By BPT for Star Journal
Food is a central part to any holiday celebration, but after having the same recipe for the fifth or sixth time, even beloved dishes can feel bland and boring. This year, spice up traditional fare with a few unique twists guaranteed to have guests raving.
Mushrooms give earthy appeal to stuffing
The golden turkey or glazed ham is the star of the show at most holiday meals, leaving the meager stuffing beside it looking downright sad. It’s the stuffing’s time to shine when your give it a hearty upgrade with mushrooms. Simply chop your favorite mushroom variety like porcini, shiitake or cremini and add to your favorite recipe for a rich earthy flavor that is incredible satisfying.
Jalapenos infuse heat into sweet cranberry sauce
Cranberry sauce is a holiday essential, yet it’s the side dish that gets ignored the most. This year spice up your cranberry sauce with spicy jalapenos and watch it disappear fast. Simply seed and mince one to three jalapenos and add when boiling cranberries. The sweet heat is delectable on meats or as a relish to complement appetizers.
Cheese is the ideal topping for rolls
The lonely bread basket gets a holiday upgrade when you sprinkle tasty cheese to the top crust of baking bread. Hard cheeses like parmesan, asiago and fontina are good options. Grab your favorite shredded variety of Stella cheese when grocery shopping and you’ll be set for this incredibly simple, yet superbly savory addition to your rolls. Visit www.StellaCheese.com for more cooking inspiration using richly-flavored Italian-style cheeses.
Nuts add rich crunch to green bean casserole
Green bean casserole is a holiday staple that is often topped with fried onions. This year think bigger with rich, delectable flavors. Start by making your traditional recipe, but update the topping by using chopped walnuts with crumbled corn bread for a tasty crunch that will garner rave reviews from guests.
Tangy Romano cheese enhances asparagus
Sautéed asparagus is a colorful addition to any holiday meal. Give the dish an elegant upgrade by sprinkling cooked asparagus with tangy Romano cheese. The sharp, salty cheese mingles with the pungent flavors of the asparagus for a side dish that is as tasty as it is eye-catching. This dish is great with turkey, ham, duck or beef.
Turmeric brings out savory notes in vegetables
As one of today’s most talked about spices, a quick dash of turmeric is perfect for adding a little pizazz to classic side dishes. For example, the warm, peppery flavor of turmeric brings out the savory notes of roasted vegetables. It’s also a fantastic addition when sprinkled on braised greens like kale or collards.
Gorgonzola adds zip to creamy potatoes
Starches are a must for any holiday meal, but that doesn’t mean you’re stuck with basic mashed. Instantly upgrade your favorite spuds when you add flavorful gorgonzola. The robust flavor of gorgonzola pairs perfectly with white or sweet potatoes.
Baked Sweet Potatoes with Cranberry Gorgonzola Gremolata
Makes 6 servings
6 medium sweet potatoes
1/4 c. melted butter
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 c. pure maple syrup
1/4 c. minced fresh parsley
1 lemon zested
1 clove garlic, minced finely
3 tablespoons minced pecans
3 tablespoons finely chopped dried cranberries
1 scallion minced
2 ounces Stella gorgonzola, crumbled
Preheat oven to 450 F. Place sweet potatoes on cookie sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Flip over and return to oven to bake until tender, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
When cool enough to do so safely, peel sweet potatoes or cut in half and scoop out the flesh. Place in a medium skillet over low heat with butter, salt and maple syrup for 5 minutes, basting the potatoes with the butter mixture occasionally. Lightly smash the potatoes until there is an even consistency. Hold over low heat.
In a small bowl, toss together parsley, lemon zest, garlic, pecans, cranberries and scallion. Gently fold in the gorgonzola.
Move sweet potatoes to a serving dish and sprinkle with the cranberry blue cheese gremolata. Serve hot.
Cranberry Stuffing with Butternut Squash and Ripe Olives
1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into ½ inch dice
1 ½ teaspoons grape seed oil
salt and pepper, to taste
6 tablespoons butter, divided
1 medium leek, white parts only, cleaned and sliced
2 cups chopped celery
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
4 heaping cups sourdough bread chunks
¾ cup dried cranberries
6 slices thick cut bacon, cooked and crumbled
1 (6 ounce) can extra large California Ripe Olives, sliced
1 ½ – 2 cups chicken stock
Heat oven to 400°F and line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment. Add the diced butternut squash and drizzle with grape seed oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes or until tender and lightly browned. Set aside when finished.
While squash is roasting, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a large non-stick skillet and add leeks and celery. Sauté for 10-15 minutes, or until the leeks begin to soften, stirring frequently.
In a large bowl combine the roasted butternut squash, sautéed leeks, celery, sage, bread, dried cranberries, bacon and olives. Season with salt and pepper and add chicken stock until bread is moist but not soaked with liquid.
Transfer to 9×13 baking dish and top with remaining 4 tablespoons of diced butter. Reduce the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for 30-35 minutes. The top of the stuffing should be golden brown and crunchy.
Remove from the oven and serve immediately.