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Home Cooked Thanksgiving and the Picky Family

This year, I have managed to con my way into a solid ten day vacation from work at the measly cost of 10 hours of personal time. With a full week off before thanksgiving day, I have decided that I want to do a home cooked thanksgiving meal with whatever assistance I can grab from my lovely family. By home cooked, I mean 100% from scratch as much as humanly possible. No I won't be making my own evaporated/condensed milk, but I do plan on making a pumpkin pie from an actual pumpkin and cubing bread for stuffing - so home cooked things of that sort. Keeping cans and pre-made ingredients to an absolute minimum, etc.

I'm running into a bit of a problem here though as my family is extremely picky about certain aspects of food and while looking up recipes for various thanksgiving dishes, I am finding mostly stuff they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole.

The biggest rule is no fruit. I am literally the only person in my family who will consider eating fruit in a savory dish. This has curbed my experimentation in the kitchen substantially, much to my chagrin.

My sister will not touch anything that has beans, bell peppers or tomatoes that have actually reached ripeness as ingredients. She also will not eat stuffing, citing the texture as being "gross." Admittedly, we have always had Stouffer's or Stovetop stuffing with our thanksgiving meals, so I am hoping I can win her over to the stuffing side with a good quality recipe wherein the bread cubes maintain most of their structure and the overall dish is slightly crunchy instead of mushy.

I've got the green bean casserole redux recipe from chow in my arsenal, but I'm unsure as to where to go with some things.

Do any of you guys have some killer fruit/bean/bell pepper-free recipes for traditional Thanksgiving dishes? What about vegetable substitutions for common fruits used in most Thanksgiving recipes?

Apples in the stuffing is a complete no-go, would parsnips be an acceptable replacement that would retain the flavor profile while being a non-fruit ingredient? Or would something else entirely work better?

Any help and advice is wholeheartedly appreciated and I hope this thread will help out other hounds in the same situation as I!

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  1. Here's the recipe I'll be using for stuffing this year... no fruit, peppers, beans or tomatoes involved, and it gets good reviews so I have high hopes.


    Luckily, tomatoes and peppers are out of season AFAIK, and beans aren't really Thanksgiving fare (I assume you mean navy/kidney/black type beans, not green beans?), so most trad dishes will be free the offending ingredients. Are you really coming up against a lot of recipes with these ingredients? I can't think of any that would contain them actually.

    And you can get away with leaving fruit out of the main course, bar cranberry sauce, in which case I would just use cranberry jelly... which is on the side anyway, so no-one needs to have any if they don't like it.

    3 Replies
    1. re: MarieO

      Oh that looks lovely, bookmarked!

      Thank you, Marie :)

      1. re: Kristique

        BTW, I used this recipe for [Canadian] Thanksgiving yesterday, and it was a HUGE hit with my not-keen-on-stuffing husband and our other guests. I halved it, since there were only four of us, and it worked fine.

      2. re: MarieO

        May I ask the simple question, why? Is there some sorta competition? Another family member usually do this?

        I would say most folks when they think beans, they do think the green bean of the label,recipe. I do think you have an internal personal addenda about this . (This is besides the * ARE you crazy?!? You lost vacation or personal time; to do a "OMG" intensely labor food specific meal?!?!*)

        Picky people will pick. if you are finding " my family is extremely picky about certain aspects of food and while looking up recipes for various thanksgiving dishes, I am finding mostly stuff they wouldn't touch with a ten foot pole." the foods you cook by the recipes you found, since they don't know them, they will object.


      3. I want your secret for getting over a week off work for only 10 hours of personal time!

        That no-fruit thing is tough. Is your family grossed out by the *idea* of fruit in a savory dish, or will they detect the flavor even if you try to sneak it past them?

        I ask because I have a killer recipe for sweet potato soup that has, as its secret ingredient, lime juice - not enough to make you think "hey this is Thanksgiving gone tropical" but enough to make the flavor complex and intriguing. Not sure if this fits your perimeters.....

        7 Replies
        1. re: Aravisea

          The secret to a long paid holiday:
          My work week is 4 ten hour shifts, my work place observes both Thanksgiving and Black Friday as paid holidays, and I work Monday - Thursday. Three day weekends every week = Fri - Sun Two days off for holiday observation = Wed + Thurs. "Floating" holiday (use it or lose it yearly) takes Tuesday. This leaves Monday for which I will gladly sacrifice 10 hours :)! In the end, I am off from the Friday before Thanksgiving until the Monday after. I had to sit on the floating holiday all year, but my patience has paid off nicely.

