By Darcie Fuqua, Crosswalk.com
When you think about Thanksgiving, I'm sure food comes to your mind first. At least, it does for me. Of course, I also think of precious time spent with family and friends. But those special memories are usually us sitting around an antique wooden table lined with food down the center—and more food covering every square inch of the counters. Then there is the dessert table. We have a big family, and we all love food! What can I say?
Thanksgiving usually conjures up images of roasted turkey, dressing and gravy, and pumpkin pie. We love our traditional food, but Thanksgiving can be a great time to try new recipes and break with tradition. I'm not here to convince you to scrap your great-grandma's pecan pie recipe, but mixing it up or adding a new dish to the lineup this holiday season can be fun. Who knows? It may become a new favorite that your family and friends eagerly anticipate when the next turkey Thursday rolls around.
Let's look at ways we can put a twist on some of our favorite staples:
Small Plates, Big Flavor
Appetizers are where you can really show off your culinary creativity. We always have a counter with grazing foods to munch on before the main course is ready. Everyone loves a good dip. A bonus is that dips are usually easy to prep. This Creamy Whipped Feta Dip from Once Upon a Chef can be made three days ahead. It pairs great with pita chips or raw vegetables. Try the Cracked Out Artichoke Dip by Plain Chicken for a twist on spinach artichoke dip. Her recipes always turn out great and are super easy to cook.
Do you get excited about shrimp cocktails like me? Give this Grilled Shrimp with Pesto recipe a try for something new and different. You won't be disappointed. The seafood lover in me craves this Cajun Shrimp Toast from D*** Delicious. Check out the Mini Shrimp and Grits appetizer from Pizzazzerie. This cute small plate is served in individual glasses or jars.
Suburban Simplicity has the perfect four-ingredient appetizer for the holidays. Try their Easy Goat Cheese and Honey Bites for a flavorful and aesthetic treat. Plain Chicken gives a holiday favorite, sausage balls, a little kick with their variation called Rotel Cream Cheese Sausage Balls.
Of course, we can't forget the popular charcuterie boards and the vast crafting of these fancy pick-up foods. Natasha's Kitchen has a video on creating charcuterie boards to get your creative juices flowing. Read Jennifer Maune's article on Living Life Beautifully for great ideas for Thanksgiving charcuterie boards. As if the boards weren't fun enough, crafty cooks have come up with jarcuteries. All the punch of the large spread is stuffed in a little jar. Take a look at this hot new trend on Totally the Bomb.
Bring on the Carbs
Thanksgiving is not complete without dressing or stuffing to complement the center-of-attention bird. And this is one dish that can be easily tweaked to your liking. I love this Slow Cooker Sausage Stuffing recipe from Averie Cooks. The flavors combine well, and you save room in the oven. Having lived on the Gulf Coast my entire life, seafood is a part of the weekly menu. You can't go wrong with this Savannah Seafood Stuffing packed full of crabmeat and shrimp from All Recipes.
Forget the frozen biscuits and rolls and try this artisan-style No-Knead Bread Recipe from Natasha's Kitchen. Her recipes never disappoint. Natasha Kravchuk's parents are from Ukraine, and her recipes have been passed down for generations. For a slightly healthier version using rye whole wheat flour, give her Mom's Rye and Whole Wheat Bread recipe a try. These homemade Pretzel Bites from Once Upon a Chef are a fun and tasty addition instead of the traditional dinner rolls.
Give Me Some Greens
Vegetable sides are the easiest way to spice things up and try new adventurous recipes. Using vegetables in-season, such as green beans, winter squash, pumpkins, carrots, brussels sprouts, broccoli, and cabbage, is a great way to stay on budget. Check out the Seasonal Food Guide for an easy way to see what is in season by month and state.
Even though corn is not in season, I love to make a good corn soufflé or casserole, and this Grandma's Corn Pudding recipe from All Recipes uses canned corn, so it's a win. D*** Delicious uses canned corn in this yummy Slow Cooker Creamed Corn recipe. And this recipe saves valuable oven space.
Green bean casserole is always a favorite in our spread, and there are never any leftovers. If you want to try a spin on the traditional casserole, use frozen fried onion rings on top, like in this recipe on the Weary Chef. Paula Deen uses almonds instead of French fried onions for the topping in her New-Fashioned Green Bean Casserole recipe.
Carrots are another budget-friendly option that is virtually in season all year round. Try these Roasted Heirloom Carrots with Feta, Truffle, and Lemon Zest from the Skinny Taste. Hop over to Chelsea's Messy Apron for a sweet or savory option of Roasted Carrots. This site also has a fabulous Roasted Vegetable recipe using fall veggies like brussels sprouts and sweet potatoes.
Salads aren't only for summer and spring. Chelsea's Messy Apron packs this simple Thanksgiving Salad full of flavor with roasted butternut squash, fresh baby spinach, candied almonds, feta cheese, and dried cranberries. Then the salad is dressed with an easy three-ingredient balsamic dressing. She also has a wonderful Winter Salad to brighten a cold day made with winter fruit and a creamy maple vinaigrette.
Plain Potatoes No More
Most people love mashed potatoes, especially with a healthy helping of butter and gravy. That is unless you are my sons, who won't even try mashed potatoes—not even a single spoonful. We have even dissected their beloved French fries proving that the innards of fries are indeed mashed potatoes. But those tiny lips are sealed tight when the bowl of mashed potatoes gets passed around. (Shout out to the other parents dealing with picky eaters. You are not alone!)
For those of us who can devour more than our weight in that starchy, creamy, sometimes a little lumpy mountain of deliciousness, I've provided some new recipes from my favorite cooking sites to jazz up plain potatoes.
Add garlic or your favorite cheese if you don't want to deviate too far from the traditional mashed potatoes. My favorite potatoes come from a local restaurant that adds enough garlic to keep the vampires away. And the plate is always licked clean. A little cream cheese also makes mashed potatoes extra smooth. These Smoked Gouda Mashed Potatoes from the Stay at Home Chef are to die for. And if you dig sweet potatoes, try this Cinnamon Honey Butter Mashed Sweet Potatoes recipe on the same site.
Potatoes have got to be the most versatile vegetable out there. Au gratin potatoes are an excellent choice for a mashed potato substitute. You can't go wrong with this simple heavy cream-based Au Gratin Potatoes recipe from Once Upon a Chef. Be sure to try these Easy Roasted Parmesan Pesto Potatoes on the Stay at Home Chef for an explosion of flavor.
Whatever favorites make it to your table this year, I hope you treasure time with your family making new memories. And don't let tiny picky eaters ruin your day. Just put a roll on their plate and a slice of unseasoned turkey and call it a day.
Photo Credits: ©GettyImages/AlexRaths
Darcie Fuqua is a Business Analyst, Auburn Grad (War Eagle!), Christian blogger & podcast host, and mental health advocate. She is from the deep south of Alabama, where she currently resides with her husband, two energetic fun-loving boys, and a dog named Charlie. She loves sinking her toes in the sand, cuddling with her boys, and having great conversations over a table of good food. You can read more of her writing on her website www.leightonlane.com and connect with her on Facebook and Instagram. Check out Darcie’s latest project as cohost of Therapy in 10.