Consider adding new sides for Christmas dinner

Saturday, December 2, 2017

By Susan McClanahan

We are looking at just a few side dishes today to accompany your Christmas dinner. Every family has their own traditions, mine included. But sometimes it is fun to add a new recipe here and there. Maybe in place of a traditional green-bean casserole, try a new version of green beans. Maybe a new twist on cranberries. These recipes are just to get you thinking about your plan for your Christmas dinner.

Smothered Green Beans

* 5 (15-ounce) cans green beans, drained

* 1 pound bacon

* 2/3 cup brown sugar

* 1/4 cup butter, melted

* 1/4 cup low-sodium soy sauce

* 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Pour drained green beans in an ungreased 9x13-inch pan.

In a large skillet, cook bacon until almost done but not too crispy. Remove from skillet, drain on paper towel and chop. Sprinkle cooked bacon on top of green beans.

Whisk together brown sugar, melted butter, soy sauce and garlic powder. Pour over green beans. Bake for 40 minutes. Serves 10.

Candied Cranberry Sauce

* 2 cups cold water

* 1 cup sugar

* 1 1/2 cups light brown sugar, packed

* 24 ounces (6 cups) fresh, whole cranberries, washed

* 2 teaspoons grated orange rind

* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

* 1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

* 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

* 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

* 1/2 cup fresh orange juice

* 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

* 2 tablespoons cornstarch

* 3 cinnamon sticks, each 3-inches long

In a large, heavy stainless saucepan, bring the water and sugars to a boil over high heat; cook, stirring for 5 minutes or till the sugar has dissolved. Stir in the cranberries, orange rind, cinnamon, lemon rind, nutmeg and cloves. Simmer for 3 minutes or until the berries begin to pop. Combine the juices and cornstarch and stir briskly with a fork. Stir in the juices and cornstarch and cinnamon sticks; bring to a boil. Lower the heat, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Transfer to a heat-proof container; let cool. Discard the cinnamon sticks, then cover and refrigerate for up to one week. Makes 5 cups. Yield 1 1/4 quarts.

Cheesy Potato Gratin Stacks

When you combine potatoes, cream, cheese, garlic and butter, you just can't go wrong. These individual-size portions made in a muffin tin are great as a side dish and are freezer friendly.

* Oil spray

* 2 pounds potatoes, large long ones

* 2 tablespoons butter

* 2 garlic cloves, minced

* 1/2 cup heavy cream

* 1 teaspoon dried thyme

* 1/2 teaspoon salt

* Black pepper

* 1 cup grated melting cheese (cheddar, Gruyère, Swiss, mozzarella)

* Fresh thyme leaves for garnish, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spray a standard 12-cup muffin tin with oil. Peel potatoes, stand them upright and cut into cylinder shapes, then slice potatoes into thin slices about 1/10-inch thick. Place butter, garlic, cream, salt, pepper and dried thyme in a microwave-proof cup or bowl, then melt in 30 second bursts. Stir, then set aside.

Place potato slices into the muffin tin so they go halfway up the holes. Try to match by size to make them into neat stacks. Drizzle each potato stack with 1/2 teaspoon of cream mixture. Sprinkle half the cheese over the potato stacks. Top with remaining potato slices. Drizzle with remaining cream mixture and remaining thyme. Cover loosely with foil and bake for 35 minutes.

Remove from oven, sprinkle with remaining cheese and bake without foil for 10 minutes or until golden and the potato is soft. Let stand for 5 minutes before removing. Use a tablespoon or butter knife to help get them out.

Notes: Use starchy potatoes, as they breakdown when cooked, becoming nice and fluffy on the inside and golden and crunchy on the outside. The best to use are Russets. Get long, large ones that are suitable to cut into cylinder shapes. Fantastic for making in advance. Bake per recipe, then either freeze (defrost before reheating) or refrigerate. Then pop them in a 350-degree oven for 10 minutes just to heat through.

Cranberry Cheesecake Fluff Salad

This recipe for cranberry fluff is delicious and absolutely loaded with cranberries, tossed in a thick, rich and creamy cheesecake mixture; a must have for family get-togethers at Christmas.

* 3 cups fresh cranberries

* 1 1/2 cup sugar, divided

* 4 ounces cream cheese, softened

* 2 cups heavy whipping cream

* 1 (8-ounce) can crushed pineapple, undrained

* 2 cups mini marshmallows

In a food processor, pulse until the cranberries are finely chopped without turning to complete mush.

Now, there are two ways to do this salad. The old-fashioned overnight way, and the same-day way.

Overnight: In a large bowl, combine cranberries, 1 cup of sugar and pineapple, cover and refrigerate overnight to let the flavors blend. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese and whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in whipped cream and marshmallows gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3-4 hours or until ready to serve. Mix before serving.

Same day: In a large bowl, combine cranberries, 1 cup of sugar and pineapple, set aside. In a medium bowl, beat the cream cheese, add 1/2 cup sugar and whipping cream until stiff peaks form. Stir in whipped cream and marshmallows gently. Cover and refrigerate for at least 3 to 4 hours or until ready to serve. Mix before serving.

