Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Ring

Very rarely is it acceptable to rip, tear, and/or obliterate your food. People expect you to use utensils (and your manners). You must be neat and civilized.

I scoff at such social norms. Why, you ask? Because there’s always a loophole. Take this Garlic Parmesan Pull-Apart Ring, for example. It laughs in the face of proper eating habits. You can use your hands to rip off little pieces or hearty hunks and chow down. No one will judge you for it. It is finger food at its finest. No utensils required.

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Thanksgiving Sides: Crunchy Onion & Cheddar Potato Bake

Fluffy and creamy, mashed potatoes are a must at the Thanksgiving table. It just wouldn’t be Turkey Day without ’em! But with the same old potatoes year after year, you might start to find yourself craving something new. Not a replacement; goodness no. You could never replace the coveted mashed potato. What you want is a tasty twist on that creamy classic, a revamped mash.

Get your potatoes prepped because this Crunchy Onion & Cheddar Potato Bake is sure to become a new Thanksgiving staple. It’s the comforting and creamy potatoes you’ve come to know and love, but amplified for over-the-top awesomeness. First, the potatoes get garlic-fied and buttered. There are few combinations in this world as heavenly as potatoes and garlic. Then, these already delicious potatoes get layered with sharp cheddar cheese and a classic Thanksgiving topper: french-fried onions. Pop the casserole in the oven for a few minutes and revel in the crunchy, melty, cheesy magic that results.

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Sauteed Zucchini, Tomatoes, and Onions

I don’t know about you, but sometimes it’s hard for me to label food as truly delectable if it isn’t smothered in cheese, slathered with a rich and creamy sauce, or encased in breading and submersed in piping hot oil. Indulgent foods have a leg up on everything else; that’s just the way it is. Few people prefer raw broccoli to golden, crispy french fries (and if you do, God bless you).

But is the idea that food can only be good if it is made rich and fattening simply a product of our fast food-eating, cookie-stuffed cupcake-baking nation? Perhaps we’ve become so brainwashed by the influx of indulgent eats in America that we’ve forgotten how delicious a simpler dish can be. Maybe it’s not true that richer is always better; maybe that’s just something we’ve been conditioned to believe.

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Linguine with Brown Butter Sage Sauce

Pasta is a multifaceted food. It’s essentially a shape-shifter, resembling everything from curvy Cavatappi to pin-straight Spaghetti. And the pastabilites are endless. You can make classic mac & cheese, rich baked pastas, layered lasagnas, stove top skillets, or simply smother the pasta in an array of delicious sauces. Marinara, alfredo, bechamel, oh my! Is there anything pasta can’t do?

I must admit that all of the different options can be overwhelming. How does one choose between making, say, pasta primevera or pasta carbonara? Sometimes, the solution is simpler than it seems. A pasta dish with a multi-step sauce and all kinds of add-ins can be delicious no doubt, but there are occasions when less is more.

Take for example this Linguine with Brown Butter Sage Sauce. It’s one of the easiest pasta dishes out there, requiring minimal ingredients and effort, but yielding a sauce that’s overflowing with flavor and complexity.

The magic here is in the browned butter. Nothing adds flavor quite like this stuff. Plus, sage is such a delicious and warm herb. Pair it with fresh garlic, and you can’t lose.Brown Butter Sage Sauce sounds so fancy, and it tastes it too. But really, anybody can make this. It’s one of the “essential sauces,” a recipe you should know, master, and always have on hand when you need a quick pasta fix.

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Thanksgiving Sides: Oven-Roasted Asparagus

Thanksgiving means many things depending on who you are. To a foodie, it means the best day of the year. To a man, it means football. To a child, it means putting on a polite facade when Aunt so-and-so insists on squeezing your cheeks and telling you how much you’ve grown. To the head cook in the house, it often means hell.

No matter how much you love cooking, preparing for Thanksgiving can be a traumatizing event. Every year, a couple days before The Big Day, my mom starts grumbling about how much she hates holidays. She doesn’t actually hate holidays. What she hates is spending the whole day cooking, and I don’t blame her. Planning and executing a successful Turkey Day feast is no simple task. It becomes even more challenging when you’re working with what she accurately refers to as “The Barbie Oven.” Yeah, it’s really that small (check out my What’s Cookin’ slideshow if you don’t believe me). We wind up cramming various side dishes into every square inch of that oven and cooking things in the toaster. The bird gets deep-fried, which is good because we wouldn’t have a place for it in the oven anyway.

I know my mom is not alone when it comes to Turkey Day terror. It’s so much food, a whole day’s worth of cooking (sometimes two if you’re the make-ahead type). And the pressure! Everyone’s counting on you to put the feast of a lifetime down on the table. It’s got to be perfect. Who wouldn’t be stressed?

Luckily, my mom’s had my help in the kitchen the past couple of years. We’ve learned a thing or two about what works and what doesn’t (mostly what doesn’t). For one, not every dish has to be complicated. If you’re making fancy fresh rolls or an impressive roasted turkey, there’s no reason why everything else has to be complex.

This Oven-Roasted Asparagus is absolutely delicious, and it’s SO EASY to make. It’s exactly the kind of side you want to serve up on your Thanksgiving table. It’s got a beautifully impressive presentation, delicious oven-roasted flavor, and no one will know how little effort it took.

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