by Lacey Griebeler, Chef Magazine

The National Restaurant Association reports that more than half of consumers get a little to-go help from restaurants to augment (or completely supply) their Thanksgiving feast. Additionally, a growing number of customers are putting down their aprons, driving to their favorite restaurant and letting chefs serve them a complete (and completely uncomplicated) spread.

No need to feel pressured. We're sure you've planned out plenty of great ideas and are ready to go for Nov. 27. But just in case you need a little extra inspiration, Chef Magazine and Stirrings have gathered a few tips.

They call it Turkey Day for a reason. The Rockwellian centerpiece is often considered the most important part of the meal. If you're looking for a minor twist on the traditional or an all-out makeover of unexpected flavors, the National Turkey Federation is your source. For whole bird ideas, just search the recipe archives to find ones like New Orleans Bistro Deep Fried Turkey and Latino Lime Glazed Turkey with Chipotle Gravy. While you're on the Web site, check out the Foodservice Hotplate with more Thanksgiving tips.

Are goldenberries the new cranberries? Kopali Organics thinks so. This exotic raisin of the Amazon is a sweet and sour delicacy, and it's rich in vitamin A. The company's Supergood, Superfoods Goldenberries add a healthy flavorful spin on classic holiday faves to entice your health-minded Turkey Day customers.

Wild Rice Stuffing with Goldenberries
Recipe courtesy of Kopali Organics

Yield: 12 servings

2 qt. vegetable stock
3 c. wild rice, rinsed
Pinch sea salt
1 T. olive oil
6 large shallots, chopped
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 lb. white mushrooms, thinly sliced
1 T. soy sauce or wheat-free tamari
1 t. dried thyme
1/2 c. Kopali Organic Goldenberries
Freshly ground black pepper
1 c. chopped fresh parsley
2 qt. vegetable stock
1/3 c. chopped fresh sage

Method (1) Bring stock to a boil. Add rice and salt, and return to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 35-45 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. Remove from heat. (2) Heat olive oil in a sauté pan, add the shallots and garlic and cook for about 10 minutes, or until golden. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms release their juices. (3) Add the soy or tamari, thyme and pepper. Continue to cook until the liquid evaporates. Transfer to a bowl with the rice. Add the golden berries, parsley and sage and toss to combine. Taste and adjust the seasonings, adding more pepper, if necessary.

Operators are challenged to prepare delicious, high-quality Thanksgiving potato dishes without increasing labor or cost. According to Simplot Foods, Idahoan potato products are easy to use and cost less per serving than scratch, frozen or refrigerated brands. The food cost for the recipe below is 70 cents per serving; if you menu these potatoes for $2.50, that's a gross profit of $1.80 per portion.
Potato Au Gratin with Sausage and Chèvre
Recipe and photo courtesy of Simplot Foods

Yield: 13 servings (8 oz. each)

1 package (20.35 oz.) Idahoan REAL Au Gratin Casserole
12 oz. Italian sausage, crumbled, cooked
2 oz. green onion, sliced
1 t. garlic, minced
10 oz. chèvre cheese
2 1/2 qt. Water, boiling

Method (1) Combine the casserole, sausage, onions and garlic in a 4" half size steam table pan. (2) Whisk the chèvre cheese into the boiling water to evenly disperse. (3) Add the water to the potatoes; stir well to incorporate ingredients. (4) Cover with foil, and bake in a 400°F convection oven for 40 minutes. Remove foil, and continue to bake for 5 to 10 minutes until top is browned.

Sweet creamery butter is delicious, but why not give bread service a little flair with a compound butter accompaniment? Plugrá offers up this version from its recent national recipe contest.

Bleu Cheese Herb Butter with Walnuts
Recipe courtesy of Plugrá

Yield: 32 servings (1 T. each)

1/2 lb. Plugrá European-Style Butter, unsalted, softened
1 T. fresh chives, chopped
1 T. fresh thyme leaves, chopped
1 t. garlic, minced
1/4 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. blue cheese crumbles (Maytag recommended)
3 T. walnuts, toasted and chopped

Method (1) In a mixer, whip Plugrá butter at medium speed until smooth and light. Fold in chives, thyme, garlic and pepper. Beat until combined, about 5 minutes. (2) Stir in blue cheese and walnuts. Beat for 1 minute until well-combined. (3) Remove butter from bowl. Spoon onto parchment paper. Roll into a log, using edge of baking sheet to form a tight log. Chill for 2 hours before portioning and serving.

"Keep it simple" is a holiday mantra for chefs and consumers alike. Wild Turkey bourbon suggests a fun garnish to turn everyday spirits into festive drinks.

