Last minute Thanksgiving favorites…

Well, I don’t know about you, but good ol’ Turkey day sure snuck up on me!  It’s not a stressful holiday for me, but it’s more of a final breathing point.  I try to remember to relax…breathe…enjoy.  After that, it’s all baskets & shred & bubble wrap…oh my!  I am hoping this year’s holiday orders are off the hook!  If you are interested, check out my Holiday Gift collection & let me know if I can help you this holiday season!

Okay, enough self promotion!  We typically spend the day at my brother & sister-in-law’s house, and I am usually charged with bringing one of my delicious Cheesecakes!  But that does leave me missing some of my favorites side dishes…and this year’s Thanksgiving recipe suggestions from friends & favorite sites, has left me drooling and thinking that for Christmas, I just might make a bunch of sides and skip the big main course!

So, if you haven’t made your final dish list yet, and are looking for a few suggestions, here you go!  Some of these, tried & true, are my favorite sides that would be great for Thanksgiving.  Others look amazing and will hopefully grace my Christmas table!

Potato Fennel Gratin~  probably my all-time favorite potato dish!  An Ina Garten recipe…aka The Barefoot Contessa.  Every time I make this, we clean the dish…no leftovers, so if that’s what you want for Turkey Day, don’t make this 🙂  She has lots of other great ideas on her website, so be sure to click on the link and check them out!

Zucchini Fritters~  another favorite recipe, this would be a great appetizer to tide everyone over while you finish off the big feast.  I originally found this recipe in a copy of my favorite food magazine, Saveur.  Taking a quick peek at their website I see lots of other delicious recipes for the big day!  Sauce isn’t needed for these, but if you wanted, you could whip up a quick Horseradish sauce or even a tomato Tarter sauce.  The picture above was a recipe I found on the Home to Homestead blog, written by the gorgeous Elizabeth Ries of Twin Cities Live, and has the added deliciousness of corn & fresh herbs!  She made a quick sour cream sauce that looks delish!

Baked Risotto with Grilled Asparagus~  wait, what?  Baked Risotto?  Yes, I know, it doesn’t make sense.  But I’ve tried it!  It’s very good, not as creamy as the traditional method of making Risotto (and great biceps at the same time!) but good nonetheless.  I found this recipe on the Williams-Sonoma website.  They have great recipes there!  Have you ever been to a store?  I LOVE that place!!  And now the hubby has a Professional Chef discount, so I can spend more!  Sorry, focus Shawn…. So if you are looking for an easy & delicious rice side dish that doesn’t involve alot of hassle or time, this is the dish for you!  And Asparagus, while know to grace the Easter or Spring table, can be just as good in the late fall!

Apple-Raisin Stuffing with Sausage~  my co-worker, Nikki, brought some of this in as her lunch one day after Thanksgiving last year.  It smelled so good I begged for a bite.  Her brilliant husband added Sausage (he used Jimmy Dean, but use whatever you like) which made this sweet, salty, savory & perfect!!!  Sometimes that Turkey table can get too full of salty side dishes, so adding this mixes it up a bit!  YUM!

Braised Kale & Chickpeas in Coconut Milk~  My sweet fellow food blogger friend Kate posted this dish on her website last December.  I was just falling in love with Coconut Milk at the time and also beginning my love affair with greens…KaleSwiss ChardCollards.  People, if you haven’t discovered these, you MUST!  They are SO good for you!  We grew Rainbow Chard this summer & along with how beautiful they were, they grew like crazy!!  When I made this dish the first time, I added Bacon (uh duh) but it’s not required, as without it, it’s just as good!  And I would encourage you to use curry paste.  You can get small jars of it in the ethnic section of most grocery stores.  I love Thai Kitchens- Green Curry Paste.  Give it a try!  Oh yeah, and while you are there, check out her recipe for Boursin Spinach Gratin – I’ve wanted to make that for a long time now & might make another great side dish!

Red Cabbage Braised in Cider & Beer~  I recently made this dish in one of my Beer for a Year posts and man, it’s amazing!  It will bring a gorgeous color to your table!  When I made it, I included the beer & bacon, but if you want, you can omit both and use apple cider, which I have done.  Either way, it will become a new favorite in your house and not just on Thanksgiving!

