Michigan-Inspired Thanksgiving Recipes to Try this Season

Thanksgiving is  quickly approaching, and with it, the delectable meals and favorite foods that we look forward to all year long. What many people may not realize, however, is just how many of these delicious options can be cooked, baked or broiled with Michigan-made ingredients. Guest blogger Christina Carson from The Awesome Mitten shares a few Michigan-inspired recipes to consider this season.

Thanksgiving is the richest celebration of food in American culture, and I can’t help but get giddy about families working together in their kitchens and sitting down to a meal prepared with love when this season comes around. This year, I challenge you to take things one step further and support our amazing Michigan food businesses in putting your meal on the table. Bring as many local foods and products into your meal as possible – there are endless ways to do so!

Of course, the turkey is the classic center of the plate for Thanksgiving. Plenty of turkey farms around the state are raising healthy birds ready to take center stage on your Thanksgiving table. If you’re thinking about getting a local pastured turkey, act soon – they often sell quickly!

After the turkey, getting more local products into your meal will be all about carefully selecting your sides and desserts to include seasonal produce and other products that are made in your community. While the growing season is coming to a close in November, you may be surprised at how much Michigan farmers have to offer this time of year. A bounty of greens and all the storage crops you can dream of – potatoes, apples, squash, carrots, beets, and more.

Read below for two simple recipes to be made with local produce and dairy that won’t take too much hands on time but are sure to wow your guests!

Apple Rosettes

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

Stunning apple rosettes like these have been making the rounds through the internet food world for some time now, and for good reason! They’re impressively beautiful, and absolutely delicious while also a light dessert that isn’t too sweet. This lightness makes them the perfect end to a rich Thanksgiving meal!

While you can always take things a step further and make homemade puff pastry, making this stunning dessert is amazingly simple with puff pastry from your local grocery store’s freezer section. To really kick things up a notch, make sure to buy the puff pastry made with all butter (the flavor is so much better!).

  • 2 apples
  • 1 sheet puff pastry
  • ½ lemon
  • granulated sugar
  • cinnamon
  • freshly ground nutmeg

First,  prepare the apples. Cut each apple in half and carefully remove the core, then slice each half into ⅛ to ¼ inch thick slices. Separate slices and place them in a medium bowl with the juice from one lemon.

Cover with boiling water and let sit for about 1 minute, until the slices are flexible, but not mushy! Strain water, and set apples aside.

Carefully unfold defrosted puff pastry (leave it in the fridge at least overnight to defrost), and gently roll it with a rolling pin to even out any creases and stretch it out just a bit. Cut the pastry into 2 inch wide strips that are 12 inches or less long.

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

One strip at a time, sprinkle puff pastry with a little sugar, cinnamon, and just a smidge of nutmeg. Line apple slices, overlapping half of each slice along the top half of the strip (as seen in the photo). Fold pastry up over the apples, then start at one end and roll into as tight of a spiral as you can.

Set each finished rosette into a large muffin tin or individual ramekins.

Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes, until the pastry is browned on the edges. Let cool in pan about 10 minutes, then carefully remove each rosette and let cool completely on a cooling rack.
Sprinkle with powdered sugar to serve, if you’d like.

Butternut Squash Gratin

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

While sweet potatoes are a common Thanksgiving side, they don’t grow very well in Michigan due to the short summers. You can find them in the markets sometimes, but they’re not widely available. Sweet and smooth butternut squash makes a great alternative, especially when baked into this creamy gratin!

Find local butternut squash at your local farmers market, or a locally focused grocery store sourcing from Michigan growers. Additionally, seek out some rich local cream to make this dish a mostly local Thanksgiving treat! Calder Dairy (Carleton)  and Shetler Family Dairy (Kalkaska) are two of my favorite Michigan dairies to support.

  • 1 butternut squash (about 2 pounds)
  • 3 shallots, cut to a small dice
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 cup grated hard cheese (parmesan, pecorino, gruyere, and piave are all great choices)
  • 1 ¼  cups heavy cream
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 tsp dry sage
  • ¼ cups breadcrumbs

Peel butternut squash, then slice neck into ⅓ inch thick rounds until you reach the edge of the seeded area of the squash. Cut the bulbous end of the squash in half and scoop out seeds. Slice each half into ⅓ inch thick half circles.

In the bottom of a square baking dish (8×8 or 9×9 will work just fine), layer one thin layer of the full squash rounds to create a base then spread all the half circles evenly on top of that base.

Sprinkle the shallots, garlic, and ½ cup of the cheese over the squash.

Layer the remaining squash rounds on next.

In a small bowl or liquid measuring cup, stir together cream, salt, pepper, and sage until evenly mixed. Pour mixture over the squash.

Sprinkle remaining cheese on top of the dish and cover with foil or a lid (if your dish has one!).

Bake at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, then remove cover and sprinkle breadcrumbs on top.

Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake for 20 more minutes.

Let cool slightly before serving.

What are you planning to make this Thanksgiving featuring local goods?