          I could do lime juice, it has been successfully received when I used it in cooking things such as salsa and a couple of veggie/rice dishes. I'm not entirely sure of sweet potatoes, but I think it's worth a try! I'm planning on doing a couple trial runs pre-Thanksgiving on things that seem like they might have an iffy reception just to get a final vote from the family. This way, I can make it in a smaller quantity and eat it all myself if no one else will touch it! :D

          Have you got a link to the recipe?

          1. re: Kristique

            Speaking of sweet potatoes, I love them in either sweet or savory incarnations, but my most successful recipes have been more savory - there's just always SO much sweet stuff already at Thanksgiving. I made this one year: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and it was very well received. I've also made my mother's spicy sweet potato wedges with good results - there's no particular recipe, she just peels the potatoes, cuts them into wedges, douses them with good olive oil and tosses with a spice mixture including salt, cumin, chili powder, garlic/onion powder, a bit of cayenne, cinnamon, etc. You can adjust the spice level to your liking, obviously, and use whatever sounds good. Roast until crispy. Easy-peasy and a nice change from the marshmallow topped casserole you usually get.

            1. re: Kristique

              Here's the recipe - paraphrased and with some alterations of my own from a formula in one of Rosso and Lukin's cookbooks - can't remember if it was Silver Palate or one of the other ones.

              Melt 6 tbsp. unsalted butter in a large stockpot. Add white part only of 4 leeks - rinsed, dried, and sliced - to the butter and saute until soft.

              Add to the pot 6 cups of chicken stock, 1 1/2 cups of dry white wine, and 3 large sweet potatoes which have been peeled and chopped. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer 15-20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

              Stir in the juice of 1 lime, 1 cup milk and 1 cup heavy cream. Puree the soup in batches in a blender until very smooth. Salt and pepper to taste. Depending on the size of the sweet potatoes and how much juice the lime gives up, sometimes I use more than one lime - I squeeze the lime in a little at a time and taste, until the balance is right - you want to be in between a strong sweet potato flavor and the lime being too noticeable.

              Let me know how you like it if you get to try it. :)

              1. re: Aravisea

                sounds interesting and not really too difficult, sort of a new world (except regular potatoes already are) a new world/Caribbean take on Vichysoisse. ever add some heat/spice?

                1. re: hill food

                  I haven't - I don't think it needs it, but if you try adding heat let me know how it works.

                  1. re: Aravisea

                    challenge accepted.

                    I had a Peruvian type of shepherd's pie once that incorporated hot peppers, so I can see how it might work

            2. re: Aravisea

              This sounds like a nightmarish bunch to cook for.

              Stick to turkey, gravy and discrete side dishes that you like yourself. Good luck and let us know how it went over.

            3. Sausage and chestnut stuffing is so delicious. I never feel the need to add any fruit to mine. If you're going for stuffing with a little more texture, I would start with a nice, chewy italian bread, leave the crusts on, and toast them before using in the stuffing. And I always leave a few handfuls of the toasted bread cubes to mix in at the very end.

              I've also been wanting to try stuffing 'muffins' so the amount of crunchy area is maximized. Also, if you want that sort of crisp texture that apples supply, I would consider using water chestnuts.

              As for the main event, we did a bacon-wrapped turkey last year that was incredible. We didn't really like the finished look of the bacon-wrapped turkey, so about 30-45 minutes before the turkey was done roasting, we took off all the bacon, chopped it up and threw it into the mashed potatoes. The turkey was picture perfect and the mashed potatoes were the best I've ever had.

              To me, Thanksgiving means turkey, mashed potatoes, stuffing, green beans, gravy - lots of gravy, and pumpkin pie. Over the years, some nice additions have been mac & cheese, fresh salad, buttered corn, and sauteed spinach.

              1 Reply
              1. re: soypower

                I like the idea of the water chestnuts, that would play off really well in the stuffing as well as soaking up the flavor like little crunchy sponges.

                We usually have green bean casserole instead of plain green beans as well as all of the above. We haven't really had much in the way of fresh salad in the past, but we have been eating more salad this year so that will likely be an addition. Also, buttered corn, yes! We even dedicate a stick of butter to the purpose of quickly buttering one's ears. It streamlines the serving process so nicely without generating much in the way of extra dishes.

