Menu Planning for Thanksgiving with Cara Kretz

Cara Mia Cipolla KretzThanksgiving is a week away. Do you have your menu fully planned?  If not, don’t panic.  Today’s guest, Cara Kretz, founder of  shares great menu planning tips on how to make your Thanksgiving a memorable and delicious gathering with friends and family, especially for those with special dietary concerns.  Her Italian inspired recipes will bring extra flavor to your holiday table.

A photo of me with Cara at BlogHerFood conference in Chicago

A photo of me with Cara at BlogHerFood conference in Chicago

In Cara’s kitchen, the Italian philosophy: “Make a lot of food and Share a lot of food” is an important approach to menu planning for Thanksgiving.  The Italian cook must have leftovers so everyone goes home with another meal.  “The tradition of turkey, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes and green bean casserole are important; however, if you’re Italian, you always add lasagna or ravioli to the Thanksgiving menu,” Cara says.  In addition, it’s important to know any dietary concerns of your guests.  As a result, side dishes play a starring role at Thanksgiving Dinner.  Cara has a delicious recipe for Pumpkin Lasagna with Brown Butter Cream Sauce.  She encourages pouring brown butter sage sauce over pumpkin lasagna and serve it with a side of sausage.  “You can even use canned pumpkin and lasagna sheets to simplify the cooking process.”  As Cara reminds us, “Pumpkins are nutritious and are loaded with antioxidants, vitamin C and seeds.” Cara’s other dish that I actually made with her is the Potato Gratin.  The recipe is at the bottom of this post.
The delicious Potato Gratin dish that I made with Cara. See bottom of this post for recipe.

The delicious Potato Gratin dish that I made with Cara. See bottom of this post for recipe.

What are your favorite side dishes for Thanksgiving?  Please leave a comment.  Thank you and Savor the day!

Potatoes, Kale, Swiss Chard and Parmesan Cheese Gratin

Here’s the youtuvideo for further instructions:

Gluten-free, vegetarian Thanksgiving
Serves 8 – 12
This is a wonderful rustic side dish for your Thanksgiving dinner that will satisfy anyone looking for a gluten-free option or a hearty vegetarian entree. Use organic vegetables when possible.


4 pounds small, potatoes (yellow, red, purple)
6 medium leaves kale (small bunch), stemmed and chopped
6 leaves swiss chard (small bunch), stemmed and chopped
2 large shallots, peeled, sliced thin
2 cups cream
2 cup milk or half/half
1 clove garlic, peeled and smashed
4 large sage leaves
⅓ teaspoon nutmeg
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
6 oz swiss & cheddar cheese, grated or sliced
1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese


Slice potatoes in thin rounds with a consistent thickness.


Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil; set a bowl of ice water on the side. Boil the chard and kale leaves until tender, 3 to 5 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to the ice water. Squeeze them dry and chop roughly.


In a small pan on stovetop, bring cream, milk, garlic, & whole sage leaves to gentle simmer.  Do not boil. Let it simmer for about 5 – 7 minutes to infuse the flavors into the cream. Remove from the heat and remove the garlic and sage. Mince the garlic and sage leaves and toss back in the cream. Add ½ cup parmesan cheese, salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and nutmeg to the cream and combine until well mixed.


In a 13 x 9 or a round casserole pan, place ½ the potatoes in a single overlapping layer on the bottom of the pan. Add half of the chard and kale over the potatoes.  Add half of the cream mixture over the vegetables.  Add a layer of of mixed swiss and cheddar cheese.  Repeat the layers with the other half of the ingredients.  Top with the remaining ½ cup parmesan cup.


Cover with foil. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and continue baking for about 15 minutes or until top is browned and potatoes are fork tender.

Adapted from

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