Thanksgiving Inspiration ~ Beth Knorr, Farmers’ Market Manager and Darlene Kelbach, Market Assistant

~ erin molnar, assistant markets manager

The big day is almost here! In case you need a little more inspiration before you finalize your menu, we have TWO today.

I ask Beth a lot of cooking questions year-round. She has a great repertoire of reliable recipes. She also loves to experiment, so she usually offers up the go-to standard and then a couple of less traditional options. Her T-Day menu is a perfect representation of that. Read on!

I love thanksgiving.  Mostly because it gives me a great excuse to spend so much time in the kitchen.  And, everything except for the cranberries can be sourced locally (and of course conveniently) at the Countryside Farmers’ Markets.

Turkey & Gravy. I have most frequently used the Cook’s Illustrated Recipe here.  Flipping the bird, however, is a messy affair, though it does add some excitement to the day.

I’ve also made a deconstructed turkey.  While you don’t get the traditional presentation, you do get tasty turkey! When I used this recipe, I roasted it over the root veggies, but saved those for a dinner later that weekend instead of adding them to the Thanksgiving menu.  We like our other dishes too much to replace them with the roasted veggies, and they helped to keep the leftovers feeling fresh.

For the gravy, I like to make a stock from the neck and other bits the day before Thanksgiving specifically for the gravy.  And, I like to add a little apple cider and white wine to it, too.

Stuffing. It says it serves 12.  More like 24.  Unless that’s all you’re eating.  I bake it in a separate pan- I’m not crazy about stuffing cooked inside the turkey.  One of the best parts about this is that I freeze half and turn it into a savory strata for Christmas morning breakfast. I whisk some eggs and whole milk and pour it over the strata on Christmas eve, and pop it in the oven in the morning to eat after the gift-giving frenzy has ended.

Mashed potatoes. I use Yukon Golds when I can, but whatever is available works equally well.  (Except fingerlings.  They don’t work very well for mashed potatoes.) I actually like to add a bit of buttermilk to my mashed potatoes.  I love the zip it adds.

Bourbon candied yams.  This is a recipe from Heather Haviland that I received at a Les Dames d’Escoffier event several years ago, but have included in our meal every year since!  Much better than the dish with marshmallows, in my humble opinion.  Delicious!

  • 3 pounds large sweet potatoes, peeled and halved crosswise
  • 1 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 stick unsalted butter
  • ¼ cup water
  • ¼ tsp salt
  • ¼ to ⅓ cup bourbon

Preheat oven to 375

Cut each potato half lengthwise into fourths.  Steam potatoes until just tender (about 10-15 minutes) then cool, uncovered.  Transfer to a buttered 3 quart shallow baking dish.

Simmer brown sugar, butter, water and salt, stirring occasionally, until sugar is dissolved and syrup is thickened, roughly 5 minutes.  Stir in bourbon to taste.  Drizzle syrup over potatoes and bake in middle of the oven, basting occasionally, until syrup is thick and bubbling, about 1 ¼ hours.

Sweet potatoes can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, covered.  Reheat before serving.

Brussels Sprouts with Dried Cranberries and Bacon. My family used to be Brussels sprouts haters, until we added a little bacon to the mix. Now we can’t get enough! We still don’t care for raisins, though, so I use dried cranberries instead.  

Cranberry sauce.  My preference for this dish is for it to be super simple.  I love cranberries with orange, so that’s about as exotic as I make it.  Cranberries, sugar, just a smidge of orange juice so they don’t scorch or stick, and a little orange zest.  Simmer until they pop and start to thicken a little.

Pie.  We all love pie, but we don’t have a set pie we have to have each year (though my husband does like the traditional pumpkin pie.)  I’m not a fan of pumpkin or apple pies so I like to play around a bit more.  Pear tarts or even a cranberry apple to liven it up a bit are what I really like. There are a few floating around on Pinterest right now that are piquing my interest, so whatever it turns out to be, there will definitely be pie.

Beth also made a Thanksgiving Pinterest board. Check it out!

