change things up.  Give at least one of them a try.  Put a little Italian into the classic American Thanksgiving meal.

The recipes for the Brussels sprouts and Sweet potato salad are included below.

Buon appetito!

Giada De Laurentiis_Bacon bourbon Brussels sprout skewers

Image Source: Today.com

Recipe: Bacon bourbon Brussels sprout skewers

Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 6 tablespoons dark brown sugar
  • 2/3 cup bourbon
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound slab bacon, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 pound small Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved if needed
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 15 to 20 (8-inch) bamboo skewers

Heat a small sauce pan over medium heat. Add the butter and allow it to cook until the butter begins to brown and starts to smells nutty, about 3 minutes. Whisk in the brown sugar and cayenne and cook another 2 minutes stirring regularly. Remove the pan from the heat and add the bourbon. Be careful as it will splatter. Place the pan back on the heat and ignite if desired. Continue to cook, whisking constantly, until a smooth caramel has formed, another 3 minutes. Season with 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Spread the bacon on a small baking sheet and bake in the oven for 8 minutes, just to begin to render the fat. Set aside.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the sprouts and simmer for

3 to 4 minutes or until just barely tender and still bright green. Spread on a sheet tray to cool slightly. Toss with the olive oil and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt.

Preheat the grill pan over medium heat. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Begin to assemble the skewers starting with a Brussels Sprout, then a piece of bacon, another sprout, another piece of bacon and finishing with a sprout. Continue until all of the skewers are assembled.  Brush the glaze lightly over the skewers. Place them on the prepared grill pan and grill, brushing them with glaze with every turn, until the bacon is beginning to crisp and the Brussels sprouts are starting to char, about 1 to 2 minutes per side. Remove and serve warm drizzled with any remaining glaze.


Cooks Note: It may sound crazy, but the glaze for these Brussels sprouts also works well over chocolate ice cream with toasted pecans.

Serving Size: Makes 15 to 20 skewers

Recipe: Sweet potato salad with maple syrup dressing

Courtesy of Giada De Laurentiis

  • Vegetable oil cooking spray
  • 2 1/2 pounds (about 3 large) sweet potatoes or red garnet yams, peeled and diced into 3/4-inch pieces
  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • For dressing:
  • 1/3 cup plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup mascarpone cheese, at room temperature
  • 1 tablespoon maple syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and diced into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup pumpkin seeds, toasted (see Cook
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Spray a heavy baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray.

Toss together the sweet potatoes, olive oil and salt on the prepared baking sheet. Roast for 40 minutes until golden and tender.

For the dressing:

In a small bowl, whisk together the yogurt, mascarpone cheese, maple syrup, mustard, salt, and pepper until smooth.

Pour the dressing over the potatoes. Add the apple, cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and parsley. Toss until all the ingredients are coated. Refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Cook’s Note:

To toast the pumpkin seeds, arrange in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 6 to 8 minutes until lightly toasted. Cool completely before using.

Serving Size:  Makes 4 to 6 servings

What’s In Season – November


Photo: LifeStyleFood

The harvest is coming to and end … culminating in the Thanksgiving feast.  As the weather turns colder, we instinctively turn to comfort foods.  And the seasonal fruits and vegetables seem instinctively to know this.


Broccoli, mushrooms, pumpkins, spinach, sweet potatoes, winter squash.


Cranberries, oranges, pears, pomegranate, tangerines.


If salads are your thing, look no further than Mark Bittman’s Roasted Sweet Potato Salad or 101 Cookbooks’ Bulgur, Celery and Pomegranate Salad.  For a main course, you can try Spinach, Pesto, and Fontina Lasagna or Artic Char with Chinese Broccoli and Sweet Potato Puree, both from Epicurious.com.  And this month, we’ll turn to Smitten Kitchen for dessert: Cranberry Pecan Frangipane Tart – sounds divine.

As for mushrooms, which I love, I have two suggestions.  The first is mushroom crostini (like bruschetta but with mushrooms).  With the holidays coming, it’s always good to have a few go-to appetizers that you know your guests will love.  Martha Stewart offers up Wild Mushroom Crostini.  The second recipe is Mushroom Risotto.  The official version of my favorite locked away in a storage unit in one of the outer boroughs, I discovered a recipe by Giada De Laurentiis and modified it slightly to match the memory of the one I love.  I made it yesterday and, I have to say, it was delicious.  The recipe, along with my changes, are included below.

As always, enjoy the season and eat well!


