Thanksgiving is right around the corner guys! Who’s ready to eat their weight in food? Raised hand right here! My favorite thing about the holidays, other than my family, is all the food and alcohol I shamelessly consume. Turkey is the go-to on Thanksgiving, but turkey is not the star of the meal. The sides are. So ready those stomachs, because you’ll be licking the plate.
First up (which is technically not a side, but something to eat while you wait for your meal) is the cranberry and bacon cheese ball. I don’t know if cheese balls are a midwest thing, but cheese balls are very common during the holidays here in Kansas City. This one is full of dried cranberries, bacon, roasted garlic, and gorgonzola. Make sure to serve these with buttery crackers or slices of fresh apple.
Cranberry & Bacon Cheese Ball
Makes 1 large ball
½ head garlic
1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
½ cup gorgonzola, crumbled
⅓ cup dried cranberries
4 strips thick cut bacon, cooked and roughly chopped
1 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Take the ½ head of garlic, making sure all the cloves are peeled and toss in a bit of olive oil. Wrap it up in some foil and put in a 375F oven for 25 minutes until the cloves are soft and golden brown.
In the bowl of a stand mixer, add your roasted garlic, butter, cream cheese, gorgonzola, cranberries, bacon, salt, and pepper. Mix on low to medium speed until the mix is smooth and everything is evenly distributed. Make sure to scrape down the sides during the mixing process.
Remove the mix from the bowl and using your hands form a large ball, or many small ones. Roll them in the chopped parsley. Eat right away or refrigerate.
I love when you can put something in the slow cooker and forget about it. This dish is great because it’ll free up oven and stove top space, plus everything goes straight in and cooks for several hours.
Slow Cooker Cheesy Corn with Smoked Ham
3 15oz. cans corn, drained (or 1 bag frozen)
1 1/2 cup milk, half & half, or cream (depending on how rich you want it)
1 8 oz. package cream cheese
1 cup shredded sharp cheddar
1 ½ cup smoked ham, cubed
Salt & Pepper, to taste
Fresh Thyme, to taste
In your slow cooker add the corn, milk, (or cream or half and half), cheddar, smoked ham, cream cheese, salt, pepper, and fresh thyme. Set your slow cooker to the high setting and let the corn mix cook for 3 hours. Make sure to stir every 30 minutes so it cooks evenly.
The corn will be very thick and creamy, adjust seasoning with the salt, pepper, and thyme.
The green bean casserole is a staple during the holidays. This recipe is traditional but ditches the canned soup and opts for fresh fried onion strings. The fried onion strings you could eat by themselves! Make sure to watch out for thieving fingers who will try to swipe a few.
Green Bean Casserole
1 lb green beans, trimmed and washed
2 Tbsp butter
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 cup Flour plus 1 Tbsp reserved
1 ½ cups half and half
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup chicken stock
1 medium onion, julienned
2 Tbsp milk
2 cups Seasoned Breadcrumbs (to follow)
2 qts. vegetable oil for frying
Preheat oven to 400F. In a deep saute pan, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Saute the sliced mushrooms until the liquids start to release. Add the minced garlic and cook until aromatic. Add the 1 Tbsp flour to soak up a little bit of the excess liquid in the pan. Then add the chicken stock and bring everything up to a light simmer.
Add your half and half and cook until liquid has reduced by half and thickened. Add the green beans and toss everything together. Set aside while you make the onion strings.
To make the seasoned breadcrumbs: using store bought or homemade breadcrumbs toss them with salt, pepper, dried sage, dried thyme, dried basil , dried parsley.
In three separate bowls: one with the flour, one with the egg and milk whisked together, and one with the seasoned breadcrumbs. Working in batches, toss the onion in the flour, then the egg mix, then the breadcrumbs. In a deep sauce pan, add your vegetable oil and heat until a thermometer reads 375F. Again, working in batches add the breaded onion strings. Cook for about 2 minutes per batch, pull and drain them on paper towels. Sprinkle with salt while still hot. (Yes my paper towels have minions on them. Don’t judge me.)
To assemble the casserole: add the green bean mushroom mix in a buttered glass casserole dish. Make sure everything is evenly spread out. Then place all over or around the edges the onion strings. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes, remove foil and bake 5 more minutes. Remove from oven and serve.
I’m a stuffing fanatic. If it’s served you will see more of it on my plate than anything else. I have a deep appreciation (obsession) with stuffing because it’s the perfect dish to play with flavors. For this I took a traditional stuffing and added some sweeter elements with the apples and dried cranberry. I added the pork for some additional heartiness and for complimentary flavors to the apple. This dish can be made vegetarian or vegan by removing the pork and replacing the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
Pork, Apple, & Cranberry Stuffing
1 lb. ground pork
2 carrots, peeled and small dice
3 celery stalks, small dice
1 medium onion, small dice
1 green apple, peeled and cored, small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup dried cranberry
1 bunch fresh sage
6 cups bread for stuffing, store bought or homemade
1-2 cups chicken stock
Preheat oven to 375F. In a deep saute pan, cook the ground pork. Remove from the pan and set aside. Add the carrots, celery, and onion. Cook until the vegetables start to soften, This could take up to ten minutes. After they have softened a bit, add the apple. Cook for another 5 minutes.
Next, add the garlic, dried cranberry, and fresh sage, and cook until the garlic and sage are aromatic. Add the chicken stock and bring the mix up to a light simmer. Turn the heat off and fold in the cooked pork and bread. Make sure everything is evenly distributed.
Spray with nonstick or butter a casserole dish. Add the stuffing mix and bake covered for 30 minutes. Remove the cover and cook an additional 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.