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Thanksgiving Sides with a Twist

Fun fact – Liam (my husband) spent many of his high school and college years working on a sailboat, traveling across Europe and doing a transatlantic (you should ask him about it sometime; it’s very cool). During his time in the yachting industry, he built relationships with many people from all over the world, as yacht crews are typically comprised of people from several countries. On the crews he was part of, he was the only one who was culturally American (I say culturally because some have U.S. citizenship).

One of my favorite Thanksgiving memories was spending our 2021 Thanksgiving with folks from these yacht crews. At the time, I counted 13 different countries represented at our Thanksgiving dinner, and I have to say, the food was undoubtedly some of the best I’ve ever had for the holiday. Everyone put their all into making the most incredible Thanksgiving dishes, many of which were unique twists on traditional dishes like turkey, sweet potatoes, and green beans. For many, being involved in the celebration was a treat, and they went all out with their dishes, leaving me inspired to put a twist on my own Thanksgiving sides going forward.

The following are 5 ideas for your own Thanksgiving gatherings this year. Many can be prepared in advance, and I would say they are all fairly easy on the scale of difficulty. These are all recipes I have adapted from other websites/chefs (no originals today) and edited to fit our own taste and kitchen. Feel free to edit these and do the same! Enjoy 🙂

Butternut Squash with Bay Leaves

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Fresno chili, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup maple syrup (preferably pure, grade B)
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 6-8 bay leaves
  • salt and pepper

Prep:

STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Halve squash lengthwise, scoop out seeds, remove skin and white flesh underneath to reach orange inside (I use a peeler like I would for carrots). Rub with oil, and lightly season with salt and pepper. Roast until squash begins to soften. Test by using a pairing knife; it should only be able to slip in about 1/4 inch. Approx. 15-20 minutes cook time.

STEP 2 – While squash is cooking, bring chili, maple syrup, butter, and vinegar to a simmer in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir occasionally, and remove chili as soon as desired heat is reached. Side aside chili for serving if desired. 6-8 minutes cook time for mixture to reach this point (should be just thick enough to coat stirring spoon), then reduce heat to low to keep glaze warm.

STEP 3 – Transfer squash to a cutting board and let cool slightly. Using a sharp knife, score squash halves, going as deep as possible without cutting through. Return squash to baking dish, tucking bay leaves between several slices.

STEP 4 – Roast squash, basting with glaze every 10 minutes. Use pastry brush to recover glaze in pan that is browning too much. Cook 45-60 minutes until tender. Glaze should form a rich brown coating. Serve topped with saved chilis.

NOTE – This dish can be prepared several hours in advance. Simply let cool, cover and store at room temp, and reheat before serving.

Wild Rice Stuffing

Ingredients:

  • wild rice blend
  • chicken broth or bouillon + water
  • 3 tablespoons butter
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5-7 pieces bacon
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 package mushrooms
  • 2-3 cups celery, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • salt and pepper
  • chopped almonds
  • dried cranberries
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese (optional)

Prep:

STEP 1 – Add wild rice blend to saucepan with chicken broth, a bay leaf, and a dash of salt. Bring to a boil, turn the heat down to low, cover, and simmer until the rice is al dente. Approx. 45 minutes. Remove pan from heat, and fluff with a fork after letting sit/cool for a few minutes.

STEP 2 – Meanwhile, brown bacon in large skillet over medium heat, then set aside. Reserve bacon fat in skillet and turn the heat up to medium-high. Melt butter in skillet before adding chopped onion, mushrooms, and celery. SautĂ© until mushrooms are staring to brown. Season with dried thyme, salt, and pepper

STEP 3 – Add cooked wild rice and bacon into skillet. Add chopped whole almonds, dried cranberries, and for an even more unique twist – freshly grated parmesan cheese. Stir well to combine, adding a splash of chicken broth if needed to loosen the stuffing.

