When I think of Thanksgiving, I think of turkeys – but not the ones you get in the grocery store. I think about wild turkeys, the ones that live in the hills above the town where I grew up in Pennsylvania.
It might sound exotic or strange, but there really are turkeys that live in Pittsburgh and no, they have nothing to do with the Steelers. Actually, we have a lot of wild birds that live in wooded areas and hills surrounding suburban homes outside of the downtown area. My Granny still has an elaborate bird house that she fills with seed each winter. When I was growing up, she delighted in wages, a rather “cut throat” bird watching “wars” against my Dad who would claim that he was the first to see the white-breasted nuthatch after she had already spotted it.
My first bird watching experience was very different, however. I was visiting my dad one October, cooking dinner at his house set deep into a thickly wooded hillside. “Watch this!” he said, getting up from his creaky lazy boy, reaching for an old coffee can brimming with fat, dried corn kernels. The screen door snapped shut as he walked out onto the deck, whistling the way a farmer would to summon a faithful hunting hound. Then he tossed a handful of corn out onto the deck.
“What are those?”, I called out the window in a half whisper, as a flock of tall and slender, bold, black feathered monsters with rubbery red heads, descended. They chortled, heads bobbing, gobbling up the corn that fell and bounced around my father’s feet. I took a sharp breath in as one pecked accidently at his shoe lace. When the last kernel of corn rattled around the hollow coffee can, the “leader” of the pack, a big male that was almost as tall as me, clucked and cocked his head to the side. My father threw the kernel into the air and the bird snapped it into his open beak. The beast seemed satisfied and promptly turned his back to us. His dusty gray feathers flared as he spread his cape-like wings to fly away with his long-legged gang in tow.
Click on the play button to listen to wild turkeys! Turkey Gobble
“What?” my Dad asked as he brushed a feather from his pants, “… you’ve never seen a turkey before?” he laughed. Well, they’re nothing like the little Chicadees that came to granny’s bird feeder, I thought to myself, still wondering if they were really turkeys. Mmm.. maybe we’ll have roast chicken for Thanksgiving this year.
Healthy Thanksgiving Day Recipes
Hungarian nut roll is one of my family’s most treasured recipes – but this version has less fat since it’s made with skim milk and low-fat margarine. Fresh yeast is usually found in the dairy section, but you can substitute with 2 (.04 ounce) packets of dry yeast Get the recipe »
Sweet and naturally creamy, this mash is a great substitute for regular mashed potatoes. I love to serve it along side fish, so you’re cashing in on vitamin E as well as tons of vitamin A from the mash. Get the recipe »
Shallots belong to the family of chives, leeks, garlic and onions. I think they look like tulip bulbs and taste a lot milder than garlic and onions. They lend a gentle onion flavor to vinaigrettes and are a great substitute for raw garlic that can sometimes be hard to digest. Get the recipe »
Purchase a pumpkin shape cookie cutter to make these fanciful whole wheat trick or treats for Halloween. The molasses adds vital iron and other minerals to these whole grain goodies that have an extra helping of fiber. Get the recipe »
Moist pumpkin and rich chocolate make an outrageous dessert pair. Pumpkin has tons of beta carotene, an important antioxidant and the chocolate has flavenoids which also boost the levels of antioxidants in this bread pudding. Get the recipe »
My granny makes the moistest stuffing and here is the “skinny” version with all the flavor and less fat. Even though she calls it stuffing, Granny likes to bake this Thanksgiving classic outside the bird. Get the recipe »
Butternut squash adds flavor and color to this classic fall recipe. Since butternut squash is naturally creamy and non-fat, it creates the “risotto” texture without relying on Mascarpone that is extremely high in saturated fat. Frozen butternut squash puree can be found in most freezer sections of your local grocery store. Get the recipe »