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A new twist on holiday recipes

Sharlene Irete

by Sharlene Irete

People Editor

Turkey, mashed potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce and pumpkin pie are foods that we associate with Thanksgiving dinner. I like to keep the holiday menu interesting by serving dishes that use these ingredients in a slightly different way.

Instead of putting a bowl of can-shaped cranberries on my Thanksgiving table, I use my friend Carol Hill’s delicious cranberry salsa recipe.

Florence Anderson submitted a recipe for three bean salad and said it’s good to serve at barbecues.

“I make this salad for the Topaz Lake Fire Department barbecue every year. It won first prize in Napa Valley, Calif.,” Florence wrote.

I’ve cooked Cornish game hens for Thanksgiving dinner when there were only a few people to be served. These little birds are the “Mini Me” version of a turkey and take less time to cook. I included a recipe for Moroccan-style roast chicken stuffed with couscous. Use the pan drippings to make an interestingly spiced gravy to put on garlic mashed potatoes.

For dessert, a different take on traditional pumpkin pie is pumpkin pie crunch. It’s actually a cake and is easier to make than a pumpkin pie from scratch ” but not as easy as buying a frozen pie.

I got the recipe from a Crisco “American Pie” booklet dated 1991 that I probably found it in a grocery store check-out lane. My friends frequently request me to make this dessert: “What’s that pumpkin stuff you make? Bring that.”

Along with the sweet potato casserole, there’s a recipe for something poultry, something red, something green, something garlicy and something sweet. Hopefully it’s inspiration to try new foods to enjoy as holiday traditions.

Cranberry salsa

A 16-ounce can of whole berry cranberry sauce

1⁄3 cup chopped fresh cilantro

1⁄3 cup fresh lime juice

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and minced

2 tablespoons grated onion

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

Optional: 1 clove garlic, grated

Stir all ingredients together or process in blender. Refrigerate until cold. Serve as an appetizer with cream cheese and crackers or use cranberry salsa as a substitute for traditional cranberry sauce.

Three bean salad

1 16-ounce can each green beans, yellow wax beans, red kidney beans, garbanzo beans

Drain well and add:

1⁄2 cup minced green onions

1⁄2 cup green pepper

Mix together:

1⁄2 cup cider vinegar

1⁄2 cup salad oil

1⁄2 cup sugar

1 teaspoon salt

1⁄4 teaspoon black pepper

Pour over beans. Let sit at least a day.

Moroccan-style roast chicken stuffed with couscous

3⁄4 cup raisins or dates

3 tablespoons dry white wine

1⁄2 teaspoon chopped saffron threads, optional

1 cup couscous

11⁄2 cups water

6 tablespoons butter

2 medium onions, chopped

2 teaspoons cinnamon

3⁄4 cup sliced toasted almonds

salt and pepper

1 tablespoon honey

1⁄3 cup butter

1⁄4 cup honey

3⁄4 teaspoon turmeric or cumin

4 Cornish game hens, about 11⁄2 pounds each

n For stuffing, soak raisins or dates in hot water and cover for 30 minutes. Drain and set aside.

n Heat wine in small saucepan over medium heat until warm. Remove from heat and add saffron and let steep 15 minutes.

n Put couscous in 9-inch square baking dish. Heat water and 4 tablespoons butter to boiling, then pour over couscous and stir well. Cover and let stand 15 minutes. Fluff with fork.

n Melt 2 tablespoons butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until tender and translucent, 8-10 minutes. Add cinnamon and saffron-infused wine and cook two minutes. Stir onion mixture, raisins or dates, almonds and honey into couscous. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Let cool.

n For basting butter, melt 1⁄3 cup butter and stir in 1⁄4 cup honey, cinnamon and turmeric. Set aside.

n Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Spoon cooled stuffing into hen cavities. Place hens on rack in shallow roasting pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast, basting occasionally with butter, until juices run clear when thigh is pierced with skewer, about 45 minutes.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Cut the top off a head of garlic, drizzle a tablespoon or two of olive oil into the head, wrap in foil and roast in the oven while you’re cooking your game hens, about 30-45 minutes. The garlic is done when the cloves are very soft. Squeeze out garlic cloves and add to the bowl when you’re mashing potatoes.

Sweet potato casserole

1 egg

1⁄2 cup evaporated milk

3 cups mashed cooked sweet potatoes or yams (4 medium)

Saute for 2 minutes:

2 tablespoons butter

1⁄2 cup chopped dates

Slice sweet potatoes into 2-inch pieces and boil or steam until easily pierced with a fork. Remove skins and mash.

Mix ingredients together and put in a greased 11⁄2 quart casserole.

Pour on top:

2 tablespoons maple syrup

2 tablespoons melted butter

Bake 25-30 minutes at 350 degrees

Pumpkin pie crunch

1 16-ounce solid pack pumpkin

1 12-ounce can evaporated milk

3 eggs

11⁄4 cups sugar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice (cinnamon, ginger, cloves ” I use mostly cinnamon)

1⁄2 teaspoon salt

1 box yellow cake mix

1 cup chopped pecans or walnuts

3⁄4 cup melted butter

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease bottom of 13-by-9-by-2 inch pan.

Combine pumpkin, evaporated milk, eggs, sugar, spices and salt. Pour into pan. Sprinkle dry cake mix evenly over pumpkin mixture. Don’t stir. Top with nuts. Drizzle with melted butter.

Bake at 350 degrees for 50-60 minutes or until golden. Cool completely. Serve with whipped cream or ice cream. Refrigerate leftovers.