Consider adding a delicious twist to the same old by mixing inspired additions into your comfort food recipe playlist. Charla Draper, a former food editor for Southern Living and Ebony magazine, who now heads a food consulting company (itsfoodbiz.com), suggests small culinary tweaks such as replacing sour cream with yogurt in desserts or flavoring baked ham with carbonated pineapple, orange or tangerine juice. Draper also recommends adding a “Twist” to traditional macaroni and cheese with curly pasta. “Families and guests relish traditional food during the holidays when it’s important to serve familiar flavors. But it’s also a good time to give old recipes a bit of an upgrade or by using ingredients in an unexpected way,” she adds.
Baked Sweet Potato with Margarita Flava
2 cups diced fresh or thawed frozen peaches
½ cup chopped sweet or mild onion
3 tablespoons tequila
2 tablespoons each: fresh lime juice, chopped fresh cilantro, minced seeded serrano or other small hot chili pepper, grated lime zest
¼ teaspoon cumin, optional
4 medium-sized sweet potatoes
Combine peaches, onion, tequila, lime juice, cilantro, hot chili pepper, lime zest and cumin (if using) in a medium bowl, stirring to combine. Cover; refrigerate at least 2 hours. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Pierce each potato with a fork in several places. Transfer to oven. Back until tender when pressed or pricked with a fork, about 45 to 50 minutes. Let cool about 5 minutes. Serve with chilled salsa. Makes 4 servings.
Cranberry Pecan Shortbread Cookies
3 sticks (1 ½ cups) unsalted butter, softened
½ cup sugar
¼ cup maple syrup
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 cups white whole wheat flour
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup pecan pieces, toasted
½ teaspoon salt
Mix together butter, sugar and maple syrup with a wooden spoon or in an electric mixer. Add the vanilla, stirring to combine. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup is added. Stir in the cranberries, pecans and salt. Shape dough into two logs; wrap in plastic wrap. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 to 2 hours. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut dough into ½-inch slices and arrange on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake until lightly browned, about 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Store in an airtight container. Makes 30-40 cookies.
“Fruity” Turkey Salad
2 cups chopped cooked turkey
2 medium ribs celery, sliced
½ cup snipped dried apricots or golden raisins
1/3 cup slivered toasted almonds
½ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons frozen orange juice concentrated, thawed
½ teaspoon garlic powder or garlic powder with parsley
¼ teaspoon each, ground: black pepper, ground ginger
Lettuce leaves and tomato slices, optional
Mix turkey, celery, apricots and almonds in large bowl; set aside. Mix mayonnaise, orange juice concentrate, garlic powder, pepper and ginger in small bowl until well blended. Add to turkey mixture; mix well. Cover. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Use turkey salad as a sandwich filling or serve over lettuce leaves and tomato slices. Makes 4 servings.
Contributor: Donna Pierce