As I mentioned the other day, Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. And although I love the exotic flavors (and taste bud travel) of international cuisine, I like my Thanksgiving dishes to be pretty straight-forward. We enjoy some long-standing traditions in my family (as a Taurus, I am steadfast in my devotion to them), and even though I eat sweet potatoes almost every day now, the flavors of Thanksgiving — cranberries, turkey, sage, green bean casserole, cinnamon — are among my favorites and somehow, still taste special on the fourth Thursday of November every year.
Dave and I are planning a 100% paleo feast for Thanksgiving 2012, so here are my 10 picks for dino-chow replacements instead of ye olde recipes of yore. (NOTE: I think it’s pretty easy to find a paleo recipe for roasted turkey — and I’ll be sharing the Cook’s Illustrated recipe I’m using soon — so this list is focused on the best part: the sides!)
10 Paleo Thanksgiving Sides
1. Special Breakfast: Thanksgiving Morning Apple Fritters
Courtesy of the fabulous Juli of PaleOMG, these fritters are definitely ‘special occasion’ food, but if Thanksgiving morning isn’t a special occasion, I don’t know what is. A batch of these with some protein on the side can be a leisurely, scrumptious start to Turkey Day.
Whole Nuts Sweet & Salty Spiced Nuts!
It seems like we always had a big bowl of whole nuts and a nutcracker on the side table in our dining room during the holiday season. But I like my nuts a little spicy (ahem). I’ve tried bajillions of spiced nut recipes, but this one remains our favorite.
Mashed Potatoes Mashed Cauliflower
You gotta have respect for a holiday menu that features both white potatoes and sweet potatoes. That is starchy genius! But it’s also the bullet train to CrankyTown, thanks to the direct route they can take over Insulin Spike Peak. Mashed Cauliflower provides all the texture and comfort of mashed spuds, without the trip into dangerous territory.
Green Bean Casserole Coconut-Almond Green Beans
Oh! That casserole with the fried, canned onions on top! In our house, it was called Cheesy Green Beans Deluxe, and it was one of my favorites — especially cold the next day, eaten directly out of the fridge,with a giant spoon. This year, we’re having Coconut-Almond Green Beans instead. All the creaminess and crunch, without the problems of cheese, cream, and whatever the hell those onion things are. For another Thanksgiving-worthy green veg, we’re also making these Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Prosciutto from Nom Nom Paleo.
Candied Sweet Potatoes Velvety Butternut Squash
To be totally honest, I never really liked the whole “sweet potatoes with mini marshmallows” thing that seems to be traditional. My mom used to make pan-sautéed yams that I’m pretty sure were quite tipsy on brandy and butter by the time they arrived on the table. This year, I’m swapping sweet spuds — which I eat almost every morning anyway — for this spicy, creamy, silky butternut squash recipe from Well Fed.
Giblet Gravy Easy Paleo Herb Gravy from Nom Nom Paleo
My mom makes the best gravy in the world. Since she’s not making my gravy on Thanksgiving, I’m using this recipe from Nom Nom Paleo.
Bread Stuffing Paleo Stuffing
I have two recommendations for paleo stuffings from people I know have refined, kickass, everything-they-make-is-yummo taste buds. Here’s one from Charles and Julie of Paleo Comfort Foods and another from PaleOMG. Make one. Make both. Mush ’em together. It’s stuffing; it cannot go wrong.
Cranberry Sauce Whole9-Approved Cranberry Sauce from Whole9
Tart, sweet, crisp, and pretty much the taste of “Fall,” cranberries are the perfect balance to rich gravy. Cranberry sauce adds ping! Ping, people! And this recipe from a Whole9 roundup is a keeper. Because I like nothing more than excess, we’re also having my paleo-ized version of my mom’s Cranberry Waldorf Salad. Some people might think it’s dessert-y, but they’d be wrong. We always, ALWAYS eat this first, like a salad. Life is short, eat
dessert salad first.
Pumpkin Cake Roll Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake with Maple-Vanilla Frosting
My family, we are not usually pumpkin pie people. Instead, we made a luscious pumpkin cake roll filled with cream cheese-walnut frosting. OMG. It got sliced into pinwheels, so it was pretty to eyeball and to eat. This Pumpkin Gingerbread Cake I’m making instead is shockingly moist, and the frosting is just sweet enough, without causing vibrating eyeballs — and there’s no dairy to ruin your day. If you are a pumpkin pie person, maybe you’ll like this primal recipe from Mark Sisson. (The crust alone is GENIUS!)
Champagne Cranberry Fizz
I’ve decided to abstain from alcohol for the foreseeable future — not for any particular reason except that i don’t need it, it doesn’t make me feel good the next day, it provides no nutrition, and I like being clear-headed. This is subject to change whenever I decide to change my mind, but for now: no booze. Instead, we’ll be drinking club soda on the rocks with a splash of cranberry juice and a squeeze of fresh lime.
Turn it up to 11: Turkey Meatballs & Cranberry Mayo
Enjoy little bites of Thanksgiving anytime! These meatballs from my blond doppleganger Summer Innanen — nutritionist and blogger extraordinaire of Haute Life — roll everything you love about Turkey Day into a power-packed meatball… with bonus cranberry mayo for dipping. I’m thinking a batch of cranberry mayo would be perfect for leftover turkey. Right?!
Paleo or not: what’s your favorite Thanksgiving dish?
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