Thanksgiving Change-ups

A traditional Thanksgiving meal with the special people in our lives is as much a sensory pleasure
as a social one.  

But, perhaps, a change in the menu will make the meal and the holiday even more memorable. 

These less-expected menu options just might create new annual favorites and give everyone something
to talk about when planning the meal for all the December get-togethers. 

Maple Harissa Sweet Potatoes

If you thought you didn’t like sweet potatoes, this recipe spices them up with harissa—a hot chili pepper paste—and tops with savory roasted almonds and spice seeds (dukkah). This change-up to the traditional sweet potato casserole adds a little heat that pairs well with a cool glass of milk. 

  • 3 medium sweet potatoes (2½-3lbs), thinly sliced; 1/16″ to 1/8″ 
  • 3 T extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 T mild harissa 
  • 2 T pure maple syrup
  • 1½ t salt
  • 2 large cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 3 T dukkah (recipe below or store-bought)

Almond Dukkah Topping

  • 1/3 c dry roasted almonds coarsely chopped
  • 2 T sesame seeds
  • 1 T coriander seeds
  • 2 t cumin seeds
  • 1 t black peppercorns
  • ½ t flaky salt

Preheat oven to 400°F.

In large bowl, toss sliced sweet potatoes in olive oil, harissa, maple syrup, and salt.

Arrange sliced sweet potatoes vertically in concentric circles in a 10-inch casserole or gratin dish. Tuck garlic slices between potatoes.

Cover gratin dish in foil and roast for 40 minutes.

Remove foil and bake another 15-20 minutes until potatoes are tender and beginning to turn brown on top.

Meanwhile, prepare dukkah. In a dry skillet, toast sesame seeds, coriander seeds, and cumin seeds over low heat, stirring constantly, until they smell fragrant and sesame seeds begin to turn golden; 2-3 minutes.

In a coffee grinder, or with a mortar and pestle, finely grind black peppercorns. Add toasted seeds and lightly grind with a few pulses. Toss ground seeds with chopped almonds and salt.

Top potatoes with 3 T dukkah (reserve remaining dukkah for later use) and serve warm.

Sparkling Cranberries Yield: 2 cups

  • An unusual sweet-tart snack, these can be eaten as-is, or added to a favorite salad in place of dried berries.
  • 2 cups or one (12-oz) bag fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • 3/4 cup additional granulated or sanding sugar for rolling (see notes)


Rinse and drain cranberries; discard damaged or squishy ones. Place in a bowl and set aside.

Combine 1 cup granulated sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. 

Bring mixture to a simmer, stirring until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and allow simple syrup to cool 5-10 minutes.
Pour mixture over the cranberries in the bowl. Cover and refrigerate 8 hours or overnight.

Drain cranberries in a colander over a bowl, reserving the steeping liquid, if desired. Syrup will be infused with cranberry flavor and is delicious in lemonade, cocktails, etc. 

Spread berries on a cooling rack (over a baking sheet or foil to catch the drips), and let dry one hour.
Cranberries should be tacky but not wet. 

Place 3/4 cup sugar in a paper or plastic bag. Add cranberries, gently shake to coat them with the sugar. Spread sugared cranberries in a single layer on a baking sheet, let stand at room temperature for one hour or until dry.

Store in airtight container in a cool, dry place, up to a week. Use as a garnish or a snack. 

Citrus Turkey Brine

This will leave your Turkey very moist and it can also be used on other poultry. Yield: 15 servings

  • 1 cup salt
  • 1 lemon, cut into wedges 
  • 1 orange, cut into wedges 
  • 1 medium onion, cut into wedges 
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 4 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ gallons cold water

Rub salt onto your turkey, and place remaining salt, lemons, oranges, onion, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and pepper into a large pot. Place the turkey in the pot, and fill with water. Refrigerate overnight. Discard brine after removing turkey.