Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Ideas For an 'Alternate' Thanksgiving Dinner

Are you having family over for Thanksgiving, but want to do something different from your usual 'turkey and stuffing'? Not that these things are bad; it's just that sometimes you're pressed for time and/or will have to cater to a bunch of different tastes. If this describes you, here are a few suggestions for 'alternate' Thanksgiving foods.

 -'Inject' the turkey with different flavors. My stepsister manages a high-end restaurant and has picked up a lot of tips from the cooks. One Christmas, she brought out one called Cajun Injector for the turkey. This was the first I'd heard of it, but there are several other brands and flavors out now. Even those of us who don't like overly-spicy food were happy because the 'injectable' method of seasoning allows for a subtle flavor, or stronger if you wish.

 -Roast Cornish Game hens. That way, everyone gets their own little 'chicken'. Kids will love not having to fight over who gets the drumstick! Also, since you can roast multiple hens at the same time, you can season them differently to suit everyone's tastes.

-If you're bored with turkey or just don't have the time or money to prepare it, don't be afraid to try something completely different. For instance, one year we went to my great aunt's house in North Carolina  and had a 'pig pickin'. If you've never been to one, it's basically a huge pork barbecue held in somebody's backyard. It's practically a Southern US staple, thus the spelling! It's not uncommon to see a big pig on the grill with pre-cooked barbecue placed in the body cavity, similar to stuffing in a turkey. This is served with some classic barbecue sauce and pretty much any side you can think of. I'd only recommend this if you live in an area where it is warm and dry enough to eat outside in November; technically you could eat around the dining room table, but the grilling itself must take place outside and, well, it just feels more 'authentic' when you're listening to Uncle Danny play silly songs on the guitar while dried leaves crunch under your feet.

-If you have small children or others who have a hard time with a knife and fork, pre-carve some pieces of turkey and set some rolls out for small sandwiches. This is much more 'arthritis-friendly', so your grandmother can still enjoy everything.

-Use a different kind of seasoning for vegetables than you normally do. Mrs. Dash has a wide variety of salt-free spice blends that work just as well on vegetables as they do on meat. You could also spice up mashed potatoes by making a 'loaded' version with cheese, sour cream, chives and bacon. If you don't want to flavor the whole batch of potatoes, you can always serve the extras on the side and let everyone fix their potatoes the way they like them.

-Do something different for dessert. Pumpkin pie is great, but some people don't like the taste or texture. Luckily, many stores and restaurants have come out with some 'alternate' desserts made especially for Thanksgiving or other special occasions. If you order a cheesecake, Apple Annie's and some stores will let you pick out 12 slices of different kinds of cheesecake and package and price it like a 'regular' cheesecake. That way, you can cater to different tastes. It might be possible to do this with certain kinds of pie, but the consistency of cheesecake is much more conducive to it. And, well, there's always pumpkin cheesecake and pumpkin-spice coffee.

What are some of your favorite variations on traditional Thanksgiving fare?

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