Every holiday table needs something small, sweet, orange, and full of carbs. These squash walnut wheat muffins fit the bill. Made with healthy white whole wheat flour and canned squash purée (which could also be pumpkin purée, if that's what you have in the cupboard), these little muffins satisfy the sweet tooth, and the carb tooth (if there is such a thing). And on a table filled with dishes served family-style, it's nice to have something just the right size for one person. Muffins generally don't overnight well, but I like to save a few for breakfast the next morning, when a quick zap in the microwave brings them back to life.
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My cranberry sauce failures -- undercooked, overjelled -- are the stuff of legend in my family. I admit that the molded cranberry sauce I watched slide down the sink drain as I inverted it onto a platter shook my confidence for a while, but it didn't defeat me. I've tried many versions of cranberry over the years, including spicy dried cranberry and pear chutney, my personal favorite. With several Type 1 diabetics in the family, I wanted to create a sugar-free cranberry sauce they could enjoy, and this one was a hit on our holiday table last Thanksgiving. Prepared in the slow cooker, with just a few ingredients (and no blurping splatters all over the stove), it's so good that nobody will believe it's also sugar-free. Make this several days ahead and store in the refrigerator; let it come to room temperature before you serve.
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Sides make the meal, never more so than on Thanksgiving, when there's so much pressure to serve the same family favorite recipes year after year. Yes, the favorites are wonderful and bring back memories, but updating traditions can create new memories -- and it's more fun for those of us who are the cooks. From now until the day, I'm sharing recipes for some of the sides from my own holiday menu. First up, a new appetizer on my table this year: pumpkin "hummus", made not with tahini and chickpeas, but with peanut butter and canned pumpkin purée, warmed up with smoky paprika and harissa. Serve it on pita triangles or celery sticks, and be sure save some to smear on leftover turkey sandwiches.
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