Spicing Up the Thanksgiving Menu

For this most traditional of all holiday meals, a few twists and turns keep the menu interesting.

By FamilyTime


Most families have very definite ideas about the Thanksgiving meal. Other than the grand roasted turkey in the center of the table, they expect very specific side dishes and garnishes. When it comes to dessert, they are apt to cry foul if there's anything other than pumpkin or pecan pie.

For the home cook, this can be tedious, year in and year out. As our culinary skills expand, we ache to try a few new dishes, particularly since this may be the one elaborate meal we cook all year!

Making Changes
Start slow. Introduce one or two new items this year. If these are side dishes or desserts, they will be more readily accepted, since they can be tucked in among the old favorites.

Put a second kind of cranberry sauce on the table alongside the quivering cylinder from the can. Many people will embrace it - or try both.

Easy Ideas
Starters: Serve spiced walnuts or pecans. Make simple cheese biscuits or buy cheese straws at a local specialty store. Offer hard cider to adults, regular cider to kids.

Cranberry sauce: Make a raw cranberry sauce with oranges and pineapple. Add brandy or orange-flavored liqueur to a cooked cranberry sauce for sophisticated palates.

Mashed potatoes: Add a few cloves of mashed roasted garlic to the potatoes for garlic mashed potatoes. Instead of sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, try mashing the yams and sweet potatoes. Flavor them with a little cider and cinnamon.

Roasted vegetables: Roasted vegetables are great in the cold weather. Try roasted beets, carrots, or onions. Go to Tips for Cooking Vegetables

Pureed vegetables: Puree turnips, squash, carrots, or beets for a nice alternative to mashed veggies. Stir in unflavored yogurt with the cream and butter to lighten them a little.

Sautéed vegetables: Sauté sliced leeks, which are available fresh this time of year, in butter, olive oil and garlic. Or, sauté parboiled fresh Brussels sprouts in a butter and a little chicken broth. Make a pan sauce for them with grainy mustard and a splash of white wine or more broth.

Fresh herbs: When you make stuffing this year, try using fresh herbs in place of dried thyme and sage. The flavor will be fresher and brighter.

Dessert: Lighten the pumpkin pie filling with beaten egg whites for a pumpkin soufflé pie. Make the pecan pie with caramel sauce or a layer of melted chocolate for a chocolate pecan pie. Make a pumpkin spice cake and serve it with butternut ice cream. Who could complain?

Don't Tell, Unless Asked
If you think your family will holler, don't broadcast your ideas for new dishes this year. Put them on the table, amid the usual, and let them make their own welcome.

Thanksgiving is about tradition. But who says we can't establish a few new ones along the way?