Four Thanksgiving Recipes Inspired by Local Michigan Produce

On a chilled November day, warmth and conversation will fill the room as family members converse over a delicious Thanksgiving feast that was prepared with love. Thanksgiving is a time to savor everything you have to be thankful for. There is no better way to celebrate life’s abundance than with a comforting home-cooked meal made with fresh ingredients that moved from the local farm to your table. Local Michigan produce is just one of many reasons to be thankful for the mitten state.

Delicious seasonal fruit and vegetables such as pumpkin, squash, apples, carrots, and sweet potatoes from local Michigan farms will make this year’s Thanksgiving dinner one for the books. The following recipes are meant to bring you ideas and creativity while planning your Thanksgiving dinner, and encourage you to take advantage of the wonderful seasonal produce that Michigan has to offer, courtesy of guest blogger Kristen Guilbert from Awesome Mitten.

Pumpkin Twists

Pumpkin Twists

Photo and recipe courtesy of The Novice Chef

These fancy pumpkins twists are sweet, flakey, buttery, and look a lot more difficult to make than they actually are. Made with local Michigan pumpkin, these tasty twists are much more interesting than the common dinner rolls and will make your relatives think you are way more handy in the kitchen. Add these to the dessert table, serve as appetizers, or maybe even as a side dish! These are versatile and will be a sweet addition to your Thanksgiving table.

What you need:

Makes 4 large twists

Twists:

1 large egg

2 teaspoons water

4 sheets puff pastry

1 cup fresh pureed sugar pumpkin, or canned pumpkin

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

coarse sugar, optional

Glaze:

1 cup powdered sugar

1 tablespoon milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, set aside.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together egg and water, set aside.
  3. In a large bowl, whisk together pumpkin, sugar and pumpkin pie spice.
  4. Lay puff pastry flat and divide pumpkin mixture evenly across the top. Spread pumpkin into an even layer.
  5. Starting at one end, roll the pastry over the pumpkin mixture.
  6. Using a sharp knife, slice down center, but leave about an inch on one end of the pastry connected.
  7. Crisscross  the two pieces together, making sure to keep the pumpkin filling sides facing up.
  8. Form the pastry into a circle by pulling the two ends together and pressing together.
  9. Place pastry on prepared baking sheet leaving room for spreading.
  10. Brush the pastries lightly with the egg wash you made earlier (the egg and water). Sprinkle with coarse sugar.
  11. Bake for 30-35 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool for 10 minutes.
  12. In a small bowl, whisk together powdered sugar, milk and vanilla extract. Drizzle on top of warm baked pumpkin twists and serve!

Butternut Squash Apple Bruschetta

Butternut Squash Apple Bruschetta

Photo and recipe courtesy of Whitney Bond

I bet you didn’t think that butternut squash could get any better…  until you added apples and made this awesome autumn-inspired bruschetta! This recipe creates the perfect combination of tart, savory, and sweet, and will be the perfect appetizer before the big feast. What better way to start off the Thanksgiving festivities than with a bang? This bruschetta will do all that and more.

What you need:

Makes 8

2 cups diced butternut squash

1 cup diced apples

6 tbsp olive oil (divided)

½ tsp ground cinnamon

¼ tsp ground nutmeg

¼ tsp allspice

¼ tsp ground cloves

1 tsp kosher salt (divided)

1 tsp black pepper (divided)

8 slices french bread

1 cup ricotta cheese

4 cloves garlic (minced)

6-8 fresh sage leaves (chopped)

2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425° F.
  2. Toss the butternut squash and apples with 2 tbsp olive oil, ground cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, ½ tsp kosher salt and ½ tsp black pepper.
  3. Place in an even layer on a baking sheet and into the oven for 15 minutes.
  4. While the squash and apples are roasting, brush the sliced bread with 2 tbsp olive oil and set aside.
  5. Combine the ricotta cheese with the remaining ½ tsp black pepper and ½ tsp kosher salt, set aside.
  6. In a small skillet, add the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over medium high heat.
  7. Add the garlic and sage leaves, saute for 1-2 minutes.
  8. Remove from the heat and toss with the squash and apples when they come out of the oven.
  9. Place the slices of bread into the oven for 4-5 minutes, or until toasted to your liking.
  10. Remove the bread from the oven and top with the ricotta cheese, then the roasted squash and apple mix.
  11. Drizzle with the balsamic glaze.

