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Thinking beyond typical Thanksgiving eating

Thanksgiving’s reliable turkey, stuffing and pumpkin pie may serve as comfort foods for some students, but others might not be as thankful for the traditional fare.

Indeed, the holiday’s dishes aren’t always accommodating to vegetarians and vegans, the nutritionally minded or those seeking different flavors.

Luckily, through changes small and large – from trying a few extra stuffing ingredients to shedding the whole turkey this year – students can add some new taste to tradition.

The Oracle suggests a couple of culinary changes to four parts of the classic Thanksgiving spread.


If you aren’t willing to completely forgo turkey but want something subtler than a whole bird stuffed, skinless turkey breasts always offer a cheaper, quicker alternative.

Yet, there’s no reason students can’t experiment with entrees and Thanksgiving tastes this year by trying sauted chicken with asparagus or salmon with cranberry sauce.

For vegetarians and vegans, Tofurkey has been offered as the Thanksgiving standard since 1995, yet veggie-eaters should drop the animal spread idea entirely for a different centerpiece.

Stuffed acorn squash provides a strong substitute and even finds a place for leftover stuffing usually relegated to the back of the refrigerator.

To make it, divide the squash into halves, preheat the oven to 400 degrees, and place them face up on a cooking sheet for about 30 minutes. Scoop out enough squash to hold the stuffing, then cover the stuffed squash with foil on a roasting pan to bake for another 20 to 30 minutes.


Of course, such an entree requires stuffing, and students can easily create their own flavorful varieties over store-bought mixes like Stove Top.

The traditional Thanksgiving table’s cranberry sauce can be complemented with a cranberry, wild rice and mushroom stuffing. Cut whole wheat bread into about six cups worth of cubes and let sit overnight, and about an hour before making the stuffing, cook one cup of wild rice in a pot filled with water.

Spread the bread cubes around a cooking sheet, and add two cups of cooked onions, cranberries and mushrooms – then add the rice and two cups of your favorite broth. Cover the stuffing in foil for 30 minutes and cook at 375 degrees.

Similar recipes searching beyond the traditional bread stuffing can be found online: has a pumpkin mushroom stuffing recipe. even offers a list of regional stuffing concoctions, such as pork and red curry and poblano and chorizo varieties, for students to try out.

Vegetable dishes

Mashed potatoes and sweet potato casseroles are tried-and-true staples of Thanksgiving meals, and can easily be switched out for homemade mashed sweet potatoes.

Chop into chunks one unpeeled sweet potato per person you plan to serve, then bring the potatoes to a boil and let them simmer until tender. From there, mash them together with two tablespoons of melted butter and honey.

Besides the autumnal oranges the dish creates, sweet potatoes also provide a good source of vitamin A, fiber and other nutrients.

Vegetarian and vegan students might want an alternative to traditional Thanksgiving gravy, which often uses liberal turkey stock and drippings. The cookbook “Vegan with a Vengeance” offers a chickpea gravy recipe with spices that should be flavorful enough for any dinner guest.


For some, that final slice of pumpkin pie is the sweetest part of the holiday, but even this traditional treat has worthwhile substitutes.

Those trying to clear space on their dinner tables could try offering cranberry tarts this year. This small, tasty pastry – often with a folded crust – can substitute for both cranberry sauce and pie.

According to the St. Petersburg Times, Weight Watchers’ pumpkin and ricotta cheesecake weighs in at a healthier 254 calories per slice compared to the 350 to 600 calories other versions can pack.

If students feel overwhelmed by the idea of rolling the dough for these baked goods themselves, they can visit Alessi Bakery on 2909 W. Cypress St. or Don Pan International Bakery on 15403 N. Dale Mabry Highway before their holiday closures.