Danielle Walker's last two books have been instant bestsellers and must-have's for anyone eating grain-free, dairy-free and gluten-free. In her new cookbook, Danielle Walker's Against All Grain Celebrations, she addresses one of the big challenges of a new dietary lifestyle--holiday and special occasion meals.
The recipes in Celebrations cover twelve special occasions--from a fancy New Year's Eve cocktail party and fun Halloween treats, to birthday and game day celebrations. And don't worry--these are dishes that even those not eating a particular way will enjoy.
With Thanksgiving on the horizon and some of us still finalizing our menu and grocery list, Walker shares a savory sweet potato recipe from her new book along with some words of wisdom on holiday hosting.
Cooking for special occasions can often times make a cook anxious, and even more so if they may be hosting someone with special dietary needs. Every host wants to make dishes that will please their guests, regardless of the type of diet they have to follow. If you’re hosting new guests into your home, it is a good idea to reach out to them in advance and find out if they have any food allergies or intolerances. Plan a mouthwatering menu that all of your guests can enjoy, rather than trying to make multiple versions of the same dish to suit each person’s needs.
In order to reduce the stress that can come with cooking a big meal for a large number of people, I suggest being well organized and making things ahead. Read through the recipes you intend to make a week before the event. Make a grocery list: check to see what you have on hand and which items will be used multiple times. Read through the Make it Ahead notes and Tidbits in Celebrations to see if there are any tips that can help in your planning and execute those ahead of time. Grocery shop, chop up your vegetables and prepare sauces a couple of days in advance to get things out of the way early.
One thing I learned from my grandmother was to have a designated platter, serving dish, or cutting board for each item you plan to serve. One day beforehand, gather your serving dishes or borrow things you’re missing from a friend or neighbor and lay them out on the counter with sticky notes giving the dish name so you know that everything has a place when you’re ready to serve.
When you are ready to start cooking, read through each recipe in its entirety again before getting started. Then, gather the ingredients and tools you need and set up your mise en place (this is a French phrase that means to have everything in its place). This will save you time and make the cooking process much more enjoyable, plus it will limit the surprises and “uh-ohs!” that happen while you cook. If you’re using the same herb, onions, or garlic in two different dishes, you can chop it all up and distribute it as needed, rather than using and cleaning your kitchen tools twice.
These tips, plus the Make it Ahead tips in Celebrations will help you create a stress free Celebratory meal!
smoky candied bacon sweet potatoes
The flavors of fall come together in this dish of spiced roasted sweet potatoes with candied pecans and bacon. I was never a fan of sweet potatoes, or yams, growing up, so I skipped the classic candied yams with marshmallow and sugar topping. When I started eating Paleo and introduced them into my diet, I came up with ways to make them savory instead of sweet and enjoy them now. I often hear from anti–sweet potato folks that they love this dish!
SERVES 10 TO 12
3 pounds sweet potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
6 ounces bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped
⅓ cup pure maple syrup
1 teaspoon chili powder
½ teaspoon fine sea salt
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
Cut the sweet potatoes into even 1-inch cubes. Toss them with the bacon, pecans, maple syrup, chili powder, salt, cinnamon, and cayenne in a bowl. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheets.
Roast for 20 minutes. Stir and continue roasting for 15 minutes, or until tender. Turn the oven to broil and brown the potatoes for an additional 5 minutes. Watch the nuts closely and pull the baking sheets out early if they begin to burn. Serve hot.
make it ahead Combine all of the ingredients and store in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before cooking. Bring to room temperature, then bake as directed.
tidbits There’s always a lot of confusion surrounding yams and sweet potatoes. Either will work here, but I go for the orange-fleshed yam for this recipe to add some color to the dinner buffet.