                Haven't had sauteed spinach to my recollection, but it sounds like a delish idea!

              2. This is the recipe I use as my jumping off point for my stuffing: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo.... I made it basically as written the first time, and it was quite dry. I now add more liquid, but it's still a much crunchier/separated texture than the typical stuffing where the liquid and eggs turn it into more of a souffle. I make my own french bread for this about a week in advance and I truly think it makes all the difference - IMO store bought bread just can't compete. If you want a run-down of my changes to the recipe, let me know. I'm not typically a stuffing person but I can't get enough of this recipe, and my guests and husband have forbidden me to ever make a different kind of stuffing.

                As for other sides, what types of things are you looking for and what vegetables will your guests eat? I LOVE Brussels sprouts so I always make them in some incarnation - usually just simply roasted with olive oil until dark brown and crispy, but I will occasionally do them in a creamy sauce with lemon zest and herbs, or shred them and saute them in butter with parmesan cheese. Spaghetti squash is one of my faves too - it can be prepared in a number of ways. Would they eat butternut squash soup? It is slightly sweet without being a fruit, and you can tip it more towards savory by adding bacon or spice rather than fruit or sugar.

                Regarding substitutions, I am not a fan of celery, so when it's called for I use fennel instead. I love bell peppers but I would sub fennel for those too if I had to. For other sides, I've been wanting to try this recipe for a while: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... - it's supposed to be amazing. I made this a couple of years ago: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo... and got rave reviews.

                1. Here's what I would do. I'd make a traditional Thanksgiving dinner without anything too weird and if your sister or other family members don't wish to eat it, they don't have to. I'd roast a turkey and for sides have stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, green beans (or casserole) cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie. If you want a jello type salad that your family likes, have that too. As for the stuffing, our favorite is the bread stuffing that calls for bread cubes, poultry seasoning, onions, carrots and broth. You can add cooked, shredded turkey to it to make it even better. The recipe is on the back of the Kellogg's Stuffing Mix package. You don't have to use their bread, but the recipe works well and isn't too weird.

                  1. None of the loathed ingredients tend to show up on most Thanksgiving tables. As noted,some are out of season. And I've never seen fruit in stuffing. Speaking of stuffing, I hate the stuff but love pan dressing. Plenty of crunchies and texture. And the good/bad thing about that holiday meal is that there's too much variety so in your family they can eat what they like and not eat what they don't like. And as John E said, cook what you want and don't worry about it. Every year I read these threads where a family holiday event becomes this whole psychological brouhaha rather than an enjoyable time together. Relax. Okay? :)

                    5 Replies
                    1. re: c oliver

                      We haven't put the stuffing inside the turkey for many years. It is much better in a casserole to get crispy. My mother used to tell a story about how one Thanksgiving all I ate was radishes. I must have been pretty young. She always said a holiday meal was not the time to have a battle over what a kid eats. My nephew once had a can of baked beans for Thanksgiving. It was easier to do that than to listen to him whine. His mother doesn't even remember it. I was amused.

                      1. re: John E.

                        I grew up in Atlanta and always had "dressing" rather than "stuffing." And, yes, you're right. Radishes or canned baked beans ain't gonna kill ya in one day :)

                        1. re: c oliver

                          I am all for pan dressing rather than stuffing that actually goes in the turkey. If you cook it stove top or in the oven, you can always add it too the turkey when the turkey is done. Personally, I prefer celery to apples in my dressing and we've always used the Mrs. Cubbison's dressing in a box. it has a stove top recipe and I, the hater of all things soggy, smushy or even slightly reminiscent of squishy food, have never found it soggy.

                          If your family doesn't like fruit in their savory dishes, don't sweeten or marshmallow the sweet potatoes or yams. Instead, just bake them with a dash of butter and serve a dish on the side of diced apples, raisins or whatever you would like. You can add that to your stuffing or yams without anyone else having to eat icky fruit.

                          I have a good savory pie recipe that works very well. It is called Festive Jalousie and contains Brussels sprouts and chestnuts...so yummy! I posted it elsewhere for someone (back in '07) who tried it and found it delicious. I'll post the link: http://ths.gardenweb.com/forums/load/...

                          The above recipe and the one I'll post below are both from The Encyclopedia of Vegetables and Vegetarian Cooking, my most favourite cookbook that cost nearly nothing (it was in the mark-down bin at a chain shop). Neither contains fruit or tomatoes or even peppers of any kind.

