I am hosting Thanksgiving for the first time and was wondering if you have a few winner sides in your books that I should explore? I am no Terry Walters, but I’ll be a wanna-be for the big event!”
This was an email in my inbox just this morning, from a cousin I adore! Caught up in the stress of my day, I nearly replied with a list of page numbers, but that just wasn’t enough. My first choice would have been to drive down and prepare dinner with her, but sadly, that’s not an option…at least this year. Having just finished teaching a jam-packed cooking class where the most talked-about topic was NOT the meal we were preparing, but rather what I’ll be preparing for Thanksgiving, I decided that a sneak peak at what I’ve got up my sleeve for the holiday was in order!
1. For starters, I’ve started. Yes, I spent last Sunday nursing two ginormous Dutch ovens full of Cranberry Chutney. Chutney isn’t difficult, but multiply the recipe by 4 and even I get tired of chopping. Nevertheless, that’s what I do, because once my girls eat my chutney at Thanksgiving, they crave it until spring. So, I make enough for Thanksgiving plus or minus two girls times five months. Plug your requirements into the equation to determine what YOUR family will want, and click here for the recipe (CLEAN FOOD, page 163).
2. I’ve started to prepare my stuffing. I start with an extra-sour sourdough bread made by one of my favorite bakers, Kathy Duffy of Sweet Sage Bakery. Kathy uses grains grown in Connecticut, milled in Rhode Island, her own incredible starter, and lots and lots of love. I’ve already cubed, toasted and frozen 4 loaves of her Rustica Bread, but I think I’ll need two more to serve the 22 guests I’m expecting. I use this recipe as my guide (click here for the recipe, CLEAN FOOD, page 269), but improvise as the spirt moves me with maitake mushrooms (as available), plenty of roasted chestnuts, herbs, spices and whatever seasonal and locally grown treats come my way. If I’m lucky, I’ll find a beautiful large Hubbard squash to partially roast, scoop out and use as a vessel to roast and serve my stuffing. This makes a very dramatic and delicious centerpiece for my table as well.
3. There will be more Brussels sprouts than any one group could possibly consume… just so that there is enough to snack on for days! THIS is the sole reason I bought my 15-inch cast iron skillet. Nothing caramelizes the thinly sliced sprouts quite like it! Add gobs of crushed hard-neck garlic, shiitake mushrooms, olive oil, salt, pepper and hot pepper flakes and that is my definition of heaven (at least until we get to the next item).
4. My daughter is responsible for the mashed potatoes, even though I roast the 6 heads of garlic she puts in them! Nobody goes home smelling like roses after our Thanksgiving! I’m afraid I am not at liberty to give away the rest of her secret formula.
5. There IS a turkey – straight from Vermont where it has been humanely raised and cared for by the family-run Stonewood Farms. I brine it, roast it and could die from the amazing aroma that fills my home Thanksgiving morning, even though it usually doesn’t make it to my plate. There’s only so much room on my plate and my real loves are all of the other side dishes!
6. And of course there is dessert… which perhaps should be it’s own separate blog. The only recipe I insist on making every year is my pumpkin pie, and I make many, as this is the perfect appetizer for my morning breakfast of leftover Brussels sprouts, stuffing and chutney! I let my guests fill in with their favorites, except for my dear friend Vicki who brings her famous chocolate pecan pie and carrot cake. If I didn’t ask her to bring them, both her family and mine would stage a revolt, I’m certain.
And so, my dear cousin, I will miss you this Thanksgiving, but here is your template for success! Wishing you a delicious and nourishing Thanksgiving celebration and may we all have much to be thankful for this holiday.
Eat clean live well!
It’s been almost a week since my visit to the James Beard House in NYC and I’m getting a little black and blue from pinching myself so much! There I was, setting up the trio of appetizers I brought with me and thinking of all of the great chefs who had done the same before me, and all who will surely come after. The fact that I am part of this mix still feels quite unreal. May this blog serve as lasting proof that it wasn’t just a dream!
My heart-felt thanks to The James Beard Foundation for inviting me to be part of their “Enlightened Eaters” guest speaker series. And to those who attended, who were part of the conversation and part of the change to a healthy, delicious and sustainable future, it is always an honor to share this journey.
Until next time…
Eat clean live well!
The Institute of Sustainable Nutrition (TIOSN) community comes together just one weekend a month for a jam-packed immersion into all topics related to sustainable nutrition – from anatomy and physiology to kitchen medicine, cooking, gardening and foraging. As we move from classroom to kitchen to garden to woods, I am continually reminded of all of the medicine that nature provides, and that is exactly what I teach, but in a whole new way.
Gone are the recipes and the measuring cups! Instead, we work with what nature provides – the best selection of locally grown produce and foraged super-foods combined with a healthy serving of creativity, teamwork, experimentation and intention. The results? Some surprises, delicious creations and plenty of nourishment.
The focus of October’s sessions were the immune system and adrenal function. To that end, we headed to the kitchen to make our own Fire Cider and ferment our own sauerkraut. (Did you know that one serving of fermented vegetables is equal to an entire bottle of probiotics?!)
Next, we broke into teams to work with a bounty of beautiful produce, as well as one incredible foraged maitake mushroom! The rules were to use what we had to make a casserole and no two casseroles could be the same. The process inspired even more variations than we could make in one sitting, not to mention taste combinations, textures and lots of ideas for future dishes.
From the kitchen we moved on to garden math (my head is still spinning). Do you know exactly how much of each trace mineral your garden requires or the best way to provide it? And finally, out to the garden for soil sampling and garlic planting.
My kitchen workshop is just one piece of the weekend, but it’s next to impossible to pull myself away from the other information being taught and shared. Whether I am in front of the class teaching or sitting among the students learning, it is a thrill to be part of this incredible new school.
Each weekend as I drive away from this farm that seems more beautiful with each change of season I wonder… what will next month bring?
Eat clean live well!