Through out the holiday season I share tips for repurposing Thanksgiving leftovers, so they don’t go to waste. But there is one type of food that I have a hard time helping you repurpose: food that you don’t like! Unfortunately, a lot of people prepare food they don’t like at the holidays in the name of tradition.
Just because grandma made it every year for Thanksgiving does not mean you have to make it. Your great-grandma is not going to roll over in her grave if you don’t serve cranberries. If she lived through the depression, she is more likely to be upset by the amount of food you toss the week after Thanksgiving than what you did or didn’t serve for dinner.
Break with tradition, if tradition means waste!
Do not serve food that you don’t like.
When I told my daughter I was going to write this she said, “Why do I get the feeling you are going to be talking about yams and marshmallows?” I don’t like canned yams, especially when topped with marshmallows. For years, I didn’t make any type of sweet potato dish; I made glazed carrots instead.
I have a friend who is a vegetarian, as is her immediate family, but when her extended family comes for Thanksgiving she feels compelled to make a large turkey. Since her extended family lives out of town, they can’t take the leftovers home, so they go to waste. She would be better off just cooking a turkey breast or a small chicken rather than cooking a whole turkey.
My sister-in-law doesn’t like turkey, so when it is her turn to host Thanksgiving she serves a ham or roast. And the world keeps turning. 🙂
Find a way to make the offending item appealing to your family.
I felt somewhat guilty for being the only American who wasn’t serving candied yams, so I started looking for ways to make a sweet potato recipe that we liked. I played with sweet potatoes until I came up with several different sweet potato recipes that my family really enjoys. My family had a hard time deciding between Chai Spiced Sweet Potatoes and Hasselback Sweet Potatoes for Thanksgiving this year. Whatever I serve, I know that we will be fighting over the leftovers the next day.
I also don’t like canned cranberry, especially the slice and serve variety, so I will be making Cranberry Orange Sauce (Trader Joe’s has a tasty Cranberry Orange sauce, if you don’t want to make it from scratch). And don’t get me started on Green Bean Casserole. You may call Green Bean Casserole a traditional dish, but I am pretty sure my pilgrim ancestors were cooking from scratch, so I don’t feel guilty about serving Green Beans with Garlic instead.
If only a few people like a certain dish, halve the recipe.
If you have a particular dish, that only a few people like, halve the recipe. And then send the leftovers home with those individuals who like it!
We tend to make too much of each dish, even of those dishes that are popular with everybody. Since Thanksgiving dinner is usually a feast with many different dishes, guests will take less of each of less item than they normally would. So consider making a little less than you usually do, especially if you are making candied yams.
It doesn’t matter how good the sale is on an item, the most expensive food you buy is the food that goes uneaten and ends up in the trash. So I am giving you permission to break with tradition, save money, and cook food that you like. Even if that means vegetarian enchiladas. We remember the original Thanksgiving feast, but sometimes lose sight of the fact that the day is not about what is served. Regardless of what is on your plate, it is a day of Giving Thanks. And that is easier to do, if you actually like the food on your plate. 🙂
Here is my Thanksgiving Menu. It is a mix of traditional recipes, family recipes, and newer recipes, but every dish is one that my entire family enjoys.