8 Thanksgiving Dinner Game Changers You'll Definitely Be Thankful For This Year

Having the ultimate Thanksgiving Dinner brings out the best — and worst — in all of us. Never in the last 365 days have we eaten this much, tested our stomach capacity so strongly, been in such close proximity to both a couch and a bathroom and not known which was more important to us at that very moment. But year after year, Thanksgiving works us over, and we're left moaning in her dangerously satisfying wake.

But before we can even get to the meal this year, there's the menu to consider. Before dinner ever has the chance to destroy us, we have the chance to put together the most satisfying display of culinary expertise we know how. And when you're putting together a menu, you can play it one of two ways: You can play it safe, or you can live life on the edge.

The answer's obvious. Every 365 days, you get the chance to leave that little box you call home with its basic sweet potatoes, your basic pies, your basic-filled cheese platers. So this year, take it.

And in case you need a little somethin-somethin to push you up over the edge, we put together a little game-changer menu of our own. (You're welcome.)

Image: How Sweet It Is

Savory Parmesan Bread Pudding with Bacon and Kale

If you were the type of person who lived in a world where bread pudding was strictly a dessert food, we’d like to apologize to you. And offer this heavenly recipe from The Little Epicurean as penance for your struggles.

Image: The Little Epicurean

Mushrooms Stuffed with Bacon, Blue Cheese, and Dried Cherry

Some people serve button mushrooms, sautéed with a little garlic and salt and pepper. Those people like to live life in the driving lane. Then, there are others, like A Farm Girl Dabbles, who prefer to speed on, leaving those those lame-os in the dust. Which kind of person do you want to be?

Image: A Farm Girl Dabbles

Cornbread and Sausage Stuffing

At certain Thanksgiving tables, serving Stouffer’s stuffing is enough to leave hungry mouths satisfied. But who was ever okay living the status quo? For an upgrade your guests — and your bellies — will thank you for, try this shameless little number courtesy of Baked By Rachel.

Image: Baked By Rachel

Mini Bourbon Chocolate Pecan Pies

Dessert is important, no one is denying that. But pies? So blasé. What you need to really revamp this meal is to think smaller — much smaller. These mini bourbon pies from Crepes of Wrath were made for snacking, so don’t feel limited to just one.

Image: The Crepes of Wrath

Apple Bacon Stuffed Sweet Potatoes

You can serve plain ole’ sweet potatoes, or you can throw your guests on the ride of a lifetime with a little apple, a little bacon, and a hell of a lot of flavor. (You can thank How Sweet It Is!)

Image: How Sweet It Is

Pomegranate Blueberry and Goat Cheese Crostini

Let me first say that there is nothing wrong with serving regular cheese as an appetizer. All cheese is beautiful. It all deserves our praise. But, there’s also nothing wrong with getting a little funky with your compotes. Jelly Toast can help you.

Image: Jelly Toast

Grilled Pumpkin, Red Onion, and Feta Salad with Tahini Dressing

We live in a world where you have two options: Be the kind of person who throws together a last-minute salad with all the basics and keep hungry mouths happy, or be the type of person that has dinner guests bowing at their feet with this Sugar et al. winner. We’ll let the pumpkin and feta choose for you.

Image: Sugar et al.

Honey Whole Wheat Pumpkin Bread

While the rest of the world is running amok for prepackaged, bake-ahead bread to pop in the oven 15 minutes before guests arrive without ever paying it a second thought, you’ll be buttering, jamming, and double-dipping this delectable confection from Cookie + Kate into your leftovers again and again, and again.

Image: Cookie + Kate