3 Non-traditional Thanksgiving Recipes to Try This Year!

Can you believe that Thanksgiving is a week away? Neither can I. This year has really snuck up on me, but for the entirety of it the days have been filled with love, laughter, and opportunity. I honestly think every single day this past year has been filled with good fortune, and I have never been more motivated in my entire life! In short, if there is anything to be thankful for this year, personally, it is the beauty of new beginnings and the courage to take opportunity by the hand and run with it. 
And, to just make myself even more predictable, can you guess what I decided to do this year? That's right - I took to the books (and the internet) to read up on the real history of Thanksgiving. History is just so interesting to me; did you know that I basically failed AP US History? Yep. I was a straight-A student up until that class; I didn't get along very well with the teacher, and, if I'm being honest, I am a huge procrastinator. Either way, I still loved everything we learned! Every history class I ever took was amazing, and I can remember so many weird little details from the pages of those books that my teachers probably wouldn't even catch. Let's just say, whenever the topic of culture came up, like what people wore in the past or how a home was run or why someone had a specific tattoo, I was all ears. The dates and politics of a war? Well, that's a different story. In any case, I was really curious to see what kind of food the Colonists and Native Americans were actually eating during the three-day Thanksgiving feast in 1621. 
Can you believe that it's been almost 400 years since the first Thanksgiving?! That's crazy to think we've been following this tradition since then. But that's not necessarily true! Thanksgiving didn't become a National holiday until 1863, when President Abraham Lincoln (my main man) proclaimed it as one. He was nudged by a woman named Josepha Hale, who was the editor of a popular women's magazine, Godey's Lady's Book. Josepha was a trendsetter at the time for how a woman should run her household. She had the great idea to bring the nation together during the Civil War by recreating the Thanksgiving feast that had happened centuries beforehand, eventually creating modern dishes and writing almost a dozen cookbooks. She wanted women all over the nation to put the idea of a family Thanksgiving into their minds as something they had to do - hm!! Isn't it funny? We still do this today. I wonder what holiday Joanna Gaines will come up with? (;

So what were the Colonists and Native Americans feasting on in 1621? I was surprised to discover that they didn't have butter or wheat flour at the time, and even if they had, they didn't have ovens! That means no pumpkin pie was to be made, or rather, no pie at all. At the time in England, pie was a surefire staple at every meal, and not just for dessert. Remember my Cornish Pasties Recipe? Meat and fish pies were the main course at any formal English gathering. Historians believe that at the first Thanksgiving feast, they replaced their pies with... meat! Any meat they could find, they brought to the table, and that included duck, swan, goose, passenger pigeons, venison, shellfish, and various other fish like bass and cod. There was wild turkey, but duck and swan were the birds of choice. I've never heard of anyone eating a swan before! Because there were no ovens, the various meats were either boiled or roasted over a spitfire, or a combination of the two. The only bread was made with cornmeal, if there was any bread at all, so their birds were not stuffed with a bread-like stuffing. Instead, they were stuffed with onions, herbs, and nuts such as walnuts, chestnuts, and beechnuts (much like the turkey recipe I'll be sharing next week!). With whatever remains they had left, they threw them into a pot and made a broth for the next day (something I definitely want to do this year!!).
As for vegetables, those were plentiful. Just as we learned in elementary school, the Native Americans taught the Colonists how to grow native plants. In 1621, the Pilgrims reaped onions, beans, lettuce, spinach, cabbage, carrots, peas, turnips, and garlic. They grew Indian Corn, which they boiled, mashed, and made into a porridge. Cranberries were native to the area, though they didn't make them into a sugary sauce because they didn't have any sugar! These were either eaten plain or made into a natural dye. There were also no potatoes at the table because they hadn't yet been introduced to North America. 
Basically, what I've taken in from all of this history is that I was meant to live in the year 1621!! Ha! That sounds like my kind of party and similar to what we want to grow in our own backyard. Next year we may be having a similar Thanksgiving feast as they did in the 17th century. In light of all of this information, I wanted to share a few recipes that I find absolutely delicious for the harvest season, each with a bit of a twist. Enjoy!

MASHED POTATOES WITH GOAT CHEESE

  • 1 1/2 lbs russet potatoes, quartered
  • 3 cloves garlic, diced
  • 2 scallions, diced
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 3/4 cup milk (plus more)
  • 4 oz goat cheese or cream cheese
  • 1 tbsp chives
  1. Preheat oven to 400.
  2. In a baking pan, toss the potatoes with the garlic, scallions, olive oil, and 1/2 tsp of salt. Cover with foil and bake for 30-35 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender and easily mashed.
  3. In a large saucepan, combine the milk, goat cheese, and 1/2 tsp salt. Bring to a simmer over low heat. Add the potatoes, garlic, and scallions and mash. Stir in the chives.

SWEET POTATO CASSEROLE

  • 3 lbs sweet potatoes
  • 1/2 cup almond milk
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/4 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1-2 cups brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • mini marshmallows
  1. Peel and cube your sweet potatoes. Boil until soft. In a large bowl or saucepan, add the sweet potatoes, milk, maple syrup, chili powder, lime juice, salt, brown sugar, and cinnamon. Mash or mix until combined.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350.
  3. In a 9x9 baking pan, bake for 30 minutes. Scatter the marshmallows over the top of the dish and bake for 5 minutes or until the marshmallows have melted.

CRANBERRY + PEAR HAND PIES

  • Pie Crust
  • 1 1/2 cups cranberries
  • 1 lb pears
  • 1 tsp lemon zest
  • 1 tsp orange zest
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp cornstarch
  • 1 egg
  1. Prepare your pie crust at least an hour beforehand. Preheat the oven the 350.
  2. In a large bowl, combine cranberries, pears, lemon zest, orange zest, lemon juice, cinnamon, sugars, salt, and cornstarch. Gently mix until all of the fruit is coated. 
  3. Roll out your dough to a 10 inch square. Divide this into at least four separate squares or as many as you would like. Scoop the cranberry + pear mixture into the center of each small pie round. Fold the sides of each pie up and around the mixture, leaving a bit of the center peaking out. Brush the crust with beaten egg. Sprinkle the tops with sugar.
  4. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until the center is bubbling and crust has turned golden brown.

Phew! That was a lot of tasty Thanksgiving food packed into one post. I promise to share the recipe for that incredible turkey soon!!! Ah, it's seriously the best turkey ever. We've made it at least five times now and not on Thanksgiving either. It's a perfect meal to surprise your special someone with (; Enjoy! I hope these inspired you to try something different this year.

xoxo Kayla