(10 seconds each to read and are almost that quick to prepare)
By Lisa Messinger
Food and Cooking at Creators Syndicate
Do you throw surprise parties for the winter holidays each year? Perhaps you do without knowing it if you ever serve first-time dishes at Thanksgiving or Christmas. As exciting as it is to jazz up meals with new recipes, results may instead emerge as hit-or-miss revelations.
Practice runs with delicious dividends are a better idea and serve double-duty by livening up your autumn meals. Another advantage: You are just perfecting one potential holiday dish at a time, rather than when under the pressure of trying to get an entire special-occasion feast on the table. An additional silver tinsel lining is that, even if an attempt doesn't meet your holiday expectations, you just might find a new weekday favorite.
Fun fare like this also proves food preparation can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun - and fast. The creative combinations are delicious proof that everyone has time for creating homemade specialties and, more importantly, the healthy family togetherness that goes along with it!
Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, since these are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations. They can't help but draw "wows" from family members and guests.
These two innovative variations of holiday traditional loved dishes are currently having auditions in my autumn recipe rotation:
LEMON SWEET POTATOES WITH MERINGUE TOPPING
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature, plus more for the baking dish
4 large, elongated orange-fleshed sweet potatoes (about 3 pounds), scrubbed, pierced all over with a fork
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon 2 tablespoons
fresh lemon juice 1/2 teaspoon
freshly grated nutmeg
4 large egg yolks (reserve the whites for the meringue)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Yields 8 servings.
To prepare the puree: Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400 F. Lightly butter a 9-inch ceramic quiche dish or glass pie plate.
Put the sweet potatoes on a large, rimmed baking sheet. Roast until they are tender when pierced with the tip of a small, sharp knife, about 50 minutes. Let them cool until easy to handle, about 15 minutes.
Peel the sweet potatoes and put the flesh in a medium bowl. Add the heavy cream, brown sugar, butter, lemon zest and juice, and nutmeg. Using a handheld electric mixer on medium speed, whip the mixture until smooth. Beat in the yolks. Spread the puree in the baking dish.
Reduce the oven temperature to 350 F. Bake the puree until it is set and barely beginning to brown, about 30 minutes. (The sweet potato base can be cooled, covered with aluminum foil, and refrigerated for up to 1 day. Reheat, covered, in a preheated 350 F oven until heated through, about 20 minutes. Uncover the puree.)
To prepare the meringue: Using the mixer with clean beaters, beat the egg whites in a medium bowl until soft peaks form (see Note). Gradually beat in the granulated sugar until the mixture forms stiff, shiny peaks. Using a spoon, spread and swirl the meringue over the puree.
Bake until the meringue is touched with golden brown, 7 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.
Note: The dish is easiest to make with an electric handheld mixer. I ("The Big Book of Sides
" author Rick Rodgers
) love my standing mixer, but it is too large for some jobs. For example the amount of egg whites for the meringue is too small to beat efficiently with the mixer's large bowl, and a hand mixer works much better.
- The Big Book of Sides
KALE SALAD WITH CRANBERRIES AND CASHEWS
1 good-size bunch kale, washed and dried Olive oil, as needed
2/3 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup crushed, toasted cashews, or pumpkin seeds
1/2 cup (preferably vegan) mayonnaise
1 to 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, or to taste
Yields 6 to 8 servings.
Strip the kale leaves off the stems. Cut into ribbons and place in a large bowl. With a little olive oil rubbed into your palms, massage the kale for a minute or so, until it becomes bright green and softens a bit.
Stir in the remaining ingredients and serve at room temperature.
Optional additions and variations:
- Tiny orange sections
- Diced apple
- Diced pear
- Dried cherries or golden raisins in place of the dried cranberries
- Toasted walnut or pecans in place of cashews
- Vegan Holiday Kitchen
QUICK TIP OF THE WEEK:
Fans of the award-winning Game of Thrones
HBO series, should find a lot to chew on in Game of Scones: All Men Must Dine
, a parody cookbook by Jammy Lannister
. Some of the featured fare includes a red velvet wedding or special occasion cake with swords and arrows protruding from it, "The Iron Scone
," which looks like it has thick metal screws sticking out, and "Oberyn's Smashing Head Surprise
," which is fashioned from a large chocolate egg to look like a blood-curdling mess when the "eyes" are poked.
Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food and nutrition writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the National Council Against Health Fraud and author of seven food books, including the best-selling The Tofu Book: The New American Cuisine with 150 Recipes (Avery/Penguin Putnam) and Turn Your Supermarket into a Health Food Store: The Brand-Name Guide to Shopping for a Better Diet(Pharos/Scripps Howard). She writes two nationally syndicated food and nutrition columns for Creators Syndicate and had been a longtime newspaper food and health section managing editor, as well as managing editor of Gayot/Gault Millau dining review company. Lisa traveled the globe writing about top chefs for Pulitzer Prize-winning Copley News Service and has written about health and nutrition for the Los Angeles Times Syndicate, Reader's Digest, Woman's World and Prevention Magazine Health Books. Permission granted for use on DrLaura.com.