Everyone loves a traditional Thanksgiving, but let’s face it, don’t the old standbys get a little boring sometimes? Everyone expects stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and green beans, so why not surprise people? This year, jazz up your family celebration with a few untraditional additions to the table. The following eight ideas will give you a great place to start.
Cranberry Goat Cheese Tartlets. These bite-sized delicacies pair perfectly with any holiday meal, but on Thanksgiving they really shine. If you’re a master chef, go ahead and prepare your own phyllo shells by brushing phyllo dough with butter and stacking in layers of three before cutting into 3-inch squares and stuffing in mini muffin tins. Bake at 425 degrees for about 6 minutes and then turn out onto a cooling rack. If you’re not the type to get too experimental, simply get the store-bought kind and save yourself the hassle. Once cool , fill with room temperature goat cheese crumbles and stop with cranberry sauce for a sweet appetizer, main course accompaniment or light dessert.
Brussels Sprouts and Bacon. The classic combination of pork and veggies gets an easy spin in this seasonal dish. Dice up four strips of bacon and fry in a pan until crispy. Trim the stems off a pound of Brussels sprouts and cut them in half lengthwise, saving any leaves that fall off. Put the vegetables in a colander and run them under cold water, shaking and tossing to dislodge dirt. Put the sprouts into a small baking dish, then pour the bacon and its grease over them, turning to coat. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the top, cover with foil and pop them in a 400-degree oven for about 35 minutes.
Cranberry Turnovers. This delightful treat couldn’t be any easier. Thaw a box of puff pastry in the fridge for at least 3 hours or overnight. Use 2/3 cup of canned cranberry sauce or the homemade kind, if you’re into that, for the filling. When ready to make the turnovers, pull the box of puff pastry out of the fridge and carefully unfold the dough. Working quickly, cut each sheet into 9 squares (you will have 18 total), and top each with a spoonful of the cranberry sauce. Fold into triangles and bake in a 400-degree oven for 16 minutes or until golden-brown and crusty.
Russian Tea Cakes. These are a beloved holiday tradition, but usually don’t get broken out until December. This year, surprise your guests with a lovely tray of the buttery, crumbly, nutty cookies. Simply cream 1 cup of butter with half a cup powdered sugar and a teaspoon vanilla, then stir in 2 ? cups flour and a ? teaspoon of salt. Form into one-inch balls and bake in a 400-degree oven for 10 to 12 minutes. Roll immediately in powdered sugar, then roll again once cool. They go perfectly with coffee and, no surprise, tea.
Maple-Crusted Pecans.The turkey is the star of the show, and in your efforts to wait for it, you may inadvertently starve yourself or guests while it cooks. Avoid this with a pile of handy snacks. Maple-glazed pecans, for instance, make a perfect pre-meal munch. Bring a tablespoon butter and a tablespoon maple syrup to a boil in a pan, then toss with a cup of pecans. Spread them on a baking tray and top with a mixture of ? cup sugar, ? teaspoon of cinnamon and a pinch of nutmeg. Toss gently, sprinkle with a little salt and bake in a 375-degree oven for five minutes or until just crunchy. Enjoy on a salad, in baked goods or plain to prevent serious hunger.
Cranberry Orange Pound Cake. Okay, this is the last cranberry recipe, promise. But it’s a good one, so you won’t want to miss it! Crack your favorite cookbook or jump online and find a good old-fashioned recipe for pound cake, then doctor it up with orange and cranberry for a fun seasonal treat. Simply add 2 teaspoons orange zest, grating it carefully to make sure you don’t get any of the white pith in it, along with 1 ? cups of fresh or frozen cranberries.
Glazed Acorn Squash Slices. Acorn squash is an expected sight at the Thanksgiving table, but not like this! Halve and scoop the seeds out of two large acorn squashes, then turn the halves cut-side down and slice into ?-inch moons. Arrange on an oiled baking tray and cover with foil, then bake in a 425-degree oven for about 15 minutes. In the meantime, mix together a half-cup of maple syrup and 2 tablespoons soy sauce. Remove the tray of squash and brush the tops with the glaze, then bake for 10 minutes more. Remove and flip squash, glazing the other side and returning to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes. These can be served hot, warm or cold.
Lemon Parmesan Cauliflower. Cauliflower’s creamy texture and mellow taste make it a natural for the Thanksgiving table, yet it is rarely seen there. This year, change things up by roasting cauliflower in a mixture of sharp cheese and tangy lemon, with a sparse sprinkling of herbs to add some color and depth. Cut a head of cauliflower into 1-inch florets, then put in a baking dish large enough to hold them. Drizzle with olive oil and a little salt and pepper, and toss. Grate plenty of parmesan cheese and sprinkle over the top, along with the zest and juice of one lemon a half-teaspoon of fresh, chopped thyme. Bake at 400 degrees, covered, for about 40 minutes.