How to Make a Holiday Feast for Two (Part 2)

Welcome to part 2 of my recipe series in which I teach you a collection of recipes for two people to cook and eat for the holidays. If you don’t have a big family to spend the occasion with or if crowds aren’t your thing, but you don’t want to miss out on the food, these recipes are for you! In this hub, you’ll learn how to make my own special version of cranberry sauce, green beans with bacon and shallots, and roasted yams. All three recipes are super easy and incredibly tasty. They’re also all gluten-free!

My Mom’s Cranberry Sauce

Every year. my parents and I went to visit a family out of town for the holidays, and since we were their guests, we rarely did much of the cooking. But the one dish my mother would bring every year was her special cranberry sauce. It was sour and bright tasting with a very slight crunch.

It wasn’t until I was a teenager that I realized my mom’s cranberry sauce was utterly different from the cranberry sauce the rest of the world was making and eating. Traditional cranberry sauce is cooked into something that resembles jam, whereas my mother’s sauce is raw, includes almonds and oranges, is served cold, and is similar to a chutney in texture.

When I moved away from home, I found myself regularly craving this cranberry sauce that no one else knew how to make. I got my mom to send me the recipe and I was surprised by how easy it was to make.

This is definitely one of those “about a handful of this and a dollop of that” recipes. I’ve approximated the amounts needed, but you should experiment with the taste and texture til you get a version you like. Try different types of citrus or nuts, make the sauce chunkier or more liquidy, sour or sweet. I’m curious about the difference in flavor if you blanch or toast the almonds first. You get to choose!

Mom's Cranberry Sauce

Summary: A cold version of traditional cranberry sauce including crunchy almonds for texture.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 15 minutes
Servings 8 people

Ingredients

  • 12- oz cranberries one standard-sized package
  • 1 large seedless orange
  • C almonds
  • 1-2 tsp almond extract
  • 1-2 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 C apple juice

Equipment

  • A blender or food processor

Instructions

  1. Place just the almonds in the blender and chop them on their own.
  2. Add the full package of cranberries and blend again. If blending is difficult, add a little of the apple juice to get things moving.
  3. Peel the orange, removing as many of the white bits as you can. Place the individual segments in the blender along with the almond extract, and blend. Add more apple juice if the blending is slow.
  4. Here’s where the fun begins. Take a taste and see what you think. You will probably want to add some sugar and the rest of the apple juice at this point, but start with small amounts and work your way up.
  5. Adjust the sugar, almond extract, and apple juice until you get the flavor and texture you want. If it gets too sweet, you can add some lemon juice.
  6. Eat cold by itself or on top of turkey and enjoy!

I’d really love to hear from some folks who try this recipe since I’m the only one I know who makes it. How did you eat it? What additions did you try? Let me know in the comments!

Now on to our next recipe.

How to Make Green Beans with Bacon and Shallots

I’ve known for a while that I’m not very good at making green beans. I’d boil them for 10-15 minutes, drain them, and then serve them with butter and salt. They were passable but I knew there had to be a way to make them tastier.

Determined to improve my green-beans cooking technique, I stumbled on a recipe online that looked easy. I tried it and it’s one of the most delicious dishes I’ve ever made! It’s so simple, so yummy, and while the dish is cooked in bacon grease, the green beans are still very crunchy, meaning you’re getting way more nutrients out of them than if you steamed or boiled them to death.

This recipe also reheats surprisingly well. The flavor of the garlic and shallots are absorbed by the bacon grease, which coats the green beans, making leftovers extremely tasty 2-3 days later.

