Thanksgiving is so filled with tradition. For us, it is a day of comfy clothes, sitting by the fire, watching the parade and basically eating all day. I’m sure that a lot of us have similar food traditions…the must haves: turkey, gravy, stuffing, cranberry sauce…the family traditions: Aunt Debbie’s broccoli cheese casserole, Grandma’s famous mashed potatoes, etc. But what about the curveball?

Yes, friends…the curveball is the dish that no one expects but that everyone will love. My Thanksgiving table has to have a curveball. Whether it’s in the appetizers, the main meal, or in the dessert. So, if you aren’t doing this, then get on board. There is one rule to the curve ball though…and this rule is NOT meant to be broken.

The curveball must be Thanksgiving appropriate…so tacos and sushi will not make the cut, unless these are your family traditions. If so, do your thing!

You might also want to discuss your curveball with whoever is hosting Thanksgiving in your family. If that person is you, well…permission granted!

The curveball offers up a lot of variety and makes the table fun and exciting. Oooo….what’s that? Risotto? On Thanksgiving? Yes girlfriend. It. Is.

Here are a few of my curveballs for Thanksgiving:

Roasted Garlic and Sausage Risotto

INGREDIENTS
Roasted Garlic:
​1 whole head of garlic
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper

Spinach:
2 tablespoons olive oil
7 garlic cloves, pressed through a garlic press or minced very finely
1 bag of baby spinach
Salt

Risotto:
​2 sausage links, whatever you prefer, spicy or sweet
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, thinly diced
2 garlic cloves, smashed
1 ½ cup Arborio Rice
2/3 cup white wine
5 ¼ cups chicken broth
1 cup grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1 head of roasted garlic
¼ cup sautéed spinach
½ cup cranberries

INSTRUCTIONS
Start by roasting the garlic. This can be done days in advance. ​Preheat the oven to 350. Cut the top off of the garlic head, keeping the whole thing in tact (see Photo above). Take a piece of aluminum foil and place the garlic in the middle, cut side up. Drizzle the whole thing with the olive oil and salt and pepper it up. Don’t be stingy with the S&P (See photo above). Roast in the oven for an hour until the garlic cloves are super soft. If you are making this garlic ahead of time, keep it in the fridge until you are ready to use. Otherwise, keep the garlic out until the risotto is out of the oven.
Spinach: In a saute pan, heat up the olive oil over medium heat. Start with the 2 tablespoons and if things look a little dry, add a little drizzle more. Add the garlic and lightly brown. Once the garlic is browning lightly, add a few handfuls of the spinach. This is important: Add the spinach a little at a time! The spinach needs to wilt in the liquid and its hard to do that when you’ve added an entire bag to a little olive oil. Stir the spinach up with the garlic. As the spinach wilts, add more and continue to stir together until you’ve added the whole bag. Add salt to taste. You will not need the entirety of the finished product in the risotto, but you do have leftovers now to either eat or add to something else!​
Preheat the oven to 350. Remove the sausage from the casing. To do this, just lightly cut a thin line into the skin from tip to tip of the sausage and remove the thin casing. Discard. Smoosh up the meat as best you can. In a dutch oven type of pot (must be able to go from stove top to oven), add a tablespoon of the oil and heat on medium high. Add the meat and brown, continuing to break up into small pieces. Once the sausage is brown, remove from the pan to a plate. Set aside. Don’t clean out the pot.
Add the remaining oil to the skillet and lower to medium. Add the onion and smashed garlic. Salt and pepper. Stir every now and then until the onion is soft and starting to brown. Remove the smashed garlic and discard.
Add the rice and stir around. Let the rice toast for about 2 minutes. Then add the white wine and increase heat to medium high. Cook until you can no longer smell the wine, about 4-5 minutes. Next add all of the chicken broth. Give everything a stir (it will look soupy…that’s ok. You want a lot of liquid for the rice to absorb) and bake with the lid on for 40-45 minutes, until most of the liquid is absorbed. ​
Remove the pot from the oven. Add the cheese and butter. Stir until the butter is melted and the cheese is incorporated. If you feel that the rice is too sticky or needs a little moisture, add a little water or chicken broth to loosen.
Add the roasted garlic, really smooshing it as you are squeezing into the pot. Give it a stir. Then add the sausage, cranberries, and spinach. Stir it up and you’re done!

