Kicking a classic meal up to 11

The holiday season has officially arrived.

It’s almost Thanksgiving and in preparation, Americans across the country are flocking to grocery stores to stock up on turkeys, potatoes, cranberries and pumpkin purée ad nauseam.

What most people don’t know, however, is that virtually none of these modern “Thanksgiving staples” were on the table in 1621 at the original Thanksgiving feast.

The pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation actually enjoyed — according to the only written account of the historical meal — a hearty menu of venison, duck and seafood (instead of turkey), squash, cabbage and corn (in place of green bean casserole and mashed potatoes), as well as dried blueberries with honey (presumably a precursor to pumpkin pie).

So while racing down the aisles, frantically searching for the next item on your shopping list, consider breaking free from the traditional Thanksgiving dishes and putting a little spin on your Turkey Day meal this year.

The following recipes turn up the volume on the standard mashed potatoes, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie, but are equally delicious and will be sure to satisfy everyone’s Thanksgiving cravings.

The Original: Mashed Potatoes

The Twist: Roasted Herbed Potatoes

A crispy alternative to your traditional, creamy mashed potato dish, these oven-roasted, herbed potatoes are easy to make and even more delicious to eat.


-3 tablespoons butter

-1 tablespoon olive oil

-4 onions, sliced

-2 pounds potatoes, thinly sliced

-Kosher salt

-Fresh ground black pepper

-Fresh thyme sprigs

-2 cups chicken stock


-Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit

-Melt the butter and olive oil in a medium sauté pan, add sliced onions and sauté until they are tender and lightly golden in color (about 15 minutes).

-Spread half of the sautéed onions in the bottom of a large casserole dish.

-Place a layer of sliced potatoes on top, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with thyme leaves.

-Repeat by adding the second half of the onions, a final layer of potatoes and finally cover with the chicken stock.

-Cover the pan with foil and bake until all of the liquid has been absorbed (two-three hours).

*Note: remove the foil for the last hour if you prefer a crisp top to the potatoes.

The Original: Green Bean Casserole

The Twist: Roasted Green Beans with Shallots and Walnuts

These roasted green beans are not only healthier than your standard green bean casserole, but the freshness from the lemon zest and parsley combination and the crunch from the walnuts make them simply irresistible.


-1 pound green beans

-3 tablespoons olive oil

-4 shallots, thinly sliced

-Kosher salt

-Fresh-ground black pepper

-1/4 cup walnuts (lightly toasted and coarsely chopped)

-1 tablespoon finely chopped lemon zest

-2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley leaves


-Preheat oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.

-Toss the green beans in a large baking dish with the shallots and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.

-Roast green beans in the oven until golden brown (about 15-18 minutes).

-In a separate bowl, combine chopped walnuts, lemon zest and parsley.

-Transfer roasted green beans to serving platter and top with walnut mixture.

The Original: Pumpkin Pie

The Twist: Pumpkin Cheesecake

No Thanksgiving dinner is complete without dessert, so this year, try baking this decadent pumpkin cheesecake instead of the old standard pumpkin pie. It will fulfill all of your pumpkin pie cravings, and with the added richness from the cream cheese, you’ll be sure to go back for seconds.



-1 3/4 cups of graham cracker crumbs

-3 tablespoons light brown sugar

-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1 stick of salted butter (melted)


-3 8-ounce packages of cream cheese (room temperature)

-1 15-ounce can of puréed pumpkin

-3 eggs

-1 egg yolk

-1/4 cup sour cream

-1 1/2 cups sugar

-1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

-1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

-1/8 teaspoon of ground cloves

-2 tablespoon of all-purpose flour

-1 teaspoon of vanilla extract


-Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

For crust:

-In a medium bowl, mix together the graham cracker crumbs, sugar and cinnamon.

-Stir in melted butter and mix until combined.

-Press down flat into a nine-inch springform pan and set aside

For filling:

-Beat cream cheese until smooth.

-Add pumpkin purée, eggs, egg yolk, sour cream, sugar and the spices.

-Add flour and vanilla, beat together until well combined.

-Pour filling into crust and spread out evenly; place in the oven for one hour.

-Remove from the oven and let sit for 15 minutes.

-Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for about four hours.