Brown Butter Garlic Honey Roasted Carrots

Brown Butter Garlic Honey Roasted Carrots

Photo and recipe courtesy of RasaMalaysia

This may just be the perfect side dish for your Thanksgiving feast. The combination of locally grown carrots, browned butter, garlic, and honey is simply delicious. These jazzed up carrots are satisfying and will be a comforting addition to your amazing home-cooked meal. It pairs wonderfully with turkey, stuffing and other Thanksgiving sides. You won’t regret giving this recipe a try!

What you need:

Serves 3

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 lb baby carrots

1/4 teaspoon salt

3 dashes ground black pepper

1/2 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon chopped thyme or parsley.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 425F.
  2. Heat up an oven-safe skillet and cook the butter on medium heat until it starts to form and turn into golden brown.
  3. Add the garlic and quickly sauté before adding the carrots and stir a few times.
  4. Add the salt, black pepper, honey and thyme or parsley.
  5. Transfer the skillet and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes or until the carrots become tender. Serve immediately.

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Pie

Brown Sugar Sweet Potato Pie

Photo and recipe courtesy of Sally’s Baking Addiction

This pie will be an excellent addition to the dessert table. This is the dessert that your relatives will rave over! Different and unexpected, this pie is a great alternative to pumpkin pie, and will have everyone asking for more! Made with Michigan sweet potatoes, and sweetened with brown sugar, you cannot go wrong making this delightful dessert for your Thanksgiving festivities!

What you need:

Serves 8-10

Homemade or store bought pie crust

1 lb sweet potatoes (about 2 medium)

1/2 cup (115g) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup (200g) packed light or dark brown sugar

1/2 (120ml) cup heavy cream

2 large eggs

2 Tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

egg wash: 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tablespoon (15ml) milk

optional: whipped cream

Directions:

  1. Prepare crust if using homemade.
  2. Place sweet potatoes in a large saucepan. Cover with water and bring to a boil on the stovetop. Boil for 45-50 minutes, or until super soft.
  3. On a floured work surface, roll out one of the discs of chilled dough. Turn the dough about a quarter turn after every few rolls until the crust is about 12 inches in diameter. 4. Carefully place the dough into a 9×2 inch pie dish. Tuck it in with your fingers, making sure it is smooth. Use a small paring knife to trim excess dough off the edges. Flute the edges then set aside.
  4. Preheat oven to 350°F (177°C).
  5. Drain the boiling water and run the potatoes under very cold water. The skin should peel off easily at this point. Allow them to cool until they are easy to handle. Slice the potatoes into large chunks, then place into a mixing bowl.
  6. Using a handheld or stand mixer with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat the potatoes on medium-high speed until smooth. Add the remaining ingredients except the egg wash and whipped cream. Beat on high speed until smooth and combined.
  7. Spread filling into prepared pie crust.
  8. Brush the edges of the crust with egg wash.
  9. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until the center of the pie is only slightly jiggly. A toothpick inserted into the center of the pie should come out mostly clean. After 30 minutes and if desired, place a pie crust shield on top of the pie to prevent the edges from over-browning.
  10. Place the pie on a cooling rack and allow to cool for at least 1 hour at room temperature before serving. The pie will slightly deflate as it cools; this is normal. Decorate with whipped cream. Cover leftovers tightly and store in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.

Kristen Guilbert (2)

Kristen graduated from Grand Valley State University and now resides in Eastern Michigan. She is artsy and loves expressing her creativity through her writing and art. She enjoys coffee, cooking and baking, and can frequently be found practicing yoga, or spending time in nature. She especially loves the nature to be found in her home state of Michigan, and thinks there is nothing quite like a cozy camping trip to one of the Great Lakes.

