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Six Tips to Shake Up Your Thanksgiving Dinner

By Molly Durham in Food on Nov 23, 2011 8:00PM

Photo by Lucyrk in LA.

Thanksgiving is all about tradition. The same dishes year after year, the same people, the same location, the same ol' same ol'. It can be great and comforting, or it can be so boring that it requires going through an entire case of wine in one weekend. If you're feeling the need to break out of the Thanksgiving box, here's a few ways you can switch up the old favorites.

Sick of the oh-so-very-Midwestern green bean casserole? We're not sure how that's possible, but if you are, try this recipe for Green Beans with Toasted Walnuts and Dried-Cherry Vinaigrette. It's still got plenty of fall flavors but in a less gooey and creamy kind of way.

Make a healthier and more nutrient-filled mashed potato dish this year. Add in about 4 oz. of spinach and spices like parsley, thyme and rosemary. Use 1/4 cup greek yogurt as the cream element instead of butter (we know, Paula Deen is crying as we speak).

Create turkey burgers and pile on any sides you like as the toppings. This is a great idea for leftovers as well. The Counter has some great suggestions for this: Chop up the leftover turkey meat finely. Mix with a panache - leftover bread soaked in milk to soften then strain out any milk. Add an egg to bind all ingredients together and form patties.

Sweet potatoes always on the table? We've got plenty of new suggestions for those, like sweet potato soup with goat cheese, or roasted sweet potatoes with vanilla and Spanish chorizo.

The cranberry dish can sometimes not even be a dish, but rather a jiggling statue dumped out of the can, complete with ridges signifying its time sitting on the shelf. Buy fresh cranberries this time. Heat 1 cup sugar and 1 cup water in a pan, then add 4 cups cranberries and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then eat plain or serve over a dessert like cheesecake.

Pies... so overdone! Make pumpkin pie pop tarts instead. These are like little contained hand-held pies. If you're a crust lover, then this is for you. Try this recipe from Smitten Kitchen. We've tried it before with several different fillings, and it's sure to please. For the filling use 3/4 cup pureed pumpkin, 1 large egg, 1/3 cup granulated sugar and all the pumpkin pie spices your heart desires.

Whatever you do, just don't get too creative and make this turkey cake that's sure to be barf-inducing, and not in the pleasantly full at the holidays kind of way. Or if you do, let us know how it was.