Even the most traditional celebrations sometimes benefit from a new twist. If you’re feeling a little less than excited this year about the whole turkey-dressing-cranberry-mashed potato-pumpkin pie routine, why not “stuff” that menu and plan to keep it simple.
Especially if you expect a crowd around the table (as I do) it might be a welcome change to enjoy the company without having to worry about getting all the food ready at the same time. In addition, putting less emphasis on the food, and more on family togetherness and a grateful spirit just seems somehow more fitting in these turbulent times.
Here are some suggestions: It’s all about easing the dinner preparation, assuring an ample supply of leftovers for the weekend, and eliminating that traditional overstuffed feeling that everyone regrets.
Here’s a sample menu for simpler, healthier dishes:
Glazed Spiral-Cut Ham
Roasted Mixed Vegetables
Salad of Simple Mixed Greens, with Vinaigrette Dressing
Pumpkin Spice Ice Cream
Roasting a turkey is one of the easiest tasks for any Thanksgiving chef, so that favorite still takes center stage at this pared-down table. A smaller turkey, though, makes thawing, storing, roasting and serving easier. Add the no-fuss ham as an appealing option, and you’ll also have a choice for sandwiches. Stock up on sliced, country bread to serve with the meal and for those sandwiches.
Gotta have the gravy? Here’s an easy last-minute version made from turkey pan drippings. It takes only a few moments, and it’s delicious. Don’t agonize over it. It’s really no-fail.
Instead of mashed potatoes and gravy, marshmallow-topped sweet potatoes, and familiar green bean casserole, roast a platter-full of onions, celery, carrots, baby potatoes and sweet potato wedges. Toss them with kosher salt, garlic and olive oil. They’re delicious served hot with dinner, but they’re also wonderful served as a room-temperature snack food during the game. You can par-boil the small potatoes (get a mix of red, yellow and purple varieties for fun), and pop carrots and sweet potatoes in the microwave for a few minutes. Them simply toss all the vegetables with oil, salt and some fresh herbs and pop them into the oven to heat through. Perfect and easy!
A generous salad of mixed greens tossed with a light vinaigrette not only adds fresh taste, but is a much lighter, more nutritious choice than molded salad or creamy, sweet ambrosia. An option, if you can’t do without the fruit, is to save it for dessert.
If your family is like mine, ice cream would be more popular than pie following any meal; but, with a nod to tradition, make it pumpkin spice ice cream.
And for those who can’t do without a taste of pie or cranberry, why not combine them into bite-size tartlets? But, again, keep it simple with frozen crust and canned cranberry sauce, shaped and baked in mini-muffin tins. Make them in advance; they’ll keep just fine in the fridge. These, too, are great for popping into your mouth during the football game.
One last Thanksgiving note: If you have vegetarians in the family, you can still have a traditional meal and accommodate their diets as well. Do it with a vegetable lasagna — here is a favorite recipe — that doubles as another veggie choice for the others. Just be sure to make a big batch!
Have a wonderful holiday: Eat well, and consider downloading the Thanksgiving Reader along with millions of others who will join together to “breathe the same air and think hard about what we’re thankful for.”