Spice up holiday meals by altering menu

There are two camps at Thanksgiving: Traditionalists vs. noncomformists
by: Submitted art,

Thanksgiving is without a doubt the most traditional holiday Americans celebrate and for most people that is just one more thing for which to be thankful.

The Thanksgiving dinner menu is preordained; you can count on sitting down to roast turkey, stuffing, mashed potatoes and gravy, rolls, sweet potatoes and cranberry relish. Toss in a green salad and a pumpkin pie and you've got your Thanksgiving feast.

There are two camps regarding Thanksgiving menus: The traditionalists and the nonconformists. The traditionalists use recipes passed down from one generation to the next while the noncomformists just have to shake things up by trying innovative versions of the hallowed feast foods. With one camp, the tradition is 'tradition,' with the other the tradition is 'chaos.'

You might guess that I belong to the second camp.

Early in my search for new twists on old standards for Thanksgiving, I received an e-mail from Jennifer Holloway, a member of The Junior League of Portland, promoting their 2005 recipe book, 'Raindrops to Roses: A Collection of Oregon Style Celebrations.'

A Portland tradition itself, the Junior League of Portland is an organization with more than 750 members committed to promoting volunteerism and improving our communities through effective action and leadership. Their celebrated cookbooks, 'Raindrops to Roses' and 'From Portland's Palate' are sold to generate funds to support their philanthropic work.

Recipe books are like journals for me. I add stars in the margins rating the dish, as well as notes about the occasion, who was at the table and any changes I would make next time. My dog-eared copy of 'From Portland's Palate' is thick with notes and I knew the new cookbook would have some twists on the old standards to include on our Thanksgiving table.

After a few e-mails and phone conversations, Jennifer delivered to me a copy of 'Raindrops to Roses.' I am glad she did. The book contains more than 100 recipes focused on the best of Oregon's cuisine. Some recipes have inventive Oregon landmark names like 'Lewis and Clark Herb Roasted Lamb,' Gearhart Steamed Clams with Bacon and Beer,' and 'Bandon-by-the-Sea Cranberry White Chocolate Scones.'

Serving something new when everyone is anticipating the Thanksgiving dinner they know and love can be intimidating. Be brave! Introduce just one new dish this Thanksgiving. You can always go back to the traditional standards next year or maybe you will have finally broken the cycle of serving Aunt Lucy's molded Lime Jell-O and Fruit Cocktail Salad!

I found a number of recipes in 'Raindrops to Roses' that I wanted to include in our Thanksgiving feast and finally settled on the following for a new rendition on baked brie en croute for pre-dinner noshing. Enjoy!

Bon Appetit! - Eat Locally!

Pear and Hazelnut Baked Brie

Makes 8 - 12 servings

1 18-ounce round Brie

2 frozen pie crust shells

1 fresh pear, sliced

¼ cup and ¾ cup Oregon Grower's and Shipper's Pear and Hazelnut Fruit Spread*

Thaw the frozen piecrust.

Bring brie to room temperature

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

Cut a circle out of one of the piecrusts in the size of the brie round.

Place the large, uncut piecrust on an oiled baking sheet.

Spread ¼ cup fruit spread on the uncut piecrust.

Place brie on top of the large crust and fruit spread.

Spread ¾ cup fruit spread on top of the brie.

Place fresh pear slices on top of the brie.

Bring larger bottom piecrust up and around the other ingredients.

Pinch edges of crust around on top so piecrust is sealed around other ingredients.

Use a cookie cutter to cut decorative shapes out of the piecrust circle.

Decorate top of pastry with the cutouts and brush with milk.

Bake at 425 degrees for 25 minutes of until pastry is golden brown and brie is melted.

Let cool 5 minutes and serve on platter. Brie may be sliced into wedges before serving.

Serve with pears, apples and toasted baguette slices.

*Other pear fruit spread or cranberry fruit spread work well with this recipe, also.

From Raindrops to Roses, A Collection of Oregon Style Celebrations, by the Junior League of Portland, 2006

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We're adding a new tradition to our holiday celebrations. The Lake Oswego Review and West Linn Tidings are sponsoring 'The Best Kept Secrets from Your Holiday Kitchen' Recipe Contest! It's your opportunity to showcase your family favorite holiday desserts and hors d'ouevres community wide cooking contest. Watch for details next week and start thinking about your entries!

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached by phone at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at bran

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