Thanksgiving: the great American holiday. It combines the USA’s best qualities — namely, hilariously dysfunctional family gatherings, football and massive amounts of food. What is interesting, though, is the fact that while America is known as a melting pot, there is a very specific formula for the Thanksgiving meal, which must not be deviated from …ever. Every time you eat an unconventional Thanksgiving meal, a bald eagle dies.

And yet, eating your 20th turkey-with-mashed-potatoes-gravy-and-cranberry-sauce combo is a lot like eating your first turkey-with-mashed-potatoes-gravy-and-cranberry-sauce combo. So this year, why not try making things a little more interesting? But before your grandmother faints at the idea of a turkey-less Thanksgiving, let me just preface by saying that we will not be removing any vital ingredients, just having some fun with a couple side dishes.

My family doesn’t really do the traditional Thanksgiving thing. Last year, we ate Burmese food instead, which involved something called shrimp paste and a fish-eggplant dish. The following recipes should in no way be as intimidating as shrimp paste, and I can personally attest to their greatness. Here are a few ideas on how to add a little pizazz and a lot of new flavors to your Thanksgiving dinner.

Lamb, Tzatziki and Pita Chip Stuffing

For the Lamb
– 2 pounds of the youngest rib lamb chops you can find
– 1 cup coarse salt
– 6 tablespoons freshly ground pepper
– 6 tablespoons dried oregano, preferably Greek

Place salt, pepper and oregano in small bowl and stir to make the “rub.” Coat entire lamb chop with the rub. Set up grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. When ready to cook, brush and oil the grill grate. Arrange chops directly on the grate. Grill chops until darkly browned on outside and cooked through, 3-5 minutes.

For the Tzatziki
– 4 Persian cucumbers, grated and drained
– 2 cups Greek whole milk yogurt
– 4 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
– 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped mint
– 4 cloves garlic, finely minced
– 2 teaspoons lemon zest
– 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
– Salt and freshly cracked black pepper

Whisk together cucumber, yogurt, dill, mint, garlic, lemon zest and lemon juice in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Chill.

Putting It All Together:
Mince lamb meat into 1/4-1/2 inch chunks and put in serving dish. Add crushed pita chips. Serve tzatziki on top or as a side.

Green Beans and Warm Goat Cheese Salad

– 2 pounds green beans, ends trimmed off
– 1 and ½ logs goat cheese, sliced into ½ inch thick rounds
– 2 eggs
– salt and pepper
– 1 cup breadcrumbs
– 1 and ½ cups cranberries
– 1 and ½ cups almonds, slivered
– 6 tablespoons olive oil
– 4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
– 3 tablespoons grained dijon mustard

Boil green beans in large pot of well-salted boiling water for roughly 2 minutes, or until tender-crisp. Drain and put green beans in bowl of ice water. Remove from water when green beans are cool, strain and place in fridge

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
Whisk 2 eggs with salt and pepper to taste.
Dip rounds of cheese into the egg, then coat completely with bread crumbs.
Place rounds of cheese ½ inch apart on parchment-covered baking sheet.
Drizzle sparingly with olive oil.
Cook in oven for 10-12 minutes

Putting It All Together
Mix olive oil, balsamic vinegar and dijon mustard. Add two pinches salt and two pinches pepper to dressing. Remove green beans from fridge, put in serving dish. Add dressing, cranberries and almonds. Stir green bean salad and serve with 1-2 goat cheese rounds.

Apple Flan Tarte

For Pie base:
– 2 cups flour
– 1 egg
– ½ cup butter cut into thin slices
– ¼ cup of milk
– 5 Pink Lady apples, peeled and thinly sliced

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixer, combine flour, egg, and butter. Gradually add milk until the ball of dough is firm but malleable in consistency. Using a rolling pin, roll dough out until it is ¼ inch thick. Place dough in pie dish. Cover bottom of pie with apple slices, tightly packed together but with minimal overlap.

For Flan:
– 2 cups sour cream
– 2 whole eggs
– 1 egg yolk
– 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
– ½ cup granulated sugar

Whisk sour cream, eggs and additional egg yolk, vanilla extract and sugar until completely mixed. Pour flan evenly over apples. Bake between 40-50 minutes, until crust is a light golden color. Serve warm, with vanilla ice cream on the side.

This story originally appeared on page 13 of November 20, 2014’s print edition of the Daily Nexus.