                          This one is for Brussels Sprouts Gratin, but I have not tried this yet, FYI

                          1 T butter
                          2/3 C heavy cream
                          2/3 C milk
                          2 T grated Parmesan cheese
                          S & freshly ground P
                          1 1/2 Lb brussels sprouts, thinly sliced
                          1 garlic clove, finely chopped

                          Preheat oven 300F. Butter a shallow oven proof dish.
                          Blend together cream, milk, cheese and seasoning.

                          Place a layer of sprouts in the buttered dish, sprinkle with a little garlic, pour over about 1/4 of the cream mixture..

                          Add another layer of sprouts and continue building layers as above, ending with the remaining cream and milk as the top layer.

                          Cover loosely with waxed paper and bake for 1 - 1 1/4 hours. Halfway through cooking, remove the paper and press the sprouts under the liquid. Return to oven to brown and finish cooking.

                          I'm going to try this one this year as a replacement for potatoes au gratin.

                          1. re: MinkeyMonkey

                            yes, dressing and celery or even fennel if it's around. and you can drop al the dairy from the sprout recipe and just use olive oil and more garlic. yum. although yours does sound good.

                      2. re: c oliver

                        Oh, c oliver, diced apple and onions and sage are sooooo good in stuffing....

                      3. We do a delicious cornbread dressing(stuffing) and a oyster stuffing for the more adventurous.
                        Corn pudding,garlic cheese grits, broccoli and cheese, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, layer salad, yeast rolls,cranberry salad, turkey and gravy, ham, pumpkin roll, and pecan pie.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: LaLa

                          I do cornbread stuffing & oyster dressing also...I put my cornbread stuffing in the bird, I grew up on it that way & that's the way my kids grew up eating it...

                          I don't really care for the traditional sweet potato casserole, to me, it's too much like sweet potato pie minus the crust, which I have to have for dessert as we don't do pumpkin in this family. So instead of the casserole, I do a sweet potato hash with onions, celery, finely grated fresh ginger, etc. which is really delicious. We also usually have some kind of greens such as collards or mixed (turnip, mustard, etc.) cooked with bacon or some kind of smoked meat like turkey wings, etc. and another veggie like glazed baby carrots, broccoli or green beans. Buttermilk mashed potatoes are a must with gravy made from the turkey neck & gizzard. I make home made rolls with orange maple butter.

                          We always have tons of desserts but the standard sweet potato pie & chocolate layer cake is a must and I like to make a cheesecake of some type. This year, I'm thinking of doing a fruit cobbler with a oatmeal & walnut crust but still have not pegged down the exact menu yet.

                        2. Not sure if these would go over well, but I love this recipe for Balsamic Glazed Sweet and Sour Cipolinni....my sister made it a few years ago for Thanksgiving and it was delicious.


                          And I've always wanted to try this recipe for Roasted Stuffed Onions. Unfortunately Thanksgiving is not "my holiday" -- we always go elsewhere -- and I've never had a good occasion to try them out.


                          1. I highly suggest you just make a traditional turkey with a bunch of sides. People can pick and choose what they eat. I, too, cannot remember any fruit other than cranberry sauce at any Thanksgiving I've ever been to.

                            I'm not a fan of sweet with my savory and always eschewed the sweet potatoes my mom made - from a can with brown sugar, butter, etc. I always felt that the syrup interfered with my enjoyment of mashed potatoes, stuffing and whatever (overcooked) veggie was there. But I love sweet potatoes roasted with just olive oil salt & pepper. Not too sweet.

                            Stuffing must be cooked within the bird. It is the only way to get that turkey goodness. We cook a separate batch in the oven at the same time for the crunchy topping.

                            Until last year my mom was convinced she hated brussel sprouts. Then she came to our place for xmas and I browned them in olive oil with just salt and pepper. The leftovers were gone when I came down the next morning. Goes to show that sometimes hard-headed or picky people will enjoy more simply prepared things.

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: mojoeater

                              We got the "turkey goodness" from the stock that was used to make the dressing.

                              1. re: c oliver

                                I just love the act of stuffing it into the bird and spooning it out. And it is so very moist when actually stuffed. I must love the mushiness that some folks above deplore, but it is always counteracted with the crunchy parts. And soft stuffing is better on sandwiches the next day!