Citrus-Pomegranate Relish

A great cranberry substitute – especially if your Thanksgiving looks like mine, and cranberries are in several dishes!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup sherry vinegar
  • 4 small oranges (blood oranges, cara cara, etc.) or other citrus like tangelos
  • 1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
  • salt and pepper

Prep:

STEP 1 – Cook sugar in saucepan over medium-high heat until ring around the edges is melted. Using a wooden spatula, pull melted sugar in towards center of saucepan, and continue to cook, pulling melted sugar toward the middle and reducing heat if sugar begins to smoke. Once all sugar is melted and reaches a deep caramel color, remove from heat. Cook time approx. 6-8 minutes. Next, add vinegar (carefully!) and cook sauce over medium heat, stirring, until caramel dissolves. Season generously with salt and pepper. If sauce tastes too tart, add extra salt a pinch at a time to balance out.

STEP 2 – Peel oranges and slice crosswise. Place in a large bowl, and add pomegranate seeds and sauce. Toss to coat.

NOTE – Relish can be made 1 week ahead. Cover and chill. Let sit at room temp 2 hours before serving.

Cream Cheese Biscuits

9 servings

Ingredients:

  • Cooking spray or oil
  • 2 cups soft wheat self-rising flour + more for work surface
  • 4 tablespoons butter, cut into pieces + 2 tablespoons, melted, divided
  • 2 oz. cream cheese, cut into pieces
  • 2 oz. Asiago, grated (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • 1 clove garlic, pressed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh chives
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and pepper
  • any herbs of choice (optional)

Prep:

STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease a rimmed baking sheet with oil/spray. Whisk together flour and salt in a bowl. Cut in butter and cream cheese with forks, and stir in cheese. Add milk, garlic, chives, parsley, pepper, and any herbs of choice to center. Stir with wooden spoon until combined.

STEP 2 – Flour a work surface, and pat dough into a rectangle using well-floured hands. Fold dough in half, and pat again into a rectangle. Repeat two times until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.

STEP 3 – Pat dough into 1/2-inch thickness. Use a round biscuit/cookie cutter to cut into circles. Place biscuits touching on prepared baking sheet, and brush tops with remaining 2 tablespoons melted butter. Gather scraps together and repeat to make additional biscuits.

STEP 4 – Bake until golden brown, approx. 12-15 minutes.

Blistered Green Beans with Tomato Pesto

8 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 pints cherry tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup roasted almonds
  • 1 garlic clove, grated
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar/red wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • Pinch cayenne pepper
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 pounds green beans
  • salt and pepper

Prep:

STEP 1 – Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roast tomatoes on a rimmed baking sheet, turning once, until blistered and lightly charred, 15-20 minutes. Let cool slightly. Finely chop almonds in a food processor, and add garlic, olive oil, half of the tomatoes, vinegar, paprika, and cayenne and pulse to a coarse pesto consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

STEP 2 – Heat vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add beans and cook until beginning to blister, about 3 minutes. Toss and continue to cook, tossing occasionally, until tender, 7-9 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Spread beans out on a platter. NOTE – if pan is too small, split vegetable oil and beans in half and cook in two rounds.

STEP 3 – Toss beans with pesto and add remaining tomatoes. Transfer to a platter, and season if needed.

NOTE – Dish can be made 3 hours ahead. Store tightly wrapped at room temp. Toss and adjust seasoning before serving.

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Why Whole Chickens Are Better

Incoming! Educational rant session headed your way –

As a society, we’ve selected parts of the chicken that we prefer or that are convenient (hello, chicken breasts!) and discarded the rest as less than or somehow unpalatable. Simply stand to the side in the meat aisle of the grocery store, and watch how many people pick up chicken breasts over any other cut of meat. I’m guilty of it too.

For large scale/confinement operations (some people call them factory farms), unwanted cuts and bones are sent off to be processed into soups, broths, dog food…

But on small scale farms like ours, where do the less popular cuts go??

I know countless farmers who pasture raise poultry of the highest quality and have freezers consistently sold out of breasts… yet full of wings, thighs, etc.

Now that I’ve taken part in raising and processing animals for a few years, I believe that only buying the same cut again and again fails to honor and recognize the entire animal.

I try to remind myself how people all over the world cherish animal protein. When I lived and worked in Uganda, we had the special treat of chicken once a week. Every Friday. This opportunity was a rare privilege in the community, and there was certainly never a concern or spoken preference over cuts.

I think about my ancestors cutting a whole chicken and savoring every part, understanding that each piece was a delicacy of its own, with individual nutrients and flavors.

