The Conscious Cook: A healthy helping of Thanksgiving
“For each new morning with its light
For rest and shelter of the night
For health and food, and love and friends,
For everything Thy goodness sends.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson
As a conscious cook, I love the traditions of Thanksgiving! Each year my menu consists of treasured recipes, as well as an updated twist or two. I count it as one of my particularly favorite meals to prepare and enjoy, and appreciate the reminder to consistently embrace an attitude of gratitude.
When I think of the Pilgrims gathering for their first feast of Thanksgiving, I try to imagine how deeply grateful they must have felt, for both the blessings of God, and the kindness and generosity of the local Native Americans.
The spirit of sharing the bounty and welcoming newcomers continues to be reflected each year as families across our nation gather at their own tables, or volunteer their time to serve others in churches and shelters.
A splendid Thanksgiving meal highlights the very best of seasonal ingredients, and just as the Pilgrims adapted to preparing what was readily available, today’s cooks should revel in the colorful collection of fruits and vegetables to choose from. I am also so grateful for our modern cooking techniques, tools and gadgets, that allow for creative culinary efforts. Imagine having nothing more than an open flame to work with!
That open flame of 1621 was a mighty blessing however, enabling the Pilgrims to cook wild turkey, geese, swans, and duck, as well as the deer given them by their Native American guests.
While the main event in this modern day may be a juicy roast turkey, the sides are just as tempting for me, including creamy mashed potatoes, crisp green beans embellished with dried cranberries and crunchy pecans, oven-roasted carrots spiced with cinnamon and sweetened with maple syrup, baby onions roasted until golden and caramelized and finished with a bit of butter and balsamic vinegar, and tender baby peas.
Brilliant red cranberries were most likely available to the Pilgrims, but their stores of sugar were sorely depleted, so they could not have transformed the bracingly tart berries into a succulent sauce. Their side dishes of squash, onions, and beans would have been stewed over hot coals, while the native corn would have been dried and ground into meal and then cooked into a cornmeal mush.
A well balanced, colorful Thanksgiving plate offers great nourishment. Cranberries may remove plaque from arteries and gums and may prevent certain infections. Onions offer potential antibacterial and anti-inflammatory protection. The vitamin C and vitamin A contained in the brilliant flesh of pumpkins and squash can possibly provide rejuvenation for skin and enhanced eye health.
Celebrate the great glory of Thanksgiving as you prepare your delicious life. God Bless you and yours.
Conscious Cook Cranberry Sauce
Makes about 2 cups.
2 Tablespoons finely minced ginger
1 teaspoon grapeseed oil
3 cups fresh cranberries, washed and dried
1 ½ cups apple cider
¼ cup freshly squeezed orange juice
2 Tablespoons grated orange zest
1 Tablespoon ground cinnamon
Heat grapeseed oil in a saucepan over medium low heat. Add ginger and sauté for 3-4 minutes. Do not let it burn. Add remaining ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Turn heat down to a simmer once boiling and cook until cranberries pop and the sauce begins to thicken. If you want a thicker consistency, continue cooking down until sauce reaches desired thickness.
Can be made a week ahead.
Leftover sauce can be combined with cream cheese for an excellent spread for bagels, toast or crackers.
Healthy Holiday Carrots
1 pound fresh carrots (washed, peeled and cut into uniform pieces)
2 Tablespoons grapeseed oil
3 Tablespoons real maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat oven to 400. Mix oil, maple syrup, cinnamon, thyme and a pinch of salt and pepper together in a mixing bowl. Toss carrots in the mixture, rolling with hands until well coated. Place carrots on a parchment lined baking sheet and roast in oven for about 20 minutes.