Top 5 Thanksgiving Alternatives

Vegan Thanksgiving Alternatives

Thanksgiving is one of America's favorite holidays — right up there with the Fourth of July and Christmas — and it's by far one of the biggest collective feasts in the world. It combines the togetherness and tight-knit love of family and friends with the nap-inducing deliciousness of a fat turkey, mountains of mashed potatoes, bushels of corn, and overflowing cups of hot apple cider. And for those of us who are on special diets, Thanksgiving is either a cheat day or an uncomfortable run-in with foods you can no longer eat.

But what if it didn't have to be? Wouldn't it be wonderful if there were a Thanksgiving dinner that adhered to your dietary plan? Or one that was allergy-friendly? Wouldn't it be great if you could enjoy the food you love and stick to your typical diet at the same time?

Well. Yes. Yes, it would be.

For the Vegans

Vegan Thanksgiving Alternatives

When it comes to vegans — or "übervegetarians" — you have to think outside the breadbox when you're cooking for a feast. The vegan diet not only avoids meats, but also animal byproducts like milk, butter, and cheese. Vegan recipe options for those whose sympathies defy the links in nature's food chain include a wide range of soups, breads, casseroles, puddings, and even special stuffings that you can whip up quickly and without the use of any animal products whatsoever. They're tasty, they're fun, and they'll make you wonder why you ever ate cheese in the first place.

Additionally, vegan diets not only include some of the healthiest foods in the world, but they also exclude some of the unhealthiest. So you can serve up some tasty vegan-friendly foods and still give everyone the same packed stomachs that they love at Thanksgiving with more essential nutrients and fewer calories. It's pretty much a win-win — unless someone is really, really passionate about turkey.

For the Vegetarians

Vegetarian Thanksgiving Alternatives

Vegetarians also have lots of choices for their Thanksgiving dinners, including the whole vegan menu and then some. There are dozens of fun and innovative recipes made just for vegetarians, like dishes that go the extra mile and use foods for the bowls or plates on which the dish is served. It's a fresh and easy way to take non-poultry foods to a new level that veggie lovers and finger-food aficionados can both appreciate.

There's also the comforting idea that you save at least one turkey every time you make a vegetarian meal, leaving more of our awkward and gobbly feathered friends to frolic in their forests.

Or farms. Probably farms.

For the Gluten-Free

Thanksgiving Alternatives

Celiac disease has the potential to suck out a lot of the fun that comes along with Thanksgiving — beer, bread, and some butter contain gluten and can straight-up wreck someone's day. However, a gluten-free Thanksgiving is not only possible, but also delicious.

First of all, turkey is still on the menu (Victory #1). Second, most of the vegetarian and vegan options for Thanksgiving don't contain gluten either. So if you've prepared one of those meals, the chances are good that someone with gluten intolerance can eat it too (Victory #2). And as long as no gluten has been added to certain mixes or other additives, almost all potato and corn products are naturally gluten-free (Victory #3). You just have to make sure you read labels and do a little research before serving someone who has a gluten allergy. Depending on the severity of their allergy, the results of poor preparation could be devastating.

For the Paleos

Thanksgiving Alternatives

The Paleolithic diet — better known in some areas as the "caveman diet" —is based on the foods humans ate 10,000 years ago at the end of the Paleolithic era, which is also the last time that the survival of the human race depended on catching a gazelle with your bare hands. The result is a diet high in vitamins, potassium, fiber, and protein that shuns grains, beans, and dairy. The reason these foods aren't included in the diet is because humans in this era hadn't nailed down agriculture, so the essentials we take for granted, like wheat, legumes, and milk, weren't available.

For those of us who celebrate our inner caveman — whom we'll name Ug, for sake of gender-neutrality — Thanksgiving has lots of possibilities. Turkey is a natural favorite since it's meat, and it's pretty much open season on mushrooms, sweet potatoes, cranberries, and apples. However, traditional stuffing, breading, and most bean-based dishes will most be off the table since humans in the Paleolithic era — including Ug — only ate what they could find. So thankfully, it doesn't take much to make a Paleo-friendly menu since most of the main courses at Thanksgiving would've been around at the dawn of civilization.

