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No one wants to take “just-another-same-same” dish to the pitch in dinner with friends or family. What we want is a dish with lots of visual appeal. Whether it comes from color or texture, we want everyone who passes by our dish to notice it. Here are a few of our favorites.

Sauteed Green Beans with Onions and Bacon
Green Beans with Onions and BaconHere is a green bean dish that certainly stands out from the others, particularly because most green beans turn gray from being overcooked. Boil these for four minutes and then immediately get into a cold water bath to stop the cooking and keep the beans bright green. Add crispy bacon and sauteed cocktail onions, and you have a winner! Get the recipe here.

Whole Sweet Corn with Cream Cheese
creamy-creamed-cornThis recipe comes as close as possible to the flavor of the creamed corn at one of our favorite BBQ joints in Central Texas. Combining heavy cream, cream cheese, butter, sugar, salt and pepper in a slow cooker, it is a delicious blend of flavors that goes very well with every barbecue dish. Get the recipe here.
For a spicy version see Poblano Creamed Corn.

Blue Cheese Cole Slaw
Blue Cheese Cole SlawLea adapted this recipe from a cooking show on television. This combination goes really well with spicy foods such as Southern Fried Chicken, Hot Chicken Wings, Spicy Jamaican Jerk Rib-eye Steaks, etc. It is also a real eye-catcher when completing with all the other dishes at a pitch-in. Get the recipe here.

Make Ahead Mashed Potatoes
Make Ahead Mashed PotatoesMashed potatoes are always a welcome staple, but they are pretty time consuming, and difficult to time just right if you have to travel to that pitch-in. These potatoes come out of the oven light and fluffy, and no one will know that these were made ahead of time. It’s a great time saver. Get the recipe here.

Marjorie’s Corn and Peas
Corn and Peas Side DishThis is another amazingly good recipe from the Thistlethwaite family. I fondly remember a number of delicious Thanksgiving dinners when Marjorie (J.B.’s mother) would bring this delicious vegetable dish. Combining shoe-peg corn and frozen peas with sour cream and spices, it goes together quickly, and certainly stands out on the table. Get the recipe here.

These dishes not only show off your cooking skills, they also stand apart from the other dishes for your pitch in dinner with friends or family. When you present one of these super star dishes, everyone who passes by is sure to notice it, and the flavors always deliver on the promise.

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Dinner Table SettingAs the holiday season approaches, we begin thinking about those wonderful times the family gets together and shares a sumptuous way-out-of-the-ordinary meal. The traditional family dinner at our house wasn’t as much about the menu as it was brimming with opportunities to gather around the table with loved ones to catch up, and share stories while enjoying a delicious meal. The centerpiece of the meal, (excluding, for the moment, the desserts), was a delicious protein, which was often a beautifully roasted bird.

One of our favorite memories of days gone by was our “talent show” the afternoon of Christmas Eve, when we would each perform a skit, usually humorous, because few of us had any theatrical talent. It was a fun couple of hours, and was a great time of family sharing. Afterwards, most of us were in the kitchen preparing goodies for that evening’s Birthday Party for Jesus. Good food and seasonal drinks lined the table as we held hands as we stood in a big circle around the table, each telling what we were grateful for, and then gave thanks before eating our fill.

Roasted Tangerine ChickenTo highlight your table, and delight your guests, prepare a bird that really stands out. One of the more colorful birds we have had good success with was the basted Tangerine Roasted Chicken with its bright orange tone created by the combination of molasses, tangerine and lemon juices, and a touch of Lemoncello. The bird shown here was a large one, weighing a little over five and a half pounds.

Birds carved at the table seem to please guests the most, because we eat with our eyes first, and watching the bird being carved stimulates anticipation and excitement. Another attractive bird is the Peppercorn Encrusted Roast Chicken. If you like crispy skin, you might like the stuffed Italian Roast Chicken which is roasted in a hot oven, and stuffed with flavorful herbs, orange wedges and garlic. Another eye pleasing recipe is the Roasted Worcestershire Sauce Chicken with Balsamic Glazed Hericot Vert and Corn on the Cob.

Bacon Wrapped Turkey BreastIf you want something a little out of the ordinary for your get together, you might consider the spatchcocked Roasted Cornish Game Hens, the very flavorful Pepper Crusted Turkey Breast, or, the very elegant Bacon Wrapped Turkey Breast that always gets o-o-hs and a-a-hs when presented.

Don’t throw that carcass out when cleaning up after your meal! Stick it back in the fridge to be used in another favorite dish that usually follows the next evening or so, Chicken (or Turkey) Pot Luck Supper made with the meat left on that carcass, combined with some fresh vegetables, and topped with sumptuous spoon dumplings. It’s easy to make, fills the house with wonderful holiday aromas, and delivers a very satisfying meal for the evening after the feast.

Potluck Supper

What are your favorite memories or traditions? What dishes make regular appearances at your family’s gatherings?

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