by Julie Snyder
When 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
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.
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
On Thanksgiving day
✓ -6 to 7 hours: Preheat the oven, Prepare the turkey and get it baking
✓ -5 hours: Set the table, unless you did that yesterday
✓ -4 1/2 hours: Read through your menu; prepare and refrigerate fresh produce
✓ -4 hours: Get pitchers of ice water ready and in the fridge and make up other drinks or drink bases that you'll be serving
✓ -3 1/2 hours: Get the rolls started or pull the refrigerator dough out to warm and raise
✓ -2 1/2 hours: Prepare and refrigerate a relish tray if it's part of your family's tradition
✓ -2 hours: Prepare the nopales and beet salad if you're serving it warm; make the calabacitas and set both at the back of the stove until time to serve
✓ -1 1/2 hours: Form rolls and set in a warm place to rise. Prepare the arugala salad salad with mangos and avocados.
✓ -1 1/4 hours: If you didn't make the mashed potatoes yesterday, put the potatoes on to boil or put your covered dish in the oven to reheat
✓ -1 hour: Make the chipotli mashed sweet potatoes and cover until serving; Pull the turkey out of the oven and allow to rest
✓ -50 minutes: Stave off the guests' hunger with the soup and salad starter.
✓ -40 minutes: Mash the potatoes, cover and set at the back of the stove
✓ -30 minutes: Remove any dishes you reheated from the oven. Cover with a towel until time to serve. Increase the oven temperature to 400 F and place the rolls in the oven.
✓ -25 minutes: Make the gravy.
✓ -15 minutes: Hunt down your "volunteer" turkey carver and have them get at it; fill water/wine glasses and place on the table
✓ -10 minutes: Remove the rolls from the oven, place in a bread basket and cover; carry all dishes to the table.
✓ -5 minutes: Scan the fridge; bring all forgotten items, like butter and cranberry sauce, to the table.
Dinner's On! Take a deep breath. Breath out. Now sit down, and enjoy. You were amazing!
We've hope you've found this timeline helpful. Wishing you and yours and amazing Thanksgiving!
Have any extra hints, tips or advice to successfully host a holiday dinner?
Photo courtesy of iStockphoto.