I realize this might not seem like a major world issue. It’s probably not! BUT – I do think it points to the responsibility we have as consumers to make a positive impact on our food system, especially for those of us who can and enjoy supporting farmers in our direct communities.

So here it is – Whole chickens:

  1. Are cheaper than sold by the cut
  2. Allow you to make bone broth or chicken stock
  3. Can be split into whatever cuts you want
  4. Offer increased nutrient density, as every part of the chicken has different nutrients to offer. Just look around the world; many cultures use different parts of the chicken to cure different ailments and illnesses.
  5. Leave the farmer with a completely sold chicken, a whole life ethically raised on the farm, now in your hands to prepare and nourish your family with it
  6. Can help you feel more connected to where your food comes from
  7. Create confidence in the kitchen, as you learn new, creative cooking skills
  8. Oftentimes go a long way, contributing to several meals throughout the week

We sell pasture raised, Organic-fed chicken that’s rotated to fresh pasture daily. Over the summer market season, our chicken was almost always sold out, thanks to a number of families who prioritized savoring a whole chicken every week, making numerous meals with it, including many with fresh bone broth. We’ve been told we have the most tender chicken around.

Chickens are delicious when cooked whole but are also easy to split into cuts yourself. If you’re interested in some whole chickens from Kingdom Gardens, visit us at the market or text (912)433-3326 for on-farm pickup. I know Farmer Emily would sure appreciate it.

Some resources for you:

How to split a whole chicken into different cuts VIDEO – How To Cut A Whole Chicken – YouTube

How to split a whole chicken into different cuts TEXT version – How to Cut a Whole Chicken Into 8 Pieces – FeelGoodFoodie

Slow cooker whole chicken – Slow Cooker Whole Chicken – Dinner at the Zoo

Roasted whole chicken – Easy Roasted Chicken (Juicy + Crispy Skin!) (platingsandpairings.com)

An easy chicken stock recipe (note that she suggests using raw chicken to make this) – Chicken stock | RecipeTin Eats

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Heirloom Varieties

I had never been so excited to open a seed order in my life. Like usual, this box was filled with thousands of seeds – amazing heirloom varieties of all shapes, sizes, and colors – but my response was different.

I was able to breathe deep, knowing we would sell out of all of the future veggies that will come from said seeds (a feat we weren’t always able to pull off).

It got me thinking; it’s such a shame that grocery stores don’t offer crops like these.

When we first started the farm, we didn’t have the customer base we needed to sell all of our products, and because of this, we had to sell to local grocery stores and independent wholesalers. It was difficult because they weren’t very interested in any of our unique heirloom crops. They wanted standard grocery items.

Red round tomatoes.

Bicolored sweet corn.

Normal zucchini and yellow squash… (not the several colorful and striped varieties we grow)

they surely didn’t want Christmas pole Lima beans! 

But because we’ve connected with so many of you (foodies and families who are adventurous in the kitchen, willing to try new, fun veggies), we get to grow whatever we want!

Praise the Lord for such a wonderful customer base and group of people who support our local farm and love our mission.

In 2024, you bet we’ll be growing those Christmas Lima beans (endangered) and many other specialty heirloom varieties that offer an array of nutrients and flavors that the grocery store can’t compare to. Thank you for making this possible.

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Farm Life

An outlet for community

Starting a farm has been one of the best things I’ve ever done…

but not for the reasons you would expect.

When I started the farm, I THOUGHT it would give me an outlet to:

  • Work outside in the fresh air, ditching the 9 to 5
  • Protect the environment, stewarding my little farm ecosystem the way God intended
  • Take control of my food supply, relying less and less on the grocery store
  • Benefit my physical, emotional, and mental wellbeing
  • Have daily interactions with animals of all kinds, both farm animals and wildlife alike
  • Grow pretty food and flowers, getting to enjoy the visual fruits of my labor
  • Never be bored due to the endless projects and activities that can come with farm life
  • Be a lifelong learner, learning something new every day
  • Connect to where my food comes from

While yes, farming has given me an outlet for most of these things at some point, the one thing that’s been increasingly and unwaveringly true, regardless of the seasons or circumstances, has been this:

Through farming at Kingdom Gardens, God has given me an outlet to connect with my community.

From relationships with other farmers to deep friendships with farm customers, I didn’t expect farming to make me feel so at home in my city.

