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For most people, Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. At Blended Kitchen, however, we say forget the turkey – pass the sides! Why would we waste our time on turkey when we can have mouthwatering sides like corn casserole and stuffing?

So, since it’s the season of giving, here’s what we’re giving you: five of our favorite thanksgiving sides (and a new dessert that will have you coming back for seconds… or thirds!)

Here’s our Blended Kitchen Thanksgiving sides menu: Sara Favazza’s sweet cranberry relish, a classic corn casserole from Cindy’s childhood parish, a green bean casserole with buttered Ritz cracker crust (yum!), stuffin’ muffins and brown sugar covered sweet potatoes. For dessert? Cinnamon roll pumpkin vanilla sheet cake (say that five times fast!) It’s a departure from the traditional Thanksgiving pies, but after you taste it you’ll forget why you even wanted pumpkin pie in the first place.

Sara F’s Cranberry Relish
While Cindy would be perfectly happy with canned cranberry sauce on Thanksgiving, the rest of the family prefers something with actual fruit. Sara’s cranberry relish kicks traditional cranberries up a notch with fresh oranges and apples. Since we first tasted this relish, we haven’t been able to have Thanksgiving without it.

Some of you may be asking, who is Sara F? Sara is Cindy’s sister-in-law Dina’s mother (is there an official title for that?) and a fantastic cook. We are so happy that Sara let us share this twist on a Thanksgiving classic.

This recipe makes nearly a ton (well, 8 pounds) of the relish, so you can halve it or quarter it to make less. If you do that, make sure you also halve the amount of water you add to the Jell-O. It can be disastrous if you use too much water. Also, DO NOT I repeat DO NOT use sugar free Jell-O for this. It will taste like straight up crap aspartame.

6 cups cranberries (two 12 oz. bags)
6 cups sugar
1 package orange Jell-O
2 packages red Jell-O (we used raspberry, but cherry works too)
3 seedless medium oranges (Do not peel! We mean it!)
3 medium apples (Don’t peel these either!)
3 cups boiling water

Grind cranberries, apples and oranges in a food processor. Add sugar and allow to stand for 1 to 3 hours.

Dissolve Jell-O in boiling water; when cool, add fruit. Let stand overnight in refrigerator. Stir before placing in containers.

We add some orange zest to give it a little more color.

Corn Casserole
The recipe for this casserole (and the green bean casserole, actually) comes from a cookbook from Cindy’s childhood parish. If you own any church cookbooks, you already know that they are a gold mine of butter-filled delicious dishes. If you don’t own any, you should probably be on the lookout for some. When we all got married in 2000, Lindsey and Claire were having an obsession with Stouffer’s Corn Soufflé. When Cindy tasted it she knew she could make it even better, so she dug up this recipe and got cooking. We’ve been eating it during the holidays ever since.

1 can cream-style corn (15 oz.)
1 can whole kernel corn (15 oz.)
1 stick margarine, melted (we used butter… mmm!)
1 container sour cream (8 oz.)
1 package Jiffy corn muffin mix

Look at that gooey golden goodness!

Mix all ingredients together and bake for 1 hour at 350 degrees. Doesn’t get much easier than that, huh?

Corn casserole, pre-oven.

Really wishing we could reach through the computer screen and eat this right now.

Green Bean Casserole
We know what you’re going to say. “Not another green bean casserole! No more cream of mushroom soup! I don’t care about crispy onions on top!” But read on, because this casserole is so much better than that. The sweet shoepeg corn mixes beautifully with the green beans and extra buttery Ritz crackers. This casserole is so good that someone (cough cough Cindy cough cough) has been known to eat leftovers of this casserole for a morning-after-Thanksgiving breakfast.

This recipe is supposed to serve 8, but it’s so good you’ll have them all begging for more.

1 12-oz. can shoe peg corn, drained
1 15-oz. can French-cut green beans, drained (You can also use fresh, but we prefer the canned beans. We’re classy, we know.)
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese (We like to grate our own off a block of cheese – it’s cheaper and tastes better!)
1/2 cup sour cream
Pinch salt
1 can cream of celery soup

35 Ritz crackers (that’s one sleeve)
1/2 cup butter, melted (yeah, that’s one stick!)

Combine corn, beans, salt, onion, cheese, soup and sour cream in a big bowl. Place in a greased glass dish.

It tastes better than it looks, trust us.

Crumble the Ritz crackers into a bowl. Mix together butter and crackers. Place topping on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes.

Add the buttery Ritz cracker topping.

Baked to a perfect golden brown.

Drooling at the computer...

Stuffin’ Muffins Good Morning America | 2011

Cute is generally not the word we’d use to describe Thanksgiving stuffing, but that’s exactly what these little stuffin’ muffins are. They’re also pretty scrumptious, if we do say so ourselves. Because these stuffin’ muffins are baked in a muffin pan, each individual serving has the crispy edges and the moist, delicious center. And that’s another thing we love about this recipe – it makes clearly defined individual portions. It’s great for those people who are watching their waistlines during the holidays (not us, obviously, since every recipe on this post calls for a stick of butter…) The only thing we’d add to the muffins was a spoonful of gravy.

