Happy November! The biggest food holiday of the year is just weeks away, and I've got three side dishes to enliven your family feast. Each recipe offers something unique: 1) a family tradition, 2) a restaurant-inspired dish and 3) an original recipe. From sweet to savory, I've got you covered! Whether you're hosting Thanksgiving at home or traveling, cook up one of these Southern sides and you'll have everyone chowing down with gratitude.
Let's start with the notorious Pineapple Ritz Cracker Casserole. Every year at turkey time in my family, this casserole makes an appearance. If you've never had it, this concoction may sound strange, but trust me when I tell you, it is pure buttery, sweet, cheesy goodness with a satisfying crunch. Would the Queen of Southern Cuisine ever let you down? That's right, this is a Paula Deen recipe. I've made it nearly every year since I've been old enough to cook. And I simply couldn't write an article about Thanksgiving without including at least one casserole. When everyone else is toting sweet potato and green bean casseroles to the table, you'll show up to the party with fruit peeking out of crackers, and everyone will do a double take. Also, what goes better with ham than pineapple?
Pineapple Ritz Cracker Casserole
Yield: 8 servings
1 cup sugar
6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups sharp cheddar cheese, grated
2 (20-ounce) cans pineapple chunks, drained, and 6 tablespoons pineapple juice reserved
1 cup Ritz cracker crumbs
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter, melted, plus extra for greasing pan
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a medium-sized casserole dish with butter.
In a large bowl, stir together the sugar and flour. Gradually stir in the cheese. Add the drained pineapple chunks, and stir until ingredients are well combined. Pour the mixture into the prepared casserole dish.
In another medium bowl, combine the cracker crumbs, melted butter and reserved pineapple juice, stirring with a rubber spatula until evenly blended. Spread crumb mixture on top of pineapple mixture. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until golden brown.
You know a dish is memorable when you return one year later to the same restaurant and nothing new on the menu tempts you. Every year when the leaves are at their peak, my family takes a mountain trip to Gatlinburg, Tennessee, and we love eating out at a cozy restaurant there called Cherokee Grill. It has such a great atmosphere and a big, warm stone fireplace in the center of the dining room. That's where my love affair with Cinnamon Acorn Squash began, circa 2014. I ordered it on a whim, thinking I'd try something new, and my taste buds immediately surrendered to the fork-tender, warm interior of the yellow-orange flesh. Served with a dollop of cinnamon butter, it tastes exactly like fall looks: inspired and refreshing. I've recreated it many times for dinner at home.
An acorn squash is a winter squash with a dark green shell. You can find it near the butternut squash in the produce section of the grocery store. Remember, if you plan to serve this dish for Thanksgiving, be sure you have room in the oven to cook it just before guests arrive.
Cinnamon Acorn Squash
1 acorn squash
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.
Cut the squash in half or quarters, depending on the size. With a spoon, remove the pulp and seeds.
Place the squash on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, stir together softened butter and cinnamon sugar. When the squash has finished roasting, serve with a dollop of cinnamon butter on top, and savor the flavor!
Isn't it funny how your taste buds change as you get older? If you had told me that I would one day salivate over roasted Brussels sprouts with smoked bacon and fresh Parmesan cheese, I would have told you that you were crazy - and I would have eaten my words!
Food Network's Guy Fieri once said, "If you don't like Brussels sprouts, that's because you've eaten them when someone has boiled them." He's exactly right! Boiling anything is the most flavorless way to cook. The true flavor of this dish comes from the roasting, when the fat from the bacon marries with the tiny little seasoned cabbages. Sometimes I will eat this dish alone for dinner, because my heart, body and soul long for nothing more. They're some kinda good, y'all!
Here's a tip: These don't travel well. The last thing you want is to place them in a casserole dish and cover them with a lid when they're still hot. Condensation is no good! To avoid this, bake them on-site, or wait to cook them when you can enjoy their crispy, salty goodness at home.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
1 pound Brussels sprouts
3 slices smoked bacon
Fresh Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Extra virgin olive oil
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.
Spread Brussels sprouts in a single layer on a large baking sheet. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Using a pair of clean scissors, clip small pieces of raw bacon over the seasoned Brussels sprouts. With clean hands, toss everything together to coat evenly. Roast for 30 minutes.
When the Brussels sprouts are finished roasting, they should have a charred look. Shred large shards of fresh Parmesan cheese right over the top and serve.
What are some of your favorite Thanksgiving dishes? Share them with me on social media with #SomeKindaGood, and for menu inspiration all month long, be sure to visit my food blog at SomeKindaGood.com. Gobble, gobble!
Georgia native Rebekah Faulk Lingenfelser is a food enthusiast, aspiring cooking show host and writer. The personality behind the blog SomeKindaGood.com, she is a student at Savannah Technical College's Culinary Institute of Savannah. Search Facebook for Some Kinda Good or tweet her @SKGFoodBlog.