                            2. Just a thought that you might want to look carefully into the idea of doing pumpkin pie from scratch. Personally I've never tried it (I use the pure pumpkin in a can) but I have heard that you need to be careful about what kind of pumpkin you use or it can be stringy. And it's a lot of work!

                              8 Replies
                              1. re: DGresh

                                I think that if you're going through all this trouble to make a home cook Thanksgiving Dinner people should respect that. If they don't next year they can eat somewhere else. I would decide what I want to cook serve it and then see what happens. It's all good to try to please everyone but that is not possible.

                                1. re: DGresh

                                  I think I've read that here on CH.

                                  1. re: DGresh

                                    I agree with you. Once I tried making pumpkin pie from fresh pumpkin and thought canned pumpkin tasted soooo much better, not to mention all that extra work. You have enough to do without adding this. Many cookbook writers rec using canned pumpkin, too.

                                    1. re: walker

                                      Apparently the problem is that the kind of pumpkins that are best for pie are not that easy to find in the US - most of those available to the general public are for jack-o-lantern making, not eating. Use canned - so much easier, and tastier too!

                                      1. re: biondanonima

                                        I've used smaller pumpkins (probably 8-10" or so), which I always see available close to T-day, with very good results. I've also used butternut and kabocha squash, too, which turned out very tasty, though different than pumpkin.

                                        FWIW, the butternut has been the family favorite so far. I think I added a touch of blackstrap molasses, too, for a bit of twang.

                                    2. re: DGresh

                                      I want to chime in on this - I recently made a pumpkin pie from a fresh pumpkin because there was absolutely NO canned pumpkin to be had. While I wasn't expecting to go that route (a family member had requested the pie and offered to buy the ingredients -- imagine my surprise when she showed up with three fresh pumpkins), it really wasn't difficult and I thought the taste was better. Honestly, the hardest part was just cutting up the darn things, and you get the bonus of toasting the seeds. I don't think the right kind of pumpkin is hard to find, either - these came from WalMart (again, I didn't do the shopping) but I've seen them at Trader Joe's and at my local grocery stores here in Northern California. Give it a shot!

                                      1. re: DGresh

                                        or try sweet potato pie if you want a slight twist.

                                        1. re: DGresh

                                          I disagree about it being a whole lot of extra work. Are you guys doing something to make it harder than it needs to be? Wash the outside of the pumpking well with soapy water and rinse. Split into quarters, remove the seeds and any "strings", roast at 350F on a lightly oiled, tinfoil covered baking sheet until the pumpkin is tender and "mushy" if you press on it with a fork. Don't under roast or it will be stringy. Remove from oven and let cool until easy to touch.

                                          Toss the tinfoil into the aluminum recycling bin. Hey presto - pan is clean.

                                          Using a big spoon, scoop the pumpkin out of the shell/peel much like you scoop out the flesh from an avocado. Ok, here's how you make this easy...scoop directly into a ricer and squish. Or you can try whizzing it in a food processor if you don't want to invest in a ricer. But the ricer makes it so fast. Plus you'll use the ricer for the mashed potatos, the mashed sweet potatos (if you have them) and it can't be beat when you want to make spaetzle, egg salad, perfect guacamole.. definitely not a unitasker. and there are fewer bits to put through the dishwasher with a ricer.

                                          OK, most pumpkins come with a sticker that gives you a basic pie recipe. Use that one or the basic canned pumpkin pie recipe. It's basically condensed milk, eggs, sugar (I sub in splenda with no ill effects) dash of salt and spices. That's it: standard custard. I usually spend about the same amount of time scooping out all the pumpkin from the can as I do scooping the pumking out of the shell. And it tastes great! Canned pumking this year is $1.50 a can and pie pumkins were $2.00 so the cost was not that much more. Plus they really do have a marvelous taste that just isn't equaled by canned pumpkin. Don't get me wrong, homemade pie from canned is still extremely good. It's just that fresh is so amazing. And once you master the technique you could make a butternut squash pie, or other kind of nifty squash pie. Take out the sugar, add in parmesan and garlic and onion or other savory seasonings and you go a whole different direction.

                                        2. My family is not neccessarily picky although I would say very bogged down with tradition. Our family is originally from New England but my father is Italian-American. There is also at least one vegeterian present each year.

