A Non-GMO Project Thanksgiving

November 18, 2011

November sunset in Squalicum Valley, near Westgate's and Pineau's homes

Here in the far corner of Northwestern Washington, fall is beginning its transition into winter–the leaves are falling, the rains have begun, and the mountains are now blanketed in snow. Although winter is quickly approaching, the mild nature of our climate (yes, lots of rain, but mild nonetheless) means that the harvest is still coming in. And what better way to celebrate this bounty than with a Thanksgiving feast? A quick poll at the Non-GMO Project office easily designated Thanksgiving as one of our favorite holidays—admittedly, we are all garden-loving foodies who love nothing more than breaking bread with our nearest and dearest. In gratitude and celebration of the season, then, the Non-GMO Project would like to share some of our non-GMO Thanksgiving preparations and plans with you.

 


Megan Westgate, Executive Director

Executive Director Megan Westage at home with her husband Noah, cat Foxy and puppy Bodhi, a brand new addition who has earned the post of Farm Dog for their 5-acre homestead.

We have over 200 eggs in the house right now, so one thing our Thanksgiving is definitely going to include is recipes that call for eggs! After being vegan for 6 years in my 20s, many of my favorite holiday recipes are still ones that are free of animal products. But with 20 laying hens in the backyard just reaching maturity, and with no plan as of yet for what to do with the bounty (apparently friends, family, neighbors, kitties and puppy can only eat so many eggs), I can guarantee that this year’s pumpkin pies will not be made with tofu! In fact, I have already made egg-y Maple Pumpkin Pie twice this fall, and am looking forward to a few more next week.

We are blessed to live close to family, and will be celebrating Thanksgiving with Noah’s parents, brother, grandma, aunt and uncle. Noah was raised vegetarian, and the family’s traditional Thanksgiving meal centers around his mom’s delicious “nut loaf” rather than turkey. And then, since some of us do like turkey, we will have a second celebration at home on Friday, with a bird raised by young farmers at The Sandy Spade Farm in nearby Skagit County. Celebrating twice suits me well, partly because I was raised in two homes and it feels familiar to have every holiday at least a couple times. I also just have a lot to be grateful for. Our feast will include kabocha squash, kale, garlic and potatoes grown organically by Noah (with a little evening and weekend help from me) right here on our beautiful and pristine land in the Lake Whatcom watershed.

 We thank the Earth for happy hearts,
For rain and sunny weather.
We thank the Earth for this our food,
And that we are together.

 –Traditional Quaker grace (slightly modified); I grew up saying this in both households, and have since shared it with many circles of friends and family


Dedrian Clark, Outreach Coordinator

OK, admittedly, Rob and I seem to be one of those couples that, on occasion, have our hosts stressing over what they’re going to feed us! As vegetarians who eat mostly organic and non-gmo foods, it can seem a daunting challenge for those who don’t share our preferences. Fortunately, we both love to cook and take pleasure in providing additional dishes to complement our hosts’ menu.

Cascadia Mushrooms

Bellingham is blessed to be home to Cascadia Mushrooms, perfect for Dede's Vegetarian Gravy

One of our favorites to bring for Thanksgiving dinner is Vegetarian Gravy! It’s so good, our family and friends often prefer it over the more traditional recipes. To make: sauté 2-3 different kinds of diced mushrooms  like Crimini, Oyster and Portabellas (or whatever is available) with diced onions, celery and garlic; add rice or soy milk, miso, soy sauce, veg broth powder or liquid, and dry basil and simmer, salt and pepper to taste. We often throw some of the sauted mixture (especially mushroom stems) in a blender and use for thickening but leave some for a bit of a chunky style gravy. Potato starch can be added if more thickening is needed. And of course… the miso, soy sauce and soy milk are all Non-GMO Project Verified!  Yum!

Another great recipe this time of year and a nice addition to Thanksgiving dinner is Roasted Squash Soup.  Slice and roast 3 pounds of fresh, organic Acorn, Butternut and Spagetti squash, face down in a 400 degree oven until tender. In a saucepan, sauté  some onion and garlic in melted butter for 5 minutes or until tender; adding  1 T. minced ginger root and 1 t. curry –  cooking another minute or so. Add 2 chopped tart apples with 2/3 c sherry and cook until apples are tender. To finish, puree batches of the squash flesh and broth in a food processor or blender. Transfer the squash puree to a large saucepan. Puree the apple/sherry mixture and stir into pureed squash. Then heat over medium heat and season with salt, pepper and cayenne, to taste.  So delicious and what a fun way to share our favorite recipes!

 


Chris Keefe, Outreach Coordinator

Halloween, though still a delight, isn’t quite what it was when pillowcases and pranks were my M.O.  Christmas, for all of it’s heartfelt generosity, often feels too dressed-up-and-decked-out for my tastes.  But Thanksgiving… Talk to me about thanksgiving, and my heart beats faster.  My eyes light up.  I feel, suddenly, very sincere, very excited, and, well… deeply thankful.

The Bellingham Farmer's Market continues to provide amazing produce into the winter

It is easy, in this country, to take for granted the remarkable quality and quantity of food to which we have access.  The average American has over 3700 calories per day at their fingertips, and though many of those calories are found in somewhat questionable “foods,” a rapidly growing number of us have access to good, old-fashioned fruits and vegetables, available from our own home gardens, local farmers’ markets, and grocers committed to providing local, organic, non-GMO options.  It is with relish that I anticipate this year’s Thanksgiving shopping trip.  Home-made cranberry relish to be precise.

I will spend some time in Bellingham’s Community Food Coop and Terra Organica market, picking up fresh-milled organic flour, and the few spices I need to fill out my recipes.  I will cut the last surviving beet greens from my garden, and tromp through the farmers’ market grabbing carrots and potatoes, shallots and sunchokes and squash.  It will take some time, and some money, to find just the right ingredients, but every moment will be a pleasure.

This year, as every year, I will cook with gratitude in my heart, for my family and friends, and for the farmers, grocers, organizations, and like-minded shoppers in my community who have helped bring healthy, organic, non-GMO food to the people of Whatcom County.

 


Courtney Pineau, Communications Manager

True to the international reach of the Non-GMO Project, I already had the opportunity to celebrate Thanksgiving once back in October with my friends and family from Canada. However, having recuperated from that amazing meal, I look forward to round two of Thanksgiving next week with my parents, all six of my siblings, and all eight of the family dogs (yes, a passion for pooches seems to run in the family).

Apple pie

Lattice topped apple pie - so so good!

Traditionally, my mother has done most of the Thanksgiving cooking with me covering deserts. However, in the past several years two up and coming chefs have been making some awesome contributions to our family Thanksgiving. My brother David spent the past several years working in San Francisco at both A16 and Heirloom Cafe. Together, we can geek out on what type of mushrooms to put in the stuffing (my vote is chantrelles), the best wine to serve with dinner (he would say an old world wine with light to medium body), and how to make the best brussels sprouts (you can’t go wrong pan-frying with lots of butter and garlic). The other chef is my daughter Sophia, and man, can she bake a pie. Her lattice-topped apple pie is like a work of art!

I am so excited this year to combine Sophia’s amazing pie-making skills with my recent discovery of American native pecans. These beautiful little pecans are in Slow Food’s Ark of Taste and their delicate flavor and texture is unsurpassed. I can’t wait to see how they work in a traditional pecan pie.

When all the cooking is done and we are all sitting around the table (with the dogs staring at us in anticipation), we will each take a turn in sharing what we are thankful for. I look forward to acknowledging my gratitude for the strength and love of our family, the joy that my daughter and partner bring to my life, and all of the abundance of the past year.