Two Non-Traditional Thanksgiving Recipes

Thanksgiving Dinner Table

Happy Thanksgiving Week!  I am overflowing with thankfulness this week.  One reason being that I am so busy with so many things in both my home and personal life that I can’t find enough time to do all the things I love to do!

And that is a good problem to have. 

I’m lucky, though, because I’m the one in my family that everyone always suggests to “just bring whatever” to contribute to our big meal on Thursday.  This gives me a great deal of lenience and absolute COURAGE.

I can bring whatever I want and I know the meal will be a success — even if my dish is not.

I always aim to bring something that nobody has tried before.  Something new, but something that kind of sticks to the theme of a traditional thanksgiving meal.

This week, grocery stores have great sales on traditional thanksgiving meal supplies.

So, naturally, I stocked up on sweet potatoes.

I love sweet potatoes year round.  But this time of the year, my pantry is overflowing with them.  So this year, I’m contributing sweet potatoes to the thanksgiving dinner. I mean, after all, sweet potatoes are loaded with eye health benefits.  They are rich in beta-carotene, anthocyanins, and antioxidants that may help prevent vision loss and improve eye health!

But, my contribution will not be the sweet potatoes that the kids in my family love that are “weighed down” with marshmallows.  I am twisting the traditional sweet potato expectations with empanadas.

Last year, Josh Marshall, my colleague in data management, mentioned that he had reduced his supply of kitchen gadgets by eliminating an under-loved empanada maker.  He said it in-passing one day in the Trial Runners break room, but I latched on to the idea.  I grabbed one off of Amazon, and I am now grateful to be an empanada experimenter!


My Experiment

I prepped two kinds of empanada: one savory (to go with the meal), and one sweet (for after the meal). I mashed up 4 sweet potatoes and began the hunt for recipes.

I pre-made the empanadas, and froze them individually. This will allow me to wake up to watch the parade with family and I can just throw my frozen empanadas in the oven. A short bake later and we’ll have a hot & fresh sweet potato display to add to the traditional thanksgiving meal.

The savory empanadas are Sweet Potato Black Bean Empanadas, adapted from this recipe:  I did use a poblano pepper, but I didn’t roast it ahead of time.  I chopped it and sautéed it prior to adding it to the mash.  Also, I didn’t use cumin seeds, only cumin powder.  Although toasting the cumin seeds and grinding them would create a more intense flavor, I simply did not have enough time for that! Also, I used a mixer instead of a fork to blend the ingredients to make things a bit quicker, and I just added the black beans at the end so I didn’t smash them too much.  Most importantly, to reduce the prep time, I used prepackaged Pillsbury pie crust.  Each sheet made seven empanadas.

Photo of Empanada MakerPhoto of completed empanada

The sweet ones are Sweet Potato Pie Empanadas that I adapted from this recipe:  Since sweet potatoes and pumpkins are close relatives, I just replaced the pumpkin 1:1 with the sweet potatoes I got on sale.  I had to make my own pumpkin pie spice out of individual ingredients, but there is a link right in the recipe for that.  Also, I didn’t have any mascarpone cheese on hand, so I replaced 1:1 with cream cheese.  It turned out delicious.

Photo of sweet potato fillingPhoto of sweet empanadas

I’m planning to skip the glaze and whip up some real cream to go on the sweet empanadas.  And for the savory ones, I will make a cilantro lime sauce that my colleague LeAnne brought to potluck over a year ago, and I crave constantly. This recipe is a close match: My brother brought me a bag of key limes from Key West this weekend, so I reserved a few just for this special occasion.

These turned out to be a quick and easy way to twist a traditional thanksgiving meal side dish.  And why not sneak a little nutrition in there to help out with eye health whenever I get a chance?

Happy Thanksgiving all! I’m thankful for those reading this recipe blog, and I hope you have a chance to try these out too!