 

 What do you love to eat on Thanksgiving? Share with us in the comments!

Michigan’s Wackiest Beers: Here’s What’s Inside

Michigan’s beer scene is one of the best in the country. With more than 200 breweries, microbreweries and brewpubs across the state, Michigan is truly a dream destination for both beer enthusiasts and those just looking to explore craft beer for the first time.

Read more on some of the more unique flavors that pop up at various breweries in the Great Lakes state, courtesy of guest blogger Chad Cramblet of the Awesome Mitten.

Take a minute to think about your favorite beer. Is it a stout, sweet and malty with just a subtle hop bitterness? Is it a hoppy IPA that is perfectly balanced with a slight sweetness? Can you taste the hops, the malt, the smoked pig’s head, the watermelon candy or maybe the freshly picked jalapeno peppers?

At its core, beer is simply a combination of water, grain, hops and yeast. It is the different combinations and varieties of these ingredients that create most of the beers that we know and love. However, we are lucky enough to live in a time (now) and place (Michigan) where breweries are taking a more artistic approach to beer, not afraid to play with unique ingredients to create something unique and, in some cases, flat out weird.

With the ever-growing number of small breweries in Michigan, there is no shortage of unique brews being served in taprooms and beer festivals throughout the state. Brewing beer in smaller batches than some of the bigger names in beer, many Michigan brewers have more wiggle room when it comes to incorporating unusual ingredients in their recipes. Whether the goal is for the ingredient to be the focal point or simply a supporting character, nothing is off limits when it comes to experimentation.

Photo Courtesy of Shorts Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Short’s Brewing

But what is it that makes a beer using strange ingredients a success and not just a novelty? For head brewer Tony Hansen of Short’s Brewing Company in Bellaire, that is pretty simple:

“Whether you are trying to single out and highlight the ingredient or make it work with other elements to create something complex, it has to be something that leaves the customer wanting more,” Hansen said. “I’ve tasted a lot of strange beers that were made with weird ingredients that sounded interesting but were undrinkable.

“In my opinion, these beers may have attracted or created a long line (at a beer festival), but they were not a success.”

Though some brewers may start with a traditional recipe and figure out how to add a unique ingredient into the mix, for Hansen the creative process starts with the the ingredient itself.

“I start with the weird or unique ingredients first (and then) figure out if I want it to be the dominant flavor or complemented with other flavors to create a broader concept,” Hansen said.

After he has an idea of what the ingredient will contribute to his vision, he chooses a base beer that has the right characteristics to complete the puzzle.

“Of course, the base beer might have to be manipulated a bit from traditional style to fit just right, but that’s what makes it fun.”

While many beer drinkers prefer to stick with beer-flavored beer, for those who prefer to take a drink on the wild side here are a list of a few of the strange beers that Michigan breweries have produced. Since most of these are produced in limited quantities and served exclusively in tap rooms or at beer festivals, make sure to check out breweries’ websites to see what’s available before making a pilgrimage to check out any of the beers listed below.

Spicy

Peter Piper Pepper Pale Ale
Rockford Brewing Company, Rockford

Also a part of RBC’s Permaculture Series, this pale ale utilizes serrano, jalapeno, banana and hungarian wax peppers from Heidi’s Farmstand in Lowell. You can expect a finish of fresh peppers without an overwhelmingly spicy bite. Also try Hot Peter; Peter Piper Pepper Pale Ale cask conditioned on a blend of peppers.

ABV: 5%

Photo Courtesty of Rockford Brewing

Photo Courtesy of Rockford Brewing

440 Pepper Smoker
Original Gravity Brewing CompanyMilan

Description: This Amber Ale uses a German smoked malt that adds a balanced smoky flavor that works well with the heat from the fresh jalapenos that are added during several stages of the brewing process.

