November 19, 2013

Tradition with a twist

Thanksgiving dinner: Turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, green-bean casserole, sweet potatoes with marshmallows, cranberry sauce and dinner rolls. Sound familiar? Though each family may have a few additional favorite dishes, there is a definite standard fare for the holiday meal. Why not try mixing it up a bit?

I am not advocating losing any family favorites. I love the classic Thanksgiving feast, but it can be a great time to try something new, too. A modified meal can be great for families with different dietary preferences, food intolerances or for adventurous eaters.


Depending on the crowd, changing up a classic dish can be a big hit. Brining your turkey or rubbing and stuffing it with citrus and garlic can change the flavor, but still keep the classic bird on the table. If you are having a small gathering but still want turkey, try just cooking a turkey breast. Try making some of the dishes more from scratch if you have been using convenience foods in them. Green-bean casserole with a homemade mushroom roux can be delicious and have less sodium and fat than using condensed cream of mushroom soup. Or try sweet potatoes with something besides marshmallows on top. Roasted chunks of sweet potatoes or baked sweet potatoes are easy and delicious. Mashed sweet potatoes can be topped with pecans for a big change in taste and texture. Add something new to stuffing, such as dried cranberries or chestnuts. Cranberry sauce is really easy to make from scratch and can be flavored with anything from caramelized onions to orange zest.


Adding something different to the Thanksgiving meal does not need to be overwhelming. You may decide on a new recipe based on any variety of factors, but I would generally recommend something lighter. Most of the dishes are very starchy, so adding a lighter vegetable side seems like a winning choice. Cruciferous vegetables are nutritious and in season, with considerably fewer calories than the starchier vegetables already on the menu. Consider trying roasted cauliflower or brussels sprout. For a make-ahead dish, kale salad with dried fruit and chopped nuts tossed with vinaigrette is tasty. If you are eating with little ones or some less adventurous eaters, a vegetable platter will likely be enjoyed and appreciated.

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