                                          Things we have made:
                                          First course:
                                          Fruit cup with sorbet
                                          Butternut squash/root vegetable soup (I believe from a Michael Chiarello cookbook before he was on FN)
                                          Cream of Mushroom soup
                                          Pumpkin bread, nut bread, cranberry bread
                                          Antipasto (with lettuce, provolone, tuna packed in oil, roasted peppers, marinated eggplant, marinated mushrooms, salami etc.)
                                          Relish Tray (corn relish, pickled white beans, horseradish cottage cheese, pickled beets, celery and carrot sticks, apple butter, bread and butter pickles)

                                          Second Course:
                                          Ravioli with red sauce
                                          Baked Manicotti
                                          Lasagna (half veggie/half meat)
                                          Stuffed Shells
                                          Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brown Butter and Sage leaves

                                          Third course:
                                          Chestnut/Sausage Stuffing
                                          Mushroom Stuffing (veg.)
                                          Steamed Red cabbage
                                          Mashed Potatoes
                                          Sweet Potato casserole
                                          Broccoli casserole
                                          Mashed Sweet potatoes
                                          Mashed rutabaga (several different ways)
                                          Roasted Roast vegetables
                                          Creamed Onions
                                          Creamed Spinach
                                          cranberry sauce (homemade)
                                          gravy (homemade)

                                          I have been spending Thanksgiving with my boyfriend's family recently and he has PA Dutch roots. There is only one course:
                                          Oyster Stuffing
                                          Noodles (homemade)
                                          Mashed potatoes
                                          Macaroni and cheese
                                          Baked beans
                                          green bean casserole
                                          cornstarch gravy

                                          Let me know if anything sounds appealing and I will dig out a recipe or find one from a family member.
                                          I don't think parsnips are similar enough in texture to cook like apples. Why do you need apples in the stuffing? I don't make anything with bell peppers or tomato (besides the Italian food) for Thanksgiving.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: melpy

                                            I like your father's Thanksgiving. I would be very happy with a little antipasto and everything else from "Second Course."

                                          2. You are my kind of cook. I always took time off around Thanksgiving so that I could devote myself to my favorite meal of the year. It's so much fun.

                                            I always try to make a few new things on Thanksgiving, and last year I adopted more of a homey menu, and I made creamed onions and corn pudding. *Both* made their way onto this year's menu. I never add fruit to stuffing, going more for the sage and nut variety. I think that having a *really* good stock is the most important element of a dressing (we actually do both stuffing and dressing).

                                            And if you want a fruit fix, you could always make a chutney for your day-after turkey sandwich. Good luck!

                                            1. This is more of an opinion than actual practical advice, so I hope you'll forgive me. I cook for a family of picky eaters all the time. My MIL has various "intolerances" which change from month to month, but usually include all peppers and dairy, and my son has a life-threatening allergy to peanuts and some tree nuts. I realized a long time ago that I would make myself crazy if I tried to make every dish something that every single person could eat. It's just too limiting. So for feast days, I make a few dishes that everyone is likely to eat and then make sure people are properly warned about the ingredients in the others. You just can't please every single person with every single dish. For example, for my son, I make my chipotle mac and cheese for most holidays, even though my MIL won't eat it, and I don't think of mac and cheese as a feast food. But there are plenty of other foods she will eat, such as the walnut-orange cake that is often one of our desserts.

                                              My second point is that holidays are emotionally loaded. People have very specific food memories that they want to re-create year after year, even if the foods themselves are nothing special. For any other dinner, you would have less "food baggage" to deal with, but for holidays like Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, etc, people are more constrained.

                                              I rarely make turkey for T-day because none of us like it, and yet I always make my mother's sage dressing (whole wheat and white bread cubes from a good bakery loaf, celery, onions, chopped fresh sage, dried marjoram, lots of butter and a little chicken stock) because it defines Thanksgiving for me. Does it go with the roast lamb I usually serve instead of turkey? No, but people who don't want it can find other things to fill their plates.

                                              In your case, I'd make two stuffings, one with the fruit you desire and one without. Don't actually stuff the bird with either one. Just bake them in a pyrex dish. You get the stuffing you like and your picky family members won't feel that you only satisfied your tastes. And they might actually try something new if it looks and smells good enough. My mother in law ate my chicken in mole sauce once in spite of her no pepper rule because it looked good to her.

                                              8 Replies
                                              1. re: Isolda

                                                Today is the day after Canadian Thanksgiving weekend and I am in official recovery mode. My comments, therefore, are freshly baked and, like Isolda's, are more general advice than specifically practical.

