Taking Time to be Grateful

11/8/2016

As a child I don't remember Thanksgiving being a holiday to get breathless over. It was, more or less, a pit stop between Halloween and Chrismakkuh - the real holidays to get excited about. It seems that over the years, as America has re-learned to appreciate real food and those who grow it, Thanksgiving has moved from the marshmallow-covered fringes and surpassed our other Fall and Winter celebrations as the holiday we get the most worked up about. 

For a few short weeks, starting November 1, conversation turns to what we will cook for the Thanksgiving meal - the family recipe learned at your grandmothers elbow, and the 'new' take on a sweet potato casserole that you hope will garner raves - and not scorn - from your great uncle Rodney. To brine or not to brine is a perennial question! (Personally, I am a dry brine fan). And yet, with all this breathless cooking talk, many people end up using the same mediocre ingredients our parents did. French fried onions from a vacuum sealed tube, factory farmed turkeys pumped full water and antibiotics, and flavorless veggies grown to endure long travel from field to shelf. They look good but taste like nothing.

Most families I know take at least a few moments to go around the table and have everyone share one thing they are grateful for - a promotion at work, a rekindled friendship, recovery from an illness, but we forget to be grateful for what we are sharing at that table. If the fourth Thursday in November is reserved for giving thanks and bringing out our inner Barefoot Contessas, let's do a better job of combining the two. This year let's take time to be grateful for the food that nourishes us and for the farmers that grow it - especially those that do the extra work to care for the earth our food comes from and preserve heirloom varieties that pack in flavor and nutrients. Let's take time to be grateful for a community that supports this kind of growing and eating, and for the market that brings this bounty to our city.

Green City Market and its vendors provide an alternative to the corporate food that hurts us, our farmers and our earth. This year, as you plan your thanksgiving menu, make a meal worthy of all that hype. Pick up cranberries from Ellis Family Farms and make a sauce that'll make your grandma proud. You can even chill it in a can and slice it into rounds for that authentic look. Get sweet potatoes from Green Acres Farm and Leaning Shed Farm, maple syrup from Burton's Maplewood and butter from Nordic Creamery and make a casserole that'll knock uncle Rodney's socks off. Get your turkey from Meadow Haven Farm or Mint Creek Farm and be reminded of what turkey is supposed to taste like. (Hint: turkey doesn't have to taste like nothing.) Feed your family real food and feel good about supporting local family farmers right here in our corner of the Midwest. This year, when you go around the table and share what you're thankful for - don't forget to mention the farmers who made the day possible. Oh and don't be surprised when someone gives thanks for your cooking, too. Uncle Rodney can be sweet when he's full.
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For those interested in trying something new, here is a recipe that takes advantage of three market staples you can find at Green City this time of year - sweet potatoes, maple syrup and butter. The quality of the ingredients makes all the difference. 
Old-Fashioned Maple Sweets
recipe from 'In Winter's Kitchen' by Beth Dooley 
  • 3 pounds sweet potatoes, about 6-8 medium spuds (pick different colors to add visual appeal to the finished dish)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • pinch nutmeg
  • pinch chili powder 
  • splash bourbon
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Poke the sweet potatoes with a fork and roast until the skins are loose and the potatoes fork tender. Remove and cool. Lower oven to 300 degrees.
  3. In a small saucepan, combine the butter and maple syrup until butter melts. Stir in cinnamon, nutmeg and chili powder. Add whiskey, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer for 1-2 minutes.
  4. Lightly butter a medium baking dish. Once they have cooled, peel the sweet potatoes and slice them into 1/2 inch thick rounds. Place a single layer of potato rounds into your baking dish and brush with maple syrup mix. Continue to layer potato rounds and brush until dish is full. Pour any remaining maple mix over potatoes.
  5. Bake until potatoes are glossy and heated through - around 20 minutes. 
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Inspired? Do your Thanksgiving shopping at Green City Market! You can get everything you need for your big feast Saturday, November 19th or Wednesday, November 23rd from 8:00 AM to 1:00 PM at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. 
By Jamie Citron, Junior Board Member 

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