Mushroom Risotto with Peas

Giada De Laurentiis, “Everyday Italian


  • 8 cups canned low salt Chicken Broth 
  • ½ oz dried porcini mushroom
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 2 cups finely chopped Onions
  • 10 oz white Mushrooms finely chopped   (I used cremini mushrooms)
  • 2 Cloves Garlic minced
  • 1½ cups Arborio rice or short-grain white rice
  • 2/3 cup Dry White Wine
  • ¾ cup frozen pea thawed   (I omitted the peas)
  • 2/3 cup grated Parmesan
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper optional


  1. Bring the broth to a simmer in a heavy medium saucepan. Add the porcini mushrooms. Set aside until the mushrooms are tender, about 5 minutes. Keep the broth warm over very low heat.
  2. Melt the butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil. Add the onions and saute until tender, about 8 minutes. Add the white mushrooms and garlic. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the porcini mushrooms to a cutting board. Finely chop the mushrooms and add to the saucepan. Saute until the mushrooms are tender and the juices evaporate, about 5 minutes. Stir in the rice and let it toast for a few minutes. Add the wine; cook until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add 1 cup of hot broth; simmer over medium-low heat until the liquid is absorbed, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Continue to cook until the rice is just tender and the mixture is creamy, adding more broth by cupfuls and stirring often, about 28 minutes (the rice will absorb 6 to 8 cups of broth). Stir in the peas. Mix in the Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Note:  If you’re short on broth, as I was last night, instead of reconstituting the porcini mushrooms in the chicken broth, do it 2-3 cups of boiling water (for about 20 minutes).  Remove the mushrooms with a slotted spoon and follow the directions above.  You’ll be left with the “porcini broth” which you can run through a strainer, adding it to your chicken broth.  You’ll have more than enough to cook the arborio rice and the flavors are all there.

Giada’s Quick and Easy Pasta Sauces

I am a fan of Giada De Laurentiis.  She clearly loves food, loves to eat, and always makes everything look easy.  And, without fail, her recipes are delicious.

Image: giadadelaurentiis.com

This morning, on the Today Show, she prepared three simple pasta sauces: Thyme butter sauce (served with any kind of ravioli); Vodka sauce (great with spaghetti or penne); and Spicy pesto sauce (with rigatoni, served cold as a side, or add cooked shrimp or chicken to hearty it up).  Here are the recipes.

Buon appetito!


Recipe: Thyme butter sauce

Giada De Laurentiis

  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Melt the butter with the thyme leaves in a medium, heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter is melted, about 2 minutes.

Recipe: Vodka sauce

Giada De Laurentiis

  • 3 cups marinara sauce
  • 1 cup vodka
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste

In a heavy, large skillet, simmer the marinara sauce and vodka over low heat, stirring often, until the mixture reduces by one fourth, about 20 minutes. Stir in the cream and continue to simmer over low heat until the sauce is heated through. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the Parmesan, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon of pepper. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Recipe: Spicy pesto sauce

Giada De Laurentiis

  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 2 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped
  • 1 (2- inch) red or green jalapeno pepper, stemmed and coarsely chopped
  • 2 cups grated asiago cheese
  • 2 teaspoons salt, or more to taste
  • 1 teaspoon pepper, or more to taste
  • 2 cups (3 ounces) baby spinach
  • 3 cups (3 ounces) arugula
  • 1/4 cup olive oil

In a food processor, combine the walnuts, garlic, jalapeno, grated cheese, salt and pepper. Process until the mixture is smooth. Add the spinach and arugula and process until blended. With the machine running, gradually add the olive oil.

What’s In Season – April

One of the ways to eat healthier without spending a ton of money is to eat in season.  With the plethora of options available at the neighborhood mega-grocery store, we’ve moved so far away from that way of thinking and, therefore, eating, that we don’t even know which foods should actually be available in any given month.  There are clues, two of which are pretty easy to spot: first there is country of origin –  hint produce from Chile in January generally indicates that it’s not in season in North America – and the second is price – if you’re paying $6 for a pint of strawberries, it’s not their time.

This is the first in what will be a series of monthly posts.  The intent is to help us all eat “in season.”  I’ll do my best to include links to appealing recipes incorporating these ingredients.  So, for April…


Artichokes, Asparagus, Broccoli, Lettuce, Rhubarb, Spring Peas, Zucchini


Mangoes, Pineapples

And now for the recipes:

From MarthaStewart.com, there’s Spring Risotto with Peas and Zucchini.  And she also suggests Spring Peas with Mint which can be served alongside Pork Chops with Rhubarb Compote.

When it comes to asparagus, there are an array of recipes on cookstr.com.  Here’s what I love, especially with the really thin asparagus that’s available right now: put the oven on broil, lay some foil on a cookie sheet, place the asparagus on the foil, drizzle with olive, and season with salt and pepper.  Place under the broiler for about 2 minutes.  Take the tray out of the oven, turn the asparagus, and place back under the broiler for another 2 minutes.  The asparagus should be tender and slightly browned.  Cook longer for thicker stalks.  When it’s done, it’s like eating candy.

Then there’s Curtis Stone’s Pineapple and Tequila Cocktail (what can I say, the fruit’s in there), and Giada De Laurentiis’s Mangoes and Raspberries in Prosecco Syrup.  Lastly, Charles Mattocks, author of “Eat Cheap But Eat Well,” has a great Fish Taco recipe, to which he likes to add mango for extra flavor.

Eat well and enjoy!