Might as well start planning now for the big day, when friends and family gather at dinner tables to celebrate all the things they are thankful for. Let’s begin with appetizers that reflect the bounty of the fall season. And even if you don’t celebrate Thanksgiving, you still have to eat, so why not make your own celebration? Decorate with a few pumpkins or gourds, fall leaves and whatever splashes of color that make your home and dining area look festive. Happy cooking and eating.
Butternut squash spread
Try this with some crispy pita chips.
1 1/2 cups (1/2-inch) cubed peeled butternut squash (about 1 pound)
1 teaspoon olive oil
1/2 cup diced onion
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh sage
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 garlic cloves, minced
Dash of crushed red pepper
1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes, packed without oil
2 tablespoons unsalted pumpkin seed kernels, toasted
1. Place butternut squash in a medium saucepan; cover with water 2 inches above squash. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat, and cook 15 minutes or until tender. Drain.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Add onion to pan; saute 4 minutes or until tender. Add sage and next 4 ingredients (through red pepper); saute 2 minutes. Cool.
3. Place squash, onion mixture, and sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor; process until smooth. Spoon into a medium bowl; sprinkle with pumpkin seed kernels. Makes about 1 1/2 cups.
Roasted vegetable tart
If you like, you can fold the edges of the crust over part of the veggies, for a rustic look.
2 large red bell peppers, roasted (see note)
2 jalapeno peppers, roasted
2 small zucchini, sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch and roasted
1 large yellow onion, sliced in rounds and roasted
1 head garlic, roasted
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups Swiss, Gruyere or white Cheddar cheese, grated coarse
1/2 cup heavy cream
Pizza dough (or pie dough) to fill a 9-inch tart or pie pan
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground pepper, or to taste
Note: To roast the vegetables: Red bell peppers: Rinse and cut in half lengthwise. Broil cut side down 4 to 6 inches from heat until skins are charred, about 8 minutes. Let cool, draped with foil. Pull off and discard skins; stems, seeds. Save juice. Cut into strips or chunks. Do not combine with other vegetables yet.
Jalapenos: Same as above.
Garlic and onions: Peel. Mix with 2 teaspoons olive oil. Bake in a 475-degree oven in a 8- to10-inch square pan until tinged with brown, 20 to 30 minutes; turn occasionally.
Zucchini: Same as onions, but do not peel. Set vegetables aside to cool.
1. Line a 9 1/2-inch tart pan or a pie pan with the pizza dough or pie crust dough. Bake the single crust for 8 minutes in a 425-degree oven; remove and cool.
2. Arrange the roasted vegetables (except the roasted garlic) on the pre-baked crust. When laying in the vegetables on the crust, make sure they are evenly distributed. You may have to cut them into strips to achieve this.
3. Mix the cream, egg, roasted garlic and cheese together and pour over the roasted vegetables.
4. Bake for 15 minutes (at 425); remove and let cool a while before slicing and serving. You can reserve a little of the roasted pepper strips for garnishing the top of the tart. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Apple Cheddar sausage balls with glaze
1 package Maple Flavor Jimmy Dean Pork Sausage
1 egg, lightly beaten
1/2 cup fine bread crumbs
1/2 cup coarsely grated peeled tart baking apple
4 oz. grated sharp Cheddar cheese (1 cup)
1/2 cup Dijon style mustard
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1. Combine sausage, egg, bread crumbs, apple and cheese in large mixing bowl; stir well. Shape into 4 dozen 1-inch balls.
2. In a large skillet over medium-high heat, cook in batches of 12 or 24, turning frequently until lightly browned, about 10 minutes. Drain if desired, then return to skillet.
3. In a small bowl, combine mustard, tomato sauce, maple syrup and vinegar. Pour over sausage balls. Cover and simmer for 30 minutes. Transfer to a chafing dish or slow cooker; serve hot with toothpicks. Note: sausage balls may be prepared ahead and frozen uncooked; thaw in refrigerator before cooking as directed above. Makes 4 dozen appetizers.
Sun-dried tomato jam
1 jar (8-ounces) sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, drained and chopped, oil reserved
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 onion, thinly sliced
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 cup water
1/2 cup chicken broth
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 baguette, cut into 3/4-inch slices
1/4 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme leaves
1. For the sun-dried tomato jam: Place a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the chopped sun-dried tomatoes, 1 tablespoon of the reserved sun-dried tomato oil, olive oil, onion and garlic. Stir and cook until the onions are soft and beginning to brown at the edges, about 5 to 7 minutes.
2. Add the sugar, vinegar, water, chicken broth, 1 teaspoon thyme, salt and pepper. Bring the liquid to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
3. Remove the cover and continue simmering until most of the liquid is reduced and the mixture is the consistency of jam, about 5 to 10 more minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.
4. For the crostini: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil. Place baguette slices on baking sheet.
5. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat the baguette slices with olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake until lightly toasted, about 8 minutes. Place the soft goat cheese in a small bowl. Stir in the 2 teaspoons thyme.
6. To assemble: Spread the crostini with sun-dried tomato jam and top with the goat cheese and herb mixture. Transfer to a serving plate and serve.