Turkey, mashed potatoes and cranberry sauce aren't always the answers for Thanksgiving dinner, according to Food Columnist Judi Leaming, who uses familiar ingredients but instead tries Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie, Crustless Cranberry Pie, and Cranberry Chutney.

Some families expect the same foods prepared in the same way to grace their Thanksgiving Day table. Others are willing to take a few more risks. It was interesting to do online research to learn about the traditional foods that are part of menus in different parts of this country.

A study conducted by the Butterball folks in 2007 provided the following statistics. According to the survey, the following foods are Thanksgiving essentials in many homes across the country, regardless of region:

 Mashed potatoes (95%)  Cranberry sauce (81%)  Candied yams (63%)  Green bean casserole (59%)  Gravy (46%)

Turkey obviously figures prominently during the feast as well.
The National Turkey Foundation studies show that in 2006 more than 46 million turkeys were eaten for this uniquely American holiday. Further statistical analysis reveals that 88% of Americans on this day enjoy turkey as their main course.

How does this information compare to your own menu? If you have southern roots, collard greens and baked macaroni and cheese will likely be a part of your meal. New Englanders will surely have cranberry sauce and they overwhelmingly prefer the white meat of the turkey. Those in the Midwest will probably add a corn-based dish to their tables, and in the Pacific Northwest you might find fish and fresh fruit served at your meal or they may substitute duck for the turkey.

Today’s recipes offer you a variation on the traditional Libby’s pumpkin pie recipe that my husband Spicer really, really liked, a crust-less cranberry pie that could as well be served for Thanksgiving breakfast as for dinner and a special cranberry chutney relish that our daughter Kate shared with her family last Thanksgiving.

Whatever you eat and where ever you go, I urge you to gather around the table with your family or friends, give thanks and make lots of happy memories! I am thankful for our family, our friends and for all of you!

Buttermilk Pumpkin Pie   
1 unbaked 9-inch pastry shell
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1 cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons butter, softened
3 egg yolks, beaten
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 400-degrees. Bake pastry shell for 5 to 7 minutes. While pastry shell bakes, place buttermilk, pumpkin puree, softened butter and beaten egg yolks into a large mixing bowl and blend well. Either by hand or with a mixer, slowly add the flour, cinnamon, baking soda and sugar and mix well. Pour into partially baked pastry shell and bake for 10 minutes more.
Immediately lower oven temperature to 350-degrees and cook for another 40 minutes. Cover crust with pie shield or aluminum strips after 30 minutes. Check on it at 40 minutes and then every 5 minutes until it stops being jiggly in the middle.
When I tested this recipe for you, I baked the filled shell 42 minutes. Set aside on wire rack to cool. Serve at room temperature. Cover and refrigerate leftovers.  

Crustless Cranberry Pie

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts
1/2 cup butter, melted and slightly cooled
2 eggs, room temperature, beaten
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure orange extract

Preheat oven to 350-degrees. Lightly grease one 9-inch pie pan and set aside. In a large bowl combine flour, sugar and salt. Stir in the cranberries and nuts and toss to coat. Stir in the butter, beaten eggs and extracts. This will go together easily with just a spoon or spatula, but just be sure you mix all of the ingredients well. Pour into prepared pan. Bake for 40 minutes.
Serve just slightly warm, topped with vanilla ice cream if this is to be your dessert.
To reheat, microwave a slice for no more than 20 seconds.

Cranberry Chutney (must be made ahead)
(From "Tide and Thymes" by the Junior League of Annapolis, Md.)

1 lemon, seeded and quartered
1 orange, seeded and quartered
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen whole cranberries
2 cups dark brown sugar (*)
1 1/2 cups raisins
1/2 cup white vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 cup fresh pitted cherries or dried cherries

Cut lemon and orange into pieces no bigger than 1/2-inch. Place them in a large saucepan with all the other ingredients. Bring the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Remove the cinnamon stick, cool and refrigerate.
(*) Kate used just 1 cup of Splenda brown sugar.