Tradition With a Twist - How to Upgrade Thanksgiving

All of the people that actually do the cooking for Thanksgiving have developed their recipes over generations.  Most people rely on their favorites and don’t have a lot of variation from year to year.

Your guests, however, might love to see your creativity come through with a twist on your traditional recipes.  Napa Nuts is suggesting a few simple changes to your normal recipes that will add a lot of flavor and take very little extra effort.  Everyone has the guests that go for quantity over quality, but for those with a gormand in their group, they will be more impressed than ever with your Thanksgiving dinner.

Obviously we highly recommend Napa Nuts when you are making your pecan pie, but here are some other items you may want to add to your order this year.

A Thanksgiving dinner in search of an upgrade

A Thanksgiving dinner in search of an upgrade

Your stuffing needs an upgrade or two, with nuts and dried fruit

The traditional stuffing is just bread and a few veggies.  It is a favorite every year, but with a few upgrades, you’ll be wondering what happened to you normal heap of leftovers.  We have a few possible additions that you can mix and match as you please. All of these flavors will add something special to the regular stuffing.  

  • Adding pecan pieces will add some toasty flavor and extra crunch.  

  • Adding orange cranberries will add some sweetness.  This is almost a two for one. There will be some tartness from the orange and the cranberry, and some sweetness as well.  You get a much more complex flavor profile that makes your guests happy.

  • Adding reduced sugar cranberries will create a nice bit of tartness to the savory stuffing.  For those people that cook the dressing inside the bird, and then eat it with the cranberry sauce, you can infuse the other foods with that cranberry flavor as well.  It is a really fun twist on the original.

  • Toasted hazelnuts are another fun way to add crunch and texture to your stuffing.  It adds a whole lot of “nuttiness” to the food.

  • Try a combination of a nut and a dried fruit.  There will be a whole new flavor profile and it will taste amazing.

Add toasted slivered almonds to your green bean casserole

Make your normal green bean casserole.  While it is cooking, lightly toast some slivered almonds on the stovetop or toaster oven.  They just need a few minutes to get to a beautiful golden brown.  When you are ready to serve the casserole, just drizzle the toasted almonds on top.  They will add a lot of flavor, a bit of crunch and a fun twist on your Thanksgiving staple.

Your yams need some candied pecans

We all love the sweet topping on the yams.  This year when you are making this sweet and starchy favorite, take some of our glazed pecans and then either place a layer on top of your yams, or lightly chop them and mix into your yams.  Either way, you will add a bit of sweet flavor which is wonderful with the yams. You will add a bit of toasty pecan crunch which compliments the sweetness.

Add pepitas to your apple pie

This one is a bit outside the box, but not to be missed.  Adding a bit of pumpkin seed to the crumble on top of your apple pie adds an extra layer of flavor that you didn’t know you needed.  The pumpkin seeds will add a hint of pumpkin flavor that adds a subtext of savory to this sweet favorite.

Ambrosia or Jello Salad with coconut

This is not the way my mom made this, but I wish she had.  As you are mixing up your jello salad or ambrosia, a bit of coconut really compliments the sweetness of the fruit.  Our sweet coconut flake, will make sure this is the sweet dish you need at the end of a savory meal. It will add a bit more of a tropical feel to your dish.

If you have any other ideas of how to upgrade your Thanksgiving dinner with dried fruit or nuts, please share in the comments.

Recipe: Brutti ma Buoni ("Ugly but Good")

Napa Nuts is located in one of the great food capitols of the world.  

The staff at Napa Nuts feels extremely lucky to have a fantastic take away Italian palace of deliciousness right down the street.  They are so popular that their parking lot is constantly full; luckily we are close enough that we can walk over.

Foodshed Take Away is well known for their pizzas and their salads.  If you have room, you should also try their desserts.  Chef Giovanni Guerrera is very specific about getting the perfect ingredients and the right flavor balance to make amazing cookies, pistachio bars, blondies, and other delectable desserts.

Chef Gio has been kind enough to share his Brutti ma Buoni ("ugly-but-good" hazelnut cookie) recipe with us. The exterior is crisp but the interior is chewy and soft. These are gluten-free and dairy-free cookies that you will not be able to stop eating!

Thanks, Chef Gio!  You're welcome, everyone else.


Brutti ma Buoni

by Chef Gio from Foodshed Take Away


3 egg whites (90-95g)

24 0z sugar

1/2 tsp vanilla

450 g blanched hazelnuts from Napa Nuts, toasted for 12 minutes at 350°F and then roughly chopped when cool

1 lemon, zested and finely minced

1 tbsp flour



Preheat oven to 325°F

Combine the chopped hazelnuts, lemon zest and flour.  Whip the egg whites with a pinch of salt until just foamy, then add the sugar and whip for at least 5 minutes on high speed until thick, glossy and shiny (must hold its shape).  

Fold whites into hazelnut mixture and spoon onto a large sheet tray with parchment paper.  Makes 12-13 cookies.

Bake at 325°F for 10 minutes, then rotate the pan and cook for 5-6 minutes or until firm but not browned.  If getting color, lower the temperature of the oven.

Find out more about Napa Nuts' customer, Foodshed Take Away and how they are employing sustainable practices, using local resources, and teaching budding local chefs through an inspiring internship program. 


Did you try the recipe? Show off your cookies in the comments.  Then go into Foodshed Take Away for the original next time you are in town.