Just less than a week until Thanksgiving Day, the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, football games, tree decorating and a tableful of tasty food shared with family and friends. For many, it is the official start of the holiday season. 

Although, if I am perfectly honest, Paul and I consider the “burr months” – October, November and December – the holiday season. We are hopeful people surrounding themselves with those they love will find peace, happiness and a break from the stress of COVID-19.  

Please don’t forget those less fortunate than you. Take a dinner plate to an older neighbor who cannot get out or has no family. Invite a single co-worker over or donate to the community dinner if you have the means.

In my last two columns I have shared recipes for appetizers and nontraditional desserts. This week I have sides for you. These two dishes are things normally found on the table but have been given a twist to make them taste fresh and new.      

I will confess that I have no problem eating cranberry sauce out of the can. I love the tart flavor and don’t mind the ridges of the can. It is what I grew up on. That said, making homemade cranberry sauce is so very easy and the flavor is amazing. 

Cranberry Sauce 

with Grand Marnier

Cranberry Sauce with Grand Marnier is full of holiday flavors like cinnamon, allspice, splashes of citrus and is elevated with a little orange liqueur. 

Ingredients: 

3 cups fresh cranberries

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

1 medium navel orange

1 cinnamon stick or ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier

1/8 teaspoon allspice

Prep: 

Zest the outside of the orange until you have a tablespoon of zest. Make sure to avoid the bitter white pith underneath the orange peel. Cut the orange in half and squeeze until you have ¼ cup of juice. 

In a medium saucepan, add cranberries, sugar, water, orange juice and cinnamon. Slowly bring the pot to a simmer over medium heat, stirring constantly, allowing berries to cook for 15 minutes. Add orange zest and allspice and simmer another 10-15 minutes. Transfer to a heat-safe glass dish and allow to cool in the refrigerator before serving. 

Sausage Cranberry 

Apple Stuffing

Sausage Cranberry Apple Stuffing is a winner for your turkey dinner with crunchy apples and cranberries and juicy sausage. It take about 45 minutes to prep and 55 minutes to bake. 

Ingredients: 

1 loaf sourdough bread, cubed, about 10 cups

1 cup sweetened dried cranberries

1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and chopped

24 ounces pork sausage

½ cup shallots, finely diced

½ cup pecans, chopped

½ cup fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh sage, finely chopped and divided

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped

1 teaspoon fresh thyme, chopped

1 cup chardonnay wine

4 tablespoons butter

2 cups chicken stock

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

Prep:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place cubed sourdough bread on 2 baking sheets. Bake 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until toasted but not browned. Place bread in an extra-large bowl. Add cranberries and apples. Stir and set aside. Butter a 13-by-9 casserole dish and set aside. 

In a large skillet over medium heat, cook sausage using the spatula to break up the meat as it cooks. Add 1½ tablespoons sage. Cook through, but do not brown the meat. Remove sausage from skillet with a slotted spoon and add it to the bowl with the bread. Leaving 2 tablespoons of sausage drippings in the pan, cook shallots until translucent. Add pecans, herbs and remaining sage to the pan. Cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Pour the shallot and herb mixture into the bowl with the bread crumbs. 

Add wine to the skillet, scraping up browned bits from the bottom of the pan as it cooks. Add butter and chicken stock. Bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and pour over bread mixture. Add eggs, tossing gently until combined. Pour into prepared baking dish. Cover with foil and bake 40 minutes. Remove foil and bake an additional 15 minutes. 

Note: if you are allergic to alcohol, use water or chicken stock. If you cannot find fresh herbs, use 1 teaspoon of dried herbs for every tablespoon of fresh herb called for. Make sure you pour the dried herbs into your hand and crush them to release oils and add potency. If making ahead, scoop stuffing into a slow cooker and heat on low until ready to serve. Add a little chicken stock if it starts to look dry.