We halved the recipe but it still made at least 24 muffins. We froze the leftover stuffin’ muffin mix in a casserole dish to heat up when we’re craving a special treat. It will be great with a rotisserie chicken!

1 bag Pepperidge Farm cornbread cubes
1 pound bulk sage pork sausage (You actually don’t have to use sausage if you don’t want to. Lindsey doesn’t like it, so we made half without just for her.)
1 stick butter
2 onions, chopped
2 cups celery, chopped
2 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
1 bag craisins (dried cranberries)
1 cup pecans, chopped (or walnuts)
2 to 3 cups low sodium chicken stock
2 eggs
2 teaspoons baking powder
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place cornbread cubes in large mixing bowl.

Sauté sausage and onions in skillet until brown, breaking up sausage into small pieces. Drain in colander and transfer to bowl. (We actually just dumped the contents of the pan onto a plate covered with a paper towel. The paper towel soaks up whatever grease their may be better than just draining the dish.)

Melt butter in same skillet and sauté celery until crisp and tender. Add to bowl.

Add apple and remaining ingredients, except broth.

Mix all and then add broth until thoroughly moistened but not really wet.

Add eggs and baking powder. Mix well.

Place stuffing mixture in a large, greased glass casserole or in 12 muffin tins.

Bake at 325° for 25 minutes covered, 10 minutes uncovered for casserole and 25 minutes for muffins.

Enjoy warm.

It's cute, right?

Gourmet Sweet Potato Classic AllRecipes.com
This recipe was actually found and prepared by the Nugget after he and Cindy found sweet potatoes growing in our flower planters. We had planted sweet potato vines earlier in the year, but never really thought about what those sweet potato vines grew out of. When Nugget found them, he knew he wanted to cook with them and make something the whole family could enjoy: a sweet potato casserole. Our sweet potatoes grew white, but we don’t know why. The regular old orange ones will work just fine in this recipe.

Traditionally, sweet potato casseroles have gobs of gooey, melty marshmallows on top. Lindsey loves these types of casseroles, but this one was different (and better!) For the topping on this casserole, you’ll need butter, sugar and pecans. And you should probably make extra because it tastes pretty darn good on its own.

5 sweet potatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup butter
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup white sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1/4 cup butter, softened
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 cup chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease a 9×13 inch baking dish.

Everything is cuter with nugget hands.

Bake sweet potatoes 35 minutes in the preheated oven, or until they begin to soften. Cool slightly, peel, and mash.

Nugget loved cracking the eggs and adding them in.

In a large bowl, mix the mashed sweet potatoes, salt, 1/4 cup butter, eggs, vanilla extract, cinnamon, sugar, and heavy cream. Transfer to the prepared baking dish.

In a medium bowl, combine 1/4 cup butter, flour, brown sugar, and chopped pecans. Mix with a pastry blender or your fingers to the consistency of course meal. Sprinkle over the sweet potato mixture.

Bake 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until topping is crisp and lightly browned.

Now just imagine that brown sugar melting in your mouth... Mmmm

Cinnamon Roll Pumpkin Vanilla Sheet Cake Picky Palate | January 2011
Have you ever heard of Pinterest? If you haven’t, you’re seriously missing out (and should probably click on the link and make an account…) That’s how we found the recipe for this incredibly sinful sheet cake.

Cindy’s not a big fan of pumpkin, but we did want to make a pumpkin dessert. After all, what kind of Thanksgiving would it be without something pumpkin? We don’t know either. Although the recipe has a long name (and an even longer list of ingredients) it’s super simple to make and it’s so good you’ll consider polishing off the entire pan before it even makes it to the table. And, even though Cindy doesn’t like pumpkin, she loved this cake. We’re sure you will too.

The Nugget referred to this dessert as “the best dessert ever.” If that doesn’t tell you how good it is, I don’t know what will.

1 box yellow cake mix
4 eggs
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk or buttermilk
3.4 ounce box Vanilla Instant Pudding Mix
1/2 cup sour cream
15 ounce can pumpkin
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 cups powdered sugar
1/4-1/2 cup heavy cream (start w 1/4 cup and add a little more cream if needed)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a jelly roll pan with non stick cooking spray.

Place cake mix, eggs, oil, milk, pudding, sour cream and pumpkin into a stand or electric mixer, beating until well combined, about 1 1/2 minutes. Pour into prepared pan, spreading evenly.

Place butter into a microwave safe bowl and melt, about 30-40 seconds. Add brown sugar and cinnamon to bowl, mixing until combined. Drizzle mixture evenly over cake then take a knife and run it through to swirl.

Almost too pretty to eat... but just almost.

Cinnamon roll cake photo shoot!

Bake cake for 30-35 minutes, until cooked through and remove. Place powdered sugar and cream into a large bowl and mix until creamy and smooth. Drizzle over warm cake then let cool for 20 minutes before cutting into squares. Refrigerate if not serving same day.  Enjoy with milk!

Drizzle the glaze all over the cake while the cake is still warm.

It's calling your name...

Happy Thanksgiving from Blended Kitchen!

Nom. nom. nom.