With the holidays rapidly approaching, you’ll be thinking about menu items for your festive dinners. These items are some favorites of mine, aside from the traditional roast turkey meal. Personally, I look forward to the leftovers more than anything. These are dishes you can try on other nights or add them to your holiday menu.
BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
This soup serves as a starter dish for a dinner party or can be a meal in itself with a salad on the side. It’s perfect for chilly fall evenings.
2 Tbsp. butter
1 onion, diced
1 pound peeled and cubed butternut squash
1 carrot, sliced
¼ tsp. cinnamon
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Pinch ground cloves
32 oz. low sodium chicken broth
2 sprigs thyme
2 Tbsp. unsulphured molasses
1 cup half-and-half
Melt butter over medium heat in large soup pot. Add onion and cook until translucent. Then add squash and carrots. Cook for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Add spices and cook until vegetables start to caramelize. Add chicken broth and thyme. Simmer for 20 minutes.
Remove from heat and discard thyme sprigs. Using an immersion blender, puree the soup. (It can be frozen at this stage.) Stir in molasses to blend. Add half-and-half and mix to combine. Ladle into individual bowls and serve hot.
If frozen, defrost gradually and then reheat in large pot. Stir in molasses and half-and-half and serve as above.
I love roast turkey same as anyone, but this is an alternative if you don’t feel like roasting a whole bird or even making a boneless breast of turkey. You can slice the tenderloins into serving sizes and make a nice presentation with the sauce. If the liquids get absorbed during cooking and the tenderloins aren’t done, add more broth.
2 lb. turkey tenderloins
2 Tbsp. butter
½ cup chicken broth
½ tsp. dried thyme
4 Tbsp. molasses
2 Tbsp. light rum
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Brown turkey on both sides in melted butter in large skillet. Remove tenderloins from pan and place into greased baking dish. Deglaze pan with chicken broth and pour drippings over turkey. Sprinkle with thyme. In a separate bowl, combine molasses and rum. Spoon over tenderloins. Bake turkey in oven uncovered for 45 minutes or until cooked through. Slice and serve warm. Makes 6-8 servings.
RITZ CRACKER DRESSING
I use the terms ‘stuffing’ and ‘dressing’ interchangeably. However, if you want to be technical, stuffing is a seasoned mixture of bread, vegetables, and oil or butter that is stuffed inside poultry. Dressing is cooked in a separate dish on the side. In the South, cornbread dressings are popular. This recipe is inherited from my mother.
3 or more rolls of Ritz Crackers
2 Tbsp. olive oil
2 eggs or ½ cup egg substitute
8 oz. container chopped onions
8 oz. container chopped celery
6 oz. matchstick carrots
White wine (optional)
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Crumple crackers into a large bowl. Add eggs, mix, and set aside. In a frypan, sauté chopped onions and celery in olive oil until wilted. Add to crackers along with grated carrots. Sprinkle in salt and garlic powder to taste. If you want to moisten the mixture further, add some white wine. Bake until heated through, about 20 minutes.
SWEET POTATOES WITH MARSHMALLOWS
You all have your favorite sweet potato recipes for the holidays, and here’s mine. It’s quick and easy, which is how I like to cook. For a larger crowd, add extra cans of potatoes.
(2) 40-oz. can sweet potatoes or yams
½ cup unsalted butter, melted
½ cup light corn syrup
1 bag mini marshmallows
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drain and mash potatoes and put into large bowl. Stir in melted butter and corn syrup. Pour into greased 9x13x2 inch baking dish. Sprinkle marshmallows on top and bake 20 minutes or so, until dish is heated through. Remove when marshmallows are lightly browned. Serves 8 to 10.
Personally, I prefer jellied cranberry sauce and buy the cans for expediency. This recipe is easy if you want a healthier version.
12 oz. bag fresh cranberries
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp. grated lemon peel
1 cup water
In a medium pot, mix all ingredients. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes or until cranberries are softened. Cool and store in refrigerator until served. Makes 2 cups.
This is a light dessert if you want an alternative to pumpkin pie.
1 ½ cups fat free milk
1 oz. package sugar free instant butterscotch pudding mix
½ cup canned pumpkin
½ tsp. ground cinnamon
¼ tsp. ground ginger
¼ tsp. ground allspice
½ cup fat free whipped topping
¼ tsp. freshly grated nutmeg
Whisk milk and pudding mix in large bowl for two minutes. Set aside. In another bowl, combine the pumpkin, cinnamon, ginger, and allspice. Add to the pudding mixture. Gently fold in whipped topping until blended. Spoon into individual dessert cups. Sprinkle nutmeg on top. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Serves 4 to 6.
For more recipes, check out A Bad Hair Day Cookbook available at most online bookstores. With 160+ recipes, plus anecdotes and cooking tips offered by savvy sleuth Marla Vail, this award-winning title will become a handy reference guide for quick and easy meals.
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