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'Repurpose' holiday favorite ingredients for festive new feasts

'Repurpose' holiday favorite ingredients for festive new feasts

Give your ham glaze a fresh outlook, and create an innovative meal theme at the same time.


POSTED December 10, 2013 7:01 p.m.

Holidays are often stuffed with our favorite foods of all time. However, when you rely on old standbys just because they are familiar, it lessens the potential pizzazz. The ideas that follow — they each take just seconds to read and are almost that quick to prepare — prove that virtually any winter holiday staple (like potatoes, stuffing or pumpkin) can be twisted and turned into a new holiday masterpiece on demand. Better yet, rather than starting from scratch, they can improve the meal for just pennies per serving.

Food preparation — even for holiday guests — can be easy, nutritious, inexpensive, fun and fast, as the following split-second sensations prove. The dishes are delicious evidence that everyone — including you and your kid helpers — has time for tasty home cooking and more importantly, the family time in the kitchen that goes along with it!

Another benefit: You effortlessly become a better cook, even when preparing holiday specialties, since there are no right or wrong amounts. These are virtually-can't-go-wrong combinations, so whatever you choose to use can't help but draw "wows" at the table.

 

HAM OR TURKEY

—Glad for New Glaze

Give your glaze a fresh outlook, and create an innovative meal theme at the same time. For Hawaiian flair, for instance, glaze with a syrup you've created as it reduces while you are stirring on the stovetop from coconut milk, pineapple juice, freshly ground black pepper and cayenne pepper.

Turn it into a theme by adding chopped macadamia nuts and fresh pineapple chunks to your side dishes and a drizzle of bottled guava, papaya or mango nectar to your pumpkin or apple dessert pie before baking. Then, top it with sprinkles of sweetened coconut flakes just before serving.

—Gravitate Toward These Gravies and Sauces.

As good as they are, gravies and sauces are often bland. Why not perk them up a bit as they heat. Consider adding just a dash of strategic flavor, like cayenne and chopped jalapenos (experts recommend wearing latex gloves and not touching your eyes during or after handling peppers); finely diced garlic and pumpkin pie spice; or peach jam or all-fruit, no-sugar spread (also available in the jam aisles of most supermarkets) and curry powder.

 

STUFFING

—The Shape of Things to Come

Stuffing doesn't always need to be stuffed into something.

It can make quite a statement on its own. Fill either regular-sized or mini-muffin trays with cooked stuffing and bake or form it into loaves. Or stuff the stuffing, by placing a surprise, like a prune or a green olive, in the middle of a stuffing muffin.

—More Than a Side Dish

Stuffing can function as a surprising course, rather than its usual side dish status. Substitute seasoned, dry stuffing mix for the bread, or along with it, in your favorite bread pudding recipe for a kick.

 

SWEET POTATOES

—Baked Beauties

Instead of a casserole, consider baking sweet potatoes to serve to guests individually, along with a buffet of toppings, such as honey, pure maple syrup, mini marshmallows, composed butters (like those to which you've added freshly chopped herbs or spices) or a mixture of diced dried fruit like cranberries, golden raisins, apricots and figs.

—Even Sweeter Sweet Potatoes

Mix in or substitute sweet potatoes for pumpkin in a dessert pie or muffins. Sweeten a sweet potato puree (made from the flesh of peeled sweet potatoes) with honey or brown sugar, warm it and use as a dessert topping for vanilla ice cream that you then top with browned, melting mini marshmallows and toasted walnuts.

 

PUMPKIN OR APPLE

—One Cozy Cocktail

Consider a toast with mini pumpkin or apple smoothies (or a combination of both) during appetizer time or to start off the meal. In a blender, to vanilla soymilk, add a dash of canned pumpkin pie filling or apple pie filling, banana, pumpkin seeds, candied pecans and ice. Blend until smooth.

—Pumpkin or Apple Pie Where You'd Least Expect It

Add minced, chopped unpeeled pumpkin or apple to your stuffing or green bean casserole before cooking, as well as a sprinkling of pumpkin pie spice or cinnamon and crushed graham cracker crumbs.

The same additions can be made to a mixed green or spinach salad if you cube and roast the pumpkin first. (Apples, of course, can be used raw.) You can serve it warm on top of the salad for a wilted effect, or let it cool first. Drizzle with roasted pumpkin seeds and poppy seed-based salad dressing, or raspberry vinaigrette.

— Lisa Messinger is a first-place winner in food writing from the Association of Food Journalists and the author of seven food books, including "Mrs. Cubbison's Best Stuffing Cookbook" and "The Sourdough Bread Bowl Cookbook." She also writes the Creators News Service "Cooks' Books" column.

 

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