By Lucia Handwerger
No appetizer display is complete without the perfect charcuterie and no charcuterie is complete without the locally produced, farm fresh cheeses and generationally passed jam recipes of Goot Essa. Start with his savory smoky and spicy hard cheddars combined with a healthy variety of homemade mustards. Pair the earthy raspberry beet spread with his bold balanced bleu cheese. Pop in a creamy spreadable brie wheel as the centerpiece drizzled with Nittany Valley Pure Honey. And finish it with the traditional holiday flavors of Strawberry Cranberry Spread over one of his cave-aged goat cheese logs. The endless flavor and texture combinations will get your guests taste buds buzzing with anticipation for the next course.
Are you a marshmallow on your sweet potato casserole person? If so, keep scrolling because I am not going to tell you to ruin your sweet potatoes like that. What I will tell you is to drizzle them in some Patterson Farms PA Pure Maple Syrup and top with just a sprinkle of Sugar Mamas Candied Pecans for that extra crunch. You’ll never go back to the jet-puffs again.
Bonus tip: I’d spring for the gallon jug. You’ll have enough maple syrup to use as the secret ingredient sugar substitute in your pie recipes. Then bring it back out Monday morning for a hearty pancake and sausage hunter’s breakfast. But wait until you hear the best part according to my pumpkin spice filled heart. Once that gallon jug is empty, it makes a cozy vase for fall florals. Win-Win-Win-Win. Was that four wins in one jug of Maple Syrup? I think so.
I like to have both a cold and warm salad option to choose from on Thanksgiving. The warm salad is usually my signature sheet pan butternut squash and beet salad topped with roasted garbanzo beans, crumbled feta, crisp kale, and toasted pine nuts. This salad generally sits on the appetizer table to be enjoyed while it’s still warm but can easily double as a side salad with dinner. My cold salad favorite is an apple pecan spinach salad with craisins and bleu cheese to balance the flavors. This salad pairs beautifully with Village Eatinghouse’s Marvelous Poppyseed or Sweet and Sour Italian dressings. Set both out to give your opinionated uncles something better than politics to debate over at dinner.
The Signature Drink - PA Wilds Pumpkin Martini
First, find your pumpkin base. You can go to your local liquor store to find this but if you’re up for an adventure, the trip to Elk County to pick up a bottle of Triple Nickel Distillery’s Pumpkin Spice moonshine is worth your time. While you’re there, hike the famous Fred Woods trail and you may even be lucky enough to hear an elk bugling nearby. Once you have your pumpkin liquor, it’s time to sugar that rim. For this, you’ll need melted butter and some Patterson Farms Pure Maple Crunchies. I’m sure you can figure out where this is going. Dip that rim in the melted butter, dunk it in the crunchies and twist. I like to have all my glasses pre-rimmed and chilled to cut down on drink prep time. As guests arrive, you’ll simply pour in your Pumpkin Spice Moonshine and float a tuft of Patterson Farms Maple Cotton candy as the pièce de résistance. Those extra hints of maple sweetness melting into each sip will have your Great Aunt Marge asking for seconds so I hope you’re ready for some spilled family secrets before the night is over.
This step starts a few days before feast day. Pick up a full jar (maybe 2 depending on the size of your turkey) of Village Eatinghouse’s Seasonal Dark and Zesty Italian dressing. When you transfer your turkey from freezer to refrigerator to kick off the big thaw, pour that whole bottle (or 2) of marinade over your turkey. Be sure to baste it over the entire bird to really get that flavor well distributed. Now all that’s left to do on Thanksgiving morning is cram that overgrown chicken into the cooking device of your choice and wait. Don’t forget to use those pre-seasoned turkey drippings for your gravy base.
In my family, we clean up as our dinner digests and the coffee brews. Then sit down with a warm, fresh cup to enjoy dessert. The full bodied, dark cocoa Sabra Blend from Alabaster Coffee & Tea Roasters will bring your sleepy turkey filled body back to life as you reminisce with loved ones over a job well done and another year in the books. They even have a delicious Colombian Decaf for the less caffeine tolerant folks in your crew.
About the Author, Lucia Handwerger:
Lucia Handwerger lives in Kersey, PA with her husband, dog son, and human son. She enjoys sipping coffee on her porch, being a terrible but persistent gardener, and finding new adventures in the PA Wilds. She looks forward to creating new traditions with her young family and sharing her love of nature, community, and appreciating the simple pleasures in life with her friends and family. Lucia is the Finance Manager of Social Enterprises for the PA Wilds Center for Entrepreneurship, and she oversees financial transactions relating to the Center's revenue-generating programs and continues to support accounting and human resources operations.