Alternative Thanksgiving options


Sometimes it can be fun to play with holiday traditions, especially those involving food.

Altering an ingredient, making a new dish, or changing a presentation can create a fresh energy for the table and may help alleviate the stress of hosting your hard-to-please in-laws and extended family.

Here are some tips for adding a twist to your Thanksgiving meal, whether it is to get away from the monotony of pumpkin and pecan pies or to offer a gluten-free or vegan option for your guests.

But try to avoid the turducken. Though the chicken stuffed in a duck stuffed in a turkey concept became popular a few years ago, it is just not natural.

Gluten-free options

It may sound a little scary to think about having a gluten-free Thanksgiving meal. This would mean no crusty rolls, stuffing, or heck, even certain glazed turkeys. Luckily, Julie McGinnis, the co-founder and CEO of the Gluten Free Bistro, says gluten-free no longer tastes like cardboard, and making a great Thanksgiving meal without gluten isnt so hard.

McGinnis says she used to struggle to find good gluten-free bread, but now she has local options like Udis and Canyon Bakehouse, which makes Thanksgiving easier and tastier.

I used to always do a cornbread stuffing instead of using regular bread, McGinnis says. Now though, since the gluten-free bread tastes so much better, I may try to make a regular, bread-based stuffing this year. There are also a lot of blogs by people who work really hard and cook all the time that offer great gluten-free recipes.

Some of McGinnis favorite gluten-free recipe blogs include Gluten Free Recipe Box, Elanas Pantry, and Carol Fenster Cooks. The Gluten Free Bistro also offers recipes on its site.

McGinnis suggests using Bobs Red Mill Cornbread Mix in a cornbread stuffing. The recipe she uses, which she says has become a favorite at Thanksgiving, is a chorizo and cornbread stuffing recipe on the Food Network website.

If you want to satisfy the gluten-free family members with a sweet tooth, try making a pie crust with a gluten-free flour mix. Local options for a flour mix include the Gluten Free Bistro and Outrageous Baking.

Vegan alternatives

Catering to vegan diets is pretty daunting. The main rule is to avoid all animal products, but this goes beyond the obvious chicken, pork and beef. The list includes dairy products, eggs, gelatin and sometimes even honey. However, if you want to offer a vegan dish or entire Thanksgiving meal, there are options.

Sarah Morgan, the healthy eating specialist at the Whole Foods Market on Pearl Street, recently helped host a vegan Thanksgiving supper club. The event included a four-course Thanksgiving meal, including winter squash soup, a caramelized onion tart, chestnut-herbed stuffing, a Yukon Gold potato mash and pumpkin pie.

Though it is difficult to imagine making mashed potatoes or the crust for a pumpkin pie or tart without any dairy or eggs, Morgan made it possible.

There are tons of ways to make mashed potatoes vegan, Morgan says. The way we did the Yukon Gold mash was just with potatoes, water, coconut milk and a little salt, and it was delicious.

The crusts for the tart and pumpkin pie are a little more inventive. The onion tart has a crust made of thinly sliced zucchini, and the pie, which Morgan says was a favorite of the attendees, has a crust made from a mix of dates, pecans, walnuts and almonds.

Though making a vegan dish may require you to use less traditional ingredients like coconut milk or nutritional yeast, Morgan says most vegan products can be found in the typical grocery store.

For the recipes used by Morgan, visit the cuisine section of

Different desserts

The traditional pumpkin and pecan pies can be a great way to end a Thanksgiving meal, but offering a fun alternative from a local bakery could kick up the excitement and reduce the time you spend laboring in the kitchen.

Kim and Jakes Cakes, a local bakery tucked in a corner of the Table Mesa Shopping Center, has a huge list of classic and specialty cakes you can order for the holiday.

For Thanksgiving, Jake Rosenbarger, co-owner of Kim and Jakes, suggests the pumpkin cake, which is basically made with all the contents of a pumpkin pie. Rosenbarger says it sets up the frame of mind for Thanksgiving, but in a fun cake instead of a pie. Rosenbarger also points to the ginger molasses and carrot cakes as good spicy options.

The bakery also has a variety of creative specialty cakes that bring out fall flavors. The Vindalicious offers an intriguing combination of warm spices perfect for the cool weather, and the Nut Brown Ale cake is another good Thanksgiving option, especially if you are looking for something with alcohol. All of the cakes on the menu can be made gluten free, and most can be made vegan.

Another local option for different desserts is Tee and Cakes. Though the shop is mostly known for its cupcakes, it also offers a handful of holiday pies. The list includes the traditional pumpkin and bourbon pecan pies, but it also has a twist with the Maple Chocolate Bacon Pecan and Salted Caramel Apple.

Orders for a pie from Tee and Cakes must be in by Nov. 21, and cakes from Kim and Jakes typically have a two-day turnaround. However, with the holiday rush coming up, Rosenbarger suggests placing orders as soon as possible.


