11/19/2012 03:06 pm ET Updated Jan 19, 2013

Why You Shouldn't Cook a Traditional Thanksgiving Dinner


For Women & Co. by Heather Spohr,

Turkey, stuffing, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie have their place in American cuisine, but if there's one thing a traditional Thanksgiving dinner is not, it's exciting. In fact, after eating the same dishes year after year, your Thanksgiving guests could be forgiven for finding your traditional meal a little... boring. And it doesn't come cheap: the American Farm Bureau Federation reported last year that the cost of an average turkey dinner with all the fixings would cost 13% more than the previous year.

Your dinner this year doesn't have to be the same-old, same-old. You could try scaling back -- will anyone notice fewer sides on the table? -- or go all-out radical and serve some non-traditional Thanksgiving foods. Brace yourself: your holiday meal may just be exciting!

Main Dishes
The boldest move you can make is to join the Presidential tradition of pardoning a turkey on Thanksgiving. Spare a turkey and try something totally different. A salt-encrusted prime rib roast is a great alternative; it's juicy and flavorful, and suitable for a special occasion. Another inspired choice is to make Thanksgiving jambalaya, which can be prepared with any kind of meat, including turkey. Want to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving? Try pumpkin-stuffed vegetable stew, which is holiday appropriate, meat free and in my opinion, delicious!

If you absolutely must serve turkey, you can still mix things up by preparing it in an exciting, left-of-center way. Join the bacon craze and try a bacon-wrapped turkey with pear cider gravy. You can always pardon the animals next year!

My family loves to prepare classic Thanksgiving favorites in a non-traditional way. Instead of serving plain cranberry sauce, for example, we make cranberries with apples, raspberries and pecans. This recipe is a winner, because it leaves your taste buds tingling with so many different flavors! Another terrific twist on a classic side is corn bread and chorizo stuffing, which will satisfy your guests' craving for stuffing while adding an idiosyncratic Southwestern flavor.

For something totally different, try pan-seared radishes with miso butter. It's not only surprisingly scrumptious, but has a slightly Asian flavor that will offer a satisfying counterpoint to the rest of your feast.

Pumpkin pie is a staple of Thanksgiving celebrations, so you may decide you have to have it. If that's the case, consider preparing it in a fresh way. One variation is spiced pumpkin pie mousse, which delivers the expected flavors of a pumpkin pie in an unexpected way.

If you're daring enough to forego pumpkin all together, you can wow your guests with wonderfully unpredictable desserts like spiced honey cake with caramelized figs or upside-down banana-coffee tart. It will only take a single bite of either one of these to make your guests forget all about pumpkin pie.

There's a lot of fun to be had for you and your guests on Thanksgiving, especially if you change things up a little (or a lot). How much you deviate from the traditional feast is up to you, of course, but I've found that the more daring you are, the more satisfying -- and unforgettable -- your Thanksgiving will be.

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