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Need a bite to hold you over while the turkey roasts? 3 recipes to kick off your Thanksgiving meal

Roasted mushroom soup. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)
Roasted mushroom soup. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

You’re about to feast. The turkey, the stuffing, the potatoes, the cranberry sauce, the pies. The last thing you need to worry about is a first course or multiple appetizers. And yet, sitting around waiting for hours while the turkey roasts, those buttery potatoes wait to be mashed and those sweet fruit-filled pies come out of the oven can make a person awfully hungry.

So a peace offering. The idea with these recipes is that they offer a light nibble or first course to satiate you while your house fills with those incredible scents. First up: a creamy, earthy roasted mushroom soup with no dairy. And, rather than serve a big, filling bowl of soup, why not think about tiny shot glasses to stave off hunger without filling you up? Or whirl up a super-simple smoked salmon and caper dip to serve while you’re finishing off the last of the cooking. Or a pumpkin-filled deviled egg that can be made completely ahead of time. All three recipes are light, flavorful and appetite-enhancing.

And what to drink with it all? A bonus recipe: an apple-ginger mocktail/cocktail garnished with frozen sugared grapes and thin apple slices.

And it wouldn’t be Thanksgiving without cranberry sauce. Every year I make my own cranberry sauce full of fresh ginger, pineapple and nuts. An annual tradition.

A few tips:

  • You’re about to eat a lot of food. So keep the nibbles light and healthy. Avoid cheese plates. Cheese is very rich and filling.
  • Think about spiced nuts or flavored olives.
  • How about a tray of fresh fennel wedges, carrots, celery, radishes and grapes served with a good coarse sea salt to dip into?

Roasted mushroom soup

The depth of flavor defies the effort it takes to make this simple vegan soup. Mushrooms are roasted with onions and a touch of fresh ginger and then simmered in vegetable stock. The whole mixture is pureed and that’s it. No dairy. No embellishments. It’s light, while still bursting with big fall flavors. A perfect start to your feast. Of course, you can choose to top the soup with a swirl of heavy cream or yogurt, or a sprinkle of chives or parsley. But you don’t need a thing. The soup can be made up to 3 days ahead of time, freeing you up on Thanksgiving day. Serve very small portions — a demi-tasse or small tea or coffee cup or even a shot glass.

Serves 4 to 6 small portions.


Ingredients for roasted mushroom soup. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)



  • 2 medium onions, or 1 large, chopped into ½-inch size pieces
  • 3 scallions, ends trimmed and chopped, into ½-inch size pieces
  • 2 tablespoons fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 pound shiitakes or your favorite mushrooms, coarsely chopped into 1-inch size pieces
  • 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4 cups vegetable stock

Optional garnishes:

  • ¼ pound mushrooms, think about using a different variety for contrast, stems trimmed and coarsely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives and or parsley
  • Greek-style yogurt or heavy cream, optional


  1. Make the soup: Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.
  2. In a medium roasting pan or baking sheet with sides, toss the onions, scallions, half the ginger, mushrooms, olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast on the middle shelf for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the stock and the remaining ginger in a medium pot over medium heat until simmering. Scrape everything from the roasting pan into the simmering stock and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes. Taste for seasoning. Puree the soup with an immersion blender or transfer to the bowl of a food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. Reheat and taste for seasoning.
  4. To make the mushroom garnish: Heat a medium skillet over high heat. Add the oil and then the mushrooms, salt, pepper and chives or parsley. Cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Top the hot soup with the cooked mushrooms and chives, or with cream or yogurt.

Smoked salmon and caper spread

Smoked salmon and caper spread. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Six ingredients plus a little black pepper in a food processor. Whirl. Whirl. Done. This is the kind of quick, easy snack that will get you through Thanksgiving day. Serve it on bagels for breakfast. Serve with crackers and raw vegetables for a snack while you’re cooking. Or serve it as a first course with crackers and warm slices of crusty bread alongside a holiday salad. The spread can be made several hours ahead of time; cover and refrigerate until ready to serve. Best served only slightly chilled.

