6 Must-Have Dishes for Every Holiday Meal

Every good southern get-together revolves around food, and the holidays are no exception. Families start planning who’s making what weeks before the event and spend hours finding recipes, buying groceries, and laboring over the stove to prepare delicious, food-coma-inducing meals for their loved ones. Store-bought pies? Macaroni and powdered cheese from a box? Precooked turkeys? Forget about it. Around here, homemade is the only way to go. To help make the whole process a little easier, here are my top six must-have dishes for any holiday meal.


  • Gobble, Gobble

You guessed it! How would any holiday meal be complete without the presence of the infamous bird? Many modern adaptations of the traditional turkey have enjoyed popularity over the years – deep fried, smoked, stuffed with other birds (turducken, anyone?) – but roasting it in the oven for a few hours works just fine too. Here’s a unique take on a good, old-fashioned roasted turkey your family will be sure to love.


Recipe: Black Pepper-Pomegranate Molasses Glazed Turkey


Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 2 hours 15 minutes

Servings: 6-8



For the glaze:

1 ½ cups pomegranate molasses

¾ cup prepared horseradish, drained

3 tablespoons dijon mustard

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper


For the turkey:

One 15-pound fresh turkey

1 stick unsalted butter, softened

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

4 cups homemade chicken stock or low-sodium canned broth, warmed



  • Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  • Make the glaze: Whisk the pomegranate molasses, horseradish, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1 1/2 teaspoons pepper in a medium bowl. Let it sit at room temperature to allow the flavors to meld.
  • Meanwhile, prepare the turkey: Remove the neck and giblets, then rinse the bird inside and out with cold water and pat dry. Rub the entire surface of the bird with the butter and season well (including inside the cavity) with salt and pepper. Truss the turkey with kitchen twine and place it breast-side up on a rack in a large roasting pan. Roast until slightly golden brown, about 45 minutes.
  • Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F and continue roasting 1 more hour, basting with the chicken stock every 15 minutes. Brush the entire turkey with 1 cup of the pomegranate glaze and continue roasting until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the thigh registers 160 degrees F, about 15 more minutes.
  • Remove the turkey from the oven and brush with the remaining glaze. Tent loosely with foil and let sit 15 minutes before carving.

(Recipe from foodnetwork.com.)


Fun fact:

The turkey pardoned by the president every November has a back-up replacement in case the main turkey cannot perform its duties; last year’s backup was named Honest, and the main turkey was named Abe.


  • Sweet Potatoes, Green Beans, and Squash…Oh, My!

What do these foods all have in common? They’re the most popular stars of holiday casseroles found on dining room tables across the country. Casseroles are a mainstay of the holidays, mainly because they aren’t difficult to cook and can easily feed a large number of people. Here’s a sweet potato casserole that won’t leave you peeling and chopping and mashing for hours on end.


Recipe: Sweet Potato Casserole


Prep Time: 20 minutes

Cook Time: 1 hour 15 minutes

Servings: 6




2 ½ pounds sweet potatoes (about 3)

1 orange, zested and juiced

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 tablespoon honey

½ cup milk

½ cup diced dried apricots



½ cup oatmeal

¼ cup firmly packed brown sugar

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons butter, cut into pea-sized pieces

½ cup chopped walnuts



  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Put the sweet potatoes on a sheet tray and roast for 35 to 40 minutes. The sweet potatoes might still be a little hard in the center – no problem!
  • While the sweet potatoes are baking, make the topping. In a food processor, combine the oatmeal, brown sugar, olive oil, butter, and walnuts and pulse until mixture comes together.
  • When the potatoes are cool enough to handle, peel them and cut them into 1-inch chunks. Discard the skins. Put the potatoes into a large dish and add the remaining ingredients. Mash together with a potato masher until well combined.
  • Transfer the mixture to a 2-quart casserole dish. Crumble the topping mixture over the potatoes. Bake until the mixture is hot all the way through and the topping is brown and crispy, about 30 minutes.

(Recipe from foodnetwork.com.)


  • Partners in Crime

It’s the peanut butter to turkey’s jelly. The ham to its cheese. The Thelma to its Louise. No turkey dinner is complete without the presence of stuffing or dressing. The difference between the two? Stuffing, like its name sounds, is stuffed inside the turkey’s cavity and cooks while the turkey roasts. Dressing is made in a separate baking dish. Here’s a Southern cornbread dressing that’s simple and flavorful.

Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta, Apples, and Mushrooms
Cornbread Dressing with Pancetta, Apples, and Mushrooms

Recipe: Southern Cornbread Dressing


Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 30 minutes

Servings: 8




1 cup self-rising cornmeal

½ cup self-rising flour

¾ cup buttermilk

2 eggs

2 tablespoons Vegetable oil



8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter

3 medium onion, chopped

4 stalks celery, chopped

1½ teaspoons dried sage

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

¾ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon pepper

3 pieces toast, crumbled

½ cup milk

3 eggs, lightly beaten

2 to 2½ cups chicken stock or broth

2 tablespoons butter



  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
  • In a medium bowl, stir together all ingredients for cornbread. Pour into a lightly greased 9-inch cast iron pan or a 9-inch baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Before using, crumble into small pieces.
  • Heat butter over medium heat in a large pan. Add celery and onion and cook until soft.
  • Add sage, poultry seasoning, salt, and pepper to onion mixture.
  • In a large bowl combine crumbled cornbread and toast.
  • Whisk together milk and eggs and add to bowl. Stir in 2 cups of chicken broth.
  • Stir in onion mixture. Mixture should be very moist. Add more broth if necessary.
  • Transfer to a greased baking dish. Cut butter into small slivers and scatter on top of dressing.
  • Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes, or until it turns light brown on top.

