The taste of gratitude

“In November, people are good to each other. They carry pies to each other’s homes and talk by crackling woodstoves, sipping mellow cider. They travel very far on a special November day just to share a meal with one another and to give thanks for their many blessings-for their food on their tables and the babies in their arms.” — Cynthia Rylant

There is so very much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. If you are blessed with a warm home and enough food to eat, if you are loved or love someone, if you are a member of a community of supportive friends and family, if you are alive to breathe in the fresh air of freedom, then you have everything to be grateful for.

The feast of Thanksgiving celebrates a glorious taste of gratitude, as well as showcasing the bountiful seasonal ingredients that have been locally harvested. Since the very first gathering of grateful Pilgrims, there has always been an emphasis on preparing natural and local ingredients for Thanksgiving. The Pilgrims and the Native Americans may have shared wild turkey, as well as geese, ducks, swans and venison. Mussels, lobster, clams and oysters were plentiful and easily harvested and may have also been included in that first feast.

While cranberries were readily available, as well as blueberries, plums, grapes, gooseberries and raspberries, the Pilgrims most likely had depleted any stores of sugar they had transported with them, and would not have prepared any tart and tasty sauces or chutneys for their gathering.

How fortunate we are, in this modern day, to have unlimited access to sweeteners of all kinds, as well as plenty of vibrantly healthy cranberries. Cranberries are such an integral part of today’s Thanksgiving dinner, it is inconceivable to imagine the meal without their particularly piquant and perky flavor.

Cranberries freeze beautifully, for up to one year, so consider purchasing extra this season. Simply stash the whole bag in the freezer, and when ready to use, rinse them and proceed with your recipe. Look for cranberries that are firm and brightly colored, with no visible rotting or softness.

This small, but mighty berry provides a wealth of healthy benefits. Well known for successfully preventing urinary tract infections, cranberries may also help prevent bacteria from binding to the teeth. Rich in vitamin C, cranberries provide natural antioxidant protection. The vitamin E content in cranberries will boost immune functions and may help prevent or delay certain chronic illnesses. The fiber content of cranberries makes them an excellent dietary aid and may help lower the risk of developing coronary heart disease, hypertension, stroke, diabetes or obesity.

Cranberries will add vivacious verve to bread-based stuffings, try a version with cornbread and sausage for your dinner this year. Cranberry chutney dolloped atop a goat cheese smeared crostini will make for a fabulous Thanksgiving hor d’oeuvres. When you tire of turkey, add cranberries to beef stew for a zesty kick, or prepare a zingy cranberry salsa for football snacking.

Cranberries will enliven your morning oatmeal and add snappy sass to cakes, pies, breads, pancakes, custards, cookies, or homemade crackers. Add finely chopped cranberries, grated orange zest and a dash of orange liqueur to cream cheese or butter for a sensational holiday spread.

Taste the glory of gratitude as you prepare your delicious life and may you have a blessed and bountiful Thanksgiving.

Glorious Gratitude Stuffing

Serves 10.

1 package fresh cranberries (12 ounces)

1 pound turkey or pork sausage (not links)

6 cups stale cornbread cubes (let sit out overnight to dry out or toast in oven until dry and crispy)

1 medium chopped sweet onion

2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sage

1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

1/3 teaspoon celery seed (optional)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 cups chicken broth

½ cup toasted, chopped pecans or walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Place cranberries in a medium saucepan with enough water to cover and bring to a boil. Cook, just until the skins start to burst. Drain them and set aside.

Cook sausage until well browned, drain, remove from pan and set aside. In same pan, cook onion until translucent.

In a large bowl, combine cranberries, sausage, cornbread cubes, onion, parsley, sage, thyme, celery seed, salt and pepper. Add chicken broth gradually until moistened, but not overly wet. Add nuts.

Butter a 9x13 baking dish and add stuffing to the baking dish. Smooth the top and bake for 25-35 minutes until surface is crisp and nicely browned.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to Robin’s blog is