                                                Holidays generally come once a year and people tend to have very strong food associations with these annual events. For us, Thanksgiving is absolutely cast in stone - correction: cast in titanium. The menu changes so little from one year to the next that the only way we can tell which dinner table photos are from which year is by haircuts, what we're all wearing and how old our children are. For us, this works. If I had to make my mother's Hungarian stuffing, sweet and sour red cabbage and pureed butternut squash every single week, I know I would go mad. But once a year? Not a problem. This year someone had the audacity to suggest - and actually prepare - roasted vegetables to add to the dinner and, while delicious and generally approved of by the crowd, this breach of tradition was noted. The utter predictiblility of the dinner is entirely part of its charm.

                                                What I am trying to say - rather longwindedly, I admit (I am a zombie today) - is that once a year you can do what needs to be done. Make the stupid gross green bean casserole, make stuffing without fruit, leave the peppers in the fridge - Thanksgiving is about memories and comfort, not experimentation. You have every single other meal of the year to go crazy doing what you want - leave this one alone if it will make your family happy. Obviously not everyone will eat everything, but there should be enough on the table that everyone can have a full plate of things they like to eat.

                                                Yesterday afternoon I had a glass of wine with a friend who was also in a post Thanksgiving coma and she said that her husband made roast goose from some fancypants Gordon Ramsay book - all beautifully plated and very glam. It was all quite delicious, apparently, but her daughters were sad - there was no turkey, no cranberry sauce, no pumpkin pie. THAT's what they wanted. Gordon Ramsay was not.

                                                Just keep your sense of humour, maintain some perspective on the situation, and be glad that everyone goes home at the end. Tomorrow you can be as experimental as you want.

                                                1. re: Nyleve

                                                  I had not realized that Canadian Thanksgiving is always on a Monday. Do people generally go back to work on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving (today)?

                                                  I can't imagine going to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving. I guess I have a lot of times in the past, but then there are two more days off right after that. When I did go to work on the Friday after Thanksgiving, I don't remember getting any work done, kind of like working on December 24th.

                                                  1. re: John E.

                                                    It's a long weekend so we serve the big dinner on Sunday night. Monday is for leftovers and recuperation. Tuesday is for driving people back to the airport, doing laundry and making turkey soup.

                                                    I have heard that some people serve their Thanx dinner on Monday but I can't imagine why anyone would want to do that. I couldn't even speak English yesterday.

                                                    1. re: Nyleve

                                                      or goose noodle soup in your friend's case (which is good)

                                                      since the topic is T-day, why is Canada's so early? we're barely getting in the crops down here in (most of) the US. is the growing season/frost that different?

                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        We live in southern Ontario - about an hour northeast of Toronto. Although we haven't had a really serious hard frost yet (last night was frosty but not terminally so) most vegetables are pretty much finished for the year. Tomatoes have been done for 3 or 4 weeks; beans are kaput; summer squashes are finito. My garden still has chard, parsley, and greens like arugula and kale and other Asian leafy things. Winter squashes and pumpkins have been harvested and the later apples are coming in now. We're done. It's time for a feast.

                                                        Although I was born in the US, I have to admit I like this earlier Thanksgiving date. The autumn leaves are at their absolute peak of gorgeousness and the weather can still be really beautiful. Also Canadian Thanksgiving comes at a time of year where it stands alone - not squished up against the Christmas season. There's no Black Friday or shopping madness involved. Just eating and playing a football game on the lawn and going for a long hike in the woods. Perfect.

                                                        1. re: Nyleve

                                                          If the American Thanksgiving were to be moved to a date as early as the Canadian Thanksgiving, the Christmas store displays would start showing up in stores in June.

                                                          1. re: John E.

                                                            I think Costco waited til August.

                                                          2. re: Nyleve

                                                            yeah they really are too close together down here (sigh)

                                                2. Hi Kristique,

                                                  Been there; done it. I am the Queen of Cooking for Picky Family Both In and Out Laws.

