Thanksgiving Day is right around the corner, so the past few weeks I’ve been thinking about what new and exciting dishes I wanted to put on the dinner table this year.

I became obsessed with the idea of creating a cranberry cream pie since I’ve never had one before. In fact, I’d never even heard of one.

I spotted a container of organic Coco Whip, a product like Cool Whip but it’s dairy-free, and blended it with homemade cranberry sauce. I made a pie crust out of finely chopped pecans to make the dish gluten-free and add a little healthy protein (but a graham cracker crust would work, too).

To give the pie a little more structure, I sprinkled in agar agar (a vegan gelatin substitute), which helped the filling keep its form so when the pie was cut and served it held its shape.

The plan worked brilliantly and the flavor was addictive. My family can confirm that I ate at least half of the pie, and since I kept the sugar content fairly low, I didn’t feel any guilt.

Of course, the real star of Thanksgiving dinner is the turkey. Making a turkey with crispy skin and juicy, tender meat can be tricky because there are so many methods to choose from, including “bagging” the turkey or using a turkey fryer.

This time I salted the skin overnight. The next day, I patted off any excess moisture, then rubbed the skin with an herbed butter.

I rubbed the outside of the turkey with peanut oil, sprinkled more herbs and Kosher salt on the skin, then injected broth into the turkey with a syringe.

I roasted it uncovered on high heat for the first half-hour, then lowered the heat for the remaining cooking time and injected more broth during the cooking time.

I ended up with a fantastic fowl. The skin was crispy and the meat was moist and delicious.

Many cooks are looking for ways to put together traditional dishes that meet specific dietary needs, so another dish I’m adding to the table is gluten-free stuffing.

I used a small loaf of gluten-free bread and filled the dish out with diced fresh cauliflower, mushrooms, apple chicken sausage and fresh herbs, along with the usual suspects such as chopped celery and onions.

Chopped pecans add interest to the dish and currants provide an unexpected burst of sweetness. With all the textures and flavors, you won’t miss the bread at all. If you want to make the dish low-carb, drop the gluten-free bread altogether.

Next week I’ll have a few fun ways to use up all those Thanksgiving leftovers, so stay tuned.

Cranberry Cream Pie

Cranberry Cream Pie.

Cranberry Cream Pie

1 1/4 cups pecans

2 tablespoons butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar or brown sugar replacement, such as Swerve

1 teaspoon vanilla

12-ounce bag cranberries

1/2 cup cane sugar or sugar substitute, such as monk fruit

1 tablespoon lime juice

1/4 cup water

9-ounce container Cool Whip or Coco Whip

1 1/2 tablespoons plain gelatin or agar agar

1 tablespoon butter for buttering pie dish

Add the cranberries, cane sugar or sugar substitute, lime juice and water to a saucepan and set over medium-high heat.

Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally, then lower the heat to medium low and simmer until the berries have softened and the mixture has thickened. Remove from heat and set in the refrigerator to chill until the mixture is cooled.

While the cranberries are cooling, butter a pie dish and set aside, then prepare the crust:

Add pecans to a food processor and process until finely chopped. Transfer pecans to a bowl and add brown sugar, melted butter and vanilla, and stir well to combine.

Transfer the pecan mixture to the pie dish and press firmly into an even layer covering the bottom and sides of dish. Set in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

To prepare the filling, add the Cool Whip or Coco Whip to a bowl and stir in the cranberries and gelatin or agar agar. Mix well to combine, then transfer to pie dish. Spread the filling in an even layer and set in a refrigerator to chill for 3 hours before serving.

Butter and Herb Roasted Turkey

Butter and Herb Roasted Turkey.

Butter and Herb Roasted Turkey

12 to 14 pound turkey, thawed

1/2 large apple

3 fresh bay leaves

1-ounce package fresh sage, divided

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

2 tablespoons Kosher salt, divided

3 tablespoons peanut oil

1/4 cup butter, softened

1/4 cup unsalted chicken broth

1 meat injecting syringe

Remove turkey from packaging and set in a roasting pan with a rack. Remove neck and any organs in the cavity and discard, or set aside for another use.

Dry skin with a paper towel. Sprinkle the skin with one tablespoon of the Kosher salt and set the turkey in a refrigerator for at least 3 hours (overnight if possible).

Remove turkey from refrigerator and pat the skin dry. Add the bay leaves, 4 to 5 large fresh sage leaves (reserve the remaining sage leaves for garnish) and rosemary to a food processor and pulse several times to chop. Transfer to a small bowl and stir in remaining salt.

Use your hand to gently lift the skin off the breast muscle (your hand should slip in between the skin; try not to remove or tear skin). Add the butter to a small dish, then stir in 2 teaspoons of the salt and herb mixture. Spread the butter mixture thoroughly under the turkey skin.

Rub the entire turkey with peanut oil. Sprinkle the remaining herb salt over the top of the turkey.

Add the broth to a glass, insert the needle of the meat injection syringe and draw up half the broth. Dispense the broth into the turkey muscle, adding a little more to thicker areas such as the breast (try to inject the broth so it’s at least a couple of centimeters deep and away from the skin).

Cut the apple in half and slide it into the cavity of the turkey. Set the turkey, uncovered, into an oven preheated to 425 degrees.

Roast turkey at 425 degrees for 30 minutes, then lower the heat to 325 degrees and continue to cook uncovered for 2 hours.

Remove turkey from oven and inject the remaining broth, then return to oven to finish cooking. In general, turkeys need 15 minutes of cooking time per pound.

The turkey is done when a meat thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the breast reads 165 degrees. Remove from oven and remove apple from cavity. Transfer to a serving platter and garnish with remaining sage before serving.

Gluten-Free Stuffing

Gluten-Free Stuffing.

Gluten-Free Stuffing

12-ounce package gluten-free white bread, cut into 1- to 2-inch cubes

12-ounce package apple chicken sausage, diced

10-ounce package baby bella mushrooms, chopped

1 cup chopped carrot

1 head cauliflower, diced

1 cup celery, chopped

2 shallots, chopped

1 sweet onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 cups chicken broth

1 stick butter

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon fresh sage, chopped

1/2 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

2 teaspoons fresh bay leaf, chopped

2 teaspoons Kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground pepper

1/2 cup currants

3/4 cup pecans, finely chopped

Butter a baking sheet and spread the bread cubes in an even layer. Set the baking sheet in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and toast for 12 to 15 minutes or until the bread cubes are dry and toasted. Remove from oven and set aside.

Add half the butter to a deep sauté dish and set over medium-high heat. When the butter is melted, add the sausage, shallot, garlic, onion, celery and carrots. Saute for about 15 minutes or until the sausage is browned and the vegetables have softened.

Add the mushrooms, cauliflower, parsley, sage, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper and half the remaining butter and sauté for about 10 minutes or until the cauliflower and mushrooms have softened.

Add the chicken stock, currants, pecans and bread crumbs. Mix well to combine and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the chicken stock is absorbed.

Transfer mixture to a baking dish and dot the top with remaining butter. Set in an oven preheated to 350 degrees and bake, uncovered, for 15 to 20 minutes or until the top begins to brown slightly. Remove from oven and serve.