You could also substitute smoked trout or any other smoked fish for the salmon. If you want to get fancy, top the spread with ½ cup red salmon caviar.

Serves 4 to 6.


  • 8 ounces smoked salmon, chopped
  • 1 cup cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 ½ tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 scallions, or 2 tablespoons chives, finely chopped
  • Grinding black pepper


  1. In the container of a food processor or blender, whirl together the salmon, cream cheese, capers, olive oil, lemon juice, half the scallions and grinding pepper. Taste for seasoning.
  2. Place in a serving bowl or ramekin and serve or cover and refrigerate up to 24 hours ahead of time. Remove from the refrigerator about 15 minutes before serving. Sprinkle with the remaining scallions and then surround with raw vegetables and/or crackers.

Pumpkin deviled eggs

Pumpkin deviled eggs. (Kathy Gunst/Here & Now)

Everyone loves deviled eggs, so why not put a seasonal spin on it? Here, eggs are boiled, the yolk is popped out and mashed with pumpkin puree, lemon, and mayonnaise, and then stuffed back into the egg white. A thin sliver of scallion on top mimics the shape of a pumpkin and a sprinkling of sweet (or smoky) paprika tops it off. The eggs can be made several hours ahead of time and no precious oven space is needed. The recipe can easily be doubled or tripled depending on the size of your Thanksgiving.

Serves 2 to 4.


  • 4 medium-large eggs
  • 3 tablespoons pumpkin puree, canned or homemade
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 ½ teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
  • Sprinkle of sweet or smoky paprika
  • 1 scallion green, cut into very thin ¼-inch slivers


  1. Place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Once the water is boiling, turn the heat off and keep the pot on the burner for 11 to 12 minutes, depending on the size of the eggs.
  2. Drain the hot water off and cover with cold water. Drain the cold water off and, with the eggs in the empty pot, roll the eggs around from side to side to gently crack the shells. Peel off the shells and refrigerate for at least 10 minutes to cool.
  3. Cut the eggs lengthwise and pop out the yolks; place the yolks in a medium bowl. Mash the yolks with the pumpkin puree, mayonnaise, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Spoon the mixture back into the hollowed egg whites, doming them up at the top. Sprinkle lightly with the paprika and add a sliver of the scallion green just on top of the filling to mimic the stem of a pumpkin.

A Thanksgiving apple-ginger mocktail/cocktail

Imagine the flavors of apple pie with a few other surprises in a glass. This apple-ginger drink is super easy to throw together — the only thing you need to do to pull this mocktail/cocktail together is freeze some red and/or green grapes for at least 1 hour. The rest of the drinks come together in about 5 minutes. The drink can be served as is or you can add a jigger (1 ½ ounces) of rum, dark rum, or bourbon.

This makes 1 large drink and can be doubled, tripled, etc.

Serves 1.


  • 4 red or green grapes
  • About 2 tablespoons sugar
  • ⅔ cup apple cider
  • ⅓ cup ginger beer
  • 1 jigger ( 1 ½ ounces) rum or bourbon, optional
  • Dash ground cinnamon
  • 1 very thin slice apple, with skin (center cored removed)


  1. Place the grapes in a small bowl or on a plate and freeze for at least an hour. Place the sugar in a small bowl or plate and set aside.
  2. In a cocktail glass mix the cider and ginger beer. Add the rum or bourbon if using and gently stir the liquids together. Add ice cubes.
  3. Roll the frozen grapes in the sugar and then put them on top of the drink. Cut a small slit in the apple and place it on the glass rim. Sprinkle it with just a tiny bit of cinnamon.

More recipes 

  • Click here for classic Thanksgiving cranberry sauce recipes
  • Click here for a blood orange and mint mocktail/cocktail
  • Click here for a recipe for Oysters Rockefeller
  • Click here for five onion dip and an onion tart
  • Click here for a recipe for squash galette
  • Click here and here for more turkey, stuffing and sides recipes

This article was originally published on WBUR.org.

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