Except butter, which is tragic.

For the Ketos

Thanksgiving Alternatives

The ketogenic diet revolves around eating lots of fats, average levels of proteins, and low carbs, but it's significantly different than Atkins-esque fads. The keto diet, like the gluten-free diet, is medically significant, particularly for children who have been diagnosed with refractory epilepsy, which causes unpredictable seizures. The idea behind eating keto is that the body transitions to using fats as its main source of energy instead of carbs, leading to a different "fuel source" for the brain that eventually reduces the frequency of epileptic seizures.

Fortunately, with high-fat and average-protein foods on practically every table on Thanksgiving, you can pretty much serve up the traditional foods that Americans have come to know and love. In fact, you can go a little overboard and try some bacon-centric or buttered-up dishes that otherwise may not have occurred to you.

Unfortunately, ketos can't eat starches (like mashed potatoes), so some of your dishes may have to go by the wayside. And by the nature of their high-fat diets, their choice in foods will naturally differ from others, like vegans. This can make a mixed Thanksgiving meal difficult to prepare — unless you're up for the challenge.

But it's possible that acceptable keto foods may change over time. This is one of the newest diets to catch the public's attention, and researchers are still working on clinical trials to determine what foods can cause what reactions. Once more data is available, the ketogenic diet has the potential to become even more medically and culturally significant — maybe even jumping to the forefront of the low-carb scene.

For the Chef

If you're new to some of these diets, it's easy to get lost in the different specifics of who can eat what and which foods can trigger what horrible reactions in which people. That's why we've created this handy infographic that can help you navigate the confusing and overlapping rules behind this season's most famous diets. Worry no more — you can serve exactly what your guests need to enjoy Thanksgiving without cheating on their diets.

Posted in: Features | By Christopher Zook

Blackout Wednesday: The Night Before Thanksgiving

Blackout Wednesday — the aptly-named night before Thanksgiving — is the biggest drinking day of the entire year. With office workers facing a day off and college students home for the holidays, the crowds that pack bars for the evening often stay full until last call, and even then bouncers have trouble getting them out the door. Preparation is key to keep up with the extreme demand that comes with this pseudo-holiday, and having the proper beverageware, information, and staff is essential to maximizing your profits.

Beverageware

Considering the mass amounts of people that will come to your business, using glassware for your drinks will probably not be a good decision. Glass can become slippery, drop, and break in large crowds, especially when the bar is backed up with customers asking for their next drink. Broken glass becomes an immediate liability that can lead to some pretty hefty consequences if it's not cleaned up. To make matters worse, your staff now has to fight through a crowd of intoxicated customers to remove the glass, and even then they may not be able to clean it all since glass shards can slide every which way.

Plastic Beverageware

To avoid this possibility all-together, one of the best solutions is to simply use plastic cups (or biodegradable plastic cups). They might look a little shabbier and feel a little cheaper than your typical glass, but at least they won't break when someone drops them. The worst that can happen with plastic is a wet floor, which you can quickly mark with the proper sign to reduce liability on your part.

Additionally, make sure you keep a supply of cola or soft drinks behind the bar. This is not only essential for your mixed drinks, but it's also a great way to help your customers come down from a buzz when they're ready to call it a night. Caffeine doesn't actually make someone sober — so they're still not good to drive — but it can at least wake someone up so that they can walk home or call a cab.

Speaking of which…

Information

Taxi Services

Posting the telephone numbers for taxi services around your bar is an excellent idea for drinking holidays. This not only serves as a way to curb the possibilities of drunk driving, but it also lets customers know that you care about them enough to offer them a way home when they need one. It's also a great way to strike up a deal with a local taxi service to advertise their phone number over competitors, which can lead to a healthy business-to-business relationship.