Sauteed Green Beans, Bacon and Shallots

Sauteed green beans with bacon and shallots.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • ¾ lb-1 lb of green beans
  • Ice
  • 2 slices of bacon sliced into tiny strips
  • 1 small shallot sliced
  • 1 large clove of garlic sliced
  • Salt and pepper

Instructions

  1. Trim the tops and bottoms of the green beans.
  2. In a large pot, boil water. Once boiling, salt the water as you would water for pasta so that the water tastes slightly salty. Only a little of the salt will be absorbed by the green beans so don’t worry if it seems to like a lot.
  3. Add the green beans to the boiling water, reduce the heat, and cover. Cook for 2 minutes.
  4. Take a large bowl and fill with ice and cold water. Once green beans have finished cooking, strain the green beans and place them in the ice water. Make sure the green beans are fully submerged and leave them to chill until they feel cold to touch.
  5. Heat a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the bacon and fry until the meat starts to turn brown and crispy. If there is more than a tablespoon or two of grease in the pan, pour out the excess grease.
  6. Add the shallots and the garlic to the pan and fry for about a minute.
  7. Add the green beans to the frying pan and cook until they are heated through. Add salt and pepper to taste. Don’t be afraid to grab a bean and try one for temperature and to adjust the seasoning!
  8. Serve and enjoy.

TIP: You can boil your green beans ahead of time and once they’ve cooled completely, you can keep them in the fridge or in the ice bath until it’s time to fry them.

If you want to make a vegetarian/pork-free version of this recipe, replace the bacon with 1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tbsp of melted butter, and increase the salt. Fry the garlic and shallot in the butter/oil mixture for several minutes, and then add the green beans, making sure they are thoroughly coated. The dish won’t be as intensely flavorful, but it will still make crisp, tasty green beans.

Next recipe!

How to Roast Yams

This recipe could not be simpler and it produces the most delicious, naturally sweet yams. I cook it every year at Thanksgiving, it takes five minutes of prep, and it’s incredible every time.

Roasted Yams

The simplest, easiest, tastiest ways to roast yams.
Course Side Dish
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 50 minutes
Servings 4 people

Ingredients

  • 4-6 whole yams
  • ¼ C oil canola, vegetable, and coconut all work well
  • Butter for serving

Equipment

  • A baking sheet with a lip around the edge
  • Tin foil
  • A basting brush

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Thoroughly cover your baking sheet with tinfoil. If you are worried about the surface of the baking sheet turning brown, use two layers.
  3. Line up your yams on the baking tray. Long thin yams with a smooth surface are the best for baking evenly all the way through. Prick them 6-8 times each with a fork or knife.
  4. Lightly brush your yams all over with a thin layer of oil. You’re not looking to douse them. You just want the oil to create a seal that keeps the moisture inside.
  5. Bake for 45 minutes.
  6. Cut them open and serve with butter or brown sugar for a really special treat. That’s it!

Recipe Notes

If liquid is burbling and popping out of and around your yams, that’s okay! That means it’s caramelizing and that’s a good thing. If you’re concerned about the oil reaching high temperatures in the oven, err on the side of less oil when you brush the yams.

How to Put It All Together

  • This post is just one part of the whole holiday feast. Check out the others too:
    Next up, I’ll teach you how to coordinate cooking 5-6 dishes at the same time with just two people, and be finished cooking in just a few hours!
  • Make sure to look at Part 1 if you missed it, which includes how to make turkey and stuffing for two, and mashed potatoes.
  • Here I show you how to make a classic Blackberry Pie, including my gluten-free pie crust recipe.
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How to Make Borscht (The Quick Easy Way!)

I once had a boyfriend with a Scandinavian background who he taught me to make borscht. Only, he didn’t follow many of the traditional methods of borscht making, such as cutting the vegetables Julienne style (otherwise known as matchsticks), boiling beef for several hours to create a rich broth, skimming the foam from the top of the broth to keep it clear, or adding vinegar at the end for the distinctive sweet and sour taste.

His reason for his unorthodox style wasn’t a preference of taste, but a lack of patience. He was not interested in carefully chopping a large mound of vegetables into tiny slices, or waiting for the flavors of the broth to deepen. Instead, we haphazardly chopped the veggies into chunky cubes, used pre-made beef broth, and added extra tomatoes to achieve the acidity of the vinegar.

