Roasted Cranberries and Butternut Squash with Kale

I hope everyone is having a great start to the holiday season. I had a lovely Thanksgiving with my family and also enjoyed a Friendsgiving feast with some dear friends. I realize it’s a little late to post Thanksgiving recipes, but I wanted to share a couple of the dishes that I brought to our Friendsgiving dinner. I think these dishes would be great at any holiday gathering, since the flavors are perfect for winter as well. Remember to experiment and don’t be afraid to adjust the measurements, since they are all superfluous anyway. Hope you enjoy!

I don’t know about you, but I have always disliked cranberry sauce. I think that’s because my family always just serves the jelly-like stuff straight out of the can. You know, where it still has the indentations from the metal can? Eww. No wonder I hated the stuff growing up. Well, this year I decided to see why everyone loves these little berries, so I bought some fresh cranberries and made the real stuff. It was super easy and super delish!

Most traditional cranberry sauce recipes have you cook the cranberries on the stove top, but I decided to see what would happen if I roasted them in the oven instead. I was actually hoping they would stay whole and I could put them in my Butternut Squash dish (see below), but they cooked through and were easily mashed up after being the oven, so it turned into the more traditional type of cranberry sauce anyway. Experiment gone wrong, but still delicious! See, even “mistakes” in the kitchen can be good things. Now I just have an easier way of making cranberry sauce without having to watch and babysit a pot on the stove.

Roasted Cranberries

You’ll need:

  • 1 bag (about 2 cups) of cranberries
  • A few teaspoons of olive oil
  • A few teaspoons of chopped fresh or dried thyme
  • 2 tablespoons sugar, agave, honey, maple syrup, or sweetener of your choice

Wash the cranberries thoroughly, discarding any bad ones. Toss the cranberries with the olive oil, thyme, and sugar.  Roast in a baking dish in a 400 degree oven until softened and slightly caramelized, about 15-20 minutes or so. Remove from oven and stir, mashing the berries if desired. Roast longer for more mashed berries, or less time for more a more whole, chunky berry sauce.

That’s it! This is a much more savory type of cranberry sauce. It was nice with our turkey, but would also be a good topping on pork or chicken. I spooned a little on top of my Squash and Kale dish (see below) and it was a nice tart contrast to the sweet squash and bitter kale. If you like a more traditionally sweet cranberry sauce, try substituting a little bit of orange juice or cranberry juice instead of the olive oil, omit the thyme, and add a lot more sugar. Either way, this is an easy, last minute throw-it-in-the-oven-and-forget-about-it type of dish. You have no excuse to buy the canned stuff ever again!

I also wanted to bring a side dish with a lot of fall/winter flavors that would balance out the typical starchy-carny sides that show up at most holiday gatherings (loooove me some mashed potatoes, but it’s nice to have some colors on the table too). So I threw together a few things I had bought at the farmer’s market on Sunday and came up with the following. I couldn’t decide if I should call it a salad or a casserole, or what, so, well, just eat it. Who cares what it’s called.

Butternut Squash and Kale with Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

You’ll need:

  • One medium-sized butternut squash (this would work with any type of squash, but this one is the easiest to cook!)
  • One leek, washed and chopped (see tip below for how to easily clean leeks!)
  • One bunch kale, washed and chopped
  • A drizzle of olive oil
  • a few teaspoons fresh or dried rosemary and thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • pumpkin seeds–I’m talking the raw, shelled kernels, or you can buy them already roasted.
  • Freshly shaved Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. (oh, score, you can bake these at the same time the cranberries are roasting!) Peel the squash and cut in half lengthwise. Scoop out the seeds, then chop into bite-size cubes. Place the cubed squash and the leeks in a mixing bowl. Toss with olive oil, thyme and/or rosemary, salt, and pepper until evenly coated. Spread out the squash and leeks on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil . Bake for 20-30 minutes or until the squash is slightly browned.

While the butternut is roasting, heat a drizzle of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the kale with a few pinches of salt and pepper. Cook a few minutes, or until the kale is wilted. Taste test and cook until the thick stems are slightly softened and the leaves are not too bitter. Set aside.

In a separate dry skillet, toast the raw pumpkin seeds until slightly browned and they smell nutty, tossing a few times to get an even toast. This should also only take a few minutes. Set aside.

When the squash and leeks are done roasting, toss with the cooked kale. This is best served warm, but also tastes fine at room-temp, so it travels well. If you are bringing this as a dish to pass, wrap it up separately from the pumpkin seeds and Parmesan. Reheat briefly before serving, or just serve at room temp. Immediately before serving, toss in the toasted pumpkin seeds and top with the fresh Parmesan shavings. If desired, top with a little bit of roasted cranberry sauce. Enjoy!


TIP: How to get squeaky clean leeks.
Leeks are a nice change of pace from the average onion and offer a more complex, earthy flavor. They are sort of like a giant green onion or scallion. But they can be a pain to clean because the dirt gets trapped deep down in all the layers. Instead of trying to wash your leeks before chopping them, try this: Chop the leeks (green and white parts alike) into desired size. Place in a large bowl and fill the bowl with cold water. Swirl the leeks around in the water a little and then let sit for a few minutes. Then, scoop out the leeks with a large slotted spoon or a mesh strainer. The dirt particles will settle at the bottom of the bowl, leaving your leeks squeaky clean! Dry the leeks on a paper towel or in a colander, and they’re ready to go.

Later this week I’ll be posting more about what it means to eat eatable food, so be on the look out for that. In the meantime, happy eating!