Whipped Ricotta and Roasted Tomato Crostini

INGREDIENTS
TOMATOES:
2 pint sized containers of cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 teaspoons dried parsley
Salt and pepper
RICOTTA CHEESE
1 small container of ricotta cheese, I like Galbani
5 basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper
BREAD
1–2 loaves ciabatta bread (get it cut by the Supermarket bakery section – it will save you so much time)
Olive oil
Salt
2 cloves of garlic, with the tops sliced off

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350. Cover a baking sheet with aluminum foil (no scrubbing later – you’re welcome!). Put the tomatoes on the pan, drizzle with olive oil and cover with seasonings. Mix with your hands on the pan and bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until soft and bursting.
Remove from the oven and let cool while you make the ricotta. Add the ricotta, salt, pepper, and torn basil leaves into a bowl. Using a whisk, mix the ingredients rigorously. You want to get a fast whisk going. The ricotta will get stuck in the whisk. Bang it on the side of the bowl and whisk again. Keep going until the ricotta is fluffy. Set aside.
Make the garlicky crostini. Arrange the ciabatta bread on baking sheets. in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and be a little heavy handed with the salt. Broil in the oven for about 3-5 minutes until golden on the outside. Remove from oven and let cool for 1 minute. Cut the top off the garlic and carefully rub each piece of bread with the garlic.
Spread a slightly thick layer of the ricotta cheese mixture on each piece of bread. Top with a few tomatoes and serve immediately.

S’mores Brownies

INGREDIENTS
10 full graham crackers, pulverized in the food processor
4 tablespoons butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 package of Betty Crocker’s Triple Chocolate Chunk brownie mix or your favorite mix
The oil, water, and eggs mentioned in the brownie mix directions
A 7 1/2 oz jar of Marshmallow Fluff

INSTRUCTIONS
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine the crushed graham crackers, butter and cinnamon in a small bowl. Mix until all of the graham crackers are moist.
Spray an 8×8 square baking pan with baking spray and rub around with a paper towel. Pour the graham crackers into the pan and press evenly all around the pan. You want to make sure the crumb bottom is as even as possible.
Bake the graham crackers for 10 minutes until golden.
While the graham crackers are cooking, prepare the brownie mix according to the package directions. Set aside.
When the graham crackers are done, adjust the temperature of the oven to the brownie mix directions. Pour the brownie batter over the top of the graham crackers. Spread lightly until even. Place in the oven for the amount of time noted on the brownie box.
When done, remove from oven and let sit for 15 minutes. Take the marshmallow fluff and put a very big scoop (about half the jar) into the middle of the brownies. Begin to spread lightly from the center to the ends, adding more fluff as you need to, until the entire top of the brownies is covered from end to end.
Broil until the top is golden, moving the pan so that the marshmallow doesn’t burn in spots. Let sit for another few minutes. Cut and enjoy!

All of these recipes have make ahead options. If you’re interested in hearing more about the make ahead instructions,visit my site by clicking on the link for each one! For all these recipes and more Thanksgiving goodness, including Thanksgiving menu, decoration, and hosting guides visit my site at www.whatchacookinggoodlooking.com/category/holiday-and-special-occasion-recipes/thanksgiving .

 

Tiffany Cohen runs the food blog Whatcha Cooking Good Looking? and is a Food / Product Photographer and Recipe Developer.  She is a wife and mom of two little guys.  She lives in Oakdale and loves to support local businesses and people in her community doing great things!  

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