The first time the Gabber asked me to write a piece about gratitude, I was in pain and having trouble breathing due to the exceptionally annoying rare lung disease. So I made a sarcastic comment about how this Thanksgiving, all I want to do is order pizza and drink so much I forget what year it is. I even came up with a tentative headline for this article: “This Thanksgiving, I’m Grateful for Pizza and Alcohol.”
As it turns out, it’s just not possible to feel truly grateful for anything when you can’t breathe and you have a migraine at the same time. Something about Maslow’s hierarchy of needs – until your basic needs are met, your higher calling goes unanswered.
Maybe my editor realized that I just wasn’t myself that day, or maybe she wouldn’t take no for an answer, but a month later, she gave me a second chance to pitch a story for this issue. This time, my answer was different.
Back in October, I’d finally found a small amount of relief from my migraines and breathing troubles in the form of a biofeedback therapist. Ginnie taught me how to cope with my pain so I could increase the dose on my headache-inducing breathing medication. I had to make some lifestyle changes. The best change was learning how to slow down and relax. Now, instead of having another cup of coffee in the afternoon, I practice progressive muscle relaxation and take a nap. I’ve also changed my diet.
My biofeedback therapist recommended I try Dr. Andrew Weil’s anti-inflammatory diet. I said goodbye to a lot of junk funk and said hello to a lot of fruit, vegetables, whole grains, fish and beans. One month later, I’m having less painful migraines and I’m breathing better, so I couldn’t be more grateful for these changes.
Now that I’ve embraced the fact that potatoes aren’t the kind of vegetable I need to eat more of, however, I’ve got a challenge with Thanksgiving. I have to come up with some healthier menu items.
I decided to query Gabber staff and local produce markets to find out what vegetables they enjoy most on Thanksgiving. Here’s what I learned.
Produce Market Veggie Favorites
As I try to incorporate more vegetables into my diet, I’m grateful that there’s no shortage of fresh local produce in Tampa Bay. With Little Pond Farms, Brick Street Farms and Gulfport’s Tuesday Fresh Market, the area is brimming with produce possibilities.
We know a lot of you are digging those Little Pond veggie boxes, so we asked Little Pond Farms’ Cole Turner about his favorite Thanksgiving veggies.
“We love soup for Thanksgiving – particularly butternut squash soup, and collard green soup,” he wrote. “Another special local dish we like to make for Thanksgiving is roselle hibiscus cranberry sauce. Roselle hibiscus is an edible flower calyx that is ready for harvest in Florida at Thanksgiving time. It is often called the ‘Florida cranberry.’”
You can find a recipe for roselle hibiscus cranberry sauce at southernexposure.com.
St. Pete’s Brick Street Farms has the best lettuce in the area, and I’m kind of in love with their website. Marketing and Brand Manager Illene Sofranko is always posting delicious produce-forward recipes to brickstreetfarms.com/fresh-feed. I’m particularly fond of the prosciutto salad wraps – a small pile of lettuce, pears and blue cheese wrapped in a slice of prosciutto – as a healthy snack or holiday appetizer.
For your Thanksgiving veggie, Sofranko recommends roasted sweet potatoes with arugula pesto or with quinoa and red leaf lettuce. Pro tip: the arugula pesto tastes great on pumpkin crostini. Just spread some ricotta cheese onto your bread toasts, pile on some cubed roasted pumpkin or butternut squash, and drizzle with arugula pesto for a delicious plant-based Thanksgiving appetizer.
Gulfport newcomer Funky Flamingo Produce, Deli and More just started participating in Gulfport’s Tuesday Fresh Market. Co-owner Anita McLaughlin told us that sweet potatoes are her favorite Thanksgiving veg.
“Usually I just slice them, so they’re like rings, and I bake them in a little bit of olive oil,” McLaughlin told the Gabber. “And then when they’re done, I put butter, brown sugar and cinnamon on them.”
Want to try it? Funky Flamingo just got some huge sweet potatoes from Mississippi.
Gabber Staff Veggie Favorites
Gabber Publisher Cathy Salustri didn’t appreciate cranberries until later in life.
“My entire family professes a deep, abiding love for jellied sauce in a can, but in my twenties I discovered how divine cranberries taste when you boil them until they pop, then stir in Florida orange juice, Tupelo honey and slivered almonds,” she wrote. “I make a batch every year, and although my mother, father and husband cling to the gelatinous garbage loved by mid-century Yankees, it’s OK – more for me!”
For Gabber Editor Shelly Wilson, the veggies are even more important than the turkey.
“For me, Thanksgiving dinner is all about the veggies,” she wrote. “I love Brussels sprouts, cranberry salsa and green beans with garlic and tomatoes, but the star of our family dinner is often my Georgian grandmother’s squash casserole. Unfortunately, the full recipe is a closely guarded secret, but I can tell you that it’s definitely sliced yellow squash, cooked to a squishy goodness and baked with what I assume is a grocery isle of butter – it’s the Southern way!”
Gabber Arts Writer Lynn Taylor is also a fan of roasted brussels sprouts.
“Brussels sprouts were never one of my favorite vegetables, but, after roasting them, they are now,” she wrote. Taylor drizzles hers with three tablespoons of good olive oil and sprinkles them with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper before roasting the seasoned sprouts on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper for 30 to 40 minutes at 400 degrees. When done, she recommends squeezing some lemon juice over top or adding diced, cooked bacon for extra flavor.
Social Media Director Leah Petrakis makes a root vegetable gratin of about a pound and a half each of sliced turnips, rutabaga and potatoes in a cream sauce.
“It’s adapted from an old Bon Appetit recipe,” she wrote. “I gently heat a couple of cups of cream and a cup of broth, throw in some thyme sprigs and a couple of peeled garlic cloves and bay leaf and let it simmer for a couple of minutes, then steep for a few minutes more off the heat to infuse the cream. I throw out the thyme springs and bay leaf, and add salt and pepper. I salt the vegetables, layer about a third into a buttered 9 x 13 baking dish, sprinkle on some gruyere and parm, then repeat with two more layers. I pour the cream over the whole dish, top with bread crumbs browned with butter in a pan, cover with foil and bake for about 50 minutes in a 400-degree oven, until vegetables are tender. Uncover and let cook for another 10 to 15 minutes until the top is browned and the cream is bubbling.”
Creative Director Joey Neill wrote that his favorite Thanksgiving veggies are green bean casserole, pecan pie and flaky biscuits.
“I guess the first one is the only veggie-related item,” he joked, “but I make terrible choices, so there you go.”
Cheers to good choices and bad choices and everything in between this Thanksgiving. However you choose to celebrate, we hope it’s safe and delicious.