ABV: 5.6%

Sweet

Watermelon Weizen
Hideout Brewery, Grand Rapids

This wheat beer’s green color might come as a bit of a surprise, but that is because it is brewed with over one thousand watermelon candies which makes it a little tart, a little sweet and a lot refreshing.

ABV: 5.3%

Hipster Brunch Stout
Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven

This dark, boozy stout was aged in bourbon barrels along with coffee, maple syrup and bacon. While made with breakfast ingredients, the sweet and complex flavors present in this beer would also be great for dessert.

ABV: 10%

Barrel Aged Sweet Potato Souffle
Odd Side Ales, Grand Haven

This boozy, spiced strong ale is brewed with sweet potatoes and aged in rye whiskey barrels. Skip the sweet potato casserole and make this the centerpiece of your Thanksgiving table.

ABV: 10%, IBU: 31

Cherry Pie Whole
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

Tapped annually in July, this amber ale is brewed with 80 entire cherry pies — crusts and all — from Grand Traverse Pie Company. Released just in time for the National Cherry Festival, you can expect the tart-sweet flavor of cherries and a crackery finish from the crusts.

ABV: 5.4%

Ain’t Jemima
Rockford Brewing Company, Rockford

As part of its ongoing Permaculture Series which seeks to utilize unique ingredients from local agriculture, Ain’t Jemima replaced the water in the brewing process with fresh sap from local maple trees. This series has also produced beers made with butternut squash, plums, rhubarb and several other unique ingredients. Keep an eye on their website to see what’s next!

ABV: 7.6%

Savory

Mangalista Pig Porter
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

A rich, chocolaty porter that is brewed with smoked pig heads and bones. While the vegetarians will want to steer clear, this is the beer that put the spotlight on Right Brain when it was named the 2011 Gold Medal Winner for Best Experimental Beer at the Great American Beer Festival.

ABV: 7%

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Prep

Photo Courtesy of Great Lakes Prep

OMGWTFBBQ
Short’s Brewing Company, Bellaire

This barbecue-themed experimental amber ale is brewed with tomatoes, brown sugar, molasses, spices and smoked hops. While it’s smokiness and slight spiciness harken to barbecue sauce, the malty backbone remind you that this is a surprisingly drinkable beer.

ABV: 6.7%

Spear Beer
Right Brain Brewery, Traverse City

A light-bodied ale with nutty, earthy and sweet notes from real asparagus! They also add real lemon zest to add a little brightness to the mix. Though it might sound weird, which is why it made this list, it is a must-try for asparagus fans.

ABV: 5.3%

This is simply the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the unique offerings that Michigan breweries have to offer. With well over 150 breweries and brewpubs across the state, you are never far from a beer infused with Michigan’s bountiful produce and creativity.

What are your favorite wacky Pure Michigan brews? Let us know in the comments below!

chad gambletMeet the Blogger: Chad Cramblet

Chad lives in Rockford with his wife and two dogs and enjoy to spend his time cooking and eating tasty vegetarian food, sampling craft beer, and listening to the Detroit Tigers play on the radio. After enjoying the Michigan craft beer scene for years as a consumer, he was recently employed as an assistant brewer at Newaygo Brewing Company. Since graduating from Cornerstone University in 2011, he’s also worked at Biggby Coffee, covered high school sports for MLive and contributed to The Awesome Mitten. With its natural beauty, craft beer and love for baseball, there’s no place he’d rather be, even with the frigid winters.

A Fall Road Trip Guide to Campuses across Michigan

Some Michiganders love Fall for the camaraderie and excitement of traveling to campus for football games and tailgating. Others enjoy roaming the state as tranquil weather and natural beauty descend throughout the season. Guest blogger Joel Heckaman from The Awesome Mitten asks, why not enjoy both? Find out what his colleagues loved most about their alma mater campuses below.

Miners Lake_Fall_Cover

It starts with cooler air at night, comfortable weather during the day, and a noticeable decrease of mosquitoes. Gradually, we work our way through the excitement of a new school year, long drives to see the leaves changing on the trees, and crisp weekends with hay rides, cider mills, and pumpkin patches.