I’ve continued to make the recipe by myself and I’ve tweaked it over the years to suit my own tastes. The result is an easy to make borscht-style stew with a delicious bright red broth, packed full of vegetables and flavor, that’s perfect for a cold winter evening. Don’t skip the sour cream and dill at the end. It really transforms the dish!

This is a, “we’re gonna need a bigger pot,” kind of recipe so make sure to either haul out your extra large pot or halve the amounts below for a smaller portion.

TIP: Beets stain EVERYTHING. Your hands, the counter, and the cutting board will be easy to clean with some dish soap, but avoid using white dishcloths, cloth napkins, or light colored table clothes when cooking and serving this bright red dish.

Quick Easy Borscht

Looking for an easy, less time-consuming method of making borscht while maintaining all of the flavor and nutrients?
Course Soup
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Passive 50 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 30 minutes
Servings 10 people

Ingredients

  • ½ lb chuck roast
  • 3 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 large onion chopped large
  • 3 large carrots chopped large
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • ½ tsp pepper
  • 1 tbsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cloves
  • 2 tsp rosemary
  • 1 small cabbage (or ½ a large cabbage) chopped large or small
  • 32 oz beef broth
  • 28 oz canned diced tomatoes
  • 28 oz canned crushed tomatoes
  • 4-5 bouillon cubes chicken or beef
  • 2-3 red potatoes chopped large
  • 4-5 beets red or gold, peeled and chopped large
  • sour cream and dill for serving

Instructions

  1. Chop the chuck roast into small bite-sized cubes. Get your very large pot nice and hot, then add a drizzle of olive oil, the meat, and the crushed garlic cloves to the pot.
  2. Brown the meat for a few minutes. Stir just enough to prevent burning, but you want it to get that darker color. If it’s leaving a brown sticky mess on the bottom of the pot, that means it’s carmelizing, and you’re doing it right.
  3. When the meat is well colored, before things start to burn, take the chunks of meat out of the pot and set them aside. Add your onion. As the water releases from the onion, you can start to scrape the bottom of the pot to get the lovely brown stuff incorporated into your veggies.
  4. Add the carrots, bay leaves, salt, pepper, coriander, cloves, rosemary, and cabbage. Stir to get all the veggies coated in the oil and spice mix.
  5. Allow the veggies to cook for several minutes, as the water releases from them. You’ll know it’s done releasing when the noise of the sizzling increases again.
  6. Add in your carton of beef broth to stop the frying. Add the two cans of tomatoes, the bouillon cubes, and fill one of the cans with hot water and add that as well.
  7. Bring the mixture to a low boil, and add the potatoes and beets. If your vegetables are not completely covered in liquid, add some boiling water or additional beef stock if you have it.
  8. Cover and allow to simmer for 40-60 minutes, until the vegetables prick easily with a fork. Cook for less time if you want your veggies a little crunchier. Add back the chuck roast cubes and stir through. Taste the broth and adjust the seasoning as needed.
  9. Serve with a dollop of sour cream and a sprinkle of fresh or dried dill. Enjoy!

Possible variations to play around with:

  • You can use whatever type of chunky red meat you like, but I find the smoky taste of chuck roast goes really well with the broth.
  • I like to use a mix of red and gold beets, but they will all be stained red once cooked, even if you only use one red beet!
  • Cut the cabbage into whatever size you prefer. I kind of like long floppy leaves of cabbage in my soup, but if you don’t like the texture, it’s easy to cut small.
  • Chop your veggies to be whatever size is easiest for you to fit in your mouth!

If you want to Instagram your beautiful dish, make sure to do so before you stir in the sour cream, as the white and the red mix together to make bright pink! Boy did I get some strange looks in the break room at work with my pink soup.

I hope you enjoy this quicker version of Borscht. If you try any cool variations of my recipe, please let me know in the comments!

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