Additional information could include any services in your city or town that offer to safely escort people back to their homes to reduce the chances that they will be hurt or robbed as they travel. This practice has been adopted in several locations around the country, most famously at universities. Most often a safe walk service is incorporated into the local police department, but there are also police-affiliated volunteer services that hold the volunteer accountable for anyone that he or she walks home. If those services aren't available in your area, then you can be the first to bring up the subject with your local police. On such a busy night with so many intoxicated people, this service is invaluable to helping customers feel at ease as they head home.

Staff

Professional Bouncer

Scheduling every bartender, server, and runner you have on staff is a no-brainer when it comes to such a busy night. But it's also important to consider other staffing needs, such as bouncers. Bouncers are an effective way for you to make sure you keep the peace at your bar and also ID every person who walks through the door, preventing underage minors from entering your business.

Hiring a bouncer is fairly easy — especially with bouncer certification programs that vouch for properly-trained personnel. In some areas, these certifications are becoming more and more important as a way for business owners to make sure they're hiring a knowledgeable professional. And even if it's not a requirement by your local or state codes, it's still always good to know that you're hiring someone who has gone through a certification process to know that they can keep a level head in a bad situation.

The Worst

This isn't a pleasant topic, but it's critical to stock up on products that can help you neutralize the awkward or unpleasant situations that could arise throughout the night. Most notably, this includes products that you can use to quickly and easily clean up, including in your restrooms and in case someone vomits. These aren't the most fun purchases to make, but it's far better to have these products and not need them than it is to need these products and not have them. And with any heavy drinking holiday, the mantra for bars everywhere seems to be the same.

"Hope for the best, prepare for the worst."

Posted in: Features | By Christopher Zook

5 Foods We're Most Thankful to Eat this Thanksgiving

Here at WebstaurantStore, we like to eat. A lot. And then eat some more. It's no surprise that one of our favorite holidays is Thanksgiving since it's an entire day dedicated to feasting and relaxing with family and friends. Here are some of the dishes that we are most excited and thankful to eat this coming Thanksgiving...

1. Creamed Corn

creamed corn

This rich and creamy side dish is sure to be requested for special events year after year! Made from whole kernel corn, cream, milk, butter, and sugar, creamed corn is mixed together and baked in a casserole dish until golden brown. Want a crunchy topping? Sprinkle parmesan cheese and bread crumbs on top before placing in the oven. If you can’t find fresh corn in your grocery store this November, use canned or frozen as a substitute.

2. Sweet Potato Casserole

sweet potato casserole

Is it a side dish or is it dessert? This fluffy casserole is made from sweet potatoes, sugar, butter, eggs, vanilla, caramelized brown sugar, chopped pecans, and topped with miniature marshmallows that melt in the oven. Don’t worry about having to store leftovers because this dish is sure to be scraped clean with your guests begging for more!

3. Mashed Potatoes

mashed potatoes

Creamy and smooth, or smashed and chunky? No matter which way you make it, mashed potatoes are one of the Thanksgiving dishes people look forward to most. Whether they’re cheesy, garlicky, or buttery, we love them any way they're prepared! Try drizzling hot gravy over top or garnishing with chives.

4. Pumpkin Pie

pumpkin pie

Most commonly known as the quintessential Thanksgiving dessert, pumpkin pie is often a symbol of harvest time during the fall months. It’s no wonder why we’re counting down the days to eat this sweet dessert since it’s filled with rich ingredients like canned pumpkin, brown sugar, doughy pie crust, spices like cinnamon and nutmeg, and topped with fresh whipped cream.

5. Deep Fried Turkey

fried turkey

What’s more delicious than biting into a crispy, golden brown piece of tender and juicy turkey? One of the most popular ways to cook this popular Thanksgiving bird is to deep fry it since this method preserves the super moist center, while also adding flavor to the turkey’s crunchy skin.

Want to learn how to deep fry your Thanksgiving turkey? Check out this video!

