What will be on your Thanksgiving menu this year?
Of course, turkey is a staple in most homes and there are many favorite ways to prepare it – roasted, smoked and even deep fried. While the turkey can be an important part of Thanksgiving dinner, when it comes time to gather around the table, the sides often end up stealing the show!
It’s a given that some Thanksgiving sides will be on the table — it wouldn’t feel like Thanksgiving without them. They are tradition. They are our mainstays year after year (even though some of them may not be the most flavorful dishes in the world), and they are in our comfort zone. They are also “safe” for those preparing the dishes – we have prepared them so many times, it can be done with our eyes closed and we know from experience our family and friends will like them. Ever since I was a child, we have certainly had these traditional staples at our Thanksgiving meals – oyster dressing, egg noodles, and a smorgasbord of casseroles (broccoli cheese, hash brown and sweet potato)…just to name a few.
But, why do we have the same things over and over?
And why do we prepare these dishes the way we do...the same way, year after year? Why is it that sweet potatoes must be served with marshmallows and brown sugar? And why do green beans have to be served as a casserole using cream of mushroom soup and those store-bought crispy fried onions? Could it be our paradigms, or set of ideas, controlling our thinking? Or is it we just don't like change?
Check out this video from Zonya (with her entertaining perspective) on how we can shift our paradigms!
So, how could we apply this to Thanksgiving?
What if we prepared sides using only fresh, in-season ingredients? Unfortunately, these probably don’t show up as often as our "traditional" dishes at the Thanksgiving table. However, when they do, they tend to get the best reaction from family and friends, especially the ones simply prepared and full of flavor. Not only do they taste fantastic, but these dishes are typically much healthier too! It’s the perfect time of year to enjoy fresh in-season ingredients such as winter squash, apples, beets, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kale, parsnips, pears, pomegranates, sweet potatoes and many others. Using these ingredients, you can create some simple, flavor-popping dishes guaranteed to impress your guests!
Here are some side dishes using fresh, in-season ingredients that have been a hit at our Thanksgiving dinners:
- Roasted Grape, Goat Cheese, and Honey Sweet Potatoes - roasted grapes and sweet potatoes, along with toasted pecans, goat cheese, cinnamon, nutmeg and honey.
- Cranberry Sauce - no more jiggly gelatin cranberry sauce...you know, the one with the ridges from the can?! Try our homemade Orange Ginger Cranberry Sauce or Cranberry Pomegranate Relish, both will definitely impress your family and friends!
- Mashed Potato and Turnips - your guests will never know the great flavor in these creamy potatoes comes from the turnips and leeks.
- Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Pears and Pistachios - delicious and simple - the Brussels sprouts and pears are roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper, and then sprinkled with pistachios and drizzled with lemon juice.
- Wild Rice Stuffed Acorn Squash - flavor popping rice mixture is stuffed into acorn squash and roasted until tender. Our family loved this...and then my brother begged to take the leftovers home!
- Miso Maple Roasted Vegetables - miso and pure maple syrup add the ideal sweetness to roasted root vegetables such as parsnips, turnips, beets and sweet potatoes.
- Kale Waldorf Salad - instead of a mayo-based dressing, this creamy dressing is made from apple, walnuts, dried cranberries, dijon mustard and red wine vinegar. It goes great with the salad that includes kale, apple, celery and dried cranberries.
- Another crowd-pleaser idea is the Cabbage, Apple and Pear Salad. It is super-easy to make because your food processor does all the work! It’s an excellent way to use fresh, in-season produce and would be the perfect complement to your other dishes on Thanksgiving Day!
So, where is the best place to get these fresh ingredients?
Your local stores are probably the "go-to" for most people and can offer a good variety of in-season ingredients; however, don’t overlook the farmers’ market. We often only think of the farmers’ market in the summer…you know, tomatoes, zucchini, cucumbers, radishes, okra and all of the summer produce. But there are some incredible, locally-grown, in-season ingredients available right up through Thanksgiving...and even throughout the winter! Many of these markets provide access to recently-harvested produce as well as a variety of locally-produced breads, jams, eggs and meats. You may even be able to get your Thanksgiving turkey from one of the local farmers…and these are different from the industrially produced turkeys…which is a good thing!
It doesn’t have to stop with Thanksgiving!
There are some incredibly delicious and creative ways to enjoy Thanksgiving leftovers so you don’t have to hear the roars of “no more turkey sandwiches” from your family:
- Try the Turkey and Kale Soup, which simply includes leftover turkey, butternut squash, kale, yellow onion and red bell pepper, combined with broth and seasonings.
- Or, transform your leftovers into a variety of different ethnic cuisines. For a Korean spin, create a Turkey Banh Mi sandwich, using fresh, local ingredients for the toppings.
- For some Indian inspiration, whip up a flavorful Turkey and Spinach Curry — ready in less than 20 minutes!
- For some Spanish flair, try a Spanish Turkey Stew with tomatoes, golden raisins, onions and seasonings like chili powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and allspice, served along with brown rice or your favorite grain.
- Save that turkey broth and use it for the Turkey Pho...leftover broth and turkey transform into one incredible pho soup!
- The Turkey Bolognese is a great way to enjoy a flavorful pasta dish with simple ingredients like your favorite marinara sauce, carrots, onions and celery.
- Hawaiian BBQ Turkey Pizza - sweet and savory pizza will definitely add some creativity to your leftover turkey!
This Thanksgiving, embrace those traditional dishes, but try to introduce some new dishes using fresh, in-season (even local) ingredients!
You may even find yourself feeling less guilty when it comes time to indulge in your favorite dessert!