From the Farmers Market: Farm Fresh Thanksgiving

My childhood Thanksgiving table was colorful, but not with cornucopias and table decorations. The vibrancy instead came from gloriously prepared vegetables. Honey glazed carrots, sautéed Brussels sprouts with diced pancetta, slow cooked cranberry sauce, creamed spinach, cauliflower smothered in a sinful cheese sauce and double stuffed potatoes accompanied the turkey while livening up our tablescapes.

Thanksgiving may not be Thanksgiving without a sweet potato casserole or mashed potatoes. But whatever your tradition may be, boost the flavor by incorporating farm fresh fruits and vegetables. Whether you sauté or roast, mash or whip, the farmers’ market beckons with an endless fall harvest waiting to be served as hearty, flavorful sides at your Thanksgiving table.

Instead of using canned yams for your sweet potato casserole, bake some fresh. Call them what you like, sweet potatoes have been a staple ingredient in America since pre-Columbian times.  Savory or sweet, whipped or baked, they are a fixture on the Thanksgiving table. The traditional super sweet potato casserole made with brown sugar, evaporated milk, pecans or marshmallows freezes like a charm. But for something a bit different, how about a savory sage and Romano cheese sweet potato side dish? Or concoct your own using your own blend of spices.

Aside from my childhood favorites, here’s some ways to use Farm Fresh finds for the Thanksgiving holiday:

  • Roast – Make a Rainbow of Roasted Root Vegetables – Carrots, Parsnips, Potatoes and Sweet Potatoes – keep an eye out for various colors
  • Sauté – Zucchini, yellow squash, cauliflower all sauté beautifully. Veggies can be sliced and cut ahead of time with a simple and efficient sauté just before dinner.
  • Mash or Whip – Think beyond mashed potatoes, even though it’s hard to find a side that beats them. Whipped parsnips or carrots combined with a subtle herb flavor and butter make a tasty side. Plus, both can be ahead of time (and even frozen) with a simple reheat in the microwave.
  • Steam – Broccoli, carrots and cauliflower steam magically. Create a medley of farm fresh vegetables.
  • Seasonal Soup – Create a Harvest Vegetable Soup to serve as a first course using various varieties of squash, pumpkin, carrots, apples, onions, sweet potatoes and potatoes. Simply sauté the vegetables in a bit of olive oil, cover in stock, add some herbs (thyme is my favorite), bring to boil and simmer until the veggies are soft enough to puree.
  • Dessert – The first thing that comes to mind in this department is pie – my personal farm fresh favorites – apple and pumpkin pie. With an abundance of apples and pumpkins at the markets, making a fresh and tasty pie has never been as tempting.

Savory Sweet Potato Casserole
Fills 1 medium sized gratin dish or two small ones

1 onion, diced
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoons olive oil
4 large sweet potatoes
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon ground thyme
1/3 cup Romano cheese, plus a bit more to sprinkle on top
1 teaspoon salt
Pepper to taste

Pre-heat the oven to 400 degrees. Wash and scrub 4 large sweet potatoes. Bake for an hour or so and remove the potatoes from the oven to cool. In a small skillet, sauté the onions and garlic for several minutes and set aside. Scoop out the flesh from the sweet potatoes and place with the onions and garlic in a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process for several minutes until the sweet potatoes are pureed. In another bowl, whisk the eggs and gradually add the sweet potatoes, butter, thyme, cheese and salt and pepper. Transfer mixture to buttered ramekins or small baking dish. Bake or freeze. If baking, cook in an oven pre-heated to 350 degrees for approximately 40 minutes. If freezing, place freezer safe dish uncovered in the freezer until frozen and then wrap well in aluminum foil until ready to bake.
Savory Garlic Double Stuffed Potatoes
Makes 12

These double stuffed potatoes are sinfully good and are a favorite in my house.

Double Stuffed Potatoes
6 Large Russet Baking Potatoes
3 tbsp. of butter
1/8 cup(s) of milk
1/2 tsp. of salt
1 pinch of pepper
1/4 cup(s) of Monterey jack cheese
4 tbsp. of freshly snipped chives
6 ounce(s) of Philadelphia Savory Garlic Cooking Cream

Wash and dry potatoes. Bake them in the oven at 400 degrees for 45 minutes until crispy on the outside and soft on the inside.

Cut the potatoes in half (carefully since they will be hot!). Scoop the flesh into a medium sized bowl.

Add the butter, milk, salt and pepper and mash with a masher.

Add the cooking cream and mix together with a few swift strokes. Add 2 tablespoons of the chives.

Fill the potato skins with the mixture and sprinkle with shredded Monterey jack or cheddar cheese. Add some chopped chives on top.

Bake for ten minutes (or place under the broiler) until the cheese has melted. Serve and enjoy!

NOTES: If you like bacon, crumble some cooked bacon pieces on top.

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