This Thanksgiving, make over your typical menu with easy-peasy add-in ingredients. From green bean casserole to mashed potatoes, apple crisp to sweet potato casserole—all it takes is one creative substitution to transform your holiday favorites into something new (without any fuss at all). Here are five ideas for creative sub-ins to try this season.
1. Green Bean Casserole
Instead of the usual canned string beans, try this holiday recipe with any of the following: thinly sliced carrots, finely chopped leeks, finely chopped broccoli, or shaved Brussels sprouts. (Why not try a mixture of carrots and any of the other ideas for a colorful green-and-orange combination?) And instead of the less-than-inventive boxed onion rings topping, try a crunchy mixture of minced nuts, whole wheat breadcrumbs, and snipped herbs (tossed in melted butter and arranged over the casserole before baking).
2. Bread Cube Stuffing
Bread cubes are usually the centerpiece of traditional turkey stuffing. This year, try out an alternative whole grain in place of the bread. Using quinoa, wild rice, or even brown rice, you can create a holiday pilaf filled with the familiar nuts, fruits, and spices (such as this recipe on Epicurious.com using quinoa as the star). Alternatively, try a totally bread-less stuffing by cooking up a mélange of fruits, nuts, and wintry vegetables, then using that as your bird filler. An intriguing recipe from the Los Angeles Times shows you how to do it.
3. Sweet Potato Casserole
Sweet, sugared sweet potatoes cooked down with butter, spices, and topped off with some sort of whipped marshmallow topping—is there any greater Thanksgiving side dish? Maybe: Try this same idea, but sub in any winter squash varietal to get a new twist. Butternut squash, acorn squash, or plain old pumpkin can be substituted for sweet potatoes in this holiday dessert. For another variation, instead of topping your casserole with the standard fluffy marshmallow, make the standard nut-and-flour topping you would for an apple crisp, and sprinkle that over the top. Bake until golden crisp and top with crème fraiche or vanilla bean ice cream.
4. Mashed Potatoes
Mashed white potatoes are ever-so comforting, but if you’re looking for a break from the too-familiar, substitute any winter squash for a more colorful (and also slightly sweeter) side. Non-squash sub-ins for white potatoes include cauliflower, quinoa, millet, and turnips. Try a mix of them in different combinations—get creative! Simply steam or boil any of the above until softened, then mash with your flavorings like butter, olive oil, garlic, and chives.
5. Apple Crisp
The classic apple crisp may not be in need of a makeover, but what’s the harm in jazzing it up a bit, anyway? Pears, quinces, and persimmons are all excellent winter fruits to use in place of (or in addition to) fresh apples as your filling, and you don’t have to change a single other ingredient in the whole recipe to transform the dessert. If you feel so inclined, however, to switch things up even more, toss dried cherries, dried apricots, and/or crystalized ginger in with the fruit filling. And in place of the usual splash of lemon juice inside the filling, give a go at one of the following: amaretto, brandy, rum, or hard cider.