Posted in: Holidays | By Molly

Preparing for a Health Inspector: Keeping Your Business Clean and Compliant in 2015

Believe it or not, health inspections are more than just random nuisances — they've actually been proven to improve sanitation. While an occasional infraction won't shut you down overnight or drive all of your customers away, a poor health grade has the potential to remain in customers' memories long after the issues have been solved, preventing them from coming to your business even after you've received your "A." Poor health inspections can also lead to other penalties based on your municipality and state, some of which are simply financial while others can actually result in full restaurant shut-downs. To avoid that — and to make sure your customers only get the cleanest, safest food possible from your kitchen — it's important to stay on top of your business and keep it as clean as possible.

Where to Start

In general, it's a good idea to keep a checklist on hand to look over when you get a chance, keeping up with items that you've identified as potential health hazards or ones that an inspector has noticed during a walk-through. One of the best ways to learn the safety and cleanliness requirements for restaurants is to check out ServSafe and go through their certification process. This process is designed specifically to teach people about the potential health and sanitation hazards that have the potential to become costly practices if restaurateurs choose to ignore them. ServSafe certification covers hand cleaning, food storage, and a range of other topics that are essential to a business's success.

mobile ordering

To take it a step further, you can also look up the requirements to becoming a certified foodservice professional (CFSP). through the North American Association of Food Equipment Manufacturers (NAFEM). The CFSP process is more rigorous, involved, and intense than ServSafe, though it includes a much more sweeping and detailed view of foodservice as a whole. One of the four tenants of CFSP is to "foster self-assessment," giving you the tools and knowledge you need to make informed and proper decisions for yourself, your staff, and your business.

If these options are for whatever reason not available for you, some insurance companies have preliminary checklists for new restaurateurs who haven't yet had their first inspection. In addition, you can try looking through some credible restaurant-based Internet resources that all have suggestions on how you can better prepare for health inspections or even respond to infractions.

Preparing for the Inspector

mobile ordering

Many of the violations that inspectors look for are fairly obvious — employees properly using gloves, clean food prep equipment, and properly stored perishables, just to name a few. And while it's obviously important to consider major points like those, it's equally important to go over your business with a keen eye and a fine-tooth comb to find possible hazards that aren't obvious. No matter how small they are — even collected dust on a vent over your dining area is considered hazardous — take some time to make sure everything you can see is cleaned to a shine. It takes time, effort, and money, but it's nothing compared to what it can cost you if a health inspector gives you a poor review.

Potential "little things" around your business can include:

  • Dusty fans
  • Fly strips over cooking equipment
  • Full bug traps
  • Uncalibrated thermometers
  • Empty hand soap dispensers
  • No test strips for determining cleaning solution concentration
  • Unwiped table

While this isn't an extensive list, it should hopefully help to get you rolling on different things you need to watch throughout the day. To make sure you can take care of all of this (and more) to stay health code compliant, it's critical to have a HACCP plan in place. Following this plan every day will help make sure you're ready for any surprise health inspection that could come your way.

During the Inspection

mobile ordering

When an inspector begins to walk through your business, it's generally a good idea for you to tag along with them. However, it's important to remember that excuses don't count for much of anything when an inspector is checking for hazards — they want the hazard removed as quickly as possible and as cleanly as possible. With that in mind, the primary purpose of a walk-along inspection is for you to address any concerns that the inspector may have as he or she looks around. For example, if the inspector points out that product is stored on the floor of your cooler, you can immediately pick it up. The inspector will still note the violation, but they will typically also note that you took care of the violation immediately and voluntarily. While that may not make the violation go away, it shows that you're at least dedicated to running a clean business and attentive to the inspector's criticism.

It may take some time (or maybe you're perfect), but a health inspector is there to make sure that your customers are safe from any foodborne illnesses, which means they're actually on your side during the whole process. And if you listen to what they have to say, not only will you ensure your customers are safe when they eat your most popular foods, but you'll automatically be prepared for the next health inspector.

Posted in: Features | By Christopher Zook
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