Something Different For The Holiday

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Our Thanksgiving feasts are largely things of tradition. For my family, it is turkey and ham, sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, two kinds of gravy, old-fashioned stuffing, green beans made with lots of butter, cranberry sauce (whole and jellied), hot rolls and what we call "orange stuff" (a kind of quick ambrosia salad) and then, pumpkin pie and one or two other desserts.

There is always something different we can try, though. Look through all the magazines with stories about Thanksgiving meals and there are some pretty unique dishes out there to put on your holiday table.

So, we are joining the trend. The Rim Review gets food-related materials from the American Institute for Cancer Research each month. Called "SOMETHING DIFFERENT ..." and written by Dana Jacobi, the recipes are healthy variations on old favorites. This month, Jacobi shared recipes for cocktail meatballs, rice stuffing and some unusual suggestions for leftovers.

How about making the cocktail meatballs to feed all the helping hands in a mass pie-making or vegetable-chopping session?

Hot Cocktail Meatballs

2 slices whole-wheat sandwich bread, crusts removed

1 pound 93-percent lean ground turkey

1/2 cup cooked brown basmati rice

1/2 cup finely chopped onion

1 garlic clove, minced

1 large egg, plus 1 egg white

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1 cup tomato puree

1/2 cup chile sauce

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1/2 cup fruit-sweetened grape spread, or low-sugar grape jelly

1 teaspoon chile powder

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Soak the bread in a bowl of cold water until it is soft, about 30 seconds. Squeeze out all the moisture and place the bread in a large mixing bowl. Add the turkey, rice, onion, garlic, egg, egg white, salt and pepper. Mix with a fork until well-combined.

Form the mixture into 1-inch meatballs, placing them 1/2-inch apart on a baking sheet.

Bake 20 minutes, or until the meatballs feel firm and are white in the center.

Meanwhile, in a large, deep saucepan, combine the tomato puree, chile sauce, tomato paste, grape spread, chile powder, garlic powder and ginger. Bring to a gentle boil, reduce the heat and simmer the sauce, stirring to dissolve the jam. Cook until the sauce thickens slightly, about 15 minutes.

Add the meatballs and cook 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately or cool and refrigerate, tightly covered, for up to two days. Reheat in a saucepan over medium heat, stirring often, for about 30 minutes. Or, cover with foil and place in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes. Makes 36 meatballs.

Many of us, due to convenience or lack of know-how, pair our Thanksgiving turkeys with store-bought stuffing. Although easy to prepare, pre-packaged mixes are generally high in sodium and preservatives and low in nutritional value. Some popular brands even list high-fructose corn syrup among the most prominent ingredients.

Autumn Rice Stuffing is simple to prepare, healthy and delicious.

Watching one of the Food Network's new Thanksgiving shows, all the "celebrity" chefs were making use of wild rice, so it might be a good substitute for the brown rice or something to combine with it, for a slightly different flavor and texture.

Autumn Rice Stuffing

1 tablespoon canola oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

1 cup chopped celery

1 bell pepper (color of choice), seeded and chopped

1/2 pound mushrooms of choice, washed and sliced

1 cup diced tart apple, such as Granny Smith

3 cups cooked brown rice

1/2 cup walnut pieces

1/4 cup finely chopped parsley

1/2 tablespoon orange zest

1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1 egg, slightly beaten

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a large saucepan, heat canola oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, garlic, celery and bell pepper. Cook over medium heat for 7 to 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir in the mushrooms and apple and continue cooking for an additional 2 to 3 minutes.

Remove from heat and place in a large bowl.

Mix in the rice, walnuts, parsley, orange zest and sage. Add egg and mix well to moisten the stuffing. Transfer the mixture to a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking dish, cover with foil and bake for 1 hour.

Makes 16 servings (1/2 cup each).

Once Thanksgiving is over there is almost always a refrigerator full of leftovers.

This two-potato, apple and cranberry hash is flavored with stuffing seasoning and highlights the best of Thanksgiving's flavors.

Although this recipe calls for mashing fresh potatoes, leftover mashed potatoes can be substituted. Enjoy it with turkey on Friday, then accompanied by a poached egg over the weekend.

