The Local Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge

by Laura on November 2, 2010

in Food, Thanksgiving


With no big plans for this Thanksgiving, we were a bit slow to figure out just what we were going to prepare for our much-anticipated meal. Then, something caught our eye in the local paper. The Local Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge. Just hearing those words, I knew this was what we were to do. Accept the challenge.

The Agricultural Institute of Marin (AIM), whose mission it is to promote a viable food system, to educate the public about the benefits of buying fresh and locally grown food, and to bring farmers and communities together, announced the Local Thanksgiving Dinner Challenge. The Challenge was simple: Create a meal sourced entirely from you local farmers market. The two families who source the highest percentage of their family meal from the market would be awarded a $100 basket of the best of the season from our local AIM farmers market.

I hadn’t been to the farmers market since this past summer, so was intrigued to see what I would be offered this Fall from the local farms. To best plan our Thanksgiving day meal, I took a quick perusal online of seasonal produce in the area and started paging through magazines, recipe clippings and cookbooks to find a meal that would best represent the locally grown foods here in Marin.

Luckily, I didn’t have to search for too long.

Our meal didn’t consist of any complicated recipes, just a combination of the best flavors the season had to offer.

Our dinner table wasn’t brimming with four different vegetables, multiple sides and several stuffing offerings – it was just enough for our family of six to enjoy; just enough to keep us busy in the kitchen, but not too busy that we wouldn’t enjoy the day with the family.

Here is what we decided on serving:

  • Turkey
  • Greek-Inspired Fresh Oregano and Giblet Pan Gravy
  • Rustic Herb Stuffing
  • Steamed green beans
  • Mashed sweet potatoes
  • Cranberry Compote
  • Homemade French Bread
  • Homemade apple pie.


We decided that whatever we couldn’t source from the market, we would make a valiant effort to purchase/consume the remainder of the ingredients from local sources or make organic choices.

So, on a very chilly 35 degree Wednesday morning, I headed out to the Civic Center Farmers Market in San Rafael. Arriving just minutes after it opened, the place was already busy, busy, busy. Donned with my winter gear, I made my way through the market, easily checking off ingredients from my list.

In the end, this is what I gathered at the market, and what I had to buy elsewhere – or grab from my own pantry:


1. Morning Treat – Hot Chocolate:

  • Whole Foods: organic hot chocolate
  • Market purchased: Straus heavy cream, for topping


2. Honey-Glazed Turkey:

  • Market purchased: turkey, lemon, butter, honey, oregano, thyme.
  • Pantry: salt, pepper


3. Greek-Inspired Fresh Oregano and Giblet Pan Gravy:

  • Market purchased: onion, oregano, lemon.
  • Pantry: flour, white wine


4. Mashed Sweet Potatoes:

  • Market purchased: sweet potatoes, butter and cream

5. Cranberry Compote:

  • Whole Foods: Fresh Cranberries
  • Market purchased: Molasses, Honey


5. Steamed Green Beans

  • Market purchased: Green Beans


6. Rustic Herb Stuffing:

  • Market purchased: butter, green onions, celery, oregano, sage, thyme, garlic, Swiss Chard
  • Pantry: kosher salt, black pepper, eggs, chicken broth and homemade French bread


7. Apple Pie:

  • Market purchased: butter and apples.
  • Pantry: flour, salt, cinnamon, sugar


8. Drinks:

  • Market purchased: milk, apple cider.
  • Pantry: Wine, sourced from our own wine collection:
  • Spring Mountain 87’ Cabernet
  • Stags Leap 94’ FAY
  • Bonterra 00” Muscat


Here is what I found:

Biggest Surprise: Aside from eggs, wine, flour and a few spices, all our ingredients were sourced form the farmer’s market.

Biggest Benefit: It was an eye-opening experience. I have to admit that when I visit the farmers market, I am on a mission. I rarely stop to talk to the farmers. Typically, I remember the location of the vendors, rather than the vendor’s names. But this exercise offered me the opportunity to slow down a bit get to know the farmers, to remember their farms’ names, and to learn better what each offered.

Biggest Frustration: I couldn’t find eggs! The market began at 8 a.m., but by 8:20 when I asked for eggs, everyone was sold out.

Second Biggest Frustration: I was tempted buy more than I needed for our Thanksgiving meal. But I was on a singular mission, I made note to return the following Sunday to shop for the week.

Biggest High Five: To Prather Ranch for taking down my name and calling me near the end of the market to inform me that they had an extra turkey for us.

What I Could Have Bought, But Didn’t: Bread – We are a bread making family, so while I needed crusty bread for the stuffing and some for us to enjoy with the meal, I opted to make my own rather than buy from the delicious vendors at the market. Hmm, perhaps I should have askedBeckmann’s Old World Bakery if they had any flour to sell me . .

Overall Price:

Turkey: $60.00

Everything else: $45.00

Big Thank You:

Thank you to Hidden Star OrchardsContreras Farms,Solano Mushrooms (although I used those for Friday night pizza night), Triple T Ranch and FarmHalog Farms,Marshall’s Farm Natural HoneyStar Route Farms,Straus Family Creamery and big shout out to Prather Ranch for the call at 12:30 p.m. letting us know they had an extra turkey.



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