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Thanksgiving Foods - For Turkey Lovers and Vegetarians

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Happy Turkey

Thanksgiving…just the name makes us think of food, family, friends, and maybe even football. Besides being with the ones you love, eating a little toooooo much on this day is excusable, if not encouraged. Here is a look at some Vegetarian food recipes and a turkey option for those that love the Thanksgiving icon.

There are loads of side dishes that are traditional for Thanksgiving. Some side dishes include vintage recipes, but we include some regional favorites that might pique your interest in trying something new. 

Vegetables around a cutting board

For vegetarians, below are five main courses to get you thinking and your taste buds perking up. For the meat eaters, we focus on the king/queen of the day, the turkey.  

Main Course – Vegetarian Options

We start off with a superb Vegetarian Mushroom Wellington – Loaded with mushrooms, vegan puff pastry, caramelized onions, spinach, chestnuts, and an array of spices. This is a dish you can make ahead if you prefer. There are instructions for making this a true vegan dish in the provided link. Serves six.

The next dish doesn't call for specific vegetables, so add your favorites to this Creamy Vegan Risotto with Roasted Vegetables. It takes about 45 minutes to an hour to prepare, and serves six, but can be doubled or tripled if you have a larger crowd.

Vegan Risotto

photo credit - noracooks.com

The recipe also mentions some alternatives, so go ahead, use your culinary imagination.

Another exciting option is Ricotta and Fontina Stuffed Shells with Fennel and Radicchio. This dish serves six to eight and is sure to leave your guests satisfied. You can't go wrong with the combination of pasta, vegetables, cheeses, and marinara sauce. They make this a spectacular choice for Thanksgiving. 

How about an awesome gratin as a main course? This Creamy Swiss Chard Gratin with Crispy Gnocchi is sure-to-please and is a beautiful, savory option. With Swiss Chard, potato gnocchi, onions, and cheeses, your guests will be toasting you all evening long. Serves eight to 10. 

Our final vegetarian selection is Butternut Squash with Chorizo-Spiced Kale. Squash is not only a great side dish, but as a centerpiece of this main course, it is a true star.

Butternut Squash

PHOTO BY DAVID MALOSH / PROP STYLING BY AMY WILSON / FOOD STYLING BY MAGGIE RUGGIERO

With kale, cheese and the mixture of spices, this dish not only tastes fantastic but looks awesome as well. It is simple to make, start to finish it takes about 35 to 45 minutes. The recipe serves four but can be doubled for a larger gathering. 

Main Course - Turkey Options

Let’s be honest, for our meat eaters, specifically our turkey eaters, there are unique ‘family-secrets’ in preparing the turkey. Often these ‘secrets’ have been passed down from generation to generation, with the next generation taking part in preserving those traditions.

Thus, it would be silly for us to give you turkey instructions. But for those hosting for the first time, or, for those without those turkey-day cooking traditions, we are here to help. Rather than try and explain how to roast a turkey in the oven, how to brine, deep-fry (away from the house and garage), grill, carve, or anything else associated with the turkey, we will leave that to the pros.

Turkey Cooked

What is the source for everything there is to know about turkey? Why, butterball.com of course! Here you will find all your answers to how to cook a turkey no matter the question.

Suppose your internet went down and you can’t get to the site. Relax. Take a deep breath, maybe a sip of wine, and call their hotline at 1-800-288-8372, or 1-800-BUTTERBALL. They take calls starting in November, through the end of the year. And on Thanksgiving Day, their hotline is available from 5 am to 6 pm Central Time. (You can call even if you didn’t buy a Butterball turkey). 

Turkey leg

Turkey ‘newbies’ don't fret, here is a Classic Roast Turkey recipe that is done in the oven, for those who just need a starting point to work from. Take your time, check the meat thermometer, maybe baste every now and then, and things will turn out great!!! 


Regional Side Dishes –

Starting in the center of the country and moving in no particular direction, here are some side dishes that either originated or are featured in states or regions of the country. All these dishes vary slightly from your family cookbook, and we are sure your family’s recipes are the best, but let’s explore some traditional regional dishes. Most of these sides are vegetarian-friendly. 

The Midwest -

Green Bean Casserole – This is a true staple from the heartland.

Green Bean Casserole

If you love casseroles, this is one to add to your list. It features green beans (naturally), fresh mushrooms, onion, cheddar cheese, sour cream, and a can of some French-fried onions, for a little crunchiness. Always a sought-after side at our dinner table.

