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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.

    http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/foo...

    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.

        Sorry.

      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.