With Thanksgiving just around the corner, I always start thinking about all the family favorite foods I love to make. But I also throw in one or two experimental dishes each year – some go over great, some not so great. I really don’t have but a few Greek Thanksgiving recipes … since Thanksgiving is an American holiday. But I do have a couple of experimental recipes I have served throughout the years. I liked them all. The kids and Phil? Well, the vote is still out, but I think they are pretty much split down the middle with my experimental surprises.

The pineapple surprise casserole I made a few years ago was loved, but only by the kids under the age of 5 – most adults wouldn’t even try it! The stuffed acorn squash … yum. Two daughters and I gobbled it up. The Ohio Buckeyes are a candy we make every Thanksgiving (since 1970). I used to love them, now not so much – too rich for me, but the grandkids can't get enough of them. I mean, really, peanut butter and chocolate. Who wouldn’t want one or two or 10?

New this year? Stuffing a pumpkin with my Greek dressing. I've made both before, separately, so why not? Also instead of baklava (I’m saving that for my Christmas Eve party), I’m making pumpkin pitas. They are going to be my Greek version of pumpkin empanadas. Even if we don’t eat them all next Thursday, I think they will be a great after-Thanksgiving snack or breakfast treat with coffee.

So try one or two of my new and old recipes yourself. I would love to hear from you to know how they go over at your Thanksgiving table!

That Pineapple Surprise Casserole
2 20-ounce cans pineapple chunks
1 cup sugar
3 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon nutmeg
2 cups grated cheddar cheese (I use sharp cheddar)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup crushed Ritz crackers

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9x13 pan or ovenproof dish. Drain pineapple and reserve 1/4 cup of the juice. In a large bowl combine pineapple, pineapple juice (1/4 cup), sugar, nutmeg, flour and cheese; mix well. Pour into greased pan. In a medium bowl combine melted butter and crushed Ritz crackers; pour evenly over the casserole. Bake 30 minutes, serve hot.

Note: Sometimes I add one or two chopped jalapenos to the pineapple mixture, gives it a hot sweet flavor!

Pumpkin Stuffed with Greek Dressing

2 4-pound baking pumpkins, tops removed, seeds and stringy pulp removed (save tops)
2-4 tablespoons olive oil (used in two steps)
2 tablespoons, sugar
1/2 pound ground lamb
1/2 pound ground beef
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 stick unsalted butter
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1/2 cup pine nuts or chopped walnuts
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 cup rice, uncooked
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup currants (raisins)
1/2 cup cooked chestnuts or walnuts, chopped (NOT WATER CHESNUTS)
Salt and pepper to taste

DIRECTIONS: Grease a baking sheet or line with parchment paper; set aside. In a large skillet, brown onions in butter and olive oil for three minutes, add garlic and brown two minutes more. Add ground meat, season with salt and pepper, and brown slightly. Add tomato paste diluted with a little water. Add cloves, cinnamon and parsley. Cook slowly on simmer about 30 minutes till meat is done. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking. While meat mixture is simmering, preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a medium saucepan, bring two cups water to a boil, add the rice and boil for about 10 minutes. Strain and add to meat mixture. Add raisins, pine nuts and chestnuts and cook for another 10 minutes or until rice is done. Cool and stuff into pumpkins. Place pumpkins on the baking sheet, tops on, and rub both pumpkins completely with remaining olive oil. Bake covered for 45 minutes or until pumpkins turn a medium-golden-orange color, remove tops and bake an additional 15-20 minutes, until pumpkins are done. To serve, scoop out stuffing and chunks of cooked pumpkin onto plates.

Note: You can serve this with a nice béchamel sauce.

Greek Pumpkin Pie Pita Triangles

6 cups cooked pumpkin, not pumpkin pie filling
1 teaspoon nutmeg
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 cup Greek thyme honey (or local honey)
½ cup sugar
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, melted
1 pound frozen Phyllo dough sheets, defrosted

DIRECTIONS: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a baking/cookie sheet, set aside. In a large bowl, mix all ingredients except melted butter and phyllo. Set aside. Carefully unroll phyllo, and cut into 4-inch strips. Using a pastry brush, butter one strip, top with another strip butter and repeat. You will now have three strips buttered and stacked. Starting on one end, place a heaping tablespoon of the pumpkin mixture onto the buttered phyllo strips, begin folding into triangles. Place each triangle on the baking sheet. Repeat until the entire filling is used – you will have a few dozen triangles. Brush each with more melted butter. Place in preheated oven; bake 30 minutes until light-golden brown. Remove from oven. Serve hot, warm or cold. They are great with cinnamon ice cream!

CUTLINE: Finished pumpkin stuffed with Greek dressing.

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