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Holiday Meal Makeover

A celebratory dinner should be exactly that: a time to share delicious food with family and friends. While many people wish to serve traditional family favorites, for most, there's still plenty of room to liven up your holidays with a few new flavors, local foods, and even nutritional boosters. Here are some ideas for making your holiday meals fresh, easy, and fun.

  • Consider a slightly new twist on the centerpiece of many a holiday meal, the turkey, by choosing a local, heritage breed, and/or brined turkey (these are very popular items at many co-ops; some co-ops offer pre-ordering for customers to ensure availability). Heritage breeds are typically moister and more flavorful than commercial turkeys. For more information on heritage breeds and general turkey tips, check out this turkey tutorial and turkey roasting tips.
  • Give that classic green bean casserole a makeover with fresh green beans, a spritz of lemon, and a topping of toasted pine nuts. Boost the cranberry sauce with a handful of fresh or dried fruit and a dash of cayenne. Use brown rice or quinoa as the basis for your turkey-day stuffing this year, and toss in some walnuts and chopped local apples.
  • Instantly transform the typical fare with seasonings: spice your eggnog with cardamom instead of (or as well as) cinnamon this year, and sprinkle tarragon on plain mashed potatoes. Or add some festive flavors to an otherwise ordinary recipe, like these Eggnog Spiced Sugar Cookies.
  • Make gravy like Grandma (or your favorite cooking show chef) if you like, but don't feel obligated! There are some top-notch, healthful cooking mixes available that are especially helpful this time of year. You'll find delicious, organic gravy mixes, dessert mixes, and seasoning blends for salad dressings and dips at your co-op.
  • Bring the unexpected to the table by adding an entirely new recipe or two to this year's menu. Sweet Potato, Red Onion & Fontina Tart or a Winter Squash Risotto are two great options that use seasonal vegetables in new combinations. Focus on just one or two "special" dishes to complement your main course—especially if you're serving appetizers, a couple delicious sides are all you really need and will allow you to spend more time with your guests.
  • Great dishes needn't be complicated made-from-scratch recipes, either. Purchase some strikingly flavorful, easy-to-prepare foods to serve alongside the usual. A plate of Brie with Orange Preserves and Almonds would be a memorable addition to any menu.
  • Unless you adore kitchen duty, never refuse a guest's offer to bring food -- and remember you can count on your grocery store for prepared foods, too.  Visit the bakery department for lovely desserts (you may want to order pies, cheesecakes, and other specific favorites ahead of time). While you're there, choose some cranberry date scones or pumpkin pecan muffins to treat family and/or guests to special breakfast fare. You may even consider picking up a couple of extra quick breads to give as gifts!
  • If you'll be hosting guests for more than just the main meal, look to the deli for speedy main course items and sides (like lasagna, smoked salmon, wheatberry salad, golden beet and kale salad, or roasted root vegetables).
  • Don't forget to stock up on some local wine and beer, too. Pair a good beverage with an array of cheeses or cookies for an instant party when unexpected guests arrive!

It takes just a little planning and a good source for great food to pull off a wonderful holiday meal—something full of tradition, genuine nourishment, and good will.