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A bountiful Thanksgiving featuring the fall harvest 

By Stacey Stein

What comes to mind when you think of Thanksgiving? While many of us associate it with a sumptuous turkey dinner shared with family or friends, the holiday is meant to celebrate the fall harvest. And what better way to give thanks for autumn’s bounty than by showcasing local fruits and veggies at our holiday table?

According to registered dietitian Shannon Crocker, there are many reasons to incorporate locally grown produce when preparing Thanksgiving dishes, including supporting farmers and local economies. It also feels great to know where your food is coming from!

To get you started, here are ideas for some unique Thanksgiving dishes featuring three popular fall harvest foods.

Fall food: Apples

Nutritional cred: Aside from being a good source of vitamin C and antioxidants, Crocker notes that apples provide prebiotic fibre “that can help keep your gut healthy.”

Traditional uses: Apples are commonly used to make apple pie at Thanksgiving. They’re also featured in sides, apps and accompaniments.

Try something new:

  • Made with diced apples and butternut squash, this warm brie fondue requires a little more prep time, but the end result is worth it. Serve with bread or cheese and apple wedges – delicious topped with the warm brie!
  • Instead of a basket filled with buns or bread, why not surprise guests with these cheddar and apple scones?
  • For an interesting spin on traditional apple pie, try making these mini apple pie cookies. Elevate them even more by topping with a small wedge of aged cheddar or a dollop of Gay Lea Regular Whipped Cream. Bonus: this is a make-ahead dessert that stores in the freezer for up to one month.

Fall food: Pumpkin

Nutritional cred: Containing 245 percent of the recommended daily intake of vitamin A, pumpkins aren’t just emblematic of fall, they’re chockfull of nutrients. The bright orange gourd is also a good source of vitamin C and potassium, is full of antioxidants, and provides a good dose of gut-healthy fibre.

Traditional uses: If you’re eating pumpkin at Thanksgiving, there’s a good chance it’s in the form of an iconic holiday dessert: pumpkin pie!

Try something new:

  • With the mercury dipping in October, soup is a welcome starter at a Thanksgiving dinner. Brimming with flavourful spices and herbs, this warming pumpkin soup is sure to be a crowd-pleaser.
  • Replace a pedestrian potato side dish with something unique, like this pumpkin sage ravioli that pairs beautifully with roast turkey. Scaling down your Thanksgiving dinner this year? This dish can also work as a main.
  • Ditch the traditional pumpkin pie and surprise guests with these delicious coconut pumpkin spice mini trifles (bonus: Nordica Smooth Vanilla Bean provides a hit of calcium and protein.) Top with Gay Lea Coconut Whipped Cream for some extra coconut goodness.

Fall food: Butternut squash

Nutritional cred: Packed with immune-boosting vitamins A and C, butternut squash is also a good source of magnesium and potassium, both important for heart health.

Traditional uses: At Thanksgiving, butternut squash is typically served mashed or roasted as a side dish.

Try something new:

  • Butternut squash adds interesting flavour and texture to this fall salad, which also features bocconcini, pecans, and dried cranberries.
  • For a tasty twist on these traditional mashed sweet potatoes, sub in butternut squash. The squash pairs well with cheese too!
  • Celebrating Thanksgiving with just your partner or immediate family? For a simpler meal, try this nutritious turkey sheet pan supper, swapping butternut squash for the potatoes or cauliflower.
  • For an unconventional spin on conventional pumpkin pie, replace the pumpkin with mashed, cooked butternut squash. Top with Gay Lea Whipped Cream when serving.

The final word

Impress your guests with Thanksgiving dishes featuring local produce, carefully selected by you! Find a nearby farm and pick your own locally grown fruits, veggies and gourds. You can even make this a fun fall family outing – picky eaters may be more likely to eat fruits and vegetables they’ve picked themselves.

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