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson

Photo Courtesy of Christina Carson


Christina Carson is a Northern Michigan girl through and through – addicted to the Lake Michigan coastline, our incredible local food system, and the mitten’s homegrown musicians. She shares her passion for beautiful, delicious, and joyful food through her blog and photography business - Toot Sweet! Keep an eye out for her monthly Michigan recipes on Awesome Mitten, and follow Toot Sweet on Facebook and Instagram!

Eight Ways You Didn’t Know You Could Use Michigan Apples

We’re all familiar with apple pies, apple crisp and caramel apples, but an apple a day can be used so many ways! Michigan apples make delightful desserts and simple healthy snacks, but the options are endless when it comes to cooking with Michigan apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner. Each apple variety has its own unique taste and texture that makes it perfectly suited for certain styles of preparation.

Whether you prefer Honeycrisp, Jonagold or Golden Delicious, check out this usage chart to find how to best prepare your favorite variety and try your hand at whipping up these out-of-the-ordinary apple recipes courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee. 

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Apple Turkey Wraps
1 1/3 cups diced red Michigan Apples
1/2 cup low-fat lemon yogurt
4 flour tortillas, 8-inches in diameter
2 cups fresh spinach leaves
6 ounces thinly sliced smoked turkey breast
2 ounces thinly sliced havarti cheese
2 cups clover sprouts

Combine Michigan Apples and yogurt. Set aside.

Warm tortillas according to package directions. Divide and arrange remaining ingredients evenly over tortillas. Place ¼ of Apple mixture down center of each tortilla. Fold 2 opposite sides in about 1 ½ – inches and roll. Cut each wrap in half and serve immediately. Suggested Michigan Apple varieties to use: Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious or Rome.

Apple Pecan Burger
1 cup shredded Michigan Apples
1/2 cup shredded carrots
1/4 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped garlic
1 cup cold, cooked brown rice
3/4 cup toasted pecan pieces
1 cup dry bread crumbs
2 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon coarse black pepper
5 hamburger buns, optional
5 tomato slices, optional
Lettuce, optional
Vegetable cooking spray

Place apples and remaining ingredients in food processor bowl. Using metal blade, process about 30 seconds or until evenly chopped and thoroughly combined. Using 1/2 cup measure, portion and shape mixture into 5 patties. (Mixture will be soft.) Place on baking sheet coated with cooking spray.

Bake in 400 degree oven about 25 minutes or until deep golden brown. Serve hot on bun with tomato and lettuce or with sweet and sour sauce, if desired. Note: Patties may be broiled 4-5 inches from heat, about 3 minutes per side or until deep golden brown. Suggested Michigan Apple varieties to use: Empire, Gala, Golden Delicious, Ida Red, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, or Rome.


Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Apple Nachos
1 large Michigan Apple*, cut into 12 wedges
1/2 cup (2 ounces) shredded Colby cheese
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon-sugar
Assorted crackers

Place apple wedges on microwave safe plate. Sprinkle cheese and cinnamon-sugar evenly over apples.Microwave on HIGH 1 to 1-1/2 minutes or until cheese is melted and apples are hot. Scoop up the hot apple mixture with crackers. Suggested Michigan Apple varieties to use: Ida Red, Rome, Empire, Gala, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh.

Apple Salsa
2 medium red Michigan Apples
2 tablespoons lime juice
1/2 cup chopped orange segments
1/2 cup finely chopped onions
1/2 cup finely chopped green pepper
1 finely chopped jalapeno
1 clove garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
Yield: 3 cups.

Core and dice apples into 1/4 inch pieces. Toss immediately with lime juice. Stir in remaining ingredients. Chill 2 hours before serving over fish, chicken or turkey. Suggested Michigan Apple varieties to use: Empire, Gala, Ida Red, Jonagold, Jonathan, McIntosh, Red Delicious, or Rome.


Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Caramelized Apples and Cheese Quesadillas
4 tsp. butter
1 medium unpeeled cored Golden Delicious or Gala apple, sliced
1 tbsp. brown sugar
1/8 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 (6-inch) whole grain tortillas
2 slices reduced fat sharp cheddar cheese
Sour cream (optional)

Sauté apples in butter in skillet on medium heat 3-4 minutes or until apples are soft and lightly browned. Add brown sugar and cinnamon. Cook 1-2 minutes on medium-low until sugar is dissolved. Overlap cheese slices on 1 of the tortillas. Top with apple mixture; cover with second tortilla.

Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Cook tortilla 2-3 minutes per side or until lightly browned and cheese is melted. Cut into quarters and serve with sour cream.

