Thanksgiving Dinner: Tips & Recipes

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest.  It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.

In year’s past we ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips, starting with kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too… Read the rest of this entry »

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Late Fall Community-Based Learning through Engagement

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: November Segment
Late Fall Learning with Hilltown Families Cultural Itinerary

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Tuesday, November 1, 2016. This month Sienna and Seth talked about ways to engage in our community in the late fall. Reviewing the newest edition of Learning Ahead, Seth and Sienna talk about learning through the lens of the food, habitat and culture found in the Nov/Dec issue of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA:

Click on the video to watch.
Download a copy of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA. (38 page PDF) for the holiday season.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be the week after Thanksgiving.

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Learning Ahead: Nov & Dec Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for
Western Massachusetts
Seasons: November & December

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts for November and December includes:

  • Learn about FOOD preservation: Harvest, Butchers & Museums
  • Veterans Day as a CATALYST for learning: Literature, History & Music
  • Looking through the LENS of Thanksgiving: Poetry & Painting
  • VALUE based engagement: Handmade &  Non-Commercial
  • Local HABITAT connects us to myth & nature: Christmas Trees
  • PLACEMAKING with annual events: Holiday Strolls & Caroling
  • Experience other CULTURES through the holidays: Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa & Three Kings Day
  • Mark the SEASON by sharing & connecting: Winter Solstice & Storytelling
  • Engage in New England TRADITIONS: First Night & First Hikes

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

Special thank you to sponsors of this issue, including: ♦ Montague BookmillNew England Air MuseumDowntown Northampton AssociationSpringfield Museums.

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: Debut of Seasonal Cultural Itinerary

Hilltown Families on Mass Appeal: August Segment
Debut of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Hilltown Families and Mass Appeal (a weekday, hour-long lifestyle program on NBC) have teamed up to offer a live monthly segment on WWLP 22News!  Each month, Hilltown Families’ Founder & Executive Director, Sienna Wildfield,  joins Mass Appeal hosts to talk about ways to engage in your community while supporting the interests and education of your children (and yourselves!).

This monthly segment continued on Monday, August 29, 2016. This month Sienna and Lauren talked about agricultural fairs, fall festivals, one room schoolhouses and apples featured in the debut of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA:

Download a copy of Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western MA. (38 page PDF) for the fall season.


Mass Appeal is a live weekday program that airs at 11am on 22News (Springfield, MA).  Our next visit to the Mass Appeal studios will be September 26th, 2016!

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Learning Ahead: Sept & Oct Cultural Itinerary for Western MA

Learning Ahead:
Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts
Seasons: Sept & Oct

Who am I? Where am I? These are the fundamental questions proposed by the humanities. Inquiries related to local history, literature, and education, inspire us to think deeply about the places where we live and how our identity fits into the context of our community and the seasons.

Learning Ahead: Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is a new bimonthly publication produced by Hilltown Families that sheds light on embedded learning opportunities found in cultural resources that exist within the geography, history, and cultural traditions of Western Massachusetts.

With these downloadable seasonal itineraries, self-directed teens, lifelong learners, and families are encouraged to engage together in cultural opportunities that support similar interests, resulting in a shared history, strengthening sense of place.

Looking through a seasonal lens, our debut Cultural Itinerary for Western Massachusetts is for the months of September and October and includes:

  • Participation in local CULTURE: Agricultural Fairs and Fall Festivals
  • PLACEMAKING through annual events: Guided Tours and Plein Air Paint Outs
  • Gathering and preparing seasonal FOOD: Apples and Pumpkins
  • VALUE based engagement: Intergenerational, Skillsharing, and Community Meals
  • Marking the SEASON with annual events: Back-to-School and Halloween
  • Engage in local HABITAT: Nature Trails and Fall Foliage
  • INTEREST based learning: Domestic Arts, Pastry Arts, and Paranormal

Click here to download PDF (38 pages).