Deviled Mushrooms~  so I am not totally sure where I came across this recipe.  As a mushroom lover, it appealed to me for a few reasons; first, it seemed really easy!  It also looks delicious, with those plump mustard seeds and the silky sauce coating each mushroom.  I think this would be great on your table, at Thanksgiving and anytime!  I am linking you to the Amazon page where the cookbook this recipe is in, can be purchased.  But I did make a copy of the recipe and am attaching that as a PDF File for you to print off yourself!

So, that’s my list!  Of course I could go on & on…..and there’s always desserts I could share…maybe next year!  I do plan on doing a holiday baking list of some of my favorites, so stay tuned for that!

And as we join together this coming Thursday, I want you to know that I am truly thankful for you!  It’s been an amazing year and I feel so honored you have taken the time from your busy lives to read my blog posts!

Until next time, Happy Thanksgiving to you & yours!  ox Shawn

Beer for a Year!

Wait, what? Yes, that’s what I said, Beer for a year! I was at an event at the end of November, where I won Beer for a year, from Summit Brewing. Even though, as most of you that know me, I don’t really drink beer, I was still so excited! I love our local, hometown brewery- Summit Brewing and was thrilled to be able to share this wonderful gift with my friend’s & family that do drink beer! I got my first case, Summit Extra Pale Ale and decided I wanted to blog about this each month. I am not only going to tell you about the beer I choose each month, as I get to pick from some great options, but I am going to challenge myself to cook with the beer.

So let’s talk about the first month’s brew, Summit Extra Pale Ale. On their website, they call this, “the brew that launched a brewery.” Also stating it is a pioneer in craft beer, Summit EPA has been gracing the pint glasses of serious brew lovers since 1986. Bronze in color, with a gold medal-winning flavor. With caramel, biscuity malts superbly balanced with an earthy hop bite and juicy citrus. They suggest pairing this beer with sharp cheddar, grilled meat, fried seafood, soft, ripened cheese.

I decided, to start small. Cooking with beer can be easy and can be challenging. There’s always Beer Cheese soup, or some version of Beer bread. I can braise Chicken or Sausages in beer. But I wanted to challenge myself and respect the beer along the way. What could I make with Summit Extra Pale Ale, that would accomplish both? How about a little Mushroom Ale Risotto! Yes!

I adapted this recipe from this Jeff Smith recipe. And major adaptations it was….really the only thing I followed was the measurements for the rice, chicken broth and beer…and I used a lot more beer than he did! As you get to know me and my cooking style, you’ll see I am more of a “little of this, little of that” kind of cook, but I know some of you want something you can follow, so here is a list of the ingredients:

1 cup of arborio rice

Baby Portobello mushrooms, sliced (as much as you want, and you can really use any type of mushroom for this)

2.5 cups of chicken stock, warmed slightly

1.5 cups of room temperature Summit Extra Pale Ale (see notes below about using one of the other delicious Summit Beer offerings)

1 T. of butter

2 T. olive oil

2 medium shallots, finely chopped (or one small sweet onion)

3 garlic cloves, minced

A good heaping handful of Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese

Salt & pepper as needed

The first thing you’ll do after assembling the ingredients is start by melting the butter & olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the shallots (or onion) and garlic and cook over medium heat until soft being careful not to burn the garlic. Add in the rice and cook for approximately 2 minutes or until the rice is translucent. Combine the stock with the beer and season a bit with salt & pepper. Begin by adding one cup of the beer broth to the rice, stirring constantly until nearly absorbed. Continue this process, adding the broth mixture, one cup at a time, until most of the liquid has been absorbed and the rice is al dente and suspended in a thick, creamy liquid, most likely around twenty minutes after beginning. (Switch arms, or stirring partners during this process so you don’t wake up the next day wondering what the heck you did the day before!) Remove the pan from the heat and stir in as much rice as you’d like. I love using the Sartori Balsamic BellaVitano cheese because it imparts a nice sweet flavor profile. I’ve had lots of Risotto in my day, all of which was either made with wine or stock, but never beer. I love how unique this dish is; the beer lingers on the tongue once you get past the rice & mushroom flavors! If I were to do anything different, I would try another type of Summit Beer that maybe wasn’t as bitter as the Extra Pale Ale (not saying I don’t like that!). Or, it might be nice to add cider or something sweet instead of the stock….so many options!

Pair this gorgeous Mushroom Ale Risotto with a frosty Summit Extra Pale Ale and a nice crispy salad and enjoy!

See you next month when I try my hand at another delicious Beer dish…going darker on you then…stay tuned!