If there’s one thing about Fall that gets the most attention year-round, it’s the start of college football season. Students, alumni, and fans young and old look forward to Saturdays in the stadium or at a tailgate. But what about the other 40ish hours of a 48-hour weekend?

Road trips are one of my favorite Michigan pastimes, and that got me thinking about how to make the most of a football weekend, whether it’s to the old stomping grounds or an away game across the state. So I reached out to my fellow Awesome Mitten colleagues and alumni, looking for what makes their alma mater special. Here are their takes on what should be on your to-do list when you hit the road this Fall.

Grand Valley State University

Nestled between Grand Rapids and Lake Michigan, Grand Valley State University (Allendale) combines the activity of a big city suburb with the relaxed nature of a beach town on a spacious campus. Three-time GVSU alumna and member of the Awesome Mitten Board of Directors Adrienne Wallace says, “Our hidden gem on campus is the Arboretum.” She explained how it was originally established in 1990 with 33 trees, and a dedication ceremony naming the site after university leader Ronald VanSteeland in 2001 described the expansion to include 7 acres, 735 trees, and 125 shrub species.

Grand Valley State University in Allendale is picturesque as any university

The campus of GVSU is breathtaking in the fall

Don’t be fooled by GVSU’s calm nature, though. Wallace is a fan of the raucous football as well, claiming, “every visitor should experience a Laker Football night game.” As the winningest Division II program, the Lakers are a formidable opponent, and Lubbers Stadium is an intimidating place for visiting teams. “One of the top Division II facilities in the nation,” Wallace adds. “The sell-out crowd, Laker marching band, fall colors surrounding you as you are out of the grip of the city plus football under the Allendale night sky… it’s practically magical.”

Northern Michigan University

On the edge of the dense woods and rolling hills of the Upper Peninsula, Northern Michigan University (Marquette) sits on the southern shores of Lake Superior. I don’t know how much I could say about the beauty of the U.P. that hasn’t been said many times over, but it would likely pale in comparison to the awe inspired by those open skies and gorgeous views.

Northern Michigan University is the perfect campus to get out and explore the U.P.

Photo Courtesy of Instagrammer @gonda040

Chaz Parks, NMU multimedia journalism alumnus and former contributing writer for The Awesome Mitten, specifically recommends a visit to Blackrocks, a 15-foot cliff on the lakeshore. “It’s every freshman’s rite of passage to jump into mother Superior off these righteous rocks,” he claims. Parks also reminds us that all of the U.P.’s natural beauty does come at a price, though – an early  winter. NMU students have adapted, and you’ve likely heard the folklore surrounding the underground (or under-snow) tunnels between buildings, which Parks confirms: “You can walk from the library to multiple classes without freezing, even during the dead of winter.

Wayne State University

You may not have noticed Wayne State University (Detroit) and its relatively small main campus in Midtown before, but there’s a good chance you’ve seen one of their more than 100 historic buildings connected across Detroit. As the state’s third-largest university, there’s also a good chance you know someone who studied there. Jonathon Arntson, who is a WSU alumnus, former Awesome Mitten contributor, and current MittenTrip sidekick, points out specifically to look for the Yamasaki buildings. Their unique architecture stands out immediately without being garish, and Arntson adds that they are “intriguing to view and look great on Instagram.”

Wayne State University is a beautiful campus in the heart of Detroit

Photo Courtesy of Wayne State University, @WayneState on Instagram

WSU is in the Cultural Center district of Midtown, so you’ll barely have to leave campus to explore the Detroit Institute of Arts, Michigan Science Center, Detroit Public Library, and Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History. The campus also hosts a weekly farmers’ market on Wednesdays through the end of October, which Arntson says “is a lovely spread, repped by some of Detroit’s more prominent urban farmers.”