Mass Humanities This program is funded in part by Mass Humanities, which receives support from the Massachusetts Cultural Council and is an affiliate of the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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Halloween Links to Local History Learning Opportunities

7 Halloween-Themed Events that Spotlight Western MA History

As the hills and valleys of western Massachusetts brighten with the changing of seasons, the evenings become just a bit darker and a bit spookier. While we enjoy the harvest and enjoy our fair share (at least) of apples, squash, and all things pumpkin, the days shorten and darken around us – serving as a reminder that Halloween is creeping up on us. In addition to Halloween’s costume frenzy and the potential for candy accumulation that the holiday presents, the spooking season brings with it a myriad of ways to learn about local history!

This area of New England is rich with history, and much of it spooky and surrounded by mystery. Towns across western Massachusetts are home to potentially haunted historic buildings, controversial centuries-old community history, and cemeteries that are the final resting place of folks who may have met questionable ends. All of these eerie tales amount to more than a good, healthy scare – they offer entry points for learning about the history of many small communities, as well as the western portion of the state as a whole.

Additionally, an examination of the history of a single community can help children to understand the history of the region and country better, as it provides context for understanding the specifics of a large, broad look at the events and aesthetic of a particular era. Learning about Civil War-era community members, for example, can help students imagine life during that time period, as they’ll be able to imagine the surroundings in which such people existed. Trying to understand life in the past without context, on the other hand, may lead to more guesswork on the child’s part – something that exercises their imagination but may not lead to as thorough an understanding (and definitely will not lead to developing deeper ties to their local landscape!).

To begin exploring local history through the lens of spooky history, take advantage of one (or all!) of the many upcoming Halloween-themed events that spotlight local history:
Read the rest of this entry »

Seasons at Our Table: Harvest Season

Harvest Season

Dinner on Thanksgiving Day is a meal when extended family and friends come together to celebrate and share the harvest.  It’s a holiday when we talk a lot about food, sharing cooking tips and family recipes.. and it’s the final season we’ll be featuring in our 3-part series, Seasons at Our Table.

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Taking a look back this year, at the beginning of Maple Sugar Season in late February, we invited our readers to share with us how Maple Sugar Season gets their family outdoors and participating in the harvest with their community. We also invited them to share their favorite recipe that they like to make for/with their family breakfast/brunch hour.  Read what they had to share in our first installment of Seasons at Our Table, “Maple Sugar Season.”

Then at the beginning of the summer we invited our readers to share a family recipe using fresh local produce.  We highlighted submissions our readers shared, featuring local produce often bought fresh from our farmers’ markets and road side stands.  Read their submissions in our second of three installments of Seasons at Our Table,Farmers’ Market Season.”

It’s now we conclude with the “Harvest Season.”  We’ve ask our readers to share what they serve for their Thanksgiving Dinner and to offer cooking tips.  We started by asking for kitchen tips on how to cook a turkey, followed by a request for favorite vegetarian dishes to cook up too:

COOKING A TURKEY

One of our readers asks, “This is the first year our family is to host Thanksgiving Dinner at our house (ack!). I’ve never cooked a whole turkey and don’t even know where to begin. I could surf the net, but many of your readers seem very savvy and I’m hoping these more experienced family cooks could offer their advice- from how to pick out a turkey to how to cook it?”

Kara Kitchen writes, “There are a great selection of local fresh turkeys here in Western MA. We like to do ours on the gas grill; keeps the heat outside, more room in the oven for sides, takes less time, and is so juicy! Just keep it covered w/tin foil and keep adding water to keep a constant 3/4″ in the bottom of pan (we use the one-use tin ones w/handles)-this will keep the meat moist but let the skin get crispy-no need to baste w/the steam caught under the foil!… cuts time in half (>4hrs).”