Wild Rice Dressing – This dish originated in the state of Minnesota, and is likely on the table at most homes in the Land of 10,000 Lakes. Wild rice is combined with ground sausage, water chestnuts, and sliced mushrooms. It can be prepared ahead of time, then warmed in the oven or microwave before serving. And why wait for Thanksgiving, this dish is great all year round.

Pacific Northwest – 

Wild Mushroom Stuffing - Oregon and Washington are famous for their mushrooms and they serve it up in this delicious stuffing. Made with hazelnuts, eggs, bread, herbs, and a selection of fabulous fresh mushrooms. We tried a combination of shiitake, cremini, and porcini mushrooms, but use your favorites. Stuff the bird with it or make it separately, either way, every bite is pure joy. 

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup – This soup features fresh mushrooms with celery, carrots, onion, heavy cream, and some cheese.

Mushroom and Wild Rice Soup

Photo credit - dishingouthealth.com

Add in some wild rice and voila, the perfect warm Thanksgiving starter. Make sure there is enough for you to enjoy as a 'leftover'. (But we doubt there will be any 'left over'... so make an extra batch just for you!)

The Deep South 

Candied Sweet Potatoes – Sweet potatoes are often found on the table at Thanksgiving, but these, from the Southern part of the country, are special. They are easy to make, so you won't be tied up in the kitchen too long with this side.

Candied Sweet Potato

The recipe features the fabulous sweet potato, with butter, sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, a little vanilla extract, and salt to your liking. The result is a saucy, juicy treat that will have everyone coming back for seconds!!!

Sweet Potato Pie or Pecan Pie – There must be something about the South, they love their sweets. Be sure to save room for dessert and enjoy one (or both) of these two awesome pies.

Pecan Pie

Top either with ice cream and/or a dollop of whipped cream and you’ll swear you have reached culinary nirvana. 

Southwest -

Pumpkin Empanadas – This dessert is popular in Arizona and New Mexico around Thanksgiving. If fresh pumpkin is available, that is best to use, but canned is a simpler option. With a sweet taste of sugar, cinnamon, and allspice, it is a terrific side with that southwest flair. These only take 8 to 10 minutes to heat up and can be made ahead of time.

Northeast –

Cranberry Sauce – Let’s be more specific, homemade cranberry sauce. No canned cranberry in this neck of the woods. Simple ingredients too! It doesn't get much simpler than fresh cranberries, sugar, and an orange.  

Cranberry Sauce

(Maybe some cinnamon too!!) Check out the notes and substitutions sections of this recipe for a few tasty additions to this classic Thanksgiving side.

Oyster Stuffing – Oysters abound in the Northeast, and people make good use of them for this fabulous stuffing. The headliner is the fresh oysters, drained and chopped. They are complemented with celery, onion, bread stuffing or day-old bread, egg, butter, chicken broth, and your favorite spices. Cook this in the turkey itself or in a separate baking dish. This makes a remarkably tasty and flavorful stuffing. Don’t fear the oyster!!!!


Some other succulent starters, sides, and desserts – 

Pumpkin Soup

Here is an appetizer that everyone is sure to enjoy, Creamy Pumpkin Soup. A perfect warm starter for your Thanksgiving meal, with an assortment of fall spices like light brown sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, and more. A seriously superb first course your guests will fancy. If you are interested in other Pumpkin Soup recipes, check out this link as well, 10 Best Pumpkin Soup Recipes.

Floridians love their Key Lime Pie, and Thanksgiving is another perfect excuse to enjoy this heavenly and slightly tart treat.

Marylanders would not think of having a Thanksgiving without an old German favorite, sauerkraut (fermented cabbage). What could be better?? (We will leave that question up to you to ponder!!)

Ever heard of Derby Pie? Well, you must not be from Kentucky. This is a chocolate pie with walnuts that of course has its roots in the Kentucky Derby. (We had to get a dessert with little chocolate in it too!!)

Thanksgiving in Wisconsin without cheesy mashed potatoes??? Never!!! I must admit, that my daughters LOVE our cheesy cheddar mashed potatoes (Tip of the cap to wonderful Wisconsin). The more cheese the better. 

Pumpkin pie...Enough said!!!

We can't possibly provide an entire list of fabulous Thanksgiving sides. But some other great choices include:

Veggies

Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, broccoli, cauliflower, macaroni and cheese, Californian sourdough stuffing, and even Frog-Eyed Salad out west. (Look it up, it is a real side dish.). But we hope these get you interested in expanding your side dish options.

No matter what you serve, take a minute to savor and appreciate the glorious foods you enjoy the most with those you love!! Have a wonderful Thanksgiving holiday, and...enjoy those leftovers!!!


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