Southwest Thanksgiving feast and countdown

by Julie Snyder

SW ThanksgivingWhen you think "Thanksgiving," chile peppers, avocados, and calabacitas may not come to mind -- unless you live in the American Southwest.

This arid and sunny region offers a unique cornucopia of foods and seasonal traditions. Our Southwest Thanksgiving Dinner menu adds a little and spice into your traditional fare.

While those yummy turkey smell penetrate the house, set out tortilla and dip appetizers.

In addition to the usual, add a sweet treat. Chop an apple, a kiwi and several strawberries into small pieces. Serve with cinnamon pita chips.

Southwest Thanksgiving Feast

Appetizers

Usher in your meal with these seasonal and regional treats. Serve a Spicy Pumpkin Soup with Toasted Pepitas and a light and fruity Aragula Salad with Mangos and Avocados.

For the less adventurous, offer a platter of vegetables, crackers and dips.

Main dishes and sides

For a certain winner, team an Ancho-Chili Rubbed Turkey with Ancho Gravy with mashed potatoes. If your family loves stuffing, add a cornbread and chorizo dressing.

Cumin Refrigerator Rolls: Make the dough for rolls a day or two ahead and let it rise in the fridge. Before baking, brush each roll with an egg white glaze and sprinkle with toasted cumin seeds.

Let this south-of-the-border taste treat, Calabacitas -- a colorful medley of squash, join your menu. It will add color and lightness.

Would it be Thanksgiving without the sweet potatoes? Here's a solution: Chipotle Mashed Sweet Potatoes!

Do you like to try out a new dish each year? If you love beet salad, you'll appreciate Nopales and beet salad:, featuring cactus paddles that give it a distinct desert twist.

Dessert

End the feast with Apple and Cinnamon Empanadas or Caramel-Topped Pumpkin Flan. I can hear some of you sigh. Pumpkin pie defines your Thanksgiving. Make a couple a day ahead of time or suggest pie when someone offers to help out.

Countdown to Dinner

What's our secret to a stress-free Thanksgiving? Prepare as much as you can in advance and accept all offers of help.

Up to a week ahead

✓ Shop for non-perishables and decorations
✓ Make and refrigerate paste for ancho-chili rubbed turkey

The day before

✓ Shop for anything you forgot last week and pick up your fresh produce
✓ Make the desserts
✓ Prepare the mashed potatoes and refrigerate to reheat tomorrow
✓ Start the rolls and refrigerate
✓ Prepare the nopales and beet salad if you're serving it chilled
✓ Set the table unless tiny people follow you around rearranging the places; in that case, wait until tomorrow