Michele Yargeau Sexton writes, “You need 2lbs of turkey per person when selecting the size. Remove all the stuff out of the turkey, rinse and dry. salt and pepper cavity, and stuff with celery, carrots, and a little onion. No need to peel the carrots, or trim the celery, it’s only for flavor. Soften butter in your hands, and massage the turkey all over. Make a thick paste of all purpose flour, orange juice, salt and pepper. Brush all over the buttered turkey with a pastry brush. Put in a roasting pan, add about an inch of chicken broth, and cover tightly with foil. Put Turkey in oven @ 250-degrees about 11 hours before you want to eat it (yes, that usually means about 2am.). DON’T TOUCH IT FOR 9 HOURS, DON’T OPEN THE FOIL, NOTHING. The 10th hours, remove the foil, turn heat up to 350-degrees for browning. Remove from oven, let sit about an hour. Carve and Serve.”

Katie Stetson writes, “I usually just truss and oil it put it in the oven at 350-degrees then pull it out just before it is fully cooked – tent it with foil and let it rest for 45 minutes during which time it will finish cooking but not get dry. In that 45 minutes you can finish up the sides in the now empty oven.”

Deborah Hackett writes, “Ok, I know I am old school but…I still put stuffing inside my turkey, the heat kills the bacteria. Cover with foil and cook at 350-degrees for 25 minutes per pound.  The last 1/2 hour uncover to crisp skin. Make sure oven rack is low or top will burn. Let rest while getting other side together and serve. Or if you choose ham, I put mine in the crock pot on low for 12 hours.”

LOCAL TURKEYS

Aimee Costa Lalime asks, “Where do you get the fresh, local turkeys?”

Kara Kitchen replies, “This year we got ours (most have to pre-order) from Berkshire Organics in Dalton (they had 3 local choices!), but in years past we’ve ordered through the Cummington Creamery or Lightning Bug Farmstand (on the Plainfield/Cummington town line), which I believe are from Diemand Farms. I think the River Valley Market Co-Op (Northampton) should carry them as well, or at least direct you to one… or find a hunter, they are in abundance out here in the Hilltowns! ;)”

VEGETARIAN THANKSGIVING

For Thanksgiving, some families skip the turkey and serve up a delicious vegetarian feast using local roots, squashes, greens, apples, pumpkins, cranberries and mushrooms instead! What’s your favorite vegetarian dish to cook up for your family Thanksgiving dinner?

Kara Kitchen writes, “Roasted root vegetables! Tossed in EVOO, salt+pepper…even the kids can’t resist the caramelized goodness.”

Bevan Brunelle writes, “Homemade cranberry sauce served warm with orange zest.”

Sienna Wildfield writes, “Tonya Lemos turned me on to fresh from the garden Brussel sprouts sauteed in butter and tons of chopped garlic…. Now it’s a staple for Thanksgiving dinner! Grew 12 plants this year in our garden… just can’t get enough of this deliciousness!”

Tonya Lemos writes, “One of my favs is a Greek dish that seems to have made its way to our Thanksgiving tables over the years… it is Peas cooked in Olive Oil with Garlic and Pearl Onion with A LOT of fresh dill.”

Marya Kozik LaRoche writes, “Lentils and caramelized onions.”

Jennifer Fox writes, “There is a terrific loaf recipe in the Greens cookbook that I make every year. It isn’t vegan (plenty of cheese), but is a huge hit with even the vegetarians who are extremely picky eaters and jealous meat-eaters. The recipe also suggests a mushroom gravy, which is great. – My family veggie “recipes” are also naturally vegetarian. My favorites are candied parsnips and mashed rutabaga (Florida mountain turnip around here!)”

Robin Morgan Huntley writes, “Almond gravy! Delicious and full of vegetarian protein.”

Ana Araujo writes, “Homemade pumpkin ravioli. We’ve been doing this for years.”

Mary-Jane Sackett writes, “Mac and cheese seems to be a favorite around here.”

Anne Schlereth writes, Lentil Balls recipe from the Meatball Shop in NYC. The recipe can be searched on the NYTimes website. They are perfect with all the root veggies at the Thanksgiving table!”

