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A New Spin on Traditional Holiday Favorites

Melissa Roja Lawlor
Nov. 1, 2012

Saving Dinner's Leanne Ely shares her fresh takes on traditional holiday dishes as part of the Care.com Interview Series

Leanne Ely takes the team approach when it comes to the importance of a family friendly meal for kids that adults can enjoy too. Her favorite holiday tradition is her "open kitchen" policy, where everyone is required to work! The kids peel and mash potatoes, make the cranberries, and help bake the pies. In the end, the Saving Dinner blogger created a win-win situation -- having everyone help takes the pressure off, turns the fun on, and turns the learning up for her kids over the years! "It's amazing how much they learn being in the kitchen with you!" she quips.

Here are a few of Ely's winning adult-friendly kid recipes:

This tangy, tasty spin on traditional cranberry sauce is sure to be a hit at your family's holiday feast!

Makes 12 servings (with leftovers)


4 cups fresh or frozen cranberries (1 pound bag)
1 cup water
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 cup orange juice


  1. Rinse the cranberries (even if they are frozen) in a strainer with cool water, and remove any stems and bad or blemished berries.
  2. In a large saucepan, over medium heat, heat the water, juice and sugar to boiling stirring occasionally. Continue boiling 5 minutes longer to assure sugar is completely melted, stirring occasionally.
  3. Add the cranberries. Heat back to boiling over medium heat, stirring occasionally. Put a lid on the saucepan and continue boiling about 5 minutes longer, still stirring occasionally, until you hear the cranberries begin to pop. Remove the saucepan from the heat, give it a good stir and allow to cool for about 20 minutes.
  4. Pour the cranberry sauce into a bowl or container and allow to completely cool before refrigerating.

This delicious, mouth-watering, healthy holiday side dish will be a crowd pleaser for kids and adults alike!

Makes 12 servings


8 medium peeled sweet potatoes -- cut into 2-inch pieces
4 medium red onions, cut into 1-inch pieces
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons lemon pepper teaspoon
salt to taste


  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Combine all ingredients in two 13 x 9 inch baking dishes, evenly dividing up the ingredients. Toss to coat and bake for 35 minutes or so, until the taters are fork tender and nicely browned.

You can prepare this delightful dessert up to two days in advance to make your holiday menu planning a breeze!

Makes 12 servings


1 1/4 cups gingersnap cookie crumbs (crush about 20 cookies in a plastic bag with a rolling pin)
1 cup unsalted butter -- melted
(8 ounce) packages cream cheese -- softened
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1 (16 ounce) can pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie filling)
4 eggs
3/4 teaspoon of vanilla
3/4 cup chilled whipping cream (need to whip it with 2 teaspoons sugar and a teaspoon of vanilla in it)


  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, mix the cookie crumbs and butter. Press evenly on the bottom of a 9" spring form pan inches. Bake 10 minutes, then let cool. Reduce oven temp. to 300 degrees.
  2. In another large bowl, beat the cream cheese, sugar, the cinnamon and ginger on medium speed until smooth. Add pumpkin puree. Now add in the eggs, one at a time on low speed. Pour into the cookie crumb pie shell.
  3. Bake your cheesecake until center is firm, about 1 1/4 hours. Cool to room temperature. Cover and refrigerate at least 3 hours. To loosen cheesecake from the sides of the pan, unbuckle the side and carefully remove. Serve a dollop of whipped cream on the cheesecake.

> All recipes have been republished with permission from SavingDinner.com

Get more family-friendly recipe ideas in our Care.com Interview Series: 16 Easy Holiday Recipes That I Would Actually Eat ยป

Leanne Ely is a New York Times bestselling author and an expert on family cooking. The busy working mom of two writes a nationally-syndicated newspaper column called "The Dinner Diva" in addition to running her original menu-planning website and blog, Saving Dinner. You can find Leanne on Twitter and Facebook.

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