Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving - Public Goods Blog

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Recipes and Tips for a Sustainable Thanksgiving

On top of crisp, white linen stands a mouth-watering display: crisp-skinned turkey surrounded by saucers of tart cranberry sauce, creamy green bean casseroles topped with toasted almonds, baskets of flaky, buttery biscuits, heaping bowls of golden mashed potatoes sprinkled with tendrils of scallions and sweet potato pie piled high in marshmallow bliss.

cranberry pie, knife

On either end of the table, docked vessels of gravy boats glisten with turkey fat, tall candle sticks flicker their orange dance and the faint sounds of Arlo Guthrie’s nostalgic “Alice’s Restaurant” linger in the background. As we sit surrounded by family and friends, we are reminded how precious time with loved ones is.

Thanksgiving is an auspicious autumnal holiday that allows for the solidification of strong bonds and the formation of memories over dinner in which food is blessed and distributed in a communal atmosphere. But just as quick as we are to gobble up our Thanksgiving dinners, so are we to flock to the stores.

Black Friday shopping is a phenomenon that conveys the idea that consumerism takes more precedence than family and friends. Because stores now open their doors at midnight, people race over to parking lots and stand in line for the year’s “hottest” items. With full stomachs, they fight and compete with strangers over plasma televisions and expensive game consoles.

In 2008 a Walmart employee died on Black Friday in a human stampede all because people needed an item they probably have since sold, broke or have forgotten about completely. To say our priorities need a reality check would be an understatement.

Last Thanksgiving I couldn’t wait to travel home and spend time with my siblings, but immediately after dessert, my sister headed for the outlets. Three and a half hours later, she returned with a $65 keychain she bought at a popular designer purse outlet.

Don’t fall for department and retail store schemes and their duplicitous deals. Stores can artificially increase prices and inflate discounts. Be wary of “derivatives” — low-quality, inferior versions of products, like televisions specifically made for Black Friday shopping.

This Thanksgiving spend time with the people you love, not a cash register. Equally as important, maintain your sustainable practices and celebrate a Thanksgiving you will be proud to look back on.

Though decorative paper plates, napkins, and cups are festive and make cleaning time easier, they do not contribute to a green planet. Instead opt for reusable dinnerware, glasses, cutlery and cloth napkins. To add a little flair, wrap silverware into napkins and tie with twine, which is 100% recyclable, for a rustic look. Prepare dishes that stretch the dollar and fill stomachs, such as hearty squash soups and homemade breads.

And finally, make use of all those Thanksgiving leftovers! The only way to stay sustainable is to avoid waste. In the spirit of giving, here are some of my favorite recipes.

Creamsicle Orange Bombs

Add a burst of brightness to your Thanksgiving spread with this delicious citrus dessert with a flavor that has often elicited expletives. This recipe makes use of orange peels that are loaded with vitamin A, calcium, copper, folate, magnesium and dietary fiber.


  • 6 medium-sized navel oranges
  • 2 tablespoons of orange zest
  • 1 48 oz. drum of vanilla ice cream
  • Mint (optional)
  • Dark chocolate shavings (optional)


  1. Wash and remove mint leaves from the stem, pat dry and reserve.
  2. Rinse each orange under cool running water to remove any residue.
  3. With a knife, cut a circle about 2 to 2.5 inches wide, depending on the size of the fruit, at the top of each orange.
  4. Scoop out the fruit and place in a bowl for later.*
  5. Place hollowed orange “bombshells” in the freezer for an hour.
  6. Remove ice cream from freezer to let soften.
  7. Grate the scrap orange tops against a cheese grater to make orange zest and eliminate food waste.
  8. Scoop ice cream into a second bowl and fold in orange zest until evenly blended. The off-white color of the vanilla ice cream will become a tinted orange and smell like creamsicle. You may choose to add more orange peel zest depending on your palette.
  9. Take out orange “bombshells” from the freezer.
  10. Scoop ice cream into the hollow orange “bombshells” and fill to the top.
  11. Place in the freezer again for a hour or until ready to serve.
  12. With clean cheese grater, grate dark chocolate bar to make shavings. Garnish along with sprigs of spearmint.

*Removed fruit can be used for juice or fruit smoothies.

Butternut Squash Soup

No Thanksgiving spread is complete without the rich color of a harvest soup, and this butternut squash soup is one recipe you will be looking forward to making every year. Rich in fiber, folate, potassium, antioxidants and beta-carotene, butternut squash packs a plethora of health benefits and is an affordable ($1.29 per lb.) way to nourish the body with essential nutrients.When shopping for squash, choose one that has a matte, waxy looking skin. Shiny ones denote the gourd was plucked off the vine too soon.


