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Thanksgiving Dinner, Appetizer Style

Revamp Thanksgiving dinner with appetizers as the main course.

Maple Sweet Potato Gratins. Photo: Lance Mellenbruch
Maple Sweet Potato Gratins. Photo: Lance Mellenbruch
Just because the Pilgrims spent a week gorging themselves at the first Thanksgiving celebration doesn't mean we have to over stuff ourselves, too. This Thanksgiving, downsize your traditional menu into these miniature versions of the dishes we all love—like turkey sliders and Yukon gold scalloped potato bites. In their appetizer form, Thanksgiving dishes are perfect for grazing all day, giving you time to reconnect with friends and family instead of being tied to the dinner table and kitchen. You're guests will be delighted by the adorable eats and you'll have fewer, and smaller, dishes to clean up.

Here are four easy ways to downsize your Thanksgiving portions into delicious appetizers.

Maple Sweet Potato Gratins

Ingredients: 

  • 4 medium-large sweet potatoes, scrubbed clean
  • 4 tablespoons butter, melted
  • ¼ cup maple syrup 
  • Coarse-ground salt and black pepper, as needed
  • 4 tablespoons flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 2 teaspoons crystalized ginger, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup butter, melted

Preparation: 

  • Preheat oven to 400°F.
  • Butter 12 small individual-sized baking dishes and reserve.
  • Pierce sweet potatoes with a fork; transfer to baking sheet. Bake uncovered for about 60 to 90 minutes or until very tender. 
  • Slice cooked sweet potatoes in half; scoop out tender sweet potato and transfer to a food processor bowl fitted with a steel blade. Add butter and maple syrup; process until completely smooth. Add salt and black pepper; taste and adjust flavor. 
  • Reduce oven temperature to 350°F. Transfer whipped sweet potatoes to buttered baking dishes. Combine flour, brown sugar, pecans and ginger in a small bowl; add melted butter and stir until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Sprinkle evenly over the top of each baking dish. 
  • Arrange baking dishes on sheet pans; bake for 15 minutes or until streusel topping is lightly browned.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Sage Flatbread

Ingredients: 

  • 2 pieces flatbread or naan bread; as needed
  • Olive oil
  • Prepared Alfredo sauce
  • Fresh sage leaves
  • Peeled and roasted butternut squash cut into 2-inch slices and seasoned with salt and pepper
  • Shaved Parmesan cheese
  • Crumbled blue cheese.

Preparation: 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Brush each flatbread lightly with olive oil.
  • Spoon Alfredo sauce lightly over each flatbread.
  • Arrange sage leaves and roasted butternut squash pieces on each flatbread. Top with shaved Parmesan cheese. 
  • Bake uncovered until bubbly and golden. 
  • Remove from oven. Immediately top with crumbled blue cheese.
  • Serve cut into random-sized pieces.
Mini Turkey & Cranberry Sandwiches on Artisan Sea Salt & Thyme Rolls

Ingredients: 

  • 10 white dinner rolls (frozen dough) 
  • melted butter, fresh thyme, coarse sea salt, as needed
  • ¾ cup whole berry cranberry sauce
  • ½ cup orange marmalade
  • 1¼ lb. sliced roast turkey breast (left over or from deli)
  • 1¼ cups shredded fontina cheese
  • Baby lettuce blend

Preparation: 

  • Preheat oven to 350°F.
  • Thaw dinner roll dough until soft but still cold; slice each in half.
  • Roll each piece into a ball and place about 2-inches apart on a sheet pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray. Score the top of each roll with a sharp knife; brush lightly with butter and top with fresh thyme and sea salt. 
  • Cover with plastic wrap coated with cooking spray to keep it from sticking to dough while rising. Let dough rise until double in size. Bake rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Cool. 
  • Combine cranberry sauce and orange marmalade in bowl and stir until blended. Arrange 20 small 1-ounce portions of turkey on baking sheet; top each with 1 tablespoon shredded cheese. Heat uncovered for 5 minutes, or until cheese is bubbly and melted. 
  • Slice mini rolls; layer baby lettuce, one portion hot sliced turkey/melted cheese and 1 tablespoon cranberry orange relish on each roll. Close with top halves of rolls.
Yukon Gold Scalloped Potato Bites

Ingredients: 

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter 1 shallot, minced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced 
  • 2½ pounds (about 5 medium) Yukon Gold potatoes, sliced very thin
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1¼ teaspoon salt 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper 
  • 2 cup shredded Fontina cheese
  • Fresh thyme sprigs, as needed

Preparation: 

  • Preheat oven to 425°F.
  • Melt the butter in a Dutch oven over low heat.
  • Add minced shallot and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and lightly browned, about 2 minutes. 
  • Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. 
  • Add potatoes, broth and cream and heat to simmer. 
  • Cover, reduce heat to medium-low, and simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper.
  • Transfer half of the mixture to a buttered 8-inch square baking dish; top with 1 cup shredded cheese.
  • Top with remaining potatoes and shredded cheese. Bake until the cream is bubbling around the edges and the top is golden brown, about 15 minutes. Cover and chill overnight.
  • Cut chilled casserole into 36 (1¼-inch square) pieces; thread on small bamboo skewers. Arrange in small baking dish.
  • Heat in preheated oven at 350°F until potatoes are warm and cheese is bubbly; carefully transfer to serving plate and garnish with fresh thyme sprigs, if desired.


This article is part of Mix It Up, an editorial series created in collaboration with AOL's Kitchen Daily and Huffington Post. It is dedicated to making the lives of mothers easier through articles, videos and slideshows focused on simple and creative solutions to everyday challenges. From healthy recipes to exciting ideas for a more balanced lifestyle, this section aims to become a resource for moms everywhere. 

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