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Dear Laura,

Like you, I’m hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year.  But possibly unlike you, it’ll be a low pressure situation, as my parents will be the only guests.  And did I mention they’re bringing the main dish, and they love to help out in the kitchen?  Should be a dream.

Thanksgiving 2010 with Mom, Dad and baby K. Both the biscuits and gratin make a cameo. As does a hat made by Emily!

Reading over the description of your childhood holidays made me realize our Thanksgiving dinners were quite different from yours.

First of all, no one in my family really likes turkey.  Talk about Thanksgiving blasphemy!  So not only did our protein choice change from year to year (chicken, Cornish game hens, pork tenderloin), but my parents loved to experiment with new side dishes, too.

One of my favorite Thanksgiving meal inspirations was something my parents found in (the now defunct) Country Journal magazine in 1986.  It was called the “Harvest Feast” and consisted of apple roasted chicken, brown and wild rice pilaf, a broth-based vegetable soup (that contained kale long before kale was cool), whole wheat and corn meal biscuits, and pear cranberry crisp for dessert.

More than 25 years later, bits and pieces of this meal always make it into our holiday menus.

So this year, here is our plan:

  • Roasted pork tenderloin with adobo sauce – during a recent trip to Chicago, my parents went to Frontera Grill and bought a cookbook there – Rick Bayless’s Mexican Kitchen.  This recipe is in it.  As my Dad says, they have no idea how someone named Rick Bayless makes such delicious Mexican food, but this recipe made them believers.
  • Garden vegetable gratin – a few years ago we tried and loved this recipe.  And since Mom demands potatoes, we’ll be repeating this one.


  • Whole wheat and corn meal biscuits –  Flour, cornmeal, baking soda, sour cream, butter … all good.  Plus, you know how we feel about whole grains at my house.
  • Stuffing  – nothing fancy here, folks.  We usually just buy the bagged kind and “dress” (nothing like a stuffing pun) it up a little bit with chopped carrots, celery, onion and cranberries.
  • Lada family sweet potatoes – I became addicted to this recipe last year when the hubby’s family visited for Thanksgiving.  It took some arm twisting, but I got permission to share this with you guys.
Lada Family Sweet Potatoes
Author: Brother-in-law
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
Serves: 4-6
My brother-in-law’s family tradition, complete with brown sugar, cinnamon, butter, and just a touch of ketchup for a little acidity. I break out this recipe year round for a sinfully delicious treat.
  • 5 sweet potatoes
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 c. water
  • 1 Tbsp. ketchup
  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Place potatoes in a pan, cover with water. Boil 15-20 minutes, then peel potatoes. Halve potatoes and place in a single layer in a baking dish.
  3. Melt butter in a medium saucepan and add the brown sugar, cinnamon, water and ketchup. Bring to a boil. Boil for 2-3 minutes.
  4. Pour sauce over potatoes. Cover with foil. Bake for about 20 minutes, until bubbly.


  • Cranberry sauce – we make this very simply.  Just bubble some cranberries with sugar and a little water on the stove until the sauce thickens.
  • Green veggie – probably broccoli roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Because eating some veggies makes you appreciate the rest of the meal even more.  Like this:
Oven Roasted Broccoli from Real Mom Kitchen (link broken)

  • Pumpkin pie – here’s hoping Dad will make his famous whole wheat crust!
  • Pear cranberry crisp – the perfect juxtaposition of the sweet pears and tart cranberries; crispy brown sugar-oatmeal-butter topping and soft fruit.  Best served with a dollop of whipped cream.
Pear Cranberry Crisp, from a few years back. With a cameo from Pumpkin Pie and a great glass of wine.

I’ll be making bountiful portions because, as much as some folks bemoan leftovers, I love them.  It’s the meal that keeps on giving.

Mary Sig

Mary is a regular guest contributor to Good Not Perfect.  Mary grew up in Kansas City and met Laura and Emily during her stint as a Hoosier in college.  She currently lives in Denver with her husband and two daughters and works as a physician in internal medicine.  She aspires to be one of those women still running 10Ks in their 70s, and her bucket list includes visiting all 59 U.S. National Parks.

4 Comments on Mary’s “Harvest Feast” Thanksgiving

  1. Ok this will be a tough call – don’t know whose menu I’m more excited about, yours or mine. :) I giggled audibly at the Rick Bayless observation. And that sounds like a great menu! The sweet potatoes sound great too – you’ll have to take a picture when you have them done. And PLEASE share with us the 1986 Country Journal article if/when your parents can track it down!

      • Whole Wheat Pie Crust

        Cut together 1 cup (sometimes more) of flour (use 2/3 cup white and 1/3 cup whole wheat, or 3/4 and 1/4 cup respectively) with 1/3 cup (or a little more) of butter and if the butter is unsalted, 1/4 tsp salt. When mixture is uniform, add about 3 Tbsp cold buttermilk, or enough till mixture will hold together in a ball. Chill 1 hour at least. Roll out on a floured surface or floured waxed paper. Transfer to pie plate and proceed with baking or filling as per the pie recipe.

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