It’s almost Turkey Day…..let’s get cookin’!

Thanksgiving is almost here, and no, there is no “tofurkey” here at the VenHuizen house.  Nor will there ever be.  We eat REAL food, and processed alternative products are generally frowned upon.  This also means we do a lot of cooking.  Thank goodness we love to cook.   It’s a lot of work to be sure, but one that we place value on.   I just get this innate sense of satisfaction when a warm, hearty meal comes together, especially when the ingredients were gathered at the local farmers’ market, or better yet, were gifts from our neighbors’ gardens.   And I’m lucky.  My hubby loves to cook, probably more than me.  He has a good sense for throwing things together, even without a recipe.  I tend to be one of those Type A’s that needs to follow the recipe word for word (nothing wrong with that) but I always wish I was more creative and spontaneous in the kitchen.  All that to say cooking is a valuable skill when it comes to eating healthy.  I’m not saying you have to love it, but realizing its value and making more time for meal preparation is something we could all be more mindful of.
So how would one, now interested in furthering their cooking abilities, go about such an endeavor?  Read, read, read!  Reading is always a great way to learn new recipes and techniques.  Start with simple recipes out of cooking magazines or basic cookbooks.  Look up anything you aren’t sure of on the internet.  Never de-boned a chicken?  I bet you could get a rudimentary idea within a few minutes searching on the web.  Another way to learn is to take a cooking class.  There are always classes at community colleges or through local culinary groups.  A quick read through the newspaper or a basic online search will probably produce some ideas.  Even some organic grocers such as PCC, Whole Foods and Marlene’s have a regular schedule of classes for a wide variety of palates.  Yet another (albeit more expensive) route is to hire a personal chef or nutrition professional who will come into your home and teach you the basics.  Many local Dietitians, myself included, offer in-home cooking lessons and pantry clean-outs sessions.
But the best and potentially the easiest way to increase our collective cooking knowledge is to teach your children!  Get your youngins measuring out the spices for curry, chopping vegetables for stew, and stirring the home-made pasta sauce.  Teach them where their food comes from, how it’s typically prepared, and why.   Help them pick out ingredients at the grocery store and ask questions of the farmers at the market.  They don’t teach this stuff in school anymore, folks, so it’s up to you.  If you show them the ropes now, they won’t need to learn the hard way as adults.
So with that, I will share our Thanksgiving menu which I put together yesterday rather hastily from a hodge podge of cookbooks we have hanging around (mainly Nigella’s Feast and Whole Grain Baking by Diana Greene).
-Fennel Potato soup
-Organic Turkey from PCC (based w/ white wine butter sauce)
-Sweet Potato Mash
-Parsnips w/ maple syrup
-Brussel sprouts /w chestnuts and pancetta
-Cranberry sauce
-Herbed whole grain rolls
-Pumpkin pie
All of this will be fresh and homemade from raw ingredients, however I will admit that I’m seriously considering running down to the Swinery as they just posted that they have fresh lard pie crusts……and pie crusts are my least favorite thing to do. =) 
So now I’d love to know…..what’s your menu?
Happy Thanksgiving!

Danielle VenHuizen

Registered Dietitian, Certified LEAP Therapist