There's always a fine line to walk when you're entertaining over the holidays. On one hand, your food should be traditional and comforting enough to make everyone happy. But on the other, it's nice to change things up occasionally. One way to bridge that gap is to find flavors that bring a bit of a twist to your favorites, without being too far out of left field. A perfect example is maple, which complements winter flavors perfectly and is versatile enough to use in almost anything. Here's a modest handful of ideas to get you started.
Brown Butter Pumpkin Maple Waffles
The holiday season revolves around big dinners, but there's also plenty of opportunity for some serious brunching. Whether you host brunches as a less-formal form of get-together for friends and family, or have a horde of house guests to feed in the morning, it's a perfect opportunity to offer up a seasonal twist on popular favorites. Exhibit "A" might just be these utterly addictive brown butter maple pumpkin waffles. Seriously, don't you want them already? The brown butter ties together the spices, pumpkin and maple with a distinctively butterscotch-y note, giving an extra something special to an already-good combination.
Cinnamon Spice Cupcakes With Maple Bacon Frosting
Some of the tastiest things in life are just because of how they balance sweet and savory. Think of caramel corn, or a stack of waffles with maple syrup and bacon. You can harness that same combination of sweet and savory in company-ready dessert form with these cinnamon-spice cupcakes and maple bacon frosting. Bacon is pretty irresistible to begin with, and pairing it with these sweet cupcakes and fragrant maple frosting is simply genius. It's like the perfect breakfast, turned into a finger-friendly sweet treat.
Slow Cooker Maple Glazed Carrots
Pulling together the holiday feast is a non-trivial exercise no matter how many times you've done it before. Oven and stovetop space (and especially your time and attention) are always at a premium, so coming up with side dishes that need none of those things is always a challenge. These slow-cooker maple-glazed carrots absolutely fit the bill. Just load up your slow cooker with carrots, then drizzle them with maple syrup and add a pat of butter and a pinch of salt. Carrots won't brown or spoil at room temperature, so you can do this anytime throughout the day and then just turn the cooker to High when you're ready to rock. Three hours later, you'll have a perfect side dish with no further effort required.
Spiced Pumpkin Whoopie Pies With Maple Filling
Regular whoopie pies are fine, and you can certainly never go wrong by offering your guests something chocolate-flavored. That being said, these pumpkin-spice whoopie pies with maple filling are totally "extra." Not only are they an oh-so-delicious variation on the familiar favorite, the pumpkin, maple and warm spices make them absolutely seasonal as well. Hand these out with the hot toddies after some outdoor holiday fun, and you might just start a new tradition in your household.
Gluten Free Maple Pecan Scones
Dietary restrictions are an inconvenience at any time of the year, but they're especially painful over the holidays as you watch others devouring oh-so-many holiday treats that you can't enjoy yourself. The antidote to Treat Envy is recipes like these maple pecan scones, which are so tasty the others will envy you (unless, of course, you share). They're made with almond and coconut flour in place of wheat, and granulated sweetener and maple extract to replace conventional sugar or maple syrup. Not only are they gluten-free, but they're also keto-friendly: They check in at around 4 net grams of carbs per scone.
Healthy Brownies Sweetened With Maple
The holidays are traditionally a time when you can cut loose and indulge a little, without feeling too terribly guilty about it. Which is fine if that's how you roll, but the choice between virtue and indulgence isn't necessarily an either-or scenario. It's entirely possible to make decadent, highly indulgent treats that are surprisingly healthy, like these "upgraded" healthy brownies. Swapping out the usual large quantity of butter for applesauce and coconut oil, and the sugar and chocolate with cocoa and maple syrup, results in a delightfully rich, chocolatey no-compromises brownie.
Keto Oat-Free Overnight "Oats"
Keto-ing involves some compromises at any time of the year, but it can be especially difficult over the holidays when everyone else gets to over-indulge in all of those carb-heavy sweet or savory wintertime treats. If you're trying to stay in ketosis over the holidays, or if one of your guests is, we have good news. While everyone else sits down to a comforting bowl of overnight oats, the low-carb crew can get just as much enjoyment out of these keto-friendly "fauxts" made from hemp hearts. For a seasonal flavor, sprinkle them with cinnamon, top them with pecans and sweeten them with a drizzle of your favorite sugar-free "maple"-style syrup.