New Thanksgiving traditions

Try something new for Thanksgiving this year, like this delicious recipe for sweet potato cheesecake.

I've been preparing the same basic, traditional Thanksgiving menu for almost 35 years now. But in the past few years, our children have grown up, married and now have families of their own. Our tastes have changed, and our lives are more hectic. So what's a Diva to do?

I've decided to create a new family Thanksgiving tradition with a schedule and menu that fits our lifestyle ... and you can, too!

I'm starting to look at specific dates for holidays as suggestions, not the rule. It's unbelievable how that simple decision has freed me from stress and allowed me to relax and enjoy the holidays with the people that I love most.

First, we're no longer celebrating our family Thanksgiving on Thursday. It's too difficult and stressful to get our large, multigenerational family together at the same time on Thanksgiving Day.

In order to make everyone happy, some family members were traveling from one city to another to eat multiple Thanksgiving dinners at various times. It's hard to be thankful if you're bloated and stressed out from fighting traffic all day. To resolve this problem, we'll have individual Thanksgiving dinners and then gather on another day for our family celebration.

Second, it's easier for our family to get together on Sunday afternoons, so that's the day we're celebrating Thanksgiving as a group from now on. We've also decided to celebrate my birthday and my mother's birthday on that Sunday, since they both fall a few days before Thanksgiving.

Third, we're trying a new menu this year. As we've gotten older, our health issues and dietary preferences range from gluten-free to diabetic to vegetarian.

So, move over green bean casserole with mushroom soup and canned fried onions! Goodbye sweet potatoes with toasted marshmallows! There's a new list of modern, flavorful dishes waiting in line to become the go-to side dishes for our non-Thanksgiving Thanksgiving!

And last, but not least, some Thanksgiving traditions will never change, no matter how untraditional our Thanksgiving holidays will be in years to come. We'll still stand in a family circle, join hands and thank the Lord for each other and all our blessings.

My daughter gives everyone a thank-you card with a handwritten note that I treasure each year. My oldest sister will bring the corn dish that everyone loves and that we only get during the holidays. And I'll make a diabetic-friendly, gluten-free sweet potato cheesecake that will become a new holiday tradition that we can all enjoy!

So, Happy Thanksgiving everyone, and try something new this year, like this delicious recipe for sweet potato cheesecake.

SPECIAL SWEET POTATO CHEESECAKE

This diabetic-friendly and gluten-free cheesecake recipe serves 12 and is a delicious new addition to our traditional Thanksgiving desserts. Best of all, you can make it up to three days before serving.

Nonstick cooking spray

3 (8 ounce) packages fat-free cream cheese, warmed in a microwave for 15 seconds

1/3 cup Splenda Brown Sugar Blend (or 5 tablespoons Splenda and 5 tablespoons packed, light brown sugar)

3 large eggs

1 (15 ounce) can sweet potato puree

1/2 cup low-fat maple or vanilla yogurt, plus 1/2 cup for garnish

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon imitation maple or rum flavoring

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1. Heat oven to 350 F. Coat the bottom and sides of a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray.

2. Using an electric mixer, beat cream cheese and Splenda Brown Sugar Blend or the Splenda and brown sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs one at a time. Blend in sweet potato puree, yogurt, cornstarch, cinnamon, ground ginger, maple or rum flavoring, and vanilla.

3. Pour filling into prepared pan. Bake until outer rim is puffy and center is slightly wobbly, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Remove from oven and run a butter knife around the inner edge but do not remove the pan side.

4. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes. Refrigerate warm cake, uncovered, until cold. Then cover with foil and refrigerate at least 4 hours (or up to 3 days). Remove 1 hour before serving.

5. When ready to serve, carefully remove side of pan. Cut into 12 wedges with wet knife wiped clean between cuts. Garnish with a dollop of yogurt, if desired.

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