Don’tcha think it would be fun to introduce a little friendly competition into Thanksgiving dinner?

No, I don’t mean who has to loosen their belt the most or who is the first to pass out in a tryptophan coma. (My Papa would easily take the latter, and as much as I’m ashamed to admit it, I could probably win for the first in my family.)

I’m talking Thanksgiving Superlatives. Awards for categories like The Creamiest. Best Crunchy Topping. Most Innovative Use of Orange Vegetables. It would be even more fun if dinner is prepared potluck-style, right?

If you’re looking to take home the trophy in Most Surprising, this might be your best bet. Because that’s what my pals declared at my Super Early Friendsgiving Dinner Celebration (aka, “Will you come over and eat these dishes I have to make ahead of time for my blog? PleaseAndThankYou.”)

Not in a “I thought I hated brussels sprouts but these I can tolerate” sort of way. None of my friends are too picky, so I can’t promise that this will be the dish to sway brussels sprouts haters (which there seem to be less and less of these days, yay!) It was more about the flavor combination being unexpectedly and utterly, well, addicting. (PS. I’m so glad when I actually have others to back me up here! It’s not just me and my hungry husband making this stuff up!) Sure, I didn’t venture far from the classic sweet-and-savory combination of maple syrup, mustard, nuts, and fruit, but opting for slightly more savory candied pepitas and tangy, juicy pomegranate seeds was a nice little twist. Not to mention pomegranate seeds make any dish “sparkle” and I’m a sucker for all things sparkly.

I have to tell you, though, I was a little hesitant to put this on the menu given that it’s not a true “make ahead” dish and I know some people won’t consider such a thing for the Big Turkey Day. But the truth is, it’s so super quick to toss together. The components themselves can be prepped ahead, and then you can finish it off in the last 10 minutes before dinner is served. We all agreed that the outcome is well worth the small sacrifice.

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Mustard-Maple Brussels Sprouts with Candied Pepitas and Pomegranate Seeds

Thinly sliced brussels sprouts tossed with a simple maple-mustard dressing, maple-glazed pumpkin seeds, and juicy pomegranate seeds.

Ingredients:

Pepitas
1/2 cup shelled pepitas (pumpkin seeds)
1/4 cup maple syrup
generous sprinkle of kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Dressing
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons grainy mustard
1 tablespoon maple syrup
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Remaining Ingredients
1 1/2 lbs trimmed brussels sprouts (trim the bases and peel away the outer, darkest leaves)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/3 cup pomegranate seeds

Directions:

Place a piece of parchment paper on a plate. Place the pepitas and maple syrup in a nonstick skillet and season with salt and pepper. Bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat and cook for 6-7 minutes. Spoon the pepitas onto the parchment in a single layer and allow to cool. When cool and crisp, break into small pieces.

Whisk together the dressing ingredients and set aside.

Using the slicing attachment on a food processor, slice the brussels sprouts (or, thinly slice by hand.)

Heat olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Saute the brussels sprouts, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, until browned in spots. Add dressing and toss to coat. Toss in candied pepitas and pomegranate seeds. Adjust seasonings to taste, and transfer to a serving bowl. Serve warm.

This post is linked to Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge at What Would Cathy Eat?