Roasted Rome Feta Salad
4 firm Michigan Rome Apples*, peeled and cut into sixths
2 tbsp. brown sugar
8 cups mixed greens
4 tbsp. thinly sliced green onions
2 slices cooked and crumbled bacon
½ cup crumbled feta cheese

2 tsp. whole grain mustard
1 tbsp. honey
1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 tbsp.apple cider vinegar
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Spray a large baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. In a large bowl, toss apples with brown sugar. Spread in a single layer on prepared sheet. Bake for 15-20 minutes until apples begin to brown but are still firm enough to pick up with a fork. Remove and cool.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, toss greens and green onions together. Chill for 30 minutes. Shake dressing ingredients together in a small jar. Set aside. Just before serving, drizzle salad with dressing. Toss. Divide into four salad bowls. Divide bacon and cheese onto each. Arrange 6 apple slices on each. Serve immediately. Yield: 4 servings. Other suggested varieties: Empire, Jonagold, Fuji, Braeburn, Jonamac, McIntosh

Apple Cider Vinaigrette Dressing
2 cups fresh apple cider
½ teaspoons cracked black pepper
¼ cup apple cider vinegar
¼ teaspoon salt sprinkle of ground clove to taste
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup sugar
1 and ¼ cup vegetable oil

Mix together all ingredients (except oil) until sugar is dissolved.


Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Photo courtesy of the Michigan Apple Committee

Michigan Apple and Butternut Squash Soup
3 cups Michigan Jonagolds or your favorite Michigan Apple, cored and chopped
3 cups butternut squash, peeled and cubed*
1 cup sweet onion, peeled and roughly diced
2 T. Michigan butter
1 T. grated ginger
1/8 t. freshly grated nutmeg
1 ½ cups Michigan Apple cider
3 to 4 cups of liquid (equal parts chicken stock and water), depending upon thickness of soup desired*
salt and pepper to season and taste

In large soup pot, add butter, squash, apples and onion and sauté for 5 to 7 minutes to soften onion.  Add 1 cup of water to help steam squash. Cover pot and simmer for 30 minutes, or until squash is soft. Blend mixture with a hand immersion blender or in a stand-alone blender or food processor. (If using blender or food processor, process in batches.) Return mixture to the soup pot, add nutmeg, ginger and apple cider and the remaining liquid for desired consistency. Salt and pepper to season and taste. Serve with a small daub of sour cream or Greek plain yogurt on top and with crusty bread. Enjoy!

*Chef notes: Roasting squash adds a wonderful layer of flavor. Try it. Place squash in oven-proof pan. Add 1-2 T. oil and 1 t. dried sage. Toss squash to coat. Place in 425 degree oven for 30 minutes. Encourage charring of the squash for extra flavor.If you want vegetarian soup, add equal parts water and cider to taste in place of chicken stock. May need extra seasoning and salt.

See more Michigan apple recipes on our Pinterest board.

Are you a master Michigan apple chef? Share your recipes with us below!

Take a Bite Out of Michigan’s Produce Season

To celebrate Food and Agriculture Month in Michigan, we asked blogger Liz Della Croce of The Lemon Bowl to tell us how to take advantage of Michigan’s fresh produce season with fun family outings and a few delicious Michigan made recipes.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Spring is right around the corner which means one thing here in Michigan: the growing season has finally arrived! As one of the nation’s largest exporters of produce, we do not take this time of year for granted. From ripe cherries to crisp apples to juicy blueberries and more, here are few fun ideas to make the most out of produce season and create long lasting memories with your family:

Visit a Farmers Market: Nothing gets kids excited about eating fresh fruits and vegetables quite like a visit to a farm stand.  Whether you visit the same farmers market regularly or only pass a farm stand a few times a month, let your kids pick out a new fruit or vegetable each visit. Getting little ones involved in the buying process is an ideal way to get even the pickiest of eaters excited about trying something new. Check out this Farmers Market locator to find one near you!

Head to a U-Pick Orchard: Take advantage of the warmer weather and head to a nearby orchard. Picking your own fruits and vegetables is one of the best ways to get the freshest produce available while also sneaking in a little exercise.

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Be sure to bring the whole family and get the kids involved. Little hands are great for picking ripe blueberries or sitting on Daddy’s shoulders to reach that perfect peach. This Michigan U-Pick Guide will help you find a nearby orchard and also guide you through what is in season and when.

Eat Seasonally: From the first asparagus spears in early spring to late-fall apples, eating with the season is one of the best ways to ensure that your family gets a full range of nutrients throughout the year. Additionally, when you eat fruit that was picked just a few miles down the road, you will get maximum flavor and peak freshness.

Create Something Delicious: As you eat your way through the season, here are a few tasty ideas for Michigan’s most popular fruits and vegetables:

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Photo courtesy of The Lemon Bowl

Apple Recipes:

Asparagus Recipes :

Peach Recipes:

Cherry Recipes:

Blueberry Recipes

What are your favorite ways to take advantage of Michigan’s world-class produce and agriculture? Do you have a favorite farm stand or u-pick orchard? 

Learn more about Michigan Agriculture in the video below.

Screen Shot 2014-03-06 at 3.15.39 PMLiz Della Croce is the creator and author of The Lemon Bowl, a healthy food blog. Since 2010, Liz has been creating delicious recipes using real ingredients with an emphasis on seasonality. Liz has appeared live on the TODAY Show and tapes regular cooking segments for her local NBC affiliate station.  She is a contributor for The Huffington Post and Cooking Light. Liz’s recipes and food photography have been featured on several websites including Shape Magazine, Food Network blog, The Cooking Channel, TODAY Food and more.