Put a Twist on My Thanksgiving Meal

Updated on November 02, 2012
J.M. asks from Fox River Grove, IL
29 answers

I am hosting Thanksgiving this year and would like to put a twist on the traditional menu. I can't get too crazy and make quinoa-stuffed squash or anything because my extended family are pretty traditional "meat and potato" type people, but I WOULD like to jazz it up a bit. We usually do all the traditional dishes - yams with marshmallows, green bean puke, uh I mean casserole, mashed potatoes, turkey, stuffing and cranberries. I'm so bored with it all. Still going to cook a turkey obviously but I would like to start a tradition of some unique and yummy sides instead of same ol same ol. Thanks!

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answers from Baton Rouge on

I hate marshmallows and the thought of them on top of sweet potatoes makes my gorge buoyant.
I make a sweet potato dish that my family loves. I partially bake the sweet potatoes - just enough to soften them so they're easy to peel. Then I cube them and put them in a baking dish with peeled, cubed Granny Smith apples, raisins (or craisins), chopped pecans (or walnuts), and add some butter (real butter, not margarine), brown sugar and maple syrup (actual tree sap, not maple flavored corn syrup) to make a glaze. and bake it all together until the potatoes and apples are soft.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Los Angeles on

I also am tired of the traditional side dishes. I wish i was hosting, I'd force everyone out of their comfort zone for some new dishes. How about this. Just make some interesting side dishes but have relatives bring the old stand by's.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from Wichita Falls on

I know a guy who makes green beans wrapped in bacon and pan fried with brown sugar. Can't be healthy but no one cares after they try it.
My mother would skip the marshmallows for the sweet potatoes and use orange juice concentrate instead (plus allspice, brown sugar, and cinnamon).

3 moms found this helpful

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answers from Los Angeles on

Oh wow the green bean casserole is the best, with those crunchy onions, yum I can eat those right out of the box! Can't believe some don't like it lol.
I am so looking forward to all the traditional thanksgiving foods, but I agree with you I like to put a little twist here and there.
Last year I made butternut squash soup: puréed the squash with sautéed diced carrots, mushrooms, sweet onions, apples, celery with some garlic and thyme sprinkled in there. Then topped it with bacon bits and some crumbled goat cheese. Very good.

Here is a recipe also that's a little time consuming but worth the effort. Everyone raved over these when I made them, plus they look pretty fancy;)

Butternut squash turnovers

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3 large leeks, white parts only, cut into 1-inch dice (2 cups)
1/2 pound shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground pepper
One 2-pound butternut squash—peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
14 ounces all-butter puff pastry, thawed if frozen
3/4 pound fresh goat cheese (1 1/2 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1. Preheat the oven to 375°. In a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Add the diced leeks and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the shiitake and cook, stirring often, until their liquid has evaporated, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and the thyme and cook for 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a medium bowl.
2. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and lightly oil the parchment. In a large bowl, toss the squash with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Spread the squash on the prepared baking sheet and bake for about 25 minutes, until softened and starting to brown. Add the squash to the leeks and mushrooms and toss.
3. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured work surface, gently roll out the puff pastry to a 12-by-16-inch rectangle about 1/4 inch thick. Cut the pastry into twelve 4-inch squares. Spoon 2 tablespoons of the shiitake-squash mixture onto each square and top with 2 tablespoons of the goat cheese. Lightly brush the edge of the squares with some of the beaten egg. Fold the squares over to form triangles and crimp the edges decoratively with a fork.
4. Arrange the turnovers on the prepared baking sheet about 1/2 inch apart. Brush the tops of the turnovers with the remaining beaten egg. Bake for about 25 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Minneapolis on

Green beans oven roasted with olive oil and bacon? We have fruit salad, but not the canned fruit cocktail type, fresh fruit and real whipped cream. Every time I try to put a new twist on the Thanksgiving menu I get hassled and backlash. My mom, who just died, used to make wild rice. Not sure what we are going to do about that this year. I asked if we should change things up this year under the circumstances, but my dad and brother said no. Anyhow, wild rice or some sort of rice pilaf?

