Turkey with a Twist: Making Thanksgiving Dinner a Memorable Occasion for the Residents in your Long Term Care Community

With Thanksgiving just around the corner, it’s time to start talking turkey again or more specifically the traditional turkey dinner. Now we know that most people expect turkey with all the trimmings for their Thanksgiving Day feast. That’s a given, and no one wants to mess with such a longstanding tradition, but why can’t we get a little creative by adding some ethnic dishes or ingredients that work well with Thanksgiving’s traditional dishes to add variety and get people talking about the holiday meal?  By adding a few cultural dishes that work well with turkey or add ethnic ingredients to traditional dishes, you can make this year’s holiday meal a memorable one. How about using chorizo in your stuffing recipe instead of pork sausage? Try serving potato latkes in addition to traditional mashed potatoes. The possibilities are as varied as the cultures of the people living in your community. And getting recipes can be as simple as popping online to search for “ethnic thanksgiving side dishes” or better yet by getting your residents involved through a poll to learn how families celebrate Thanksgiving and garner their favorite recipes. Such a poll can provide many choices to diversify your menu while keeping the traditional dishes as part of the whole menu. To get you started,  here’s a recipe that takes old-school apple pie and gives it a Mexican twist.


Apple Empanadas

Prep Time:1 hour plus refrigeration time

 Cook Time: 20 minutes

Level of Difficulty:Easy

Serving Size: 24 empanadas


  • 4 cups granny smith apples, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 batch empanada dough (see below)
  • canned evaporated milk or egg white
  • cinnamon-sugar mixture (1 teaspoon ground cinnamon mixed with 1/4 cup sugar)
Empanada dough
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup milk
  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon (optional)


For the dough

  1. Mix the first 3 dry ingredients. Cut in the shortening. It is best to use your hands.
  2. Add the eggs, milk, sugar, and cinnamon. Continue to work in with your hands until you have a soft dough.
  3. Split the dough in half, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for about 20 to 30 minutes.

For the empanadas

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Combine all ingredients except dough together in a large mixing bowl and set aside.
  2. Divide empanada dough into 24 pieces. On a floured surface, roll out the dough pieces into small round circles.
  3. Place a small dollop of apple filling on one half of each of the rolled-out circles. Wet the edges of the circles with water to help seal the two halves. Fold over the dough and seal off the edges with a fork by pressing down along the edges. This also makes for a pretty pattern when baked.
  4. Brush each empanada with some canned evaporated milk or egg whites, sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture. Puncture the top of each empanada with a fork to allow steam to escape while baking.
  5. Spray a large cookie sheet with cooking spray; place the empanadas on the cookie sheet and bake for 13 to 20 minutes on middle rack in the oven.
  6. If after 15 minutes you notice the bottoms of the empanadas starting to brown, move the cookie sheet to the top rack and continue to bake for the last 5 minutes, until golden brown.

Nutritional information

Per Empanada – Approximately 133 calories, 6.2 G Fat, 15 G carbohydrates and 117 mg sodium.

About Diane Hall

Diane Hall has always had a heart for older adults. It’s why senior nutrition became her life-long vocation and unquenchable passion. And it is why she is now regarded as a visionary and leader in this rapidly evolving field. An expert consultant and nationally recognized speaker, Diane is a powerful advocate for the new dining standards that have resulted from the shift in the culture of long term care. For her it’s not just a trend. It’s her life.
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