Interesting side dishes to spice up Thanksgiving dinner

Posted Monday, Nov. 11, 2013  comments  Print Reprints

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We have so many blessings to be thankful for. This year we are most thankful for the brave men and women who have fought to keep our country free, those fighting now to keep us safe, and their families who have sacrificed holidays with their loved ones – to say the least. I wish I could send part of our Thanksgiving meal to my nephew in Afghanistan, but we’ll have another Thanksgiving for him when he returns. Given all our blessings, there’s nothing wrong with celebrating more than once a year.

Cranberry, Strawberry, Jicama Salad

1/2 cup olive oil

1/2 cup orange juice

1/4 cup cranberry-orange relish

1 small shallot, peeled and chopped

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

1/4 teaspoon ground red pepper

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

1 large jicama, peeled

2 (5-ounce) packages gourmet mixed salad greens

2 cups sliced fresh strawberries

1/2 cup sweetened dried cranberries, finely chopped

2 large navel oranges, peeled and sectioned (optional)

Garnish: shaved Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese

Process first eight ingredients in a blender until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides.

Cut jicama into cubes, or, if desired, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices, then cut with a 1 1/2-inch star-shaped cutter.

Place jicama, salad greens, strawberries, cranberries, and, if desired, orange sections in a large bowl. Drizzle with vinaigrette, and gently toss to coat. Garnish, if desired.

Slow-Cooker Bacon Jam Recipe

(This is great on crostini or chips.).

1 1/2 pounds sliced bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces

2 medium onions, diced small

3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled

1/2 cup cider vinegar

1/2 cup packed dark-brown sugar

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

3/4 cup brewed coffee

In a large skillet, cook bacon over medium-high, stirring occasionally, until fat is rendered and bacon is lightly browned, about 20 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer bacon to paper towels to drain. Pour all but 1 tablespoon fat from the skillet (reserve for another use); add onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent, about six minutes. Add vinegar, brown sugar, maple syrup and coffee and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up browned bits from skillet with a wooden spoon, about 2 minutes. Add bacon and stir to combine.

Transfer mixture to a 6-quart slow cooker and cook on high, uncovered, until liquid is syrupy, 3 1/2 to 4 hours. Transfer to a food processor; pulse until coarsely chopped. Let cool, then refrigerate in airtight containers, up to four weeks.

Sparkling Cranberries

2 cups cranberries, picked over

2 cups water

2 cups sugar, see notes

Place the cranberries in a medium glass bowl and set aside.

Make a simple syrup by bringing the water and sugar just to a simmer in a medium sauce pan. For the simple syrup, raw cane sugar or real brown sugar adds a nice molasses flavor to the berries, but regular granulated sugar (or a mix of white and brown) works just fine.

Let the syrup cool for a couple of minutes and then pour it over the cranberries. If the syrup is too hot the cranberries will burst, so be careful. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

The next day, drain the cranberries and toss them with larger grained sugar until they are well coated. Use only a scoop of sugar at a time, and small batches of cranberries, so the sugar doesn’t get too damp. Place the coated cranberries on a baking sheet to dry for a few hours.

Do a second toss with the regular granulated sugar - this typically takes care of any sticky spots on the cranberries. Let dry another hour.

Cheddar Pecan Green Bean Casserole

Buttermilk White Sauce (recipe below)

1 cup finely chopped jarred roasted red bell peppers (optional)

1 cup (4 oz.) freshly shredded sharp cheddar cheese, divided

2 16-oz packages long, thin frozen green beans or 2 lbs. fresh green beans, trimmed

1 cup French fried onions, crushed

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup chopped pecans

Cook the green beans just until tender in boiling salted water, drain and then plunge immediately into ice water to stop the cooking process; drain and pat dry.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Prepare the Buttermilk White Sauce, peppers, and 1/2 cup cheese in a large bowl; add green beans, tossing gently to combine. Place in a lightly greased 13x9-inch baking dish. (At this point, the mixture can be placed in a large Ziploc bag and stored in the refrigerator for several hours until ready to bake.)

Combine French fried onions, panko breadcrumbs, chopped pecans and remaining 1/2 cup cheese, and sprinkle over green bean mixture.

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden brown and bubbly. Serve immediately.

Buttermilk White Sauce

2 tablespoons butter

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 1/2 cups milk

1/2 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon Ranch dressing mix

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon salt

Melt butter in a medium-size heavy saucepan over medium heat; whisk in flour until smooth. Cook one minute, whisking constantly. Gradually whisk in 1 1/2 cups milk; cook over medium heat; whisking constantly, three to four minutes or until mixture is thickened and bubbly. Remove from hear, and whisk in buttermilk and remaining ingredients.

Note: Sauce can be made up to two days ahead. Prepare recipe as directed; cover and chill in an air-tight container. Whisk in 2 tablespoons milk and microwave at high one minute, stirring at 30-second intervals.

- Suzi Hogan and her husband, Tim, live in Mansfield.

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