  • 1 large butternut squash
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 cup almond milk or heavy cream
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 3/4 cup shallots
  • 1 teaspoon maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
  • Freshly ground pepper to taste

*Yields six bowls of soup


  1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Carefully half the butternut squash vertically, remove seeds and stringy pulp and place in a bowl for later.
  3. Place on a baking sheet, drizzle each half with olive oil (about a teaspoon each) and sprinkle with salt and pepper.
  4. Bake in the oven at 425 for 50 minutes.
  5. Remove baked squash from oven, let cool, and scoop out tender squash into a bowl and set aside. Throw out the squash’s skin.
  6. Warm a tablespoon of olive oil in a large pot and cook the minced garlic and shallots until they become translucent and aromatic.
  7. Pour in vegetable broth, reserved butternut squash, salt, pepper, maple syrup, and nutmeg into pot, stirring occasionally. Cover with a lid and cook to a boil.
  8. Turn off stove top and let soup cool for five minutes.
  9. Carefully pour soup into a blender and puree until mixture becomes velvety smooth, turmeric color.
  10. Add in almond milk for texture and continue to puree. (For a thicker soup, replace almond milk with heavy cream). You will need to do this step in batches because most blenders cannot hold this amount of liquid at once.
  11. Pour soup back into the pot on a low flame until it bubbles just to warm it up.
  12. Pour into serving bowls and garnish with whole wheat crunchy croutons. Or freeze in airtight glass jars for up to three months.

Butternut Squash Seeds


  • butternut squash seeds
  • olive oil
  • salt

Let nothing go to waste! Squash seeds are an excellent source of fiber and plant-based protein.
Make this simple, healthy snack and sprinkle on salads or butternut squash soup to add a salted, crunchy texture.


  1. Take the reserved butternut squash seeds, rinse in cool water, remove pulp completely then spread seeds out on a paper towel until dry.
  2. Place dried seeds in a bowl, drizzle with olive oil and salt to taste. Mix to ensure even coating.
  3. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or eliminate waste and place on a cooking stone.
  4. Bake in oven at 275 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes, or until they become a toasted brown color.

Whole Grain Crunchy Croutons

Make these tasty croutons for a healthy, delicious and inexpensive way to dress up any soup or salad and, most importantly, to repurpose stale bread or the ends of bread that typically get tossed.


  • 4 slices of whole grain bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of seasoning (garlic powder, parsley, etc.)
  • 1/8 teaspoon of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper

*Yields three cups


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line baking sheet with parchment paper or spray pizza stone with cooking spray.
  2. Take four slices of whole grain bread and cut into cubes. To ensure even cooking, be sure the cubes are uniform in size.
  3. Place cubes into a bowl, add in olive oil, and sprinkle salt, pepper, parsley flakes, and any other spices of your choosing to taste. I use a blend called “Voodoo Seasoning” I picked up from a shop in New Orleans that has onion, garlic, thyme and allspice; feel free to experiment.
  4. Toss gently until evenly coated.
  5. Lay out bread cubes in a single layer on baking sheet or pizza stone.
  6. Bake for 15 minutes, remove baking sheet from oven and turn over bread cubes so that each side becomes golden brown. Then, place in oven for another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Remove from oven, let cool and enjoy. Croutons can be stored for up to two weeks in an airtight glass jar.

Thanksgiving Empanadas

This twist on the traditional Spanish delicacy makes use of Thanksgiving leftovers in a creative and fun way. With friends and relatives having so many houses to visit over a single day, why not extend Thanksgiving to Friday and have a leftovers party? These Thanksgiving empanadas will not disappoint.


  • Thanksgiving leftovers (turkey, potatoes, carrots, green beans, stuffing)
  • frozen Goya discos (turnover pastry dough) or leftover pie crust
  • egg whites
  • leftover cranberry sauce or gravy for dipping


  1. Allow discos to defrost from freezer.
  2. In a separate bowl, create an egg wash by mixing an egg (or egg white) and a tablespoon of liquid (water, milk, or cream) with a fork until combined. The egg wash is used to create a seal, a golden color, and most importantly, a crunch.
  3. Place defrosted discos on a baking sheet. (If you are using leftover pie crust, roll out dough on a floured surface and use a biscuit cutter to create circles).
  4. Take whatever Thanksgiving food leftovers you have in the refrigerator and dice into smaller pieces if necessary (i.e. cut thick, hulking pieces of turkey into bite-size shredded strips) then place in a mixing bowl.
  5. Fold the leftovers with a mixing spatula so the ingredients are evenly mixed.
  6. Scoop leftovers mixture into the center of the discos with an ice cream scoop or tablespoon. Working with one empanada at a time, brush on a layer of the egg wash with a baking brush around the edges of the discos to create an adhesive.
  7. Fold round into a half circle and seal the edges with a fork, making little crimps around the edges.
  8. Repeat with remaining discos and leftovers.
  9. Brush each empanada with a layer of egg wash.
  10. Place in the oven at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.
  11. Reheat gravy for dipping sauce or remove cranberry sauce from fridge and dig in.

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