Thanksgiving Recipes For the Bird and Beyond

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For the past couple of years, I’ve been on the volunteer list to cook for a local food bank. We prepare a wholesome dinner for 100 with food gleaned from gardens, overruns, almost-expired store items and day-old baked goods. Each meal pushes our team to be mindful of using all we’ve been given – and to make it taste good.

An unexpected benefit to cooking this way is that it has taught me to loosen things up in my personal cooking. My son recently brought home a box of vegetables from a friend with a large garden. It challenged me to open my mind and waste nothing. Over a period of a few days, I made pickles, pepper jelly, a kale omelet, roasted beets, a veggie pizza and caramelized eggplant.

SEE MORE: Thanksgiving Recipes for Your Holiday Table

If I had been given the same box of goodies before I learned to cook this way, the result would surely have been different.

All of the CSA members out there know what I’m talking about. Rather than wondering what to do with those pesky zucchinis, we make ratatouille, zucchini bread, pickles and zucchini chocolate cake.

Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to shake things up a bit, make the most of late season produce and to honor traditions. The recipes in this story are meant to open the door to a slightly new way to celebrate American holiday classics. I hope you’ll incorporate a few new things in this year’s celebrations. I’m going to prepare whatever I’m given and will remember to be thankful for all of it.

SEE MORE: Turkey Tips

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Thanksgiving Recipes

First up is the star of the table – the turkey. Ever since I began brining my turkeys, the end results have been consistently moist and flavorful. The only difficult part is handling the big, slippery bird. The other challenge at holiday time is dedicating refrigerator space to the brining bird. Tackle this first. I have to reshuffle shelves and use my second refrigerator. You might need to enlist a neighbor or relative to offer space, but follow these instructions for Easy Turkey Brining for a simple, savory centerpiece.

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