Deanna Dariusz Raczkowski writes, “We are trying Field Roast Cranberry Hazelnut roast this year!”

Robin MacRostie writes, “Pickled pumpkin; cornbread chestnut stuffing.”

Laurie McCullough writes, “I appreciate all these wonderful ideas, thanks!”


Funding for Seasons at Our Table was made possible by a grant from the Massachusetts Woman’s Home Missionary Union, administered by the Parent Education Workgroup of the Communities That Care Coalition.

Win Three Seasonal Titles From Storey Publishing (Deadline 10/21/09)

Win 3 Seasonal Titles: Pumpkins, Cider and Apples
From Storey Publishing

Hilltown Families and Storey Publishing have partnered up to offer a chance to win three seasonal titles:

  • The Perfect Pumpkin: Growing, Cooking, Carving by Gail Damerow
  • Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider (3rd Ed.) by Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols
  • Apple Cookbook by Olwen Woodier

Find out how to enter to win below.

STOREY PUBLISHING

Storey Publishing is a local publisher based out of North Adams, MA.  They have been publishing wonderful how-to books on do-it-yourself titles that are down-to-earth and always inspiring for over 25 years!  Topics range from gardening, cooking, crafts, nature science, animal care, farming, traditional skills and home improvement.

Over the years my personal library has included many of their titles that are now dog-eared and well worn from reading and referencing; including: Rosemary Gladstar’s Family Herbal, Gail Damerow’s Barnyard in Your Backyard, Mike & Nancy Bubel’s Root Cellering and Phyliss Hobson’s Making & Using Dried Foods.  All great titles I’ve referenced either for family minor illnesses, the best way to raise our small backyard flock of chickens, how to put up onions and cabbage from the farmer’s market for the winter, and advice on dehydrating culinary herbs and locally picked apples. Discover their upcoming releases here.  Each title is packed with fresh new ideas about gardening, horses, cooking, crafts, livestock, building, and more!

ABOUT THE TITLES

  • THE PERFECT PUMPKIN
    Gail Damerow has written a great book for harvesting and growing nearly 100 varieties of pumpkins!  I had no idea there were that than many!  Her book, The Perfect Pumpkin: Growing, Cooking, Carving, includes advise on how to grow and harvest pumpkins (including those gigantic ones we see at the county fairs!), step-by-step craft and carving projects, delectable recipes (like pumpkin brioche and pumpkin ale!) and even tips one how to put up pumpkin for winter storage.
  • CIDER: MAKING, USING & ENJOYING SWEET & HARD CIDER
    How do you make great cider? All you need is an apple. And a few other things … Annie Proulx and Lew Nichols offer thorough coverage of every step of cider making, from choosing and planting the best apple varieties to enjoying the finished product in their book Cider: Making, Using & Enjoying Sweet & Hard Cider. Recipes include sweet and hard ciders, sparkling cider blends, and cider-based foods. In this book you’ll also find directions on how to build a working apple press, and bits of history and lore.
  • APPLE COOKBOOK
    Want to turn your apples into gourmet cooked dishes to accompany a glass of hard cider? Olwen Woodier offers over 140 apple recipes for to serve up apples for breakfast, lunch and dinner in her book, Apple Cookbook. She also offers descriptions of the general characteristics of many popular and heirloom varieties of apples along with a diagram that charts their best uses.

HOW TO WIN

Your chance to win these three seasonal titles from Storey Publishing is as easy as 1-2-3 (4)!  To win simply:

  1. POST A COMMENT BELOW (one entry per household) and be sure to tell us your
  2. FULL NAME and where you
  3. LIVE (TOWN/STATE) You must include your town and state to be eligible.
  4. ACCURATE EMAIL (we never share your email address).
  5. We’ll randomly draw a winner and will share the results below.

IT’S THAT SIMPLE! — Deadline is Monday, 10/21/09 @ 7pm (EST).

To check out other fine titles by Storey Publishing, visit them on-line at www.storey.com.

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