                                                  Depending on how many family members will be there, if over 10, consider this-

                                                  Basic rack roast turkey with stuffing that is made from

                                                  potato bread cubes
                                                  mushrooms if they are tolerated
                                                  JD sausage, cooked like gr beef to taste
                                                  sage and thyme
                                                  S & P to taste
                                                  homemade chix stock and quality stock paste bouillon
                                                  mixture of equal amounts of butter and bacon fat (OK, only once a year)
                                                  Heat the broth and oils to boil then mix with cubes and raw veggies. Stuff the turkey while mix is still warm; chemistry…
                                                  Make enough dressing/stuffing to bake 2/3 in separate pan. Either serve separately or try mixing together to get crunch and smoothness mix. My fav; the flavors blend together to really make the taste.

                                                  Oh, and make the sauce/gravy from the turkey drippings that includes boiling the neck with onion and celery while turkey is roasting… Feed the livers to the pets.

                                                  Whole cranberry and orange sauce (just mix berries and juice w/ zest and reduce to desired)

                                                  Yukon gold mashed potatoes (shut up about the stuffing/dressing and eat some pots)

                                                  Either corn on cob or quality frozen

                                                  Green bean casserole (save ¼ of beans and serve plain with garlic and bacon bits)

                                                  Dessert – put the fruit here – like a cobbler – and be sure to include your pumpkin pie!

                                                  This ought to take care of the pickies. From here, you should know enough about the rest of the family to feel free to let out your inner diva. Make some dishes that you know your non-picky and fellow adventurers in culinary delights would appreciate.

                                                  All in all, let's be thankful for the family and friends that allow us to celebrate.

                                                  1. Hey Jay F and others, take a look at Calvin Trillin's piece about why Spaghetti Carbonara was the original Thanksgiving dish. Hope you get a kick out of it: http://www.rlrubens.com/Thanksgiving....

                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: bellaboa

                                                      I like Calvin, and I challenge anyone to 'out' his pseud on this board (you know he's here)

                                                      1. re: hill food

                                                        I don't know if he still is, but many, many years ago (before he wrote the New Yorker piece about Chowhound), he posted as "bud" on the Manhattan board a few times.

                                                        1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                                          ha! knew it. wonder if he still does more than lurk.

                                                      2. re: bellaboa

                                                        That has to be the best Thanksgiving ever, esp. the journey down to Houston Street to watch the pasta being made, plus Pancetta and Prosciutto in the same dish. Food you could actually feel grateful for.

                                                        I've been making Lasagna for Thanksgiving on and off since 1982.

                                                        1. re: Jay F

                                                          My definitely non-Italian mother always makes lasagna for Christmas because she hates traditional Christmas food. Although her lasagna is not good--no boil noodles should be illegal--I appreciated her effort when I was growing up because it was definitely better than turkey.

                                                          1. re: Isolda

                                                            Have you tried making a good lasagna yourself?

                                                            The best I've ever had was Marcella Hazan's fresh pasta bolognese one. A lot of work but incredible. It can be made day before so gives you time to rest before you bake it off in the oven. She says to bake 20 min. but I think it needs more time to heat through.

                                                            (Yes, that's resting time for the COOK -- if I cook and serve a big dinner same day, I'm too tired to join in the eating part.)

                                                            1. re: walker

                                                              Is that the green one? I totally adore it. I think I have a couple of packs of Bolognese in the freezer. That makes it WAY easier to make.

                                                              1. re: c oliver

                                                                Remember -- I made green one once with fresh spinach and tried to follow the recipe exactly but felt the pasta seemed slimey -- going to give it another try.

                                                                I need to buy a small freezer, have been looking around. Target has a Haier on sale for $111. Maybe I'll get the small chest one from Home Depot.

                                                                1. re: walker

                                                                  Oh, right. It definitely freaked me out a bit the first time but I'm used to it now.

                                                                  I love my little freezer. I now have shoe boxes (sans lids) with packs of stock, burgers, etc.

                                                                  1. re: c oliver

                                                                    Why not the lids? Are they those plastic shoe boxes? Good idea. Where did you get your freezer and what is it?

                                                                    Do you use fresh or frozen spinach?

                                                                    1. re: walker

                                                                      Mine's an upright so I don't need to put things on top of other things. But Costco has had plastic ones with lids for little money. Got it at Home Depot and the brand is Magic Chef but I don't see it on their site. Fresh. :)

                                                      3. We've moved the discussion about whether posters call it stuffing or dressing to the General Topics boards; you can find it here: http://chowhound.chow.com/topics/740084

                                                        1. I'm having a really hard time figuring out why the "no fruit" thing is such a problem. Except for the requisite cranberry sauce, none of my Thanksgiving side dishes contain fruit. What's the problem??