Thanksgiving 101
Recipe and photo courtesy of Wild Turkey bourbon

Yield: 1 drink

Wild Turkey 101 bourbon
Ice cubes
2 cranberries
1 spring rosemary

Method (1) Serve Wild Turkey 101 over ice in a rocks glass. (2) Skewer cranberries on rosemary sprig for a garnish.

The ultimate indulgence: dessert in drink form. But for Thanksgiving, Three Olives Vodka suggests retiring the Chocolate Martini (temporarily, of course) for something a little more festive. Now guests can have their pie, and drink it, too.

Pumpkin Pie-tini
Recipe and photo courtesy of Three Olives Vodka

Yield: 1 drink

Honey, as needed
Graham cracker crumbs, as needed
1 oz. milk
2 T. pumpkin purée
Ice cubes, as needed
1 1/2 oz. Three-O Vanilla vodka
1 1/2 oz. crème de cacao

Method (1) Using a small amount of honey, rim martini glass with graham cracker crumbs. (2) Shake milk and pumpkin purée over ice to combine. Pour in remaining ingredients, and shake well. (3) Strain into prepared martini glass.

To make sure the end of the meal is just as spectacular as the first bite, Sara Lee Foodservice offers Chef Pierre Pre-Sliced Pies for the holidays and beyond. With these thaw-and-serve desserts, you'll reduce waste and get improved pie appearance with fewer broken crimps and even slices every time. The pies are available in tantalizing (and holiday-appropriate flavors) like Pumpkin, Pecan and Sweet Potato. The Dutch Apple Hi Pie (pictured) is made with apples picked at the peak ripeness, which are then quick-frozen and mixed with sugar and spices to create a natural-juice pie with more than 1 pound of fruit.

Are you doing something creative for Thanksgiving at your restaurant? Post about it in the comments section.

The North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM) announced three business leaders with unique perspectives will headline education at the NAFEM Show, Feb. 5 to 7, 2009, at the Orange County Convention Center, Orlando, Fla.

The complimentary education program features: Gary Hirshberg, president and "CE-Yo," Stonyfield Farm; Madison Mount, associate partner, Ideo; and Harry Balzer, vice president, The NPD Group.

Hirshberg opens the education program with his session on sustainability. As head of the world's leading organic yogurt producer, with $320 million in annual sales, he's living proof that environmental commitment makes for a healthier planet and healthier bottom line. Drawing from his experience growing Stonyfield Farm from a seven-cow start-up, as well as the examples of like-minded companies, Hirshberg presents stunning evidence that business not only can save the planet, but is able to simultaneously deliver higher growth and superior profits as well.

Using a human-centered approach to innovation within the food and beverage industry means exploring functional connections between people and consumption. With examples from fieldwork and human-focused research, Mount discusses how IDEO has sought to understand the evolving issues of the day and use them to help companies grow strategically and develop new products.

A national expert commentator on food and diet trends, Balzer helps attendees look into the industry's future, make smarter business decisions and gain insight to address the ever-changing marketplace. This session also provides insight into actual consumption behavior and how it is changing. Balzer examines in-home and away-from-home food and beverage consumption, and addresses the impacts of health, nutrition, demographic shifts and economic factors on consumer behavior related to foods and beverages.

Following each session, a panel of industry experts puts the macro issue under a microscope for a segment-specific view. During each panel session, participants provide a brief (5-10 minute), industry-specific presentation, followed by a healthy dose of Q&A.

For more information or to register for the NAFEM Show, visit
American Humane Certified food producers, partners and scientific advisors gathered at the American Humane Association in Englewood, Colo., recently for the program’s first technology meeting to provide feedback on the online reporting and video monitoring portions of its new auditing process.

American Humane Certified, the nation’s original humane food label, is conducting the first round of beta testing of its new, three-tiered auditing system, which includes annual on-site auditing, online reporting and 24/7 live video monitoring. American Humane Certified developed the multilevel system to monitor animal welfare in real-time in order to take immediate action, when necessary, to correct welfare issues. The system also provides producers with tools for continuous improvement of their operations and ways to manage risk.

American Humane Certified’s auditing process, introduced in September 2008, is known as “True Humane Tracking.” The proprietary auditing process not only reassures retailers of producers’ compliance with welfare standards more frequently than annual on-site audits alone, but it also provides continuous educational opportunities.

The online reporting component, developed by CDC Software, ensures transparency, accountability, consistency and dependability in humane animal welfare practices and allows producers to observe their production data on an ongoing basis. The online reporting system will be expanded to incorporate training for producers and their cooperatives.

The video monitoring system, developed by HS3 Technologies Inc., allows producers and American Humane Certified to monitor animal welfare remotely through real-time video.