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While the turkey takes center stage, for most of us Thanksgiving dinner is all about the extras
It just wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without all those extra side dishes that add interest and flavor. A few dishes include potato and celery root gratin with leeks, left; green bean gratin, center, and pan-roasted Brussels sprout gratin with shallots and rosemary. - photo by Regina H. Boone

Green Bean Gratin

Thanksgiving dinner catering By Brenau University Catering

Place an order: Call 770-538-4600 or email between Friday and Tuesday

How much: Sliced turkey breast $7.99 per pound; Southern style green beans $12.99 per pan; macaroni and cheese $12.99 per pan; cornbread dressing $12.99 per pan; pumpkin pie $9.99 each

Pick-up: Wednesday at Brenau University’s Yonah Dining Hall, 500 Washington St., Gainesville

Without fail, Thanksgiving rolls around every year at the same time.

On the fourth Thursday of every November, most folks know where they’ll be and more often than not, what they’ll be eating months in advance.

While traditions are great, how many times can you eat — and enjoy — the same configurations of sweet potatoes, stuffing and green beans?

Instead of pulling out the same recipes year after year, try looking at your Thanksgiving feast with fresh eyes. Think "Why not" instead of "If it’s not broken, don’t try and fix it."

Change doesn’t have to be scary, it could be as simple trying out new spices or combining your traditional ingredients in a new way.

"You could take your regular cranberry (sauce) and make a cranberry and orange relish," suggested Jessica Butzer, Brenau University director of catering.

Another simple remix would be to use those sweet potatoes that ordinarily would’ve become candied yams and turn them into a savory sweet potato and bacon hash.

"You would shred your sweet potatoes like you do white potatoes to make hash browns and add some crumbled bacon to it," Butzer said.

Instead of making pumpkin pie, consider adding the gourd to the main course with a spiced, pumpkin soup.

Or turn that bowl of green beans into a modern version of the traditional casserole by whipping up a green bean gratin that contains sliced almonds, Boursin cheese and cremini mushrooms. A gratin refers to a casserole-style dish that’s topped with bread crumbs and mixed with cheese or bits of butter.

Besides introducing new flavors, one of the best features of this green bean gratin is that it can be assembled up to two days in advance. On Thanksgiving Day, you would add the final toppings and pop it into the oven while your turkey is resting.

Speaking of the star of your Thanksgiving feast, there’s no reason why you can’t give the bird a new look, too. Although deep-fried turkeys continue to grow in popularity, if you’d rather stick to the usual oven-roasting, there are still lots of options.

"You could mix fresh rosemary and thyme with your stuffing before you stuff your turkey, and they’ll give all kinds of different flavors to your turkey as it cooks," Butzer said.

If you want to really shake things up this Thanksgiving, why not let someone else prepare the meal for you? For the first year ever, Brenau’s catering department is serving up to-go Thanksgiving feasts.

"We decided that it can’t hurt to try this out," Butzer said.

"I have a small family and sometimes instead of cooking all of that food for just three people, it’s easier to go pick it up, but this way you still have a Thanksgiving feel to it."

The department is offering sliced, oven-roasted turkey, macaroni and cheese, green beans and corn bread dressing. They’re even baking up pumpkin pies, too, but if you’d rather have sweet potato or pecan, they’re happy to make that substitution.

Butzer and her staff will be accepting orders from Friday until Tuesday. All orders must be picked up from Yonah Dining Hall on Brenau’s Gainesville campus at 500 Washington St., by noon on Nov. 23.

MCT Information Services contributed to this article.