Sweet Potato, Apple and Cranberry Hashbrowns

1 large (3/4 pound) orange-flesh sweet potato, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 medium yellow-flesh potatoes (1/2 pound), peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

2 tablespoons canola oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

2 green onions, white and green parts, thinly sliced

1/4 Granny Smith apple, finely chopped

1/4 cup fresh or frozen cranberries, coarsely chopped

1/2 teaspoon Bell's stuffing seasoning (or 1/8 teaspoon each of ground thyme, sage and ginger)

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

low-fat sour cream (optional)

Boil the peeled potato pieces in large pot of water until tender, about 15-20 minutes.Drain. When cool enough to handle, place in a large mixing bowl. Set aside.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, green onions and apple until the onions are translucent, about 4 minutes. Add them to the potatoes.

Add the cranberries, stuffing seasoning, salt and pepper. Using a fork, gently mix, slightly mashing the potatoes to help the mixture hold together a bit. Carefully wipe out the hot pan with a paper towel.

Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the pan over medium-high heat. Add the hashbrown mixture to the pan, forming eight mounds. Press lightly with the back of a fork.

Cook until the hash is dark brown on the bottom, 6-8 minutes. Using a wide spatula, turn the patties over, pressing them back together if they crumble. Continue cooking for an additional 6-8 minutes. Serve immediately. Garnish with low-fat sour cream, if desired.

Makes 4 servings

Have you ever noticed that some of the best-tasting meals are those that evolve from leftovers? Leaving flavors to meld and deepen for even a day can have a major impact on flavor. With the holiday season just around the corner, stir-fries are a great way to recycle -- and reinvigorate -- the extra food left on your table.

Stir-frying is a centuries-old Chinese cooking technique that provides a fast and simple way to heat food while retaining color, flavor and texture. Unlike traditional frying, it requires a minimal amount of fat. No need to purchase an expensive wok either -- any large sauté pan will do.

This recipe allows for plenty of variation -- use whatever vegetables and lean meat you have on hand. When using leftovers, be careful not to overheat your pre-cooked veggies; 30 seconds over high heat will raise the temperature without creating a soggy mess. Also, where the recipe calls for the addition of leafy greens (bok choy, cabbage or spinach), it's best to use fresh varieties. To intensify a base of low-sodium soy sauce, we've added ginger, scallions and Mirin, a sweet-tasting Japanese rice wine. Although an essential condiment in Japan, Mirin may not be a staple in your pantry. Feel free to substitute with a sweet white wine or sherry. If looking for a non-alcoholic option, try white grape juice.

Day-After Stir-Fry

1/4 cup reduced-sodium soy sauce plus 2 teaspoons, divided

2 teaspoons sugar, divided

2 tablespoons Mirin (or substitute), divided

1/2 teaspoon minced green onion

1/2 teaspoon minced ginger

1 cup cooked turkey, cut into bite sizes

1 teaspoon cornstarch

In a shallow pan, mix 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1 teaspoon sugar, 1 tablespoon Mirin, the green onion and ginger. Add turkey and marinate 10 to 30 minutes. Discard the used marinade and pat the turkey dry with paper towel.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl or cup, mix together the remaining soy sauce, sugar and Mirin with the cornstarch until well blended. Set aside.

Heat a wok or a large sauté pan. Add the turkey and cook over high heat until warmed through. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.

Add half of the oil and heat the vegetables in batches, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. Add the remaining oil as needed. If using leftover vegetables, stir-fry just long enough to rewarm, 30 seconds to 1 minute. The bok choy, spinach and cabbage cook quickly as well; heat until just wilted.

When all of the vegetables are tender-crisp, add the turkey back to the pan. Add the remaining soy sauce mixture and stir until sauce thickens. Serve immediately with steamed rice. Sprinkle with sesame seeds to garnish.

Makes 6 servings.

Grandma's Fresh Cranberry Relish

1 bag (12 ounces) cranberries, (3 cups)

1 medium Granny Smith apple, peeled, cored and cut up

1 medium Gala apple, peeled, cored and cut up

1 small navel orange, unpeeled and cut up

2/3 cup sugar

In food processor, with knife blade attached, pulse all ingredients until coarsely chopped. Spoon into serving bowl; cover and refrigerate until well-chilled, about 3 hours or up to 4 days.

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