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Albuquerque on

Aw but the same ole same ole is sooo good, LOL. Anyway, Racheal Ray is talking about this this week. Today she did different stuffing variations and I think tomorrow she's doing 10 types of potatoes. The recipes should be posted on her website after her show is finished. Otherwise I would just look around the net. I follow a bunch of cooking blogs so I always come across tons of recipes. And for the green bean casserole you can change that up a bit by using fresh green beans, making your own version of cream soup, adding almonds, etc. For a different version of sweet potatoes you could mix them with orange juice and fresh ground ginger, soo good. Good luck!

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Salinas on

You can still do the similar tradtional dishes but just "elevate" them a bit.

Fresh green beans, parboiled and then sauteed in a little OO, garlic, lemon juice, s & P

Garlic mashed potatoes or roasted baby potatoes

Fresh, homemade cranberry sauce (look online there are lots of add ins that give them a little twist

Baby green salad with blue cheese, pears, walnuts, homemade balsamic dressing

Roasted sweet potatoes or squash

Just be creative and have fun with it while sticking to the basic ideas behind the Thanksgiving meal. If it's good, fresh food your family will love it.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Austin on

My mom has decided that I don't know how to cook. I don't have any idea where she got this idea, but there you go. So I hosted one year, and pulled this one out (my family is also meat-potatoes-bread):

Butternut Squash Saute (from the Betty Crocker Complete Thanksgiving Cookbook)
4 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
1 medium onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
2 small butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (6 cups)
1/8 tsp dried thyme leaves (1/2 tsp chopped fresh)
1/8 tsp pepper
3 cups firmly packed baby spinach leaves

cook bacon in 12-inch skillet over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp. Stir in onion, cook about 2 min, stirring occasionally, until onion is crisp-tender

stir in squash, thyme, and pepper. Cover and cook 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until squash is tender. Stir in spinach just until wilted.

No one asked for the recipe, but I didn't have any leftovers, either.

You could probably skip the spinach, even, if you needed to...

Happy Hosting!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Sacramento on

I made a killer potatoe dish last year, and we'll be having it again this year! go to epicurious.com and look up scalloped yukon gold and sweet potato gratin with fresh herbs. decadent, yes, but oh sooooo yummy!

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Salt Lake City on

One option would be trying a new or adding a new potato dish. I love the sweet potatoes but last year I also brought a side of loaded mashed sweet potatoes with bacon, green onions, butter and shredded cheese mixed in. It was easy and you don't need a recipe, just add ingredients to taste. It was really good.
Maybe a few new pie or dessert options would be the ticket. I will always bring a few "different" pies and they are always the ones that are gone because everyone is excited to try something new. The ones that people pretty much die over are lemon cream pie and pear almond pie. Grape pie is actually fantastic and not that hard, I also made snickerdoodle pie once and people liked it a lot too.
Also you could try a new turkey method if you are brave. I have heard that brining the turkey makes it just absolutely the best ever, and I think you can find a tutorial at ourbestbites.com. I have not tried it yet, however my friend does deep fried turkey and he will do a few different flavors. HOLY COW, it is sooooo good! It is the most moist and flavorful turkey I have ever had.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

I don't think you can skip the turkey and mashed potatoes part. (Even though a potato galette is way more to my liking than mashed.) So work on the fringes.

I agree with JB about the green beans. We lightly steamed them and threw some butter and lemon (and some almonds toasted in butter) on them last year and they were gobbled up.

For cranberry sauce, instead of canned or with orange, I've made cranberry sauce with pears, cardamom, and five spice. Really good.

Brine the turkey (props to Galwaygirl for that suggestion). It really does make it taste better.

As with the green beans, I don't like yucked-up yams. I would prefer roasted sweet potatoes with butter. Or try Amanda's recipe for butternut squash. Or pumpkin or squash soup. (That would be yummy.)

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

Start with nixing that disgusting GBC from the menu and replace it with green beans amandine - so much tastier and fresher! I wouldn't do candied yams either (nasty) but something healthier - butternut squash puree, roasted sweet potatoes or something else orange. I make dinner rolls with rosemary and sea salt that are to die for (from pioneerwoman.com/cooking). Roasted veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, turnips, carrots, green beans, peppers, shallots, etc.) are also delicious, as are honey-glazed carrots.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

We make everything fresh and from the farmer's market.

