Start a feeding frenzy at your Thanksgiving table

Personal chef Scott Wilson grew up in southwest Alabama with five generations of his family living within a 10-mile radius of his home. Getting together for Thanksgiving was “an ordeal that took days of planning and preparation.” His mother and aunt would start cooking the week before, making casseroles, cornbread dressing with giblet gravy, a multitude of cakes and pies, a big roasted turkey, fresh veggies from the garden and the “dreaded congealed salad.”

Wilson, former owner of the personal chef service Healthy Home Cooking in Cumming and Alpharetta, has released a new cookbook entitled “The Legacy Garden,” written with his mother and containing creative twists on traditional Southern recipes.

Here, Wilson shares a few of his favorites along with some cooking tips.

“The Legacy Garden” can be purchased online at Northside Woman readers can enter the promo code “NPW” for .99¢ shipping through the end of the year.

Pimento Cheese

Makes about 6-7 cups

Pimento cheese is one of those Southern staples we always had on hand. The trick is to have the cheese come to room temperature once it is grated, allowing it to soften and absorb the mayonnaise. Pre-shredded cheese has its place, but this is not it. Mother always added a block of softened cream cheese in place of the additional block of cheddar. I prefer the extra block of cheddar.

  • 2 (10-ounce) blocks sharp cheddar cheese
  • 1 (10-ounce) block extra sharp cheddar cheese
  • 2 (7 ounces) jars diced pimentos, drained
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon granulated garlic
  • 2 dashes cayenne pepper
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 to 1 1/2 cups Duke’s mayonnaise

Grate the cheeses into a large bowl and let sit at room temperature for 1 hour. Add pimentos, garlic, cayenne, Worcestershire and lemon juice then toss. Add 1 cup of the mayo and stir until blended. Add more mayo if needed.  Refrigerate overnight for the best flavor. Will last for 1 month, but it is always gone before then.

Pimiento Cheese Stuffed Eggs

Makes 12 halves

These are not your mother’s deviled eggs. If you like pimento cheese and traditional stuffed eggs, you will really like these. To make a pretty presentation, cut the eggs in half with a waffle-fry cutter and then fill the eggs with a piping bag. 

  • 6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and halved lengthwise
  • 1/3 cup pimiento cheese (homemade or a real cheese purchased product)
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Chopped fresh chives for garnish
  • Scoop egg yolks into bowl; reserve whites. Mash yolks and add pimento cheese, mayonnaise and stir until creamy. Spoon or pipe the yolk mixture into whites. Garnish with fresh chives.

Twice Baked Sweet Potatoes

Makes 6 servings

Our family loves sweet potatoes and this recipe is one of the newer recipes we have grown to love. More of a savory side dish versus the “could be dessert” sweet potato casserole that we also love during the holidays. Make sure that your pumpkin spice is fresh and fragrant, as it an essential ingredient to the dish. I usually bake an extra sweet potato so that when you refill the skins you get a nicer presentation.

  • 6-7 small sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup apple cider, divided
  • 1 (5-ounce) can evaporated milk
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1-2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 tablespoons chopped pecans

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut potatoes in half lengthwise and place on a foil-lined baking pan and bake for 1 hour and 30-45 minutes, or until soft.

In a 2-quart saucepan, add the dried cranberries and 1/4-cup apple cider and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and add the milk, butter, brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice. Stir until the butter is melted.

When the potatoes are baked and have cooled enough to handle. Carefully remove the pulp and place in a mixing bowl with remaining apple cider. Reserve 6 of the best potato skins as you will be stuffing them with the potato mixture. Using a hand mixer, blend until smooth. Add the contents of the saucepan and blend until combined.

Place the potato skins on a baking sheet and evenly spoon the potato mixture into each of the skins and top with the chopped pecans.

At this point they can be made ahead and refrigerated later use (set out for 30 minutes before baking). When ready to bake, place in a 350 degree oven and bake for 18-20 minutes.

Apple-Caramel Pecan Mini Muffins

Makes 48 mini muffins

These are a tasty fall treat and are a great addition for a dessert when tailgating at your favorite football game. You can make them a day or two before you need them, but just keep them in an airtight container. You will need to make a batch of Caramel Frosting to go with these. For uniform muffins, use a small ice cream scoop to fill the tins.

  • 1 1/2 pounds Granny Smith apples (6-8)
  • 1 cup apple cider, divided (reserve 2 tablespoons for frosting)
  • Vegetable cooking spray
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups chopped pecans, *toasted and divided

Peel, core and slice the apples and place in a bowl with the apple cider. Finely chop and add back to the cider and set aside.

Coat the mini muffin tins with vegetable cooking spray and preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the sugar, vegetable oil, eggs and vanilla. In a larger bowl, stir together the flour, pumpkin spice, baking soda and salt. Add the sugar mixture to the flour mixture and stir with a spoon until just blended.

Reserving 2 tablespoons of the cider drain the apples. Stir in the apples and 3/4 cup of the toasted pecans to the muffin batter. Spoon the batter evenly into the prepared muffin cups, filling cups 3/4 full.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted comes out clean.

Let muffins sit for 10 minutes and then remove from pan to let cool.

When cooled, dip the muffin tops into the caramel frosting then sprinkle the muffins with the remaining chopped pecans.

Caramel Frosting

  • 1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
  • ½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place all ingredients in a heavy 2-quart saucepan; bring to a boil, stirring constantly, over medium heat.

Remove from heat and using a wire whisk, whisk for one minute. Frosting will thicken as it cools.

Recommended for you