Darlene is an excellent vegetarian/vegan cook and her menu shows that if you are going turkey-less this year, you need not go hungry!

Growing up, Thanksgiving was a big holiday that both sides of my family celebrated.  Aunts, uncles, and cousins as well as grandparents gathered – usually at the Grandmas’ houses.  At Grandma Tvorik’s house, the food was reflective of our Hungarian heritage.  At Grandma Lakins’ house, the menu was more traditional American.  Now, my mom has taken over hosting the Thanksgiving gathering.  The number of family members who partake has dwindled as people have passed on and others have moved away.  My food choices have also changed over the years.  I have been a vegetarian now for about 10 years and have explored being vegan and even raw throughout that time.  So, when I sit down to Thanksgiving dinner these days, I say, “pass the veggies please!”

To my surprise, although the turkey had always taken the limelight when I was young, there are actually an abundance of vegetarian options already available on the table.  I just had to look at the meal differently.  Focusing on the “side dishes,” I realized there was actually already plenty of delicious food to fill my belly!

I also realized that many of the traditional dishes could be easily converted to vegan or raw recipes.  I began to bring these as my offering to the dinner table as a way to provide myself with something delicious and nutritious to eat but also as a way of introducing my family to different and healthier food alternatives.

Below is a taste of what I expect to be eating this Thanksgiving – “Pass the veggies, please!”


Veggie Tray filled with julienned carrots and celery, cauliflower and broccoli florets, as well as cherry tomatoes.  Eat as-is or dip into hummus spread.

Olives & Pickles with the sweet and dill pickles being made by grandma, grandpa, sister or aunt!  I, myself, have yet to try my hand at canning.

Cheese & Crackers is dairy-full but a traditional family plate that meets vegetarian criteria.  If I am in vegan or raw mode, I will skip this plate but savor the memories of the cheese melting in my mouth…ahhh, fresh brie, my favorite!

Entrees:  (aka:  “side dishes”)

Mashed Potatoes made with Yukon gold potatoes (a must!), butter and milk. Whip these with the electric beater to get them super fluffy.  Don’t forget the cracked black pepper!  For vegan, I sub out the butter and milk and use Earth Balance (vegan buttery spread) and unsweetened almond milk instead.  Of course, no gravy.  Eat plain or top with other veggies such as brussel sprouts.

Steamed Brussels Sprouts – just eat um’ hot out of the pan!!  Or top um’ on the MP’s (mashed potatoes).

Roasted Acorn Squash served simply with butter (Earth Balance) or, if I take-it-up-a-notch, roasted with blueberries in the center and drizzled with maple syrup.

Baked Sweet Potatoes or Yams again, served simply with butter (Earth Balance).  If it’s a really big one, we share it with someone special!

Grandma Tvorik’s Hungarian Rice will be new on my Thankgiving menu this year although it is probably one of the dishes I most remember from my childhood.  Grandma has been gone for many years now and no one in the family has picked up making this dish since.  For me, “the vegetarian,” the turkey gizzards and livers were a turn-off.  However, as I look as the recipe, I see how I can easily convert it to be vegan as well as vegetarian.  So, get ready family – Grandma T’s Hungarian Rice is back!


Fresh Homemade Pumpkin Pie is now expected of me!  My 10 year old daughter is hooked and will accept no less.  She usually helps me make the pie.  Her preference is to use cream and to top it with Uncle Scotty’s fresh whipping cream!  On a vegan day, we will use almond milk instead of cream and make a nut crust.  Not sure which version we will make this year yet.  Either way, delish!

No-Bake Apple Pie (aka:  Raw Apple Pie) has made its debut at the family table filled with long-time apple pie lovers.  I have appreciated the open-mindedness of my family in trying this version of an old favorite.  Not quite the same as the texture is more of an applesauce and the crust is nut based.  Plus, it is cold.  Nonetheless it tastes great and to me, is a wonderful, healthy rendition!

It’s time to finalize those menus and make your shopping lists. We’ll see you at the market on Saturday, won’t we?


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