wildriceStuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, green bean casserole. Most people will say that Thanksgiving isn't a holiday without these traditional dishes, but that doesn't have to be the case. Although they are classics, it doesn't mean they can't be reinterpreted, reimagined, or replaced with an equally interesting seasonal side dish. When vegetarians are around, it's also courteous to keep them in mind when planning the menu.

Rice rarely gets attention on Thanksgiving. Some people make it just in case it's requested, but most often it's ignored altogether. Rice pilaf is actually a very appropriate dish to serve at Thanksgiving. This recipe, made with wild rice and quinoa, is perfect for the holiday. It's altogether symbolic of the season and is studded with toasted pecans and pomegranate seeds. It's a good side kick or even alternative to classic dishes, such as stuffing.

Wild rice is very American. It was and still is cultivated by Native Americans. But it's actually not a rice but a seed of a grass that grows in marshy areas and it can only be collected by boat. Pecans are a specialty of the South, where pecan trees are everywhere. So what could be more American than this dish? The addition of quinoa, a South American grain, adds protein and texture to the dish. Gladly serve it to the vegetarians in your family.

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applepear2It has really felt like Fall the past week or two, which has really had me in the mood for all things apple and pumpkin. However, today, the first day of back to school, we will be pushing 90 degrees here in the Willamette Valley.

The heat will be good for the grapes as we head into harvest over the next month.  The jeans and sweaters are ready to go, but will not make an appearance yet. In the Pacific Northwest, the weather changes in an instant so you have to be ready....luckily we are.

Our close friends from Northern California visited a couple of weeks ago, it had been a few years since we had seen them. They brought us these beautiful apples and pears used in this pie, harvested from their family farm in Central Oregon. Aren't they gorgeous?

I wanted a crunchy-sweet topping on this pie, I can't tell you how perfect it was. The pears and apples play together perfectly, creating the perfect textural balance. 

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pasta lentilbologneseFall has finally arrived in sunny Los Angeles and it’s that slight chill in the air that makes me yearn for warm soups, one pot stews, and hearty pasta dishes. One night a week pasta is on the menu and it was this dish that my eldest son chose for his week night pick. All three of my boys are “required” to pick a meal each week and it is their job to help me prep and cook the entire thing(those that don’t cook are on clean up duty). Eli, being 15, is pretty darn good with the knife and watching him dice the vegetables was a proud moment.

What I love most about this dish is that it has all the elements of a traditional bolognese without the addition of any form of meat. The lentils become the heart of the dish, coupled with spinach for your greens, and Parmesan for your milk, it’s one of those one pot dishes that’s covered all of our four basic food groups. Served with a crusty baguette, a glass of wine (for the adults) and a little something special for dessert, no one walks away from the table hungry or complaining.

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bread-pumpkin-cranberryPumpkin is still going to be with us for the next month and I want to capitalize on all that it has to offer.  As I start to plan my Thanksgiving feast, in my head, I take into consideration all the wonderful flavors of the season; pumpkin, chestnuts, sweet potatoes, corn, cranberries, brussel sprouts, citrus, apples, pears, pecans, baby squash, beets, and so much more.

Right after Halloween (like now), I start to mull through magazines (new and old), cook books, the Internet, and my friend’s blogs. Each year, I like to try new potato dishes, vegetables, biscuits, savory puddings, breads, and quick breads.  I came across this recipe on Molly’s blog,  Orangette, and ironically I had this recipe earmarked in one of my books, The New Joy of Cooking.  It was a sign.  I had to try it.

I had a bit of left over pumpkin puree in the fridge and this was a great way for it to not go to waste.  I love making quick breads and muffins.  Generally, when making both of these, one could easily use things found in your very own pantry.  It is a great way to whip up an after school snack, a quick early morning breakfast for the kids and both really take no time at all.

I love this bread.  The original recipe called for golden raisins, but I immediately knew I wanted to replace the raisins with cranberries. The pumpkin flavor is not overwhelming, the cranberries add just the right tartness and the hazelnuts add the perfect crunch.  This is not only going to be a staple in our home this holiday season, but I already see it wrapped and packaged as gifts for friends and neighbors.

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porkapplesPork and apples go hand in hand, don't they? That image of a whole spit-roasted pig comes to mind with the apple stuck in its mouth. There is something special about the sweet taste of apples and the full flavor of pork that work so well together in a dish. Roasting the pork and apples together is the perfect way to marry the two flavors. That's exactly what I do in this pork roast recipe, which is flavored with honey, mustard, and rosemary. For this perfect flavor pairing, I roast tiny lady apples alongside the pork.

For a roast like this, pork tenderloin is the easiest to prepare and the most flavorful and moist. It's lean, roasts fast, and it stays tender, just as the name would suggest. The juices that collect in the pan go into the making of a gravy that has the flavor of the honey-Dijon rub, the rosemary, and the sweet apple juices. The rosemary sprigs that roast alongside the loins become crispy and are entirely edible, lending bursts of woddsy flavor to each bite. A meal such as this would be great for an elegant holiday dinner or even a simple Sunday supper.

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