The holidays are coming! The holidays are coming!
Yeeha! I am excited for all of the upcoming festivities. And for me it starts with a friend’s wedding this weekend, and I’m speaking in it! No pressure there or anything. ;-) I’ve got my speech written, I’ve practiced reading it aloud, and I’ve gotten my mama’s approval. All set and ready to go.
But before I immerse myself in lovey-dovey-ness for the next three days, I wanted to share two easy recipes with you that can seriously heighten your Thanksgiving meal.
I recently had the pleasure of volunteering at Grady’s Medical Center as a part of their Wellness Program to do a demonstration about eating fresh, seasonal foods on a budget. It was my third time presenting to this crew, and I always have a blast doing it. The conversation is lively, the questions are wise, and the feedback is consistently awesome.
I laid out all of the Georgia grown veggies currently available at our farmer’s market,
lured the participants in with a bowl of sweet potato soup,
and talked menu creation and how to incorporate the fresh goodies into real, healthy meals. I used their ideas and their fridge or pantry items as a springboard for our planning.
Then, we made stone ground grits with kale stirred in, and a butternut squash salad that was a giant hit!
And trust me, they all came back for seconds of this dish! I don’t blame them, because this salad is addictive. Bright, fall-centric, and exciting for your taste buds.
So, here’s the recipe!
Caramelized Butternut Squash Salad
For the dressing:
In a large bowl combine well:
Juice of 2 lemons
1 T or a hearty drizzle of olive oil
a good squeeze of honey- about 1 t
1 shallot, finely sliced
1 red pepper, diced small (You can also use (or omit) any kind of peppers you want!)
1 jalapeno, sliced or diced, seeds removed if you don’t want it too hot
4 chives, chopped or 2 or 3 scallions, sliced on a bias
3 or 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
2 -3 sage leaves, chopped (optional- you could use thyme or parsley just as well!)
good pinch of salt and pepper
Taste the dressing and adjust seasoning to your liking. It should be tangy and bright!
Let the shallot and other veggies marinate in the lemon juice dressing while you cook the butternut squash.
For the squash:
1 medium butternut squash, peeled, cut in half, seeds scooped out with a spoon
fresh nutmeg, a good sprinkling
pinch of salt and pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Salt the water when it boils. Cut your squash into bite-sized chunks, about 1 – 1 ½ inches around. (It’s tricky- just try to cut them about the same size roughly.) Boil for 3 -4 minutes, JUST until the cubes are able to be pierced with a fork. Then drain your squash into a colander and heat a large, preferably nonstick skillet with a good drizzle of EVOO to medium- medium high heat. When the pan is hot, add your squash.
Sprinkle with salt, pepper, and nutmeg (use a microplane or the skinniest part of your grater). Allow the squash to brown, tossing now and again, to caramelize the chunks on all sides. This will take about 5 – 7 minutes.
Remove the squash from the pan and toss into the bowl with your veggies and dressing. Add your fresh herbs. Stir to coat the squash. Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking.
This lively salad would make an excellent side dish for any Thanksgiving feast! Note- you can totally cook the butternut squash ahead of time and toss it with your dressing when you are ready to begin reheating your hot side dishes and such. Or you could toss the whole shebang the day before, just be sure not to overcook the squash so it won’t be mushy!
On to the soup!
I’ve been bringing a soup to our Thanksgiving parties for at least 3 or 4 years now. And, I’ll tell you what, it’s pretty wonderful to sit down with the people you love and share a bowl of hot, seasonal soup before launching into the madness of loading our plates with 18 different items. It’s kind of the calm before the storm. And soup can be made several days ahead of time and reheated on Turkey Day. Be sure to allow plenty of time for the soup to heat back through over low to medium-low heat on your stove, stirring occasionally. A lid will help that happen more quickly, of course.
Sweet Potato Soup
2 pieces of bacon, cut in half (You can cook more bacon to have extra bacon for sprinkling over the soup in the end. But two pieces is all you need to get her started! Ooh, you could even cook the rest of the bacon in the oven, so you can get on with the soup-making process!)
1 yellow onion, diced
8 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
1 large or 2 small apples, peeled and diced
6 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 or 2 bay leaves
1/4 t cinnamon
good sprinkling of fresh nutmeg
3 Cups milk, room temperature or heated
4 Cups chicken broth, low sodium
juice of a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
fresh sage leaves to garnish
Place your bacon in a cold pot and set the burner to medium. Allow bacon to cook on both sides until it is browned and crisp. Then, remove bacon to a paper towel lined plate (and if you’ve cooked up extra bacon in the pot, remove all but about two Tablespoons of the bacon grease from the pot).
Add onions and a pinch of salt to the bacon grease and let them cook, stirring often, until they are soft, about five minutes.
Add apples and garlic and stir for about a minute- until you can smell the garlic wafting through the air.
Add chunks of potatoes and bay leaf, plus cinnamon, nutmeg, and salt and pepper. Stir to coat the goodies in the seasoning.
Stir in your liquids and the lemon juice, scraping any brown bits off the bottom, and bring the pot up to a boil. Then, reduce heat and simmer for at least 20 or 30 minutes, stirring now and again. You can let it hang out longer if you like.
***Take out the bay leaf!
Then, use an immersion blender or a food processor to (carefully) puree the soup.
Taste and adjust seasoning to your liking. You can add a touch of honey or a pinch of sugar if you feel it needs more sweetness, or more salt and pepper, etc. At this point, you can serve the soup, or you can let it continue to cook over low heat to allow it to thicken up as much as you like.
To serve, crumble some of the bacon over each bowl and add a few strands of freshly chopped sage leaves.
No flour is needed for this soup, as the sweet potatoes thicken it nicely all on their own. It tastes fresh, comforting, and good for you! The apple complements the sweetness of the potatoes perfectly, and you know, bacon makes everything better!!!!! (But, if you are having vegetarians at your table, you can substitute 2 or 3 T butter for the bacon.)
This is a bowl of soup that transports fall right into your mouth and belly with every spoonful. Yum and yum.
I am wishing you the most delectable Thanksgiving you’ve ever had. I hope you will be surrounded by those you love. Hug them a lot! And enjoy every bite while you’re feeling extra thankful for the goodness in your life.
Adam’s going to be making this butterscotch chocolate mousse pie with a double fudge cookie crust for dessert.
I think it will all end well.
Love to you and yours!!
Happy cooking and eating to you,