Late November often finds us slogging through cold, damp and dark days – hardly the kind of weather that says “bountiful vegetables.”
AND YET, thanks to our farmers, the onset of cold weather hasn’t dimmed the wide variety of fresh veggies available to us in central Illinois. You’ll find greens, lettuces, carrots, potatoes and tons of other root veggies, Brussels sprouts, squashes, fresh herbs – and every year, a couple of vendors work some kind of voodoo and bring along some tomatoes that were picked green and slowly ripened on a window sill or something (get there early for those. You’re already pining for fresh tomatoes, aren’t you? Me too).
Beyond fresh produce, you’ll always find plenty of eggs, meat (even turkeys!), cheeses, dried peppers, dried herbs, breads, cakes and pies.
Basically, the market has everything you need for a great Thanksgiving meal – all fresh, local, and grown just for you! The Thanksgiving Market’s Facebook event page has a list of this year’s vendors.
Plenty of must-make Thanksgiving dishes are really quite simple – mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, piles of veggies. But fresh, local veggies are going to elevate any dish you serve.
In the Legit Local spirit, Steph and I wanted to bring you some ideas for helping keep Thanksgiving simple so you can enjoy yourself and, of course, eat well.
Prep Ahead, Hands-Off Cooking
Also, if you’re making a traditional mashed potato, be sure to select a variety that is suited for that preparation. The most popular variety of mashing potato in the U.S. is the russet, but keep your eye out for types like Purple Viking. It’s purple on the outside but bright white inside, and it’s delicious. A strategy for freeing up stove and oven space is to cook stuffing in the slow cooker.
No Tofurky Needed
The farmers at the market will give you wonderful options for sides that double as hearty meals for meatless eaters. Martha has a bunch of creative dishes that are vegetarian- friendly – I’m really into this roasted squash with shallots, grapes and sage.
Simple veggie sides can round out your meal without being too terribly complicated. Roast some carrots with balsamic vinegar. Parmesan-roasted cauliflower will introduce some adventure onto the table but won’t scare the in-laws.
People swear up and down that they dislike Brussels sprouts – until they have them roasted with balsamic vinegar (I never bother with the pancetta/bacon and it’s still great) or tossed in a quick sauté with (I KID YOU NOT) chopped pistachios – I promise, this is another dish that I often I bring, people look at suspiciously, try it, and then devour.
Feeling Fancy? I am eyeing up this butternut squash and leek bread pudding because… bread pudding.
A Thanksgiving without sweet potatoes? In many households, that is unthinkable, so here are a few ideas:
Yes, Make the Salad!
I know what you’re saying: no one goes to Thanksgiving dinner to eat salad. Except me. (And I love ALL the Thanksgiving trimmings!) But most of the meal is typically so rich that I always crave something to balance it out – especially a fresh, raw salad. One that I’ve made and served for years is a roasted beet, orange, and arugula salad. And, yes – beets. Every year I bring or serve some version of this signature salad to dinner (because I’m selfish – I want to eat it!) and there are never, ever leftovers.
What’s more traditional for Thanksgiving than pumpkin pie? Here is how to instantly up your pie game: use fresh pumpkin. (Well, not instantly…it takes a bit more work, but it will be worth it.)
You’ll find local grains at the market, too – cornbread muffins, anyone? (I am thinking of leftover muffins with coffee on Friday morning, schmeared with jam.) Plenty of you out there make cornbread stuffing, too (there’s two links there – one for a “healthy” stuffing and the other…somewhat less so!).
Outside of the market itself, Common Ground Grocery and Green Top Grocery have what you need to complete meal prep, including additional groceries, spices, and local grains. Baking? Check out Decorator’s Grocery on Linden Street.
Buy some veggies for later…
OK…so here are some thoughts for the weekend AFTER Thanksgiving, when you’re going to be on a roll with great food, but maybe you need to counter the richness of that meal with a few days of simple and delicious options. How about:
Got leftover turkey? Pair it with some wonderful root veggies in this turkey soup with root vegetables.
Whatever your cooking plans, we at Legit Local wish you a very Happy Thanksgiving filled with local vegetables and other products from our local food producers. See you at the Market!