UNITED STATES—Thanksgiving is less than a few days away, and for those hosting the feast of all feasts, they are likely, if they haven’t already, planning their list of items to prepare. So let’s take some time to discuss the importance of the side dishes. Yes, many speculate that the turkey or the big bird is the most important, but it’s not. The turkey does indeed matter, but people remember those side dishes even more.

The question I hear time and time again is can you ever have too many side dishes? The answer is YES! More is not always better America, and it’s best to plan those dishes in advance that you really want to cook and stick with them. Why? Thanksgiving is no time to experiment too far from the classics. I’ve seen people attempt such creativity and they have dishes that are complete busts or fail on epic scales. I’m a firm believer that having at least 2-3 vegetables dishes is a must. I mean veggies are good for you, not to mention the fact that you could have a few vegetarians attending your festive dinner as well.

You can never go wrong with green beans; rather it’s a green bean casserole or steamed green beans with lemon peel and garlic, it’s a staple. You also have those good ole’ fashioned mashed potatoes. Now how you decide to jazz them up is completely up to you. Rather it’s just butter and cream, bacon, red skin, Yukon gold, chives, red peppers, the opportunities are endless to say the least. You might also decide to conjure a dish using squash, a grain with veggies or another starch.

What is Thanksgiving without macaroni and cheese! That is a dish that many people come to expect on the dinner table and while a classic I don’t think it’s a bad idea to experiment slightly. However, don’t do too much. You might decide you no longer want to mess around with cheddar cheese, and might want to utilize a white cheese sauce (mozzarella, fontina, smoked Gouda), the choices are endless people. Some might use crumbles as a topping, but at the same time bacon, lobster, crab or other forms of meat could be implemented into the dish. This is one dish where I would argue it’s important to make enough to have for leftovers.

Now, let’s chat a bit about the great sweet potato. It’s a versatile veggie, it could be made savory or it can be made sweet. For most Americans, the sweet potato is used to make mashed sweet potatoes that are topped with marshmallows that have been torched slightly. It’s a gooey treat. For others, the sweet potato is utilized to create simple smashed potatoes. There is an alternative for sum: the yam. You can utilize this vegetable which is similar to a sweet potato, but slightly sweeter to create one of my favorite dishes: candied yams. Is it loaded with sugar and butter, yes, but moderation is the key to preventing overeating people.

However, let’s talk about the one treat where the opportunities are endless: desserts. Man, from pies, to cakes, to tarts, to cheesecake, desserts can be an overload on Thanksgiving, so I’m a firm believer to have at least 3 desserts, maybe 4 depending on your number of guests in attendance. I’m not a big lover of pie, but if anything apple is a staple, and you cannot have Thanksgiving without having a pumpkin pie. You also have pecan pie, Boston Crème, chocolate or my favorite, a sweet potato pie as options also.

If pie is not your cup of tea, you can choose a cake: Italian Crème, Black Forest, Red Velvet, Carrot, Chocolate, Coconut, Lemon, should I continue? There is endless opportunities with cheesecake, rather you take the classic route or decide to jazz it up with a pumpkin cheesecake. You could also order a cheesecake from The Cheesecake Factory and have one of a kind; trust me, there is nothing like the S’mores Galore or Mango Key Lime Cheesecake America.

And we cannot forget the most important dish of all time: cranberry sauce. I prefer the dish straight out of a can. I know that is not great to say, but that’s how I feel. However, over time I have played around a bit in the kitchen and made my own cranberry sauce with fresh cranberries. I mean this tart fruit makes its own pectin people, and you can jazz things up with a bit of pineapple, orange, lemon, lime, and for some they might add some jalapeno and spice to deliver a bit of heat to adventurous foodies. Whatever you have planned for your Thanksgiving feast, don’t do more than you can handle. Do the classics, try something new and don’t stress, its food, so have fun with it.

Written By Kelsey Thomas