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Smith: Local Thanksgiving foods


The dietary guidelines represent the most current science-based advice on what and how to eat and drink for our best health. 

Last year’s Thanksgiving challenge was to prepare a smaller meal, as many families decided not to do big gatherings. This year’s Thanksgiving challenge is to buy as many local ingredients as possible, especially as disruptions in the food chain have left some supermarket shelves spotty. Locally grown foods aren’t shipped thousands of miles, which reduces the carbon footprint, supports our local growers and offers tastier, more nutritious food. When food doesn’t have to travel far, it can be picked ripe and eaten soon after harvest, retaining more nutrients and flavor.

When sourcing local ingredients, start with a plan. Begin searching for recipes that use fresh fruits and vegetables in season, and shop at the indoor Farmer’s Market or buy directly from a local grower. Sweet potatoes, winter squash, beets, onions, garlic, leafy greens, brussels sprouts, apples, carrots and horseradish, are just a few examples of seasonal produce grown in Illinois. This might mean forgoing the traditional green bean casserole made with canned ingredients and opting for a side dish using fresh veggies, such as roasted Brussel sprouts or a kale salad. Instead of a can of candied yams with marshmallow topping, simply roast sweet potatoes or mash them in sweet potato casserole. Sound like a lot of work? Use local bakeries to bake the dessert for you. Supporting local is a win-win for all!

Autumn Salad

1 small butternut squash or 3 sweet potatoes, peeled and diced

½ Tablespoon olive oil

2/3 cup uncooked quinoa, rinsed

1 cup water

3 Tablespoons olive oil

2 Tablespoons apple cider vinegar

½ Tablespoon honey

1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 garlic clove, minced

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 cups chopped kale, stems removed

¼ cup dried cherries

¼ cup chopped walnuts

1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese

1 large apple, cored and sliced thinly

Preheat oven to 400°F. Place squash or potatoes on baking sheet and toss with oil. Roast 25-30 minutes, until tender. Meanwhile, combine quinoa and water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until water is absorbed. In a small bowl, whisk oil, vinegar, honey, mustard, garlic, salt and pepper. Place kale in a large bowl and pour dressing over it; using clean hands, massage the dressing into the kale. Stir the cooked quinoa and dried cherries into the kale. Before serving, toss kale salad with walnuts, feta cheese and apple. Refrigerate leftovers.

Yield: 5 servings

Nutrition Facts (per serving): 350 calories, 17 grams fat, 240 milligrams sodium, 46 carbohydrate, 6 grams fiber, 8 grams protein

Smith is nutrition and wellness educator for the University of Illinois Extension, McLean County. Contact her at 309-663-8306. 

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