In just a matter of weeks, my kitchen will be in full-on cooking and baking mode. The savory aromas of beef roasts, golden-brown turkey, cornbread dressing, and crowd-pleasing casseroles will mingle with the sweet, spicy fragrance of cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger as my ovens yield pumpkin pies, spice breads, and cinnamon rolls slathered with frosting.
But first, I need to get my home ready for guests who will be celebrating with us.
For fresh inspiration, I attended a NEXT furniture industry conference a few weeks ago, where manufacturers, retailers, designers, and decorators from around the country shared ideas and learned from furniture consultants. The question I asked everyone was, beyond sleeper sofas to accommodate extra guests, what are the trends in home furnishings for the holidays?
One of the hottest is velvet. This low-maintenance fabric looks chic and fresh on a sofa, but for budget-friendly, last-minute design tweaks, they suggested adding small touches of velvet with an ottoman, cube seating, a headboard, or accent pillows. Statement lighting is also trending, from the tiniest fixtures to large-scale chandeliers, and multifunctional pieces that provide hidden storage continue to be popular.
Today’s kitchens are often designed to accommodate seating or are positioned adjacent to an open-concept family room to ensure the kitchen remains the center of family activity. Comfortable, upholstered chairs in these areas facilitate conversation, so no one misses the action in the kitchen.
Nothing makes family and guests check in on the cook more than tantalizing aromas wafting from the oven, especially on Thanksgiving Day. My recipe for Sweet Potato and Apple Casserole with Hazelnut Crumble is the perfect example. This easy to assemble side dish layers sweet potatoes with just-harvested apples and a hint of curry, then is topped with a sweet and spicy hazelnut, granola, and brown sugar crumble. It’s sure to become a holiday favorite.
½ cup hazelnuts
3 large sweet potatoes, about 3 pounds, rinsed, peeled and sliced into ¼” thickness
2 large, firm apples, rinsed, peeled, cored and thinly sliced
1 ½ tablespoons cornstarch
1 ¼ cups vegetable broth
¾ teaspoon curry powder
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon white pepper
¼ cup heavy cream
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet. Toast 8 to 10 minutes, shaking the tray several times to ensure even cooking. Remove them from the oven, cool, rub them between your fingers to remove most of the skin, and set them aside to cool completely.
Arrange two layers of sweet potatoes in a large baking dish, overlapping the slices. Add a layer of sliced apple and top with the remaining sweet potatoes.
In a small saucepan, whisk a little of the vegetable broth into the cornstarch, stir until it is smooth, then whisk in the remaining broth. Add curry powder, salt, and white pepper, stir well, and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and cook 5 minutes, stirring often, until it has thickened. Add heavy cream, stir, and cook 5 minutes more. Pour the sauce over the sweet potatoes and top with hazelnut crumble.
¾ cup granola
½ cup brown sugar, packed
½ cup reserved toasted hazelnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
3 tablespoons butter, melted
In a medium bowl, stir together granola, brown sugar, hazelnuts, cinnamon, and nutmeg. Add melted butter and toss well to moisten. Spoon the crumble evenly over the sweet potatoes, cover tightly with foil, and bake at 350 degrees 50-60 minutes until the sweet potatoes are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. Uncover and bake 10 minutes more to crisp the top.
Yield: 10 servings