Thanksgiving Alternatives

Jambalaya Pic

Thanksgiving is a time when traditions abound. Everyone has their own version of the turkey-mashed potatoes-stuffing-yams combination they offer guests annually, but who says it has to be like that every year? Sometimes rules (and traditions) were made to be broken and at L’Ecole Culinaire we’re all about breaking the mold and trying something new.

Getting innovative with Thanksgiving dinner may seem strange, but it’s something your guests won’t expect and could very well be a welcome change. It also doesn’t have to be tricky either–in fact it could save you from spending hours laboring over cooking the turkey just right. How about a carrot and parsnip mash instead of potatoes? Or a yummy cavatappi bake instead of sweet potatoes? Here are a few recipes we’ve rounded up to help inspire you try something different.

Instead of a Whole Turkey:

Turkey and Sausage Jambalaya for a Crowd

Courtesy of The Food Network


1/4 cup vegetable oil

2 cups chopped yellow onions

1 cup chopped green bell peppers

1 cup chopped celery

1/8 cup chopped garlic

1 1/8 teaspoons Essence, recipe follows

3/4 teaspoon salt

3/8 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/8 teaspoon cayenne

2 bay leaves

1 pound kielbasa or other cooked sausage, cut into 6 to 8-inch segments

2 smoked or cooked turkey legs

2 pounds cubed or shredded cooked turkey meat

1 cup chopped tomatoes and their juices

1 1/4 cups medium-grain white rice (about 1 1/8 pounds)

8 cups water

Hot Sauce

1/2 cup chopped green onions

1/4 cup chopped parsley leaves

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

2 1/2 tablespoons paprika

2 tablespoons salt

2 tablespoons garlic powder

1 tablespoon black pepper

1 tablespoon onion powder

1 tablespoon cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon dried leaf oregano

1 tablespoon dried thyme


In a very large roasting pan measuring approximately 21 by 17 by 7 inches with handles on both sides, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onions, bell peppers, celery, garlic, Essence, salt, pepper, cayenne and bay leaves, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are very soft and starting to turn golden, about 15 minutes. Add the sausages and cook, stirring, until they start to brown on the outside, about 7 minutes. Add the turkey legs and meat and stir well. Add the tomatoes and their juices and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add the rice and stir well to incorporate and coat evenly. Add the water, stir well to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover tightly, and cook without stirring until the liquid is absorbed and the rice is tender, 35 to 40 minutes, adding more water as needed if the liquid is all absorbed before the rice is tender.

Remove from the heat and let sit for 15 minutes before serving.

Remove the bay leaves. Stir in the green onions and parsley, and serve hot.

Essence (Emeril’s Creole Seasoning):

Combine all ingredients thoroughly and store in an airtight jar or container.

Instead of Mashed Potatoes:

Carrot and Parsnip Mash

Courtesy of Brit + Co.


½ pound parsnips

2 carrots, peeled

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon thyme

salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Bring a large pot of water to boil over medium-high heat. Peel the parsnips. Dice the parsnips and carrots, and add to the boiling water. Boil for 12-15 minutes, or until fork tender.
  2. Drain the carrots and parsnips and place in a food processor. Add olive oil, thyme, salt, and pepper.
  3. Pulse until combined. Enjoy!

Instead of Sweet Potato Casserole:

Cheesy Butternut Squash Cavatappi Bake


Courtesy of Better Homes and Gardens


Nonstick cooking spray

3 cups peeled and cubed butternut squash

8 ounces dried cavatappi or other elbow macaroni

1 tablespoon butter

8 ounces cremini or button mushrooms, sliced

3 green onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 cup fat-free milk

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

6 ounces fontina cheese, shredded (1 1/2 cups)

2 slices reduced-sodium bacon, cooked and crumbled (optional)

Thinly sliced green onions (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly coat a 2-quart rectangular baking dish with nonstick cooking spray; set aside.
  2. In a medium microwave-safe bowl combine squash and 2 Tbsp. water; cover with vented plastic wrap. Microwave on high for 4 minutes; stir. Microwave, covered, about 4 minutes more or until squash is tender. Carefully remove plastic wrap. Mash squash; set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions; drain. In a medium saucepan heat butter over medium heat. Add mushrooms and green onions. Cook until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture. Cook and stir for 1 minute. Add milk, salt, and pepper. Cook and stir over medium heat until thickened and bubbly. Remove from heat; stir in squash. Add pasta. Gently fold to combine.
  4. Transfer half of the pasta mixture to the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with half of the cheese. Add remaining pasta and cheese. Top with bacon, if desired. Bake, uncovered, for 20 to 25 minutes or until heated through and cheese is melted. Top with additional green onions, If desired.


L’Ecole Culinaire can help you get inspired in the kitchen any time of year with our public cooking classes, designed for the at-home chef. This December our St. Louis campus is offering classes in Holiday Cookies, Wine Tasting and Basic Baking – Beginner (just for kids!). Our Kansas City campus offers classes in Holiday Pies and Stuffed Pasta – Beginner and our Memphis campus is offering a class on building the perfect Gingerbread Cottage. For more information or to register click here.




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