Note: The salad may seem a bit liquidy when you first stir it all together, but don't worry because the marshmallows will absorb a lot of the moisture during refrigeration. You can also add more marshmallows, if necessary.

Cranberry Orange Sauce

* 1 (12-ounce) bag fresh cranberries

* 2 large oranges

* 1/2 cup brown sugar

* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

* Pinch of nutmeg

Rinse the cranberries under cold water. Zest the oranges into a medium-sized, heavy-bottom saucepan. Add the cranberries into the same saucepan as the orange zest. Juice your oranges, and add the juice into that pan. Add in the brown sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg, and apply medium heat to saucepan. Bring to a gentle boil, give a few stirs. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes, until thick. Simmer longer if needed to reach your desired consistency. Pour into a dish, cover, and store in fridge for at least 2 hours to cool.

Transfer to freezer bags and put in the freezer until the day before needed, at which time, place in the refrigerator and allow to defrost overnight.

Stuffed Butternut Squash with Quinoa, Kale, Cranberries and Chickpeas

Delicious and healthy, this is an easy, satisfying vegetarian recipe perfect for Christmas dinner.

* 2 medium butternut squash, about 2 1/2 pounds each

* 2 teaspoons olive oil, divided

* 3/4 cup quinoa

* 1 1/2 cups low sodium vegetable or chicken broth

* 1 bunch kale, stems removed and chopped (about 6 lightly packed cups)

* 2 cloves garlic, minced

* 1 teaspoon dried oregano

* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (plus additional for roasting squash)

* 1/2 teaspoon black pepper (plus additional for roasting squash)

* 1 (15 ounce) can low sodium chickpeas, rinsed and drained

* Zest of 1 orange, plus 1 tablespoon fresh orange juice

* 1/3 cup reduced sugar dried cranberries

* Grated Parmesan cheese or crumbled feta cheese (optional)

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 425 degrees. Halve the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds, then arrange the halves on a baking tray, cut sides up. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon olive oil and sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Bake 45 to 55 minutes, just until the squash is fork tender. Remove from oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 375 degrees.

While the squash is baking, place the broth in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Add the quinoa, return to a boil, then reduce heat, cover, and let simmer for 12 minutes, until most of the broth is absorbed. Remove from heat and let sit, covered, for 15 minutes. Fluff with a fork, then set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the remaining 1 teaspoon of olive oil over medium. Add the kale and cook until wilted, about 4 minutes, then reduce the heat to medium-low. Add the garlic, oregano, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Cook 30 additional seconds, until fragrant. Stir in the chickpeas, orange zest, orange juice, cooked quinoa and cranberries.

Once the squash is cool enough to handle, scoop out the flesh, leaving a 1/2-inch-thick border around the sides and a 3/4-inch border along the bottom. Reserve the flesh for another use (or if you don't mind a super-duper stuffed squash, mix it in with the rest of the filling). Stuff the kale-quinoa filling into the squash halves, then return the squash to the oven. Bake at 375 degrees until hot, about 10 additional minutes. Sprinkle with cheese and serve warm.

Roasted Pear And Cranberry Brussels Sprouts

Pretty and delicious, this is a perfect side dish for your Christmas holiday table; pretty and delicious.

* 1 1/2 pounds Brussels sprouts

* 2 pears, cored and cut into 8 wedges each

* 1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion or red onion

* 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

* Kosher salt

* Freshly ground black pepper

* 3 or 4 lemon wedges

* 1 tablespoon honey

* 1/4 cup dried cranberries

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Line a large-rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the Brussels sprouts, pears and onion, then toss, coating the mix with olive oil. Season with a few pinches of salt and pepper.

Place the mixture on the prepared baking sheet in an even layer. Bake until the Brussels sprouts are golden brown and have started to crisp and the pears have caramelized, about 30 minutes, stirring once halfway through cooking.

Squeeze three of the lemon wedges over the pan and drizzle with the honey. Add the dried cranberries and toss to combine well. Taste and season with more lemon and salt and pepper, if needed. Serve immediately.

Holiday Potato Casserole

These potatoes are a great go-to side dish to go with any meat. You can serve these cheesy-and-creamy potatoes with ham, turkey or even with cold-cut sandwiches. You really can't go wrong with these.

* 24 ounces frozen hashbrowns

* 1 can cream of chicken soup

* 2 cups sour cream

* 1/2 cup melted butter

* 1 teaspoon salt

* 1 teaspoon onion powder

* 2 cups shredded cheddar cheese

For topping:

* 3 cups crushed cornflakes

* 1/2 cup melted butter

Allow the potatoes to thaw for about an hour in a colander. Move potatoes to a large bowl.

Add to the potatoes: sour cream, cream-of-chicken soup and butter, and mix well. Add in salt, onion powder and cheese, and continue to mix well. Place in 9x13-inch pan.

Sprinkle on butter-covered, crushed corn flakes. Bake uncovered at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.

Have a great week, and until next time, happy cooking.

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