Putting The Harvest Back In The Harvest Festival

Thanksgiving is my favorite of the celebratory checkpoints in the Fall-to-Winter Holiday Season. Putting aside the historical – ahem – issues regarding the origin story of Thanksgiving, I can really get behind a good celebration of the harvest and a day dedicated to gluttony and loosening one’s pants.
This year’s Thanksgiving was a bit different because we celebrated on Saturday instead of Thursday to accomodate my brother-in-law’s work schedule. I felt a little sad on Thursday as I ate my fish and rice and watched an unending sea of Facebook status posts describing various feasts being prepared and enjoyed around the country. I felt like I was left out, like I was the last kid picked for dodgeball.
There were some advantages to the late start Thanksgiving: because Homebrew Husband was given Thursday and Friday off from work, the harvest and meal prep was incredibly relaxed. And by the time Saturday Turkey rolled around it felt more like a relaxed family dinner party than a big special once-a-year to-do.
Here’s what we harvested and ate. All items marked with an asterisk (*) were garden grown.
From My Kitchen:
Organic Heritage Breed Turkey & Free Range Broad Breasted White Turkey (it was a turkey taste test show down with a clear winner!)
Mashed Russet Potatoes with Herb Gravy*
Creamed Kavalo Nero Kale with Nutmeg*
Roasted Delicata Squash with Thyme and Brown Sugar*
Brussels Sprouts Seared with Bacon, Mustard and Bourbon* (my genius sister came up with this flavor combo and it’s perfect.)
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips*
Roasted Gold and Red Beets with Creamy American Blue Cheese and Almonds*
Homemade Whey No Knead Bread
Additional Contributions From Family:
Dad’s Sage, Apple & Sausage Dressing
Mom’s Cranberry Walnut Jell-O
Mom’s Cranberry-Orange Compote (Barefoot Contessa’s recipe – excellent!)
Sister’s Cranberry-Cherry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding
Sister’s Small Sugar Pumpkin Pie

A delicious time was had by all.

During dinner my mom made the comment that her traditional Thanksgiving feast growing up incorporated fewer vegetable dishes. I think she said they had mashed potatoes (which is a starch, not a vegetable, as far as I’m concerned) and a green bean casserole. Cream of Something Soup was almost certainly involved in that casserole. I may have shuddered.
To me the vegetable sides are the best part of Thanksgiving. Don’t get me wrong, I love a big plate of mashed potatoes or a slice of pumpkin pie as much as anyone, but the dishes I couldn’t stop eating were the brussels sprouts, the beets and the kale. All knocked my socks off.
This may be because I just love vegetables, but I like to think garden perfect freshness, simple preparation and an appreciation for what went into getting those vegetables to the table contributed to the deliciousness. As I said to my sister, six months went into those Brussels Sprouts that were gobbled up in about 15 minutes. But it was worth it. Being thankful is what a harvest festival is all about, after all.
Let me know if you want recipes for anything and I’ll type up the details. What were your biggest hits this Thanksgiving, and what came straight from your garden?


  1. says

    Brussel sprouts and beets recipes, please! Though the latter may just be: roast beets and toss with other ingredients.

    Oh, I've been using your basic slaw dressing on my kale salads and it's a definite hit. Thanks!

  2. says

    I am so jealous of your Brussels sprouts. I tried growing them this year, but got lots of aphids, and no sprouts. I may have planted them too early, they all bolted. I'm thinking of trying delicata squash next year in my garden. Yours look yummy!

  3. says

    Amy – yup, you got it. Hit the beets with a splash of apple cider or red wine vin when they are peeled but still warm. I used Marcona almonds and tossed the salad with evoo and s&p. My beets were cold for service but room temp or slightly warm so the cheese gets a bit melty is good too. :) Glad you like the dressing! So easy, huh?

  4. says

    Alison – in our area I start the sprouts in June to set out in August. Thanksgiving is generally my first big harvest, but I'll continue to harvest thru winter. If I wanted earlier fall crops I'd start even earlier. Technically I'm sure different varieties should get me varying harvest dates but all sprouts, even the "quick maturing" ones seem to take roughly forever to size up. I've had very bad aphid problems on sprouts too. Some years are just worse than others. I think a nasturtium catch crop and planting cavalo nero (which the wooley aphids seem to prefer) helps to draw them away from the sprouts, but that's just a feeling. Good luck!

