Looking through my arsenal, it appears that I don’t have many recipes for side dishes. As I’ve mentioned in the past, I either don’t make a side or just steam/roast some veggies or throw together a simple salad. But those get pretty boring really quickly so it was nice to try something different for a change.
I spent a lot of time poring over the recipes from my assigned blog for the Blogger’s Choice swap but kept coming back to this one. I always order creamed spinach pretty much whenever it is offered as a side at a restaurant. It’s not the healthiest choice, hiding nutrient-packed spinach amongst all the cheese and heavy cream, but I was thrilled to have the chance to make it a wee bit better for you, hopefully without sacrificing the taste.
And it didn’t disappoint. Although I have to admit I cheated just a little bit. I served this alongside pan-fried bacon wrapped chicken (coming soon to the blog) and used the same skillet with some of the remaining bacon grease and pan juices to prepare it. Other than that, I didn’t stray too far from the recipe. I substituted 32 oz. of fresh baby spinach for the frozen chopped, doubling the amount of spinach to boost the nutrition factor and because 16 oz didn’t look like it was going to be enough once it was chopped.
- 32 oz. Fresh Baby Spinach
- 1 Tbsp. Butter
- 2 Shallots, minced
- 1 Clove Garlic, minced
- 2 Tbsp. Flour
- 1 1/2 Cups 2% or Skim Milk
- 2 Tbsp. Parmesan Cheese, shredded
- 1/4 tsp. Black Pepper
- 1/4 tsp. Nutmeg
- 4 oz. Garlic and Herb Boursin Cheese
Add the spinach to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped.
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic and cook for 4-5 minutes.
Add the flour to the skillet and whisk until combined. Slowly pour in the milk, whisking constantly. Add the parmesan, pepper, nutmeg and Boursin and stir until smooth, then add the spinach and stir until combined. Cook an additional 1-2 minutes.
The Jey of Cooking | http://www.thejeyofcooking.com
Before we got married, the (future) Husby and I took a trip to Eugene, Oregon. It was quite the adventure getting there but we fell in love with the city. The people were friendly and laid back, the city clean, beautiful and green. If we ever decided to leave Chicago (we’ll never leave you, my love), this is where we would go.
While we were there, we drove up to one of the local wineries and spent the afternoon there. It was our first time ever visiting a winery (we couldn’t have been older than 22), and really, likely one of our first times really drinking wine. That was the day I fell in love with Pinot Noirs from the Willamette Valley, a love that hasn’t faltered to this very day.
So naturally, I was ecstatic to find this recipe on Closet Cooking, one of my favorite food blogs. I’m constantly finding myself drooling over his recipes, so I knew this one would not steer me wrong. The pinot was an incredible complement to the cranberries and the ginger was a welcome addition. Everyone gobbled (ha ha) them up! I didn’t even have any leftovers.
Oh well, I guess tha just gives me an excuse to open up another bottle, right?
Pinot Noir Cranberries – slightly adapted from Closet Cooking
- 1 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil
- 2 Cups Fresh Cranberries
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Ginger, grated*
- 2 Cups Pinot Noir
- 1 Cup Sugar
- 2 Tbsp. Crystallized Ginger, chopped
- 1/4 tsp. Chinese Five Spice Powder
Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Add the cranberries and fresh ginger and stir until the cranberries begin to burst, about 3 to 5 minutes.
Add the wine and sugar and boil for 15-20 minutes, until reduced. Remove from heat and stir in the crystallized ginger and Chinese five spice powder.
* If you store fresh ginger in the freezer, it will keep for months. It will also make it incredibly easy to grate.
I don’t know about you but alcohol plays a big role in our holiday celebrations. The Husby’s family is Irish, and the Irish? Well, they like to drink.
I was intrigued by the bourbon that was called for in the recipe so I decided to give it a try at the “Friendsgiving” dinner we hosted earlier this week. It was by far everyone’s favorite side of the evening. Sauteeing the pears in the touch of booze provided a sweet-smokiness to the otherwise savory dish, and the toasted pecans lent a welcome crunch. I think it would be excellent to use homemade toasted bread cubes as the original recipe called for in lieu of the stuffing mix, but I was lazy and it still came out wonderfully. It would certainly be an elegant dish to add to your Thanksgiving table.
Bourbon Pear Pecan Stuffing – slightly adapted from Food Network
- 6 Tbsp. Butter
- 1 Onion, diced
- 3 Carrots, peeled and diced
- 3 Celery Stalks, diced
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Sage, roughly chopped
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Thyme, roughly chopped
- 2 Bosc Pears, diced
- 1/2 Cup Bourbon (I used Maker’s Mark)
- 2 Cups Chicken Stock
- 2 Eggs
- 1/4 Cup Parsley, chopped
- 1 Package Unseasoned Stuffing
- 1 Cup Toasted Pecans, chopped
Preheat oven to 350.
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, sage, and thyme and cook for 5 minutes, until soft. Add the pears and cook an additional 3 minutes.
Pour in the bourbon and simmer 2 minutes, then add the chicken broth. Return to a simmer another 5-10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix the eggs and parsley in a large bowl. Add the stuffing and pecans, then the hot mixture. Toss gently until combined.
Spoon the stuffing into a buttered 9×13 baking dish. Bake for 30 minutes.
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Tagged bourbon, cooking, dressing, fall, food, pear, pecan, recipe, side dish, stuffing, thanksgiving
I’m participating again this month in the Crazy Cooking Challenge! This month’s challenge was to find the ultimate mashed potato recipe. I’m really excited to see what everyone has come up with since mashed potatoes are such a staple item in many households.
I was excited to find this recipe from Baked Bree, a blog with drool-inducing recipes and photos that I read fairly regularly. As soon as I stumbled upon this one, I knew that it would be the winner. While it may seem like an unusual mix of flavors, they complemented each other perfectly. I loved the slight sweetness of the roasted apples and honey, and the sharp bite of the blue cheese. I served it alongside porkchops, and it was a wonderful, hearty meal.
So don’t be afraid to try something different next time mashed potatoes end up on your menu. You won’t be disappointed. And make sure to check out the other entries at the end of this post for even more mashed potato goodness!
Blue Cheese and Roasted Apple Mashed Potatoes – slightly adapted from Baked Bree
- 3 Lbs. Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and quartered
- 3 Golden Delicious Apples, peeled, cored and quartered
- Generous drizzle of Olive Oil
- 2 Tbsp. Butter
- 2/3 Cup Milk
- 1 8 oz. Package Cream Cheese
- 5 oz. Blue Cheese
- 3-4 Tbsp. Honey
- 1 Tbsp. Fresh Chives, chopped, plus more for garnish
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Preheat oven to 350.
Place the chopped apples in a piece of foil. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Wrap the foil around the apples, creating a packet. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 20-25 minutes, until apples are soft. When apples are done baking, leave the oven on.
While the apples are baking, boil the potatoes in a large pot of water. Cook until a fork inserted into a potato comes out easily. Drain the potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add the apples to the bowl.
Add the butter and milk and mash well until the butter has melted. Doing this step first will help to prevent your potatoes from becoming gummy.
Add the cream cheese, blue cheese (reserving a small handful for topping) and honey and mash until combined. Stir in the chives.
Transfer potatoes to an oven safe dish. Sprinkle with reserved blue cheese. Bake until the potatoes get bubbly and the the top becomes golden brown. Remove from oven and sprinkle with additional chives before serving.