Holiday Sides

Thinking of holiday meals, and wanting to mix it up a bit this year. With some regional specialties, we all have our standards, or favorite dishes.   I seem to be the only pumpkin pie lover in our family yet I make it every year.  So what are your favorites? Does your family do something amazingly special that nobody else does or is there a regional seasonality to the dishes? I wanted to cross a few cultures… because hey, it’s 2018 and we can celebrate our diversity, our ability to share dishes and families and friends from all over. This year I picked some of my favorite side dishes with a smattering of great ingredients to spice things up a bit, not the same old green bean fried onion casserole or Ms. Culbertson’s stuffing…   Soups and stews are the new Thanksgiving side dish this year!

From my Thanksgiving table to yours,

– Enjoy, Amber

Creamy Brussel Sprouts

2 lbs Brussel sprouts

¾ cup chicken/veggie stock

1 package cream cheese

1 cup sour cream

½ lb fresh mushrooms

¼ tsp sugar, organic

½ cup heavy cream

2 Tablespoons cognac

1 onion, diced

2 Tablespoon butter

Salt and fresh black pepper

Saute onion in butter, add garlic, mushrooms and cook until soft; about 4 minutes.  Add Brussel sprouts and stock, season and bring to a boil, cover and cook about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Add cream, cream cheese, and sugar. Mix well, add cognac and cook uncovered until the liquid has reduced by half. Taste to season again if necessary.  Keep warm to serve, add garnishments as you like.

Sesame Green Beans

3 pounds washed and trimmed green beans, organic

1tsp sesame oil

1 shallot fine, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 ½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

2 T sesame seeds, toasted

Boil green beans in salted water for 6-8 minutes. Strain and rinse with cold water.  In a small skillet, heat oil, add shallots, garlic salt, and pepper. Cook for 2-3 minutes and pour over green beans, mix and serve immediately.

Smoked Gouda Buttermilk Grits

3 cups water

1 cup stock

1 cup corn grits, organic!

1 cup smoked gouda

1 cup fresh buttermilk, organic

⅓ cup green onions, diced

1 tsp smoked sea salt

½ tsp fresh pepper

½ tsp smoked paprika

Pinch of baking powder

2 Tbsp butter

In a medium pot bring stock and water to boil. Add pinch of baking powder and cornmeal, turn down heat to low and stir everything well, cover and let the grits cook on low for 20 minutes.  While grits are cooking, grate the cheese, and dice green onions.  Remove grits from heat, fold in buttermilk, cheese, butter and half the green onions, salt, and pepper.  Serve with remainder of green onions on top, bacon bits or fried shallots or fresh shrimp.

Coconut Roasted Sweet Potatoes

2 lbs sweet potatoes, organic

3Tbls. Coconut oil

Toasted coconut flakes unsweetened

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into a small to medium sized roasting dish, maybe 9×9, add coconut oil and roast uncovered for 40 minutes at 350 degrees. Toss in coconut flakes at the last five minutes, season with salt as necessary.  Serve warm

Southwest Poblano Corn Stew (Vegan)

2 large poblano peppers, roasted seeded and diced

3 T coconut oil

1 large onion, diced

2 ribs celery

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 small Yukon gold potatoes, diced

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp oregano

½ tsp cayenne pepper (if you want more kick)

4 cups fresh corn kernels, organic (4 ears worth)

4 cups veggie broth

½ cup coconut milk

Salt and pepper to taste

Toppings: smoked paprika, cilantro, lime wedges

Start by roasting the poblano peppers: to roast them over an open flame on a gas stove, place them on the burner over medium-high heat and cook until you hear the skin make a popping sound. Using tongs, flip it over to cook each side until charred. You can also cook them on a baking sheet under the broiler for about 10 minutes while using tongs to rotate them every couple of minutes. Transfer the peppers to a bowl and cover with a plate or foil. Allow them to sit and steam for about 10 minutes. Using a paper or cloth towel, scrape the outer charred skin off with your hands. It’s okay if you can’t get all of the charred bits off. Remove the core and seeds then dice the peppers and set aside.   (I like to do double the recipe and freeze the extras for next time)

In a large pot, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until soft. Add in the garlic, celery, potatoes, and seasonings (cumin, oregano, salt, to taste- I like about 1/2 teaspoon) and continue to cook for another 5 minutes.

Next, add the corn with the vegetable broth and bring to a boil. Cook for about 25-30 minutes, until the potatoes are soft.

Puree half the soup and then pour it back into the pot and stir in the coconut milk and diced poblano peppers. It should have a nice thick creamy texture. Season with salt and pepper. Serve with fresh cilantro and a sprinkle of smoked paprika

Pumpkin Streusel Cheesecake


3/4 cup gingersnap crumbs (about 12 cookies, finely crushed)

1 tablespoon light butter, melted

Coconut oil


1 cup silken tofu, organic (shh don’t tell the kids)

2 (8-ounce) block cream cheese

1 1/4 cups granulated sugar, organic

1/2 cup low-fat sour cream

2 tablespoons cornstarch

2 teaspoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin or home roasted 1 sugar pumpkin

4 large egg whites

2 large eggs

Streusel Topping

1/2 cup gingersnap crumbs (about 8 cookies, finely crushed)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (I like spelt)

2 tablespoons brown sugar, organic

1 tablespoon light butter

If you have a Cuisinart this will be made in about 15 minutes and bakes for 45…

Combine all crust ingredients in Cuisinart, or smash to bits, add butter, and press into bottom of springform pan, bake for 5 minutes at 375, then reduce temp to 325.  Next, combine the filling ingredients in Cuisinart and blend until smooth.  Pour in cooled springform pan over the crust, cover bottom with tin foil halfway up the sides, place pan in shallow dish with ½ inch of water and return to oven bake at 325 for 1 and 1/2 hours (best to do this the day before Thanksgiving!!). Streusel topping is chunkier cookie crumbs, and remaining topping ingredients until coarse meal, sprinkle over cheesecake and bake an additional 10 minutes uncovered.  When fully cooked, run a silicone spatula or knife around the outside of the cheesecake while still in pan and cool at room temp.  Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve, take out of the pan and serve on a fall platter.