New takes on the Thanksgiving table

By Stephanie Racine, Staff Writer

 

Thanksgiving does not have to consist of the same canned cranberry sauce, cornucopia and bread stuffing every November. This year, throw out the rulebook and use these tips to augment your favorite holiday classics.  

Lighter dishes

Staying on the lighter side of Thanksgiving can be satisfying. Try adding cauliflower to stuffing in lieu of bread or rice. For vegan guests, swap out animal byproducts for lentils or chickpeas in a stuffing-type side dish. Sweet potatoes are a good substitute for regular potatoes in mashed, baked, or fried forms, while butternut squash soup is a light and classically-inspired alternative to heavier side dishes.

Cultural additions

For extra flavor, try adding a cultural twist to Thanksgiving favorites. A chile rub on the turkey can give your bird a Southwestern kick, while pumpkin egg rolls or turkey dumplings can make great finger foods. For a simpler option, add a dish from a favorite international cuisine: carbonara, stuffed grape leaves, rice pilaf and spring rolls all fit in with Thanksgiving mainstays.

Fun with pumpkins

Pumpkins aren’t just for Halloween. Spray paint pumpkins gold, white or silver for a unique addition to a table or decoration. Painting the menu on a pumpkin is a bold way to announce what will be on the table. Mini pumpkins can be used as seat markers or to denote what cheeses are on a cheese plate. Add flowers and glitter or string lights to pumpkins for an extra dimension.

Say goodbye to turkey

For the main course, consider going with a Midwestern classic like a  honey baked ham, and make your stuffing with a meat such as lamb or beef. A pescatarian Thanksgiving could feature lobster or salmon with a cranberry sauce. Or get rid of the meat altogether for a vegetarian spread – mushroom and chestnut “beef” Wellington can substitute turkey for a vegan main dish.

All alone on Turkey Day with so much to do

In Chicago there is plenty to do on Thanksgiving, even if you are alone. Between the parade, the games, the shopping and movies, there is a full day of activities waiting.

By Jesse Wright, Staff Writer

At one time, Thanksgiving was a day for families to come together over food and enjoy each other’s company. These days, that’s not necessarily true for everyone. The holiday can be fun for the solo celebrant because Thanksgiving Day is as much a public holiday as it is a private holiday.

 

If you are alone, Thanksgiving could be a great opportunity to spend time catching up on reading, binging TV shows, going for a nature walk or doing whatever else you might want to do by yourself. But, for those who want company, you don’t have to spend the holiday alone.  These days, plenty of restaurants, bars, movie theaters and retail stores take advantage of the holiday and open their doors, so you will really only be as alone as you want to be.

 

First, if you have friends you know will be free, pick up the phone and call them. Don’t be afraid to set up a day for you and all your friends who couldn’t—or didn’t want to— leave the city to see their families.

 

Or don’t. Feel free to pamper yourself with a solo self care day; it is, after all, a holiday.

 

If you’re the athletic sort, join the flock and do the Turkey Trot, Chicago’s annual five or eight kilometer race. To avoid late fees, register as soon as possible www.turkeytrotchicago.com.

 

If standing still is more your style, don’t miss the Chicago Thanksgiving Parade. The parade winds its way along State Street from Congress to Randolph. If you plan to see it live, get there before 7 a.m. to find a good spot and expect to stay through 11 a.m. if you want to catch the whole thing.

 

Once the parade ends, you will have several options for turkey day fun.

 

If you’re a sports fan (well, a football fan to be precise) then you have one goal—catch the game. There’s no need to sit at home and watch television,  as plenty of bars will be available for the Bears versus Lions game at 11:30 p.m. ET. In the afternoon, stick around for the Cowboys versus Redskins, and if you want to make a whole day of it, don’t miss the Falcons versus Saints, kickoff scheduled for 7:20 p.m.

 

Not a sports fan? Entertain yourself by dining out. Plenty of restaurants will be open the day of Thanksgiving, so if you don’t feel like cooking for yourself, don’t sweat it. For a full listing of what is available, check out the website www.opentable.com.

 

By the time the afternoon rolls around, you might be feeling ready to relax. Good news! Hollywood typically releases some of its most anticipated offerings in late November, and this year is no exception.

 

Opening the week of Thanksgiving, get ready for Creed II, Ralph Breaks the Internet or Robin Hood, an action movie based on the famous legend of English folklore. Want something a little subtler than a big blockbuster? How about The Front Runner, Jason Reitman’s chronicle of Gary Hart’s doomed presidential campaign, or Peter Farrelly’s The Green Book, the highly anticipated period drama set in the Jim Crow-era South. Finally, if Thanksgiving kicks off your Christmas spirit, check out The Christmas Chronicles, the first Christmas film of the season, opening Thanksgiving Day.

 

And of course,there is always retail therapy. Whether you’re shopping for yourself or for someone else, there are plenty of opportunities Thanksgiving Day. Want something traditional? Check out the Christkindlmarket in Daley Plaza, open Thanksgiving Day from 11 a.m.–4 p.m. Grab a glass of Gühwein and browse handmade wonders from around the world. Want something a little more name-brand? Wander down the Mag Mile and enjoy early Black Friday sales on your favorite merchandise.

 

If service is more your speed, there are homeless shelters and food pantries all over the city that need volunteers. Go online, find a nearby venue and spend your turkey day doing good.