Today, we're talking side dishes, potluck, and buffet recipes. My tip for all of these recipes is to adjust accordingly for crowd size. All of these recipes can be doubled or tripled for large crowds, and even be scaled down for a small gathering. Variety is the key to a successful buffet - smaller in quantity, more in variety.
In our family, it's rare to have a regular sit-down dinner during the holidays. Many of us are awesome cooks, and we all know the hard work involved in preparing a bountiful meal for a hungry crew. Serving meals in potluck or buffet style reduces the amount of work for everyone, and allows us all to try new dishes or old favorites.
My favorite side dish during the holidays has to be dressing. In our family, we never stuffed the turkey, so it's always been called dressing.
My mom gave me the flavor of dressing I like the most - sage. But her dressing was always too dry for my tastes (sorry, Mom.) Once I started making it on my own, and trying other versions from other people, I discovered I could create the same flavor with a moister texture. Of course, along the way, I also almost overdosed my kids on sage, because I like it so much. They - and now Tim - always tell me, "don't make it too green."
NOTE: I rarely measure anything, so the measurements below are guesses, and always adjusted to my taste as I'm cooking. Feel free to adjust as needed to meet your own taste and preference.
Tracy's Cornbread Dressing
1/2 loaf white sandwich bread, torn into pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tablespoon sage (feel free to adjust according to preference - but from my experience, there is such a thing as too much, so if this is your first time, use restraint)
salt and pepper to taste
Chicken broth and/or turkey drippings
Mix the breads, veggies, and seasonings, stirring together in a large bowl until well mixed. Then begin adding the broth and/or drippings. I never measure the amounts, but for this amount, I would guess that 32 to 48 oz should be about right if you want a dressing that is more moist than dry. I sometimes use drippings, but most of the time, make the dressing ahead of time, so I use stock or broth in a 32-oz box and have two on hand in case I need them. For a moist dressing, the texture should be wet, but not soupy.
Let sit for 5-10 minutes, then stir again. If needed, add more broth at this point.
Then pour into a 13x9 pan and bake at 375 for 45 minutes. (Timing and temps can be adjusted if you have other things in the oven.)
I asked my friend, Fay Lamb, for a recipe to include her in our blog hop. She readily admits she's not a cook, but I love Fay and her wackiness, and she's a vital part of my daily life, so she had to somehow be included.
I was happy to receive this note and recipe from her, but now I have to figure out where to put this - with all the other sides, or on the dessert table?
I don’t recall a Thanksgiving where candied sweet potatoes weren’t on the table. I always looked forward to this treat, and now I make sure it is a part of our family tradition.
Fay's Candied Sweet Potatoes
3 to 4 sweet potatoes, boiled, skinned (I have learned that boiling them in salt water for 20-30 minutes, taking them out, and peeling them immediately with a silver fork, pulls the skin away very easily)
½ cup brown sugar
½ cup water
¼ cup butter
Marshmallows (large or small) to cover
Halve potatoes lengthwise and place in a shallow, greased baking dish. Cook the water and sugar together to make syrup. Pour syrup over potatoes, dot with butter, and cover the sweet potatoes with marshmallows. Bake at 400 degrees for 15-20 minutes or until the marshmallows begin to brown.
I'm putting together a special Christmas gift for Tim, so I asked his cousins and sister for some recipes and pictures. His cousin, Leah Mackin Washburn, sent me a recipe for her mac & cheese and I couldn't wait to try it. It's one of the best mac & cheese recipes I've ever had - I've made it twice since I got the recipe!
One of our local Ingles stores sells jumbo macaroni, so that's what I use for this recipe. I also use extra sharp cheddar because that's what I buy regularly.
2 8-oz. pkgs Kraft medium cheddar cheese
1 8-oz box elbow macaroni
1 12-oz can evaporated milk
4 tablespoons butter
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil noodles in salt water with a little drizzle of oil. Stir often. Cook 9 minutes, drain and then rinse in cold water. Set aside.
In a large bowl, grate cheese (set a little aside for the topping). Melt butter and let it cool a little. Beat eggs, add salt and pepper, the mix everything - cheese, butter, eggs, and macaroni. Stir until well mixed. Pour into a 2-quart casserole dish and distribute evenly, then top with remaining cheese.
Bake at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly.
Thanks for allowing me to share the recipe, Leah! Here's a picture of the batch I made last week. There may or may not be a corner sampled before serving.
I called my mom to ask her for other ideas. She named several faster than I could write them down, and reminded me of others I've made over the years. We decided I needed to add some more fruits and vegetables to the mix.
Growing up, we always had a fruit salad with our Thanksgiving and Christmas meals. I'd hear other people describe Waldorf salad or their own fruit salads, and while they came close, no one seemed to make it the same way my mom did.
Mom's Fruit Salad
(amounts can be adjusted for the crowd)
1-2 bananas, peeled and sliced
1 large Granny Smith apple, skin on, cored and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1 Red Delicious apple, skin on, cored and chopped into bite-sized chunks
1-2 naval oranges
1/2 cup chopped nuts (we always had pecans growing up, but I've also used walnuts, almonds, or cashews)
Prepare the bananas, grapes, and apples and place in a large bowl. Immediately peel the oranges and supreme them. I usually do this over the bowl of apples, so the juice goes into the bowl. (Here's a helpful video that shows how I do it - if you're new to the kitchen, or not terribly handy with a knife, or your mom worries about you, use a cutting board.) The juice keeps the apples and bananas from turning brown, so after the orange pieces are in the bowl, stir to mix and coat.
Then add the nuts and mayonnaise. I didn't include a measurement of mayo, because I usually just add a couple of tablespoons and keep adding until it's coated the way I like it. The amount of juice from the oranges will change how the mayo coats the fruit, so you may not get exact results every time. For our own family, the Kraft mayo is the key - other brands change the flavor for us.
Stir to mix, then cover and refrigerate until needed. We usually make this recipe first thing in the morning, for an afternoon meal, to keep it as fresh as possible.
A few years ago, I needed a quick vegetable side dish. I went through our almost bare pantry and freezer, and used what I had on hand. I'd always heard of Green Beans Almondine, but thought they were too fancy - until I looked them up online and discovered that was exactly what I'd just made myself. (And now, I just don't understand people thinking this is a "fancy" dish. It's too simple to be called fancy.)
Green Beans Almondine
|Photo from the 99 Cent Chef Blog|
Green beans (fresh or frozen - I love Italian style frozen)
Slivered or sliced almonds
Toast the almonds in an empty skillet on low heat until just slightly browned. Set aside.
In a large skillet, add enough water to cover the bottom of the pan, then add one package of green beans and salt to taste. Saute until beans are done (most of the water should have cooked away.) Add a couple of tablespoons of butter, and add toasted almonds. Stir gently as butter melts. Add juice of one lemon. Serve immediately.
Don't forget to stop by the other blogs on our Holiday Recipes Blog Hop. Links below activate on the day they're scheduled.
FRI, Nov 30:– Tracy Ruckman
SAT, Dec 2: Holiday Beverages – Rachel Hartsfield
MON, Dec 3:– Peggy Cunningham
TUES, Dec 4:– Betty Thomason Owens
WED, Dec 5: Holiday Main Courses – Sheryl Holmes
THURS, Dec 6: Holiday Sides / Potluck / Buffets – Tracy Ruckman
FRI, Dec 7: Holiday Sweets – Rachel Hartsfield
SAT, Dec 8:– Tracy Ruckman
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