Or when it doesn’t give you cranberries, make apple salad for Thanksgiving.
We host Thanksgiving for family and friends here at Stonebridge. Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday because it’s all about the food, most of which we grow ourselves. This year, the potatoes, parsnips, leeks, carrots, winter squash, and pumpkin all came from our fields.
We don’t grow cranberries at Stonebridge, so every year my mom makes her cranberry sauce for our Thanksgiving dinner. Sadly, one of our aunts passed away in North Dakota days before Thanksgiving and my parents had to make the long trip back for her funeral. They would spend Thanksgiving with one of our cousins and head home the next day.
Rather than try to approximate my mom’s cranberry relish, I decided to use what we had in the cold room of the barn: organic apples from the fruit shares we offer through Ela Family Farms on Colorado’s Western slopes. Our last box included three kinds of apples in three colors—yellow Golden Delicious, green Granny Smith, and reddish-yellow Fuji—perfect for a beautiful apple salad with walnuts. I cored, chopped, and dipped the apples in lime juice to prevent browning, and tossed them with an olive oil/apple cider vinegar dressing and toasted walnuts. The salad wasn’t the same as my mom’s cranberry relish, but it was delicious and something fresh at the Thanksgiving meal is good to balance the other heavy foods.
[Did you know the USDA is considering allowing a genetically modified apple into our food stream? The reason for the genetic modification is to prevent browning, but if it’s allowed, you won’t know your apple is genetically modified since food manufacturers don’t need to label their products as such. Browning prevention is clearly aimed at mass food preparation– including restaurants, school cafeterias, manufactured apple products like applesauce and potentially even baby food–since it’s hardly a problem for home consumers. As with all GMO foods, we need to question whether the supposed benefit they offer is worth the health and environmental risks. You can learn more here—and tell the USDA by December 16 that the so-called Arctic Apple isn’t something you want to eat.]
Everyone at our table loves Thanksgiving stuffing, so it’s a mystery why we don’t make it at other times of the year. I use grated carrots and sliced leeks from the garden, along with chopped hazelnuts from Oregon, vegetable broth, and bread cubes for ours. This year, my sister volunteered to make gluten-free cornbread with corn kernels for our stuffing. What a difference homemade cornbread makes to the stuffing! She made it a few days ahead so that it could dry in cubes. (When you’re chopping vegetables for the stuffing, be sure to prepare some extra for a Stonebridge Post-Thanksgiving Shepherd’s Pie, recipe below).
With our brother-in-law’s pumpkin bread, my sister’s whipped yams, our friends’ roasted Parmesan parsnip fries, an all natural turkey from another’s friend’s store, Stonebridge mashed potatoes, vegetarian and turkey gravy, John’s wheat crescent rolls, spiced carnival squash (the recipe’s in my book, A Bushel’s Worth), pumpkin pie from our own Winter Luxury pumpkins, and another sister’s gingerbread cookies, we feasted in the Sunflower Community Room and toasted our dear Aunt Del Vera, a farm girl with city ways. Dark-haired with big brown eyes, she was a beauty who made every occasion of our childhood visits to North Dakota a special one.
Thanksgiving Day was warm enough for a walk around the farm between dinner and dessert, but a few days later, the arctic cold came down from North Dakota and settled in for a long stay. With the farmhouse warmed by our woodstove, we put our Thanksgiving leftovers to good use, especially in our vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie (recipe below). The below-zero temperatures stayed around for almost a week, making outdoor work less appealing and providing the perfect excuse for holiday gift crafting by the fire.
Now the weather’s warmed again and we can venture outside without wearing so many layers. Yesterday we found our Winterbor curly kale had held up well under row cover during the terrible cold. John and I are anticipating our solstice celebration next Saturday with good food and handmade gifts. Our town paraded last weekend as usual, a sign that flood recovery is underway. We hope that these busy holiday days regenerate all our spirits and bring solace for our losses with the help of community, family, and friends. Happy Solstice!
Stonebridge Post-Thanksgiving Vegetarian/Vegan Shepherd’s Pie
Preheat oven to 375. Oil one three-quart or two one-and-a-half quart casserole dishes (if you make two, you’ll have one to take to a friend’s).
2 cups thinly sliced leeks
1 cup coarsely grated carrots
½ cup chopped hazelnuts
2 cups chopped curly kale
1 32-oz box veggie broth
4 cups mashed potatoes
Parmesan or other cheese, optional
Saute leeks in a couple tablespoons of olive oil until golden. Add carrots and sauté one minute. Throw in hazelnuts and add curly kale. When the kale is softened, pour in 2/3 box veggie broth. Simmer for one minute. Moving the veggies to the edges of the pan, add 2 Tbl flour to thicken the broth.
Pour filling into prepared casserole dishes. Top with mashed potatoes (two cups each, if splitting into two dishes). Sprinkle with cheese, if using. Bake 30 minutes, until sauce is bubbling.
To reheat second casserole, bake 30 minutes at 375, until bubbling.