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!

Five Michigan Crops to Cook With this Fall

Autumn in Michigan provides amazing produce for many of our seasonal favorite recipes. From ripe apples, pears, pumpkins and many more, it’s easy to support local growers in the Great Lakes state while enjoying some delicious and healthy food. Guest blogger Christina Carson from Awesome Mitten shares five crops to consider cooking with this fall.

With the crisp air of fall making its way back into Michigan, it’s hard not to get excited about the harvest season and all it brings. While some of the summer crops are starting to fade, the fall season offers a cornucopia of amazing local produce throughout the whole state.

A lot of folks don’t know that Michigan has the second most diverse production of fruits and vegetables in the country, beaten only by the ever-prevalent agriculture system of California. This means we have a near endless variety of amazing produce to choose from while supporting our own agricultural economy and local business owners.

Here are five fall Michigan crops that excite me the most. A few are expected favorites of everyone for the fall season, but I’m also including a few lesser-known crops that I encourage you to seek out and try.

1) Apples

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

No article on Michigan’s fall crops would be complete without a mention of apples, of course. Michigan is the third largest producer of apples in the country, with an average of about 23 million bushels every year. This makes apples the largest fruit crop in Michigan. So no matter where you are in Michigan this fall, go ahead and find your way to an apple orchard – pick some apples, drink some cider and appreciate this amazing crop!

While an apple by itself may be a perfect snack, the options for cooking with apples are vast. Classic desserts like the apple pie and apple crisp should not be overlooked, but I challenge you to look past the pies and crisps this season. Put apples in your salads, roast them with carrots or stuff halved winter squash with sausage and apples before roasting for about an hour. You’ll know it’s done when the squash and apples are soft and the sausage is cooked.

2) Parsnips

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While often overlooked, parsnips might be my favorite fall vegetable. Their sweet white tubers don’t show up until the ground has been thoroughly frosted. The frost helps them convert starch to sugar and create that joyful flavor I can’t get enough of. They may not be a favorite of most, but you’ll find them in abundance at markets and stores throughout the state once the ground freezes.

Parsnips are best slow roasted, to bring out their natural sweetness. I like to chop them into cubes or fries, before tossing with a little olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh rosemary. Roast them up at 375 degrees until soft inside and browning on the outside, about an hour depending how large you’ve chopped them.

Maybe you’ll become as hooked on them as I am.

3) Winter Squash

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

Winter squash and pumpkins are surely one of the telltale signs of fall, and there is so much more to these delights than the pumpkin spice flavor. Slow cooking winter squash  in the oven for an hour or two is a great way to cozy up to the fall weather.

The varieties of squash available in Michigan are hugely diverse, especially if you buy them from a farm that enjoys growing lots of variety. While difficult to find because the seed is expensive, fairy squash is my absolute favorite. The perfectly smooth texture and sweet taste make them great for squash desserts or silky smooth pureed squash soup.

If pumpkins are more your thing, make sure to pick up some pie pumpkins and explore making your very own pumpkin puree this fall. Far tastier than the canned puree, all you have to do is halve your pumpkins and scoop out the seeds. Then set the pumpkins cut side down on a baking sheet. I like to put a little water in the sheet pan to keep them moist. Bake at 375 degrees for about an hour. Once the pumpkin’s meat is very soft, scoop it from the skin and puree!

4) Pears

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

While apples may be the celebrated fall fruit crop, Michigan grows some phenomenal pears as well.

While not  grown on a massive scale, many apple orchards dabble in pears. Two of my personal favorites are the round, apple-looking Asian pear and  the rough, brown-skinned bosc pear. !

Perfectly ripe pears are a great snack on their own, but they also shine served sliced with cheeses. Pears can also serve as a substitute in just about any apple recipe you can think of or, if you’re feeling adventurous, poached. I highly suggest you slice up some pears and make yourself a simple pear crisp. I guarantee you’ll love it.

5) Watermelon Radishes

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson.

Photo courtesy of Christina Carson

In my mind, these radishes are a bit of magic. They show up in markets when the ground gets cold and almost resemble turnips instead of an actual radish. Smooth white orbs don’t look like all that much while they’re sitting on a farmer’s market table, but once you cut into these radishes, I can promise you’ll be hooked. The centers reveal a stunning bright magenta center, like cutting into a particularly colorful watermelon.

Watermelon radishes have a bit of a bite to them, but nothing too powerful. I find them best suited as a stunning salad topper, or sliced into chip-like slices and served on a veggie platter with hummus or another veggie dip.

What is your favorite Michigan fall recipe?

774908_10100241229705605_1160233728_oAbout the Author: Christina Carson is a northern Michigan girl through and though – addicted to the Lake Michigan coastline, our incredible local food system, and the mitten’s homegrown musicians. I share my passion for beautiful, delicious and joyful food through my blog and photography business – Toot Sweet. Keep an eye out for my monthly Michigan recipes on Awesome Mitten and follow Toot Sweet on Facebook and Instagram.

Twenty Things You Might Not Have Known About Michigan Agriculture

Today is National Agriculture Day! Guest blogger Barbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, shares 20 little known facts about freshly grown Michigan food and agriculture. 

Barbara and her family on their beet field

Barbara and her family on their sugar beet field

I’ve always been in love with Michigan. I believe it is unparalleled in its diversity of seasons, activities, and food! We are a very active family; we enjoy many things Michigan has to offer including camping, water sports, snowmobiling, and of course, food and farming! On our farm, we produce dairy, beef, corn, wheat, and sugar beets, but I’m always interested in learning more about other commodities.