(Recipe from spicysouthernkitchen.com.)



  • Tastes Like Home

Pasta. Butter. Cheese. What’s not to love about the most comforting of comfort foods? The noodle type may change – spaghetti, shells, bow ties – but the spirit of the dish remains the same. Here’s a mac and cheese recipe sure to delight and impress even the biggest “foodie” in your family.


Recipe: Lobster Mac & Cheese


Prep time: 30 minutes

Cook time: 40 minutes

Servings: 6-8



2 tablespoons vegetable oil

Kosher salt

1 pound elbow macaroni

1 quart whole milk

8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, divided

½ cup all-purpose flour

4 cups grated Gruyere cheese (12 ounces)

2 cups grated extra-sharp Cheddar (8 ounces)

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

1 ½ pounds cooked lobster meat, 1/2-inch-diced

1 ½ cups fresh white bread crumbs (5 slices, crusts removed)



  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
  • Add the oil to a large pot of boiling salted water, add the pasta, and cook al dente according to the directions on the package. Drain well.
  • Heat the milk in a small saucepan, but don’t allow it to boil. In a large pot, melt 6 tablespoons of the butter and add the flour. Cook over low heat for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a whisk. Still whisking, add the hot milk and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, until thickened and smooth. Off the heat, add the Gruyere, Cheddar, 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper and nutmeg and stir until the cheese melts. Stir in the cooked pasta and lobster. Pile the mixture into 6 to 8 (2-cup) gratin dishes.
  • Melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter, combine with the bread crumbs, and sprinkle on top. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the pasta is browned on top.

(Recipe from foodnetwork.com.)


Fun fact: Crayola introduced a crayon color called “macaroni and cheese” in 1993.


  • The Sidekick

Cranberry sauce is the perfect garnish on any holiday plate. The splash of purple adds the right amount of tart yet sweet to balance out all the rich, savory flavors overloading our palates. Forget that canned jelly you find in the grocery store. Here’s a made-from-scratch cranberry sauce that won’t scare the children.

CRANBERRY SAUCE Alex Guarnaschelli The Cooking Loft/Thanksgiving Alexandra Food Network Fresh Cranberries, Granulated Sugar, Cinnamon Stick, Ground Allspice, Ground Nutmeg, Orange
Alex Guarnaschelli
The Cooking Loft/Thanksgiving Alexandra
Food Network
Fresh Cranberries, Granulated Sugar, Cinnamon Stick, Ground Allspice, Ground Nutmeg,

Recipe: Cranberry Sauce


Prep time: 5 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes

Servings: 4



One 12-ounce bag fresh cranberries

1 cup cranberry juice

1 cup pure maple syrup

3 tablespoons orange juice

1 tablespoon grated orange rind



  • Wash the bag of cranberries under cool water, and then throw them into a medium saucepan. Pour in the cranberry juice and maple syrup. Add the orange juice and orange rind (you could also do lemon rind and lemon juice – anything citrusy). Stir together and turn the heat on high until it reaches a boil and the berries begin to pop.
  • Turn down the heat to medium-low and continue cooking over the lower heat until the juice is thick, about 10 minutes. Turn off the heat. Allow to cool and then chill in the fridge until Thanksgiving dinner is ready. It should have a nice jelly-like consistency.

(Recipe from foodnetwork.com)


Fun fact: Raw cranberries bounce.


  • Sugar, Spice, and Everything Nice

Pulling a pie out of the oven is simultaneously the best and worst part of baking: It’s the best because the pie smells heavenly, and it’s the worst because after already waiting an hour for it to bake, you have to wait another hour or two for it to completely cool before you can take a bite. We all wait those agonizing hours because we know that the end result, that first bite of pie after a delicious turkey dinner, is completely worth it. While pies take on many forms – apple, coconut, key lime – the quintessential southern holiday dessert is a pecan pie. Here’s a version that adds a chocolatey spin to a holiday favorite.


Recipe: Tony’s Chocolate Pecan Pie


Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 1 hour

Servings: 8



3 tablespoons butter, melted

3 eggs, beaten

¾ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

¾ cup dark corn syrup

3 tablespoons bourbon liquor

1 ½ cups pecan halves

½ cup mini milk chocolate morsels

1 (9-inch) unbaked pie shell



  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  • Melt butter in a small saucepan. While butter is melting, add beaten eggs to a medium sized bowl. Stir in brown sugar, flour, vanilla extract, corn syrup and bourbon until combined. Add butter when just melted.
  • Mix in the pecans and chocolate morsels. Mix all together. Pour mixture into pie shell.
  • Place on a sheet tray and bake for 50 to 60 minutes.
  • Allow to cool before serving.

(Recipe adapted from foodnetwork.com)


Health Life | November 2016
6 Must-Have Dishes for Every Holiday Meal
Written by: Anna Limoges

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