When we moved here, the first thing I did was start the farm. Although we had followed family here, we didn’t have a history in Rock Hill and knew very few people. We hadn’t found a church home yet; we didn’t have friends.

Nearly three years later, I’m still learning my way around town. But what’s so cool is that when we visit new places, I feel like I belong. I run into people I care about, feed, and talk to every Saturday at the market.

I spent my whole childhood moving from place to place, becoming all too familiar with the pains of starting over. The Lord used the farm to ease that transition for me, and for that I’m grateful.

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Hurtful Comments

You said this, and it got me thinking…

You say,
“I could never raise my own animals for meat.”
“Butchery? You must be so strong!”
“How can you eat an animal that you knew??”

My response:
“How could you not?”

These comments, as well meaning as they may be, come across like:

  • You see what I do as a horrific act
  • My heart must be hardened
  • Like I lack compassion for animals
  • It requires such a monstrous effort to take a life

In reality, it’s the opposite. Hear me out.

It’s far more compassionate to deeply know and respect the animal –

It makes a difference when you are thankful for an animal’s individual life, rather than blindly grabbing a limp piece of meat, set on Styrofoam, from the grocery store.

There’s a reason why over a third of our most loyal customers are folks who used to be vegan.

They understand what makes us different. They’re seeking a deep connection to their food.

Consider this – getting to raise an animal, watching them move to fresh pasture daily, frolicking through the forest, breathing fresh air and positively impacting the ecosystem… that’s beautiful.

Over 96% of pigs in the U.S. are raised indoors.
And over 99% of chickens live the same confinement life, never allowed to see the outside or experience natural light.

As a culture, we’ve outsourced animal production to giant metal buildings, hidden away from society, and in turn, we’ve outsourced the responsibility of death as well.

So yes – it surprises me when people are shocked that I raise animals for meat, while they continue their disconnected weekly grocery runs, picking up disembodied cuts wrapped in soggy plastic.

Supporting local farmers connects you to the created world – to life – in ways that are intangible and hard to describe.

Maybe the lack of compassion lies in the folks who are the most disconnected to where their food comes from.

Raising animals for meat is an eye opening and life changing experience that will leave you appreciating where your food comes from more than ever before.

Heavy thoughts for the end of your week, I know.

If you’re interested in participating in one of our chicken processing days to experience a real farm to table butchery, be sure to subscribe to our local newsletter, where tickets to our community processing days will become available in 2024.

People are surprised to learn that processing days are some of our favorite days on the farm, and we’d love to have you out to enjoy a beautiful, lifechanging day on pasture for yourself. 

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A dog lives with our pigs

There’s a full grown dog who lives with our pigs…

Long story short, we used to have sheep.

We were still so new to farming. We had no idea what we were doing and messed up step number one

With livestock guardian dogs, you’re supposed to raise them with the animals you intend to have them protect… preferably vulnerable livestock like chickens or sheep.

Although Maverick’s first 10 weeks were spent with a beautiful flock of sheep, the moment he stepped onto our farm, we made the mistake of introducing him to pigs.

Naively, I thought it was important for Maverick to be familiar with all of our animals so he wouldn’t associate them with being predators.

Maybe it was the similarity in size… maybe it was the puppy-like playfulness piglets have to offer… or maybe our wild-looking coarse hair sheep were just too different than the cute fluffy ones he grew up with… but he fell in love with pigs.

From his first day at Kingdom Gardens, there was a constant struggle to keep Maverick away from the pigs. Even when we forced him to live on pasture with the sheep, far out of eyesight and earshot from the rest of the farm, he’d regularly figure out ways to escape and find his way back to the pigs.

The struggle finally became unbearable

…not because we weren’t willing to chase him down or continue fighting with him, but because we knew his natural Great Pyrenees instincts had already been programmed to protect the pigs, not our sheep. He was happier living with pigs and made his preferences blatantly clear.

n tropical storms, snow, hot summer heat, strong winds… there’s nothing you can do to keep Maverick from protecting his pigs.

And although many of them have weighed up to 4x his weight and could surely hold their own against any predators, he still takes his guardian dog job very seriously!

I think the Lord knew we wouldn’t last long with sheep and allowed all of this to happen so that we’d get to keep our sweet pup on the farm for a lifetime of wallowing in the mud.

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