Fresh green beans, nothing canned.
Fresh pies
Fresh mashed potatoes with garlic cloves and bay.
My new favorite stuffing is using sourdough bread with spinach and artichokes.
Roasted sweet potatoes with paprika, chili powder, ginger, S&P and OJ...no marshmallows.
Fresh cranberry sauce with fresh oranges and apples.

Try making one of the old standby's using fresh ingredients. It makes a huge difference.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

Thank you! I hate green bean casserole! My mother-in-law is always raving at my sister-in-law's green bean casserole. I think it is so gross. A tradition In my house growing up and I make them now is baked apples. Just halved and baked with cinnamon and sugar. Yummy! I guess it is more dessert but we always ate them with the main meal.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Chicago on

My husband and I started making our own Turduckin as our way of changing it up when we took over Thanksgiving from both of our families. We are thinking of adding some crablegs or stuffed clams as a side dish to change it up again this year.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Grand Forks on

We sometimes have cabbage rolls, perogies an meatballs along with all the traditional stuff.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Appleton on

If you do not like green bean casserole don't serve it. Since it is made with canned soup it is very high in sodium and probably MSG. So tell the family for health reasons you are no longer serving it. Make a salad and an nice veggie or two. My family like broccoli and corn ( served separartely). Make punch I love punch. I use a can of frozen lemon aide and a can of frozen lime aide or pink lemon aide reconstitute one use the other full strength. Add a 2 liter of ginger ale, make ice with a shaped pan or jello mold add two oranges sliced, freeze. Makes a huge bowl of punch and it's yummy. Can be put in a pitcher if there is any left over.
For a change in traditional cranberries make cranberry relish 1 lb frozen cranberries, 1 orange with peel, 1 cup sugar. Put cranberries in food processor, cut up orange add to processor mix well put in bowl stir in sugar. Can be made a day or two ahead.
Make brownies and apple crisp with an oatmeal base (gluten free) and pies.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Seattle on

Hmmm... I would try adding new dishes instead of substituting old favorites.

It can make it more expensive OR relatively the same price.

If price is no object, just add. Like 25lb turkey AND a turducken.
If budget is vital, go halves. Like a 12lb turkey AND a turducken. OR
HALF a 'normal' turkey and HALF a fried turkey

Obviously some things are super easy to twist (like potatoes & ginger garlic potatoes) by doubling without breaking the budget.

Other things might take some work. (Turkey v Turducken, Onion dip v crab artichoke dip) From now on just take these as ideas of add ons

- Fried Turkey
- Turducken
- Gumbo
- Puercos Masitas
- Fennel Stuffed Pork Roast
- Goose

- Orange yam/sweet potato Empinadas
- white Sweet potato au gratin (Camembert)
- Turkey Cranberry tamales (duck & cherry is another winner)
- Bacon wrapped grilled/broiled jallepenos poppers
- Broccoli Raab w garlic
- Rissotto
- Masala Peas
- Grilled veggies w/shredded Fresh herbs
- stuffed mushrooms
- ginger garlic soy green beans (broiled until crispy)
- crash hot potatoes
- leek mashed potatoes
- ginger garlic mashed potatoes
- pear & blue & pecan cheese tart
- pomegranate & pecan salad
- antipasti
- shoyu Brussels sprouts
- cannelloni bean suffed peppers
- chorizo seared shrimp salad
- shrimp étouffée
- Capresé salad
- herb salad

- plum pudding
- pumpkin tiramisu or pecan pie tiramisu
- strawberries w/cracked pepper sugar glaze on rosary skewers
- fried icecream
- baklava

I'd personally pick a 'theme' on the alternates (like Cajun, English, Latin, Mediterranian, herb garden, etc... And run with that.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

keep the traditional dinner but add a twist on the desserts....have cheesecake, or a bundt cake or cupcakes....

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Charleston on

This is my "twist" on your same menu. (love your name, "green bean puke" haha)

* Deep fry your turkey (away from your house or garage, as far as possible - trust me)

* Sesame Green Beans 0 http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/rachael-ray/sesame-gre...

* Sweet Potato Casserole - http://www.familycookbookproject.com/view_recipesite.asp?...

*Pioneer Woman Mashed Potatoes - http://thepioneerwoman.com/cooking/2007/11/delicious_crea...

