Thanksgiving Recipes: Cranberry Apple Walnut Stuffing and Sweet Potato Casserole

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The time is ever so near... the one day of the year when we feast on a unique array of delicious dishes all at once... Thanksgiving is next week and I can't wait!! Oh yes, I enjoy the day of preparation and chatter leading up to the meal, but of course, nothing is better than the meal itself!

Besides a slice of turkey or two, my focus is always on the side dishes and the desserts!! Here are the recipes for two of my favorite side dishes and some inspiring Thanksgiving themed images.

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It took me nearly twenty-two years to finally shirk my aversion to stuffing, and all I can say is damn, was I foolish for missing out all those years! What a shame! There was something about soggy bread that always grossed me out and kept me from experiencing the heaven that is stuffing....

Sigh, anyway, I have a long road of making up for all that lost time, a long love affair with stuffing ahead of me... So, last year I decided to put my own spin on my mother's classic [and delicious] stuffing. I saw a few ideas on the Food Network and melded them with her recipe to create the following recipe for bliss: (try this recipe, you can't go wrong and you won't be sorry!) ;)

Five Grain-Apple-Cranberry and Sausage Stuffing

1 loaf 5-grain Italian bread (Publix Bakery)
2-3 stocks Celery
1 large Onion (or two small)
1 cup dried Cranberries (I use Ocean Spray's "Craisins")
1 cup chopped Walnuts

1-2 chopped green Apple (Granny Smith)
1-2 cups Chicken Broth (moisten to your taste)
(optional) 1 box Stove Top stuffing seasoning of your choice
1 pack Sausage (I use Jimmy Dean sausage w/ sage)
2 cloves fresh Garlic - or, to taste
*chopped Parsley - to taste
*chopped Sage - to taste
*Salt + Pepper to taste

Chop loaf of bread into small cubes and bake in 200 degree oven for 10-20 minutes until toasty and golden brown (the more dry the bread is the better, so as to absorb the most moisture).

Meanwhile, cook sausage and season - to taste. Chop celery, onions and garlic and saute 5 minutes with the sausage - add a little butter or olive oil.

Transfer the bread, sausage, celery and onions into a large bowl and combine thoroughly, adding the parsley, sage, chopped apples, walnuts and cranberries/"Craisins". Once everything is thoroughly combined slowly add the chicken broth and optional Stove Top seasoning packet (as per directions on the Stove Top box) until the bread absorbs all the liquid and develops a thicker consistency.

Then... stuff it in your turkey, spread it in a casserole dish or pack it into a muffin pan for some (as Rachel Ray calls them) "Stuffin' Muffins" and bake 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven!

*If you find that the stuffing is too dry after baking, moisten as desired with some chicken broth.

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Sweet Potato

Oh sweet potato, how well you go with butter, pecans and brown sugar.... None of that marshmallow topping nonsense here folks (leave the marshmallows for the hot chocolate!!), as I said, this is straight up brown sugar, pecans and butter!! It's baked to a delicious crisp over a bubbly sweet potato that will melt in your mouth!! Once you try this recipe, you'll most likely wish you hadn't missed out for so long, forget your sweet potato past and incorporate it into your menu... Well, at least that's how I feel, you be the judge.... Here is my mother's take on the dish, followed by the detailed recipe:

Sweet Potato Casserole
(My mother's recipe)

"Thanksgiving day is almost here and I want to share with you my most favorite dish for my most favorite holiday. This dish will knock your socks off - it is a terrific pot luck signature dish that will be requested for years to come by all who try it! That's why I call it my "tried and true". So try it and remember me! Love to all and have a Happy Blessed Thanksgiving." - Carol

6-7 large Sweet Potatoes, peeled and boiled until tender (drain them well)
1 Egg
1/2 stick Butter
1 tsp. Vanilla extract
1/2 cup granulated Sugar
1/2 tsp. Cinnamon, Ginger or Nutmeg (optional)

2 cups chopped Pecans
1/2 stick Butter, melted
1 cup dark Brown Sugar
2 tbsp. Flour

In a mixing bowl, add boiled and peeled potatoes, egg, butter, vanilla, sugar and any other flavors desired. Mix well with a hand mixer (until it looks like mashed potatoes). Pour mixture into a casserole dish.

In a separate bowl, mix the all of the ingredients for the topping until crumbly and spread evenly over sweet potato mixture in casserole dish.

Bake uncovered in a 350 degree oven for 40 minutes until bubbly.

**As a side note, you can definitely prepare and cook this the day before, let cool and then refrigerate overnight. Simply pop it in the oven [covered in foil] for a bit to warm up before the meal (my mom has done this once or twice to save time and it tastes all the same, trust me - I'm very finicky about leftovers, hehe)**

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Let me know what you think if you try either of these recipes!
I'm working on another Thanksgiving post with some additional recipes for side dishes and desserts... stay tuned!

~ enjoy!!! ~

(all images via Google image search on Thanksgiving, or WeHeartIt)