Did you know Michigan farmers produce 300 different types of food and agricultural products? Michigan is also home to many national brands that you know, love, and trust. Recently, Governor Snyder proclaimed March “Food and Agriculture Month” due to Ag’s positive impact on Michigan’s economy. Check out this list which highlight some of Michigan’s lesser known areas of agriculture.

1. SugarMichigan Sugar Company is the only sugar processor in the state. It processes sugar for Pioneer, Big Chief, and more than 20 other private labels. Sugar is an important ingredient for all types of goodies, like those made at Bon Bon Bon, located in Hamtramck. Our farm grows sugar beets, which are harvested in autumn.

2. Cherries: Michigan ranks 1st in the nation for tart cherry production, and 4th for sweet cherries. Check out this website for more info on Michigan cherry wines. I like to drink a little tart cherry juice right before bedtime.

3. Milk: Michigan ranks 1st in the nation for the production of low fat ice cream mix, but Michigan dairy farmers also contribute to other products such as Hudsonville ice cream, Kraft cheese, Yoplait yogurt, Michigan Made cottage cheese, and Country Fresh sour cream.

Screen Shot 2015-03-17 at 11.56.34 AM4. Beans: Michigan is 1st in the nation for production of dry black beans, cranberry beans, and small red beans and 2nd for production of all dry beans. Bush’s Beans, based in Tennessee, buys beans from Michigan!

5. Potatoes: Michigan is the nation’s leading producer of potatoes in potato chip processing. Better Made Chips, which just turned 86, are a favorite Michigan brand. We like taking a bag of chips with us on the boat, or in the camper in the summer.

6. Grapes: Michigan has over 100 commercial wineries, and ranks 1st in the nation for production of Niagara grapes and 8th for wine grape production.

7. Nursery: Nursery and perennial plants are the 2nd largest agricultural commodity group in Michigan.

8. Eggs: Michigan egg farmers supply all the eggs to McDonald’s restaurants east of the Mississippi River. Check out this video from McDonald’s. My kids take care of a small flock of laying hens, and they produce enough for us, and a few neighbors, family members, and friends.

9. Blueberries: Michigan is number 1 for production of blueberries for the entire nation and only 600 Michigan family farms do it all! That’s amazing! I like to use blueberries in this breakfast bake. Yum!

5019864379_a35c8468f5_b10. Cucumbers: Michigan ranks number 1 in the nation for production of cucumbers for pickling, and 4th for fresh market cucumbers.

11. Maple syrup: Maple syrup production is the oldest agricultural enterprise in the United States. Right now, in spring, is the time to tap trees! Battel’s Sugar Bush, which is near me, is hosting a tour and pancake breakfast as part of Michigan Maple Weekend.

12. Christmas trees: Michigan supplies 3 million Christmas trees annually to the national market. Real Christmas trees are so beautiful! I love driving past Christmas tree farms in the winter months. There are approximately 25-30 million real Christmas trees sold each year in the U.S., according to the National Christmas Tree Association.

13. Apples: Michigan slices more apples than any other state for use in pies. Michigan also processes apples into applesauce, fresh and shelf-stable apple cider, and apple juice, such as Indian Summer juice which is made in Michigan too! My family loves a cup of fresh cider with a doughnut in autumn.

14. Wheat: Michigan wheat farmers contribute to the national market in a big way, too.  In fact, one of the top 5 counties for producing wheat is Huron, which is where I live! Wheat is used in products from Michigan brands such as Kellogg’s cereals, Aunt Millie’s breads, and Jiffy mixes.

15. Squash: Michigan is 2nd for squash and carrot production, which is good for Michigan companies such as Gerber baby foods. Squash and carrots were favorites with my kids when they were babies!

16. Tomatoes: Michigan is 9th in the nation for production of fresh market tomatoes. This is good news for me, because I love using fresh tomatoes for pico de gallo, which is an easy bbq party dish.

17. Cranberries: Cranberries are grown in Michigan too! I never knew that! Michigan has 280 acres of cranberries and they are harvested every year from September through November.

3307466046_a91c527ea6_b18. Peaches: Michigan is 8th in the nation for production of fresh market peaches. Look out, Georgia! Michigan is in the ranks.

19. Honey: Michigan honey bees are busy little bees! Check out this resource, to find local honey.

20. Farmer’s Markets: Michigan is 4th in the nation for farmer’s markets, supplying fresh farmer products to Michiganders every week. Port Austin is a huge farmer’s market in the Thumb, where I live. The market is very busy in the summer months!

As you can see, there’s so much to love about Michigan! Whether it is the seasons, a multitude of outdoor activities, or the vast array of agricultural products, I believe Pure Michigan is the finest in the nation! I could go on and on about Michigan and food, but to find out more for yourself, visit MichiganAgriculture.com. While you’re online, check out my family’s favorite breakfast recipe: Farm Barbie’s Waffles of Pancakes. Don’t forget to serve them up with Pure Michigan maple syrup!

Which Michigan grown products are your favorites? Learn more about Michigan agriculture in the video below.

FB Profile picBarbara Ann Siemen, known as Farm Barbie, is a city girl turned country chick, thanks to falling in love with a farmer. She’s a stay at home mom and professional farmer’s wife. She’s also an amateur photographer, chef, and fashionista and an aspiring children’s book author. Check out her blog.