Winter Squash Soup with Wild Rice

Serves 4

2 cups Butternut Squash, peeled, seeded and 1/2 inch dice

2 cups Acorn Squash, peeled and 1/2 inch dice

1 1/2 cups White Onion, small dice

1/2 cup Carrot, peeled and small dice

1/4 cup Celery, small dice

2 large Garlic Cloves, chopped fine

1 cup Wild Rice, cooked

2.5 qt low sodium Vegetable Broth

1 tsp fresh Thyme, minced

1 tsp fresh Sage, minced

1.5 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

1/4 cup Almonds, sliced and toasted

1. Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic and a splash of vegetable stock to steam saut. Saut until fragrant and slightly softened, about 2 minutes. Add butternut and acorn squash and more vegetable stock as needed to create steam and prevent vegetables from burning. Saut 3 minutes.

2. Add the rest of the vegetable stock and wild rice. Simmer for 20 minutes or until the squash is tender. Add the herbs and spices and taste for seasoning. Garnish with toasted almonds and enjoy!

Caramelized Onion Tart

This recipe makes either a bunch of mini tarts or one big one!

For the crust:

1 lb Zucchini, thinly sliced lengthwise

For the filling:

1/2 cup Yellow Onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup Red Onion, sliced thin

1/2 cup Leeks, half moons

1/2 cup Shallot, sliced thin

1 cup, Tofu Ricotta (see recipe below)

2 tsp Parsley, chopped

1 tsp Rosemary, finely chopped

Vegetable Stock, as needed

1 tsp Honey

Tofu Ricotta (blend well in robu coup):

1 lb Extra Firm Tofu

1/4 cup Lemon Juice

1/2 cup Cashews, raw

2 ea Garlic Cloves

1 1/2 tsp Salt

1. Heat a large saut pan and add all onions with a splash of vegetable stock.

Add honey and caramelize onions, adding more vegetable stock as necessary to prevent burning. Remove from heat once onions are soft and have caramelized. Cool and stir in herbs.

2. To assemble, spread a tsp of tofu ricotta on the bottom of the crust and top with caramelized onions. Flash in a 350 oven for 2 minutes to serve warm or serve at room temperature.

Braised Maitake Mushrooms

3/4 lb Maitake Mushrooms, washed

2 cup Vegetable Stock, low sodium

1 tsp Tamari

1 tsp Salt

1 tsp Pepper

1. In a large saut pan, saut mushrooms with a splash of vegetable stock.

Add tamari to caramelize; you want a little browning, add saut 1 minute more.

2. Add remainder of vegetable stock and transfer to oven safe pan and cook in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Chestnut Herbed Stuffing

3 cups day old HSH Bread, cubed

1 Onion, chopped

2 ribs Celery, chopped

1.5 tbsp fresh Sage, chopped

1 tbs fresh Thyme, chopped

1/2 tbsp fresh Rosemary, chopped

1/2 lb chestnuts (vacuum packed), chopped coarse, about 2 cups

1/4 cup Parsley, chopped

2 cups Vegetable Stock, low sodium

1. In a large skillet, steam saut onions and celery for 2 minutes, add sage, rosemary and thyme and cook for a minute more. Stir in chestnuts.

2. Place bread cubes in a large bowl and add vegetable mixture. Mix well to combine.

3. Add vegetable stock and place stuffing in casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for 20 minutes until golden brown on top.

Yukon Gold Potato Mash

2 lb Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cubed


2 tsp salt

1 cup Coconut Milk, light

1. Place potatoes in large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and cook until potatoes are tender – about 30 minutes. Drain.

2. In a mixer, whip potatoes until smooth with coconut milk (do not whip for more than 2 minutes or potatoes will get starchy). Season with salt.

Spiced Cherry Compote

2 cups Dried Cherries

1/2 cup Dried Cranberries

1/4 cup Dried Dates

2 cups Orange Juice

1 Cinnamon Stick

1/4 tsp whole Cloves

1/4 tsp Allspice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes on low heat and blend with hand blender or food processor until smooth. Chill and serve.

Pumpkin Pie

Makes one large pie

For the crust:

1 cup Dates, pitted

3/4 cup Pecans, toasted

1/4 cup Walnuts, toasted

1/2 cup Almonds, toasted

In a food processor, combine dates and nuts and pulse until crust comes together. Press into one large pie tin or mini’s and bake for 5 minutes at 350 degrees to set crust.

Pumpkin Filling:

4 oz Coconut Cream (Cream that solidifies when you chill a can of coconut milk)

1 3/4 cups canned Pumpkin

2 tsp Honey

3/4 cup Cashews (soaked overnight)

1 tbsp Lemon Juice

2 tsp Cinnamon

1/2 tsp Nutmeg

1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning.

2. Pour pie filling into nut crust and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

3. Chill pie to allow filling to firm up and enjoy!