  5. Saskia says

    Erica, that all looks amazing!! I had major aphid issues with my sprouts, too. Next time I'll try your nasturtium suggestion. I didn't plant any this summer, but did plant beets for the first time. I have tons of kale growing, too, so I'd love to know how to make the creamed kale.

  6. says

    We did our Thanksgiving the weekend before the actual day so I hear you on feeling a little left out on the actual day. To make up for it, I made an Irish feast that day. LOL

    We didn't have much from our own garden for the Thanksgiving dinner but several things from the organic garden stand where I volunteer and the local Farmers Market. My menu:

    - Wild Mushroom Grain "Roast" (in place of turkey)
    - Mashed Yukon Gold potatoes*
    - Turkeyless Gravy (stock included local onion*)
    - Thanksgiving Seasoned Cornbread (contained local onion*)
    - Steamed Broccoli*
    - Baked Sweet Potatoes*
    - Storebought pumpkin pie (because the unfamiliar winter squash* I cooked up the day before was hands down the worst squash variety I've ever encountered and I didn't have time/energy to cook another one to make the pie from scratch)

  7. says

    Wow – what a feast! Looks and sounds (reads lol) just scrumptious. Plus I learned even more from the comments here – now I've got tips for the garden without even trying.

    Annnnd now I'm hungry. ;-)

  8. says

    My Thanksgiving is pretty much the same as the one I grew up with. Liked it then, like it now, and the children all grown still want the same dishes when they come home. We have a number of vegetarians, and a vegan and some very minimal meat eaters amongst the bunch so almost all dishes were made vegan edible. All homemade, home canned etc. I constantly attempt to write recipes down but hard, I tell them you just have to learn them from me as my mother did from her mother. Though I keep trying, even if not perfect, better than not at all.

    key as follows…
    v = vegan
    * = ingredients from my garden
    L = local vendors/ farmer's market

    Turkey 12 lbs (L)
    Turkey gravy made from said turkey
    Brown rice-lentil-carrot loaf (v,*,L)
    Mushroom gravy (v)
    Mashed Wisconsin russet potatoes (L, v)
    Maple glazed Sweet potatoes (v, L)
    Jello salad (or as my brother calls it that
    green jello thing with stuff in it.
    We have had it every holiday in my
    memory. It goes back to my grand-
    Relish tray…carrots (*), celery, radish,
    cauliflower, broccoli, sugar peas.
    Pickles..sweet, dill, bread and butter
    Corn relish and pickled beets
    Green bean casserole (v, *) I make my own
    cream of mushroom soup for this with
    almond milk, flour, Earth Balance
    "butter", soy sauce and chopped mush-
    rooms. We make the equivalent of a
    triple batch of the standard recipe of
    this casserole.
    Rolls, yeast, overnight raise (v)
    Stuffing…my grandmother's recipe minus
    giblets…with onions, celery, apples
    and raisins and lots of savory spice.
    I made 5 bread pans of it and it was
    gone by Saturday. I was talked into
    making a new batch last night. (v,L,*)
    Cherry pie (from Door County cherries, the
    best.) (v, L)
    Maple pecan pie (L)
    Pumpkin pie (L, *)

    Maybe you could say it is short on vegetables but it is what people want and it is tradition.

  9. says

    I'm curious about the creamed kale. I have some mental block against cream and Cole crops. Every other food taboo I've busted has been a wonderful revelation, so I must get on this one post haste.

  10. Be Grim says

    Mmmmm..makes me want to do a Thanksgiving Feast #2! Me, too, I love all the veggie "sides"; so fun to have a special meal with so many components (our usual dinner fare is one-pot). My favorite T-day tradition is running out to the garden to snip fresh herbs for the stuffing. Usually it's cold and drizzly, so it's a big contrast to the warm, steamy kitchen.

  11. Kathy says

    I may be a bit late to this conversation, but I would LOVE recipes for the Creamed Kale and Brussel Sprouts. We are already planning for next Thanksgiving (yup, 2013) and your spread has provided much needed inspiration. We’ve even got 2 heritage breed turkeys in our freezer to experiment with.

  12. Genevieve says

    I’m new to your blog and LOVING it! Can you post the recipes for the herbed gravy and the Brussels sprouts and creamed kale please?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>