* Pumpkin Pie Spectacular from Southern Living magazine - http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/pumpkin-pie-spectacular-1...

Squash Casserole - http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/squash-casserole-50400000...

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Austin on

How about broccoli rice casserole with a little kick.. Use the spicy American cheese..

We use fresh broccoli instead of frozen..
We have made twice baked potatoes instead of mashed potatoes.. And we do the traditional southern - cornbread dressing...

Roasted Brussels sprouts with bacon and pecans....

I cannot stand the slimy (grey) green bean casserole either.



answers from Chicago on

Our family isn't big on turkey and we haven't 'hosted' Thanksgiving in a long time. Here is what we've done which works best for small groups - either a large roaster chicken (Perdue's are best) or rock cornish hens. The hens are cool because basically everyone gets their own little bird so there's no fighting over drum-sticks or wings and they are so tender there is no dry meat.

If you do one of these ideas then you can do some of the traditional sides like cranberry sauce (home-made, never from the can). My kids love the cranberries made with orange juice. Doin this also gives you a little more leeway (spelling?) with a side like brussel sprouts or ??



answers from Kansas City on

We use this recipe for Sweet Potato Casserole. It's from Ruth Chris Steakhouse and it's divine:


We also like this recipe for Cheezy Potato Casserole:


And, we love Broccoli Casserole. We cover with cheese-its instead of french fried onions and we use mayo instead of sour cream:



answers from Columbia on

I do the same traditional dishes, with my own twist.

I inject my turkey with cajun butter and rub the outside with cajun spices. It's just as moist as fried if you give it time and cook it at 25' lower than usual. Takes longer, but it's fabulous. I also use a turkey roaster instead to free up my oven space.

I blend my yams with heavy cream and butter until fluffy, then put in the casserole dish. Put a layer of pecans and brown sugar/cinnamon on top.

For green beans, I pan fry bacon, remove from pan and crumble. In the bacon grease I sautee some onion until carmelized, and then add a couple of bags of frozen green beans (fancy). I pan fry them in the bacon grease and onion. Add the crumbled crispy bacon right before you remove from heat. Add some toasted slivered almonds for a real treat. Mmmmm...way better than puke casserole (I hate it too!).

I use Allrecipes.com's Awesome Cranberry Dressing recipe. I use Jimmy Dean's Sage sausage instead, and use twice as much sausage and apples. I've experimented over the years with the amounts and found that I like more of...everything. :-)

I also make Allrecipes.com's Day Before mashed potatoes. They're exceptional...and it's so easy to do things the day prior.

I buy gravy. Heinz Turkey gravy. Add a little of the turkey drippings and heat.

And I buy King's Hawaiian rolls.

I think that traditional doesn't have to be boring. Spice it up with your own style. I also love doing some new finger foods to have out while people wait. We do a relish tray, Crispix Mix, cheese, summer sausage and crackers...but I think I'm going to add Buffalo Chicken Dip and Jalepeno Popper Dip. MMMMMM!



answers from Dallas on

Why not do - http://www.myrecipes.com/recipe/garlic-green-beans-100000... instead of the pukey looking stuff?

Google is your friend with this - you can google "thanksgiving recipes with a twist" and you'll end up with suggestions. Enjoy!


answers from Milwaukee on

You could do acorn squash baked with butter and brown sugar instead of filling with quinoa.
Or start the meal with a root or butternut squash soup

My mom used to boil potatoes and then "rice" them in a potato ricer.
Or boil whole cloves of garlic with the potatoes, then mash for a great garlic mashed potato.

Roast your sweet potatoes and don't add marshmallows

Do you make your GBC with fresh green beans? If not try it that way.


answers from Chicago on

For a dessert, may I suggest a Sweet Potato Souffle? I made one last year (my first time contributing anything to the family Thanksgiving meal), and it was gobbled up and people were asking for more.

Do you use wild rice in your stuffing? In Minnesota, where I'm from, that is a local favorite.

ETA: I would REALLY love risotto--great suggestion, Riley!



answers from Chicago on

you may be bored with the normals, but they are normals for a reason, leave them be. Maybe ADD one dish or dessert but do not mess with what is tradition. You and whoever eats with you will regret it.

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