Preparing for Thanksgiving
Thanksgiving is almost here!
Last year, most did not gather with family or friends due to the pandemic.
While COVID still rages on — last week the Essex County Health Department reported 101 new cases in just four days — this year is a bit different. Maybe we’re just used to it, or maybe we feel safer because we’ve been vaccinated, but more of us are gathering — although, in many cases, those gatherings are smaller than in the past.
With grateful hearts, we give thanks for health, food and shelter, for family, friends and love. This is a day set aside to thank God for our many blessings — regardless of religious or cultural traditions.
Thanksgiving is also a harvest festival; many of the traditional sides, like winter squash, pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples and cranberries, are in season now. Buy them fresh and support our local farmers. They will have more flavor than their processed, frozen and canned versions.
Instead of green bean casserole, why not try some seasonal greens? Kale, collards, Swiss chard, Brussels sprouts and spinach are all available now from our farmers. And the sharp flavors contrast well with sweet potatoes and squash.
Prepare in advance and cook from scratch. What is “scratch”? Scratch is fresh, unprocessed veggies and fruit. It means baking your own delicious desserts instead of buying them factory-made.
Cooking this way takes time but saves money. Even if you’re not a trained chef, it is fairly easy to prepare many of the side dishes for your Thanksgiving table, like cranberry sauce, stuffing, squash and sweet potatoes.
Have friends or family members prepare some of the dishes, or make cooking a family activity — it’s a good way to spend time together.
After the feast, divvy up the leftovers — your guests will appreciate going home with goodies. Plan to use other leftovers in casseroles and sandwiches through the weekend. And freeze some for later in individual containers.
Make Black Friday a cooking and crafting day. Instead of going to the malls, continue the family fun by baking holiday cookies and other treats and making gifts; prepare cookie dough and freeze to bake later; make holiday decorations; assemble things like soup kits or bread kits to give as presents; and put up seasonal decorations.
Have fun preparing for the holiday!
Holiday Vegetable Casserole
This is a good dish to bring to your Thanksgiving gathering. You may want to double the recipe depending on the number of people at your holiday dinner.
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet potato or 2 cups cubed butternut squash
2 or 3 cups Brussels sprouts (about 1/2 pound) or coarsely cut broccoli florets
1 small red or yellow onion
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup vegetable or chicken broth, or apple cider
1/2 cup fresh minced parsley
1/3 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1/3 cup craisins (dried cranberries)
2 Tablespoons shredded sharp cheese
Oil or butter casserole dish with a lid. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Prepare vegetables. Cube sweet potatoes or squash. Wash and trim sprouts; cut in quarters. Peel and dice the onion. Mince the garlic.
Toss vegetables in olive oil to coat.
In small bowl, mix the spices; Toss to coat vegetables.
Place everything in casserole dish and add broth. Cover (us foil if your dish has no lid) and bake about 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and test for doneness.
Sprinkle with parsley, cranberries, nuts (if using) and cheese.
Return to oven and bake about 10 minutes longer, or until vegetables are done and cheese is melted.
Serves 4 or 5 (one-cup servings).
1 or 2 cups cooked sweet potatoes
1 or 2 cups cooked greens (like kale, chard or spinach)
1 or 2 Tablespoons shredded sharp cheese
1 apple, cored cubed and diced, optional
1 or 2 cups leftover turkey, cubed
1/2 cup cranberry sauce
1 cup gravy
1 or 2 cups leftover bread stuffing
Oil or butter casserole dish with a lid. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Place sweet potatoes (could be mashed or cubed) in bottom of casserole. Top with greens and sprinkle with cheese and chopped apple, if using.
Top with cubed or shredded turkey. Spread with cranberry sauce. Pour in gravy and top with stuffing. Drizzle with a little melted butter or olive oil.
Bake to heat through and brown the top, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Serves 2 – 4.
Author of the award-winning cookbook “Garden Gourmet: Fresh & Fabulous Meals from your Garden, CSA or Farmers’ Market,” Yvona Fast lives in Lake Clear and has two passions: cooking and writing. She can be found at www.yvonafast.com and reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Facebook at Words Are My World.