Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Non-traditional Thanksgiving recipes for a non-traditional Thanksgiving

This is a sponsored post by Challenge, but the text and opinions are all mine. Thank you for supporting brands that make Kylee's Kitchen possible!

"What are you doing to help your family stay safe this Thanksgiving?" It's a question we all should ask this week. For everyone making the tough but important choice to not travel and gather in person, perhaps this is the year you try out new recipes.

I've spent the past month testing fun twists on traditional Thanksgiving foods, and after many hours of work, I finally settled on our menu.

Main Course

Roasted Cornish game hen


Chorizo cornbread dressing

The creamiest, cheesiest macaroni and cheese

Loaded sweet potatoes

Brussels sprouts on a stalk

Pumpkin-shaped soft yeast rolls

Harvest salad with warm bacon dressing


Candied cranberry key lime pie

Chocolate cream pie with Grand Marnier

The recipes for the macaroni and cheese and the dressing took me the longest to develop.

I hate it when you eat macaroni and cheese, and you know it’s supposed to be good because the main ingredients are cheese and pasta, but it’s bland. The keys to a good macaroni and cheese for me are melty, stringy cheese, a crunchy top layer, and lots of flavor.

To achieve this, I used three types of cheese: extra sharp cheddar, gruyere, and parmesan. Also, after testing crunchy toppings, I decided I prefer Ritz cracker crumbs to bread crumbs.

Also, it’s important to note I grated blocks of cheese for this recipe—I did NOT purchase shredded cheese. Shredded cheese contains preservatives that prevent the cheese from clumping together, but the preservatives also prevent the cheese from melting well.

The combination of flavors in the chorizo cornbread dressing is very unique. The subtle sweetness of the cornbread pairs so well with the spicy chorizo, and tart dried cherries. For a little crunch, I added roasted pumpkin seeds. Toasted pecans or walnuts would work well, too!

Note: You can make the recipe with gluten-free cornbread and with soy chorizo, depending on diet preferences.

My most-used ingredient when preparing our Thanksgiving feast was Challenge butter.

Their product is far superior to everything else on the stores’ shelves. It’s 100% natural without the use of the synthetic hormone rBST. You can smell the difference as soon as you unwrap a stick.

I hope by sharing this menu and my recipes I inspire you to try something new this holiday season.

(Stay tuned for a separate post about my pie recipes!)

Ultra creamy macaroni and cheese


  • 1 pound elbow macaroni
  • 3 ounces Challenge unsalted butter
  • 3 ounces flour
  • 5 cups whole milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 Tablespoon dry mustard
  • 1 Tablespoon garlic powder
  • 2 teaspoons cayenne
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 4 cups extra sharp cheddar, grated
  • 2 cups gruyere cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1 cup cracker crumbs


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 3-quart (or similar size) dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. Boil macaroni 1 minute shy of al dente (about 4 minutes). Drain and set aside.
  3. Melt butter in large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour and whisk constantly until flour starts to foam and it forms paste.
  4. Slowly whisk in milk and stir until smooth. Bring to a boil and reduce sauce to a simmer.
  5. Add bay leaf, mustard, salt, black pepper, garlic powder, paprika, cayenne, and nutmeg, and continue to simmer until sauce thickens, about 10 minutes.
  6. Remove from heat and remove bay leaf. Stir in 3 cups extra sharp cheddar.
  7. Add drained macaroni to cheese sauce and mix until combined.
  8. Pour half of pasta mixture into baking dish. Top with 1 1/2 cups gruyere cheese. Add rest of pasta mixture to baking dish.
  9. Top with 1 cup extra sharp cheddar cheese, 1/2 cup gruyere cheese, and 1/2 cup parmesan cheese.
  10. Bake about 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is bubbly and golden brown.
  11. Remove baking dish from oven and crank heat up 450 degrees Fahrenheit. Return baking dish to oven for about 3 to 5 minutes or until top is golden brown and crunchy.
  12. Let macaroni and cheese set up for about 10 minutes before serving.

Chorizo cornbread dressing


  • 1/2 cup dried tart cherries
  • 1/2 cup white wine vinegar
  • 6 cups cornbread (from 8x8 pan), crumbled and dried overnight or toasted
  • 1 pound Mexican chorizo
  • 8 ounces yellow onion, medium dice
  • 4 ounces celery, medium dice
  • 1-2 jalapeños (depending on spice preference—personally, I used 2), small dice
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons sage, minced
  • 3 Tablespoons thyme, minced
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup chicken stock
  • 4 ounces Challenge unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds (or pecans)


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare 2-quart (or similar size) dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  2. Soak dried tart cherries in vinegar and set aside.
  3. Spray medium-sized baking dish with nonstick spray and set aside.
  4. Put cornbread in large bowl.
  5. Cook chorizo in large skillet over medium heat for about 8 to 10 minutes.
  6. Add onion, celery, and jalapeño to skillet, and sauté until onions are soft.
  7. Add garlic, sage, and thyme. Cook until fragrant—about 2 minutes. 
  8. Season with salt, black pepper, and smoked paprika. Add to bowl with cornbread.
  9. Whisk together egg and chicken stock. Pour over cornbread mixture.
  10. Pour melted butter over cornbread.
  11. Stir cherry/vinegar mixture and pumpkin seeds into cornbread mixture.
  12. Transfer to baking dish, cover with foil, and bake 30 to 35 minutes.
  13. Remove foil and allow to brown on top by cooking another 10 top 15 minutes.
  14. Garnish with additional chopped sage and thyme.
  15. Let sit 10 minutes before serving.

Recipe adapted from Epicurious

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