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Take everyday dishes up a notch this holiday season
Photos by Jenna McKenney

While very much beloved, those old faithful side dishes can often get the short end of the stick in terms of our creativity. As we prepare to gather around the table with friends or family this time of year, consider spicing up that stuffing or adding a little pizzazz to those mashed potatoes. On the following pages, The Virginian Hotel Catering Team shares four of their tasty favorites.


Cranberry-Apple Cornbread Stuffing

INGREDIENTS:
1/2 cup butter
2 cups celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
3 medium tart apples, cored and chopped
6 ounces dried cranberries
6 cups dry, unseasoned cornbread cubes
14.5 ounces chicken broth
8 ounces apple juice
1 teaspoon: parsley, rosemary, and thyme, chopped

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 325°F. Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add celery and onion. Cook until softened (~5 minutes). Add apple, cranberries, parsley, rosemary, and thyme.
2. Place bread cubes in a large bowl. Add the mixture, broth, and juice. Toss to combine.
3. Place mixture in a greased casserole dish, cover with foil and bake for 15 minutes.
4. Remove foil, bake for 20 more minutes until heated through and lightly browned.


Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Topped with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

INGREDIENTS:
One 3 lb butternut squash
(or 4 cups peeled and diced)
2 tablespoons olive oil (or avocado oil)
1-2 shallots, minced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons ginger, freshly grated
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon nutmeg
Salt to taste
2-3 cups vegetable stock
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1 dash maple syrup
Heavy cream (to finish)
Pumpkin seeds (toasted)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Slice squash vertically and remove the seeds. Place the halves cut-side down on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Rub the outside with 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes, or until tender.
2. Allow squash to cool. Peel and dice into cubes.
3. In a large stockpot, heat the remaining oil over medium-high heat. Sauté shallots 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until lightly browned. Add the nutmeg, salt, ginger, and cayenne. Cook for 1 more minute.
4. Add 2 cups of stock, brown sugar, maple syrup, and squash. Bring to a boil. Cover and reduce heat. Simmer for ~10 minutes (until very tender).
5. Puree with a stick blender, traditional blender, or food processor. Add heavy cream to reach desired consistency. (Use the remaining stock to thin if necessary.)
6. Top with toasted pumpkin seeds, if desired.


Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes

INGREDIENTS:
5 lbs Russet potatoes, peeled
and cubed
1 lb butter
1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half and half
1/2 lb smoked gouda, shredded
2 teaspoons white pepper
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
Dash of cayenne pepper
Salt, pepper, & garlic powder to taste

Directions:
1. Peel and dice the potatoes. Boil or steam until fork-tender.
2. In a separate pot, melt butter, add half and half and heavy cream. Mix in cayenne and paprika.
3. Mix in shredded cheese until melted and smooth.
4. Mash the potatoes in a large bowl. Pour in gouda mixture in small batches, mixing until absorbed.
5. Season with white pepper, salt, pepper, and garlic powder to taste. There should be a strong smoky and garlic flavor.


Roasted & Stuffed Delicata Squash

INGREDIENTS:
6 small delicata squash
(~1lb each)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 medium onions, diced
1 bunch of red kale (~1lb), trimmed and chopped
6 ounces whole-grain bread, cut into 3/4-inch cubes (~3 cups)
1/2 cup crumbled bleu cheese
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 cup pecans, rough chop
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 tablespoons chopped parsley for garnish

Directions:
1. Heat oven to 425°F. Cut one inch off of the top and bottom of the squash. Scrape out the seeds. Sprinkle the inside with salt and pepper and stand upright on an oiled baking sheet.
2. In a large saucepan melt 2 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. When the butter begins to foam add onions and sauté until softened and translucent (~6-8 minutes). Add kale and continue to cook, tossing until kale begins to wilt (~5 minutes). Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.
3. Toast bread cubes on a sheet pan until they begin to crisp (~7-9 minutes). Add to the bowl with the vegetable mixture, then add bleu cheese and cranberries. Mix until combined.
4. Put pecans over medium heat in a dry sauté pan. Heat and toast nuts until they become fragrant (~4-6 minutes). Add syrup and cook for 1 minute, scrape into the veggie mixture and stir to combine. Taste and season the mixture.
5. Lower oven to 400°F. Divide the mixture between the squash. Cut the remaining butter into 6 pieces and top each squash. Roast for ~45 minutes (until the skin of the squash is tender and easily pierced with a fork).
6. Slice stuffed squash into one-inch rings to serve.
7. Sprinkle with parsley.

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