Central Michigan University

Not far from the exact center of the Lower Peninsula, Central Michigan University (Mt. Pleasant) has elements of both the north and south parts of the state. While CMU is one of the largest public universities in Michigan, surrounding areas include quiet woods and farms, the Chippewa River, and the Isabella Indian Reservation. Elementary education alumna and Awesome Mitten writer Margaret Clegg says that, despite the vast geography and large population, “the beauty was that it was small and easily traversable.” As I have heard from many alumni, she explains, “there are many spots on campus to visit, but the most iconic is the CMU seal. Situated outside of ivy-covered Warriner Hall on the north end of campus, it’s a definite photo op.”

Warriner Hall at Central Michigan University is iconic as any

Photo Courtesy of HerCampus.com

Clegg admits, “campus has grown dramatically since I first stepped foot on campus, but it’s the older section that always holds that Chippewa charm.” She suggests finding a parking spot and exploring the green, open campus on foot. If you need a rest, she says, “sit at the nearby benches and feed the squirrels that have grown overly accustomed to humans.” If you find yourself getting hungry after all of that, Clegg says to finish with “a quick jaunt off campus to The Malt Shop, which has been serving up its iconic square pizza for the past 30 years.”

University of Michigan

The first university in our state – even before it was a state – the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor) is well known for its history of athletic and academic success. But Erin Bernhard, UM English alumna and former Awesome Mitten managing editor, says that there is so much more than that. “One of the best things about campus is how integrated it is into the town of Ann Arbor,” she says. The two blend almost seamlessly, with shops and studios interspersed with university buildings, and events (which happen frequently) are often targeted toward both communities.

Visit Ann Arbor for a beautiful scene of fall colors on Michigan's campus

The University of Michigan’s Ann Arbor campus is breathtaking in the fall

What really makes Bernhard want to return, though, is the scenery. “Ivy covered buildings, exposed brick, and historic architecture makes everything – even simply walking to class – a little more perfect in the fall,” she reminisces. The variety of places to explore is a big factor too, she says: “You can’t beat studying or relaxing in the Law Library courtyard with the trees losing their leaves all around you. For sports enthusiasts, taking in a football game at the Big House is – or should be – on everyone’s bucket list. For those who want a quiet place, Nichols Arboretum is the perfect place for a quick, relaxing hike along the Huron River. All in all, autumn in Ann Arbor is what dreams are made of.”

Michigan State University

Obviously I wasn’t going to leave Michigan State University (East Lansing) off this list, so I’ve recruited Jennifer Orlando, journalism alumna and Awesome Mitten writer, to give her own take on what makes MSU’s campus great. She says that early Fall is “the best time to take advantage of all the scenic spots while visiting.” So where to go first? She says, “The Spartan Statue is a must-see spot. The statue is so majestic, but it looks particularly beautiful when all the surrounding trees and bushes turn colors.”

Fall colors in East Lansing are truly breathtaking

Stunning fall color on the banks of the Red Cedar

That’s not all. Orlando continues with a laundry list of other outdoor sightseeing activities: she names Beaumont Tower, the bridges over the Red Cedar River, Beal Botanical Garden, and Broad Art Museum just off the top of her head, each described with phrases like “breathtaking” and “beautiful reverence.” She adds that the best way to enjoy all of them is by stopping at the MSU Dairy Store for delicious and unique ice cream flavors (including one for every Big Ten Conference school) and then “taking a walk along the Red Cedar. It’s so pretty and you’ll get a good feel of just how expansive MSU’s campus is.”

 

Heckaman1

What activities or sights would you suggest for visitors to your alma mater? Let us know in the comments!

Joel Heckaman is a longtime Michigan resident who loves the culture, scenery, beer and music of the mitten state. He is a Michigan State University alumnus and founder of the Middle of the Mitten local music festival.He is also a social media professional with experience working with MSU, UM, TEDxDetroit, the Big Three and other proud Michigan brands. You can find him talking about many of these things, as well as cheering on the Spartans and Red Wings, on Twitter and LinkedIn.