Seasonal Samplings

Just in time for Thanksgiving, Fern Heinig, one of The Carol Starr Mesh Cafe’s most loyal chefs, offers this stunning salad with all the color and flavors of the season. And unlike many holiday foods, this dish could even be good for you.

Butternut Squash Salad (serves 8-10)

For the salad:
1 3 lb Butternut Squash
8 oz of spring mix salad,  kale or any other greens combo
4 oz of Craisins
4 oz of pomegranate seeds
Feta cheese, optional

For the dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
2 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
Garlic powder


  1. Peel Butternut squash. Cut into cubes.  (Hint: save time by using pre-cut squash, available in most stores.)
  2. Toss with olive oil and salt (Hint: use blood orange infused olive oil for extra flavor).
  3. Roast in 400 degree oven until soft.
  4. Let squash cool.
  5. Combine salad greens, squash, craisins, pomegranate seeds and Feta, if using.
  6. Add dressing sparingly and mix.

Fern uses a dressing made of balsamic vinaigrette mixed with honey mustard dressing. Coat the greens very lightly since the squash and pomegranate seeds give the salad moisture.

To seed a pomegranate: roll the pomegranate to loosen the seeds. Cut the fruit in half. Beat the fruit with a wooden spoon to release the arils. Or buy the seeds in the refrigerated section of the produce department.

You could add apples or mandarin oranges for another pop of color and taste.

To continue with the seasonal theme but suitable for everyday is this meatloaf dish on the menu for next week’s MESH menu. Meatloaf is one of the perfect comfort foods and perfect as the weather turns colder.  Use your favorite combination of chopped meat but if you use all turkey, try to add some ground dark meat for moisture. There are many variations of this recipe, including one for classic appetizer meatballs. This is one of the most simple to prepare. As with most meatloaf recipes, amounts are a little flexible.

Meatloaf with Cranberry Glaze (serves 8)

1 (16 ounce) can whole berry cranberry sauce
1/2 cup chili sauce or ketchup
1 1/2 -1 3/4 pounds chopped turkey (or beef turkey/chicken mix)
1 large egg, beaten
1 cup soft bread crumbs, finely ground or use panko
1 medium onion, finely chopped (dried will serve in a pinch)
3/4 teaspoon poultry seasoning ( or Herbes de Provence, Italian seasoning or a mixture of sage and thyme)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Spray an 8 1/2 x 4 1/2 inch loaf pan light with cooking spray.
  3. Combine 1/3 cup of cranberry sauce with chili sauce. Save rest of sauce to serve later.
  4. In a large bowl, mix meat with egg, bread crumbs, onion, poultry seasoning, salt and pepper. Add 1/4 cup of chili sauce/cranberry mixture to the meat mixture.
  5. Reserve the rest of chili sauce/cranberry for the glaze.
  6. Mix the meet until well blended but don’t overwork it.
  7. Pack meat into the loaf pan; bake for 1 hour. Top with reserved chili sauce/ cranberry mixture and bake for 10 to 15 minutes longer or until the meatloaf registers at least 165 degrees.
  8. Let rest for 5 to 10 minutes before slicing.

For an easy variation, divide the meat mixture among 12 muffin cups. Bake about 20-25 minutes and then top with the glaze. Bake for 5 minutes longer or until the topping is heated.

Or bake in a ring pan and fill the center with sauce or peas.

If you don’t have the time or space to cook a whole turkey, try turkey legs. They are moist and flavorful. An average leg serves one person; a really large one can serve two. You can dress up the plate with whatever you want. I make turkey legs in the Instant Pot and can have a  complete meal totally finished in about an hour.

Instant Pot Turkey Legs (2-4 servings depending on size of legs)

2 turkey legs-or make extra, they are so good
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, sliced
3 cloves of garlic, roughly minced
1 celery stalk, chopped
2 carrots, sliced (optional)
2 bay leaves
1 pinch of rosemary
a pinch of thyme
a dash of sherry wine or white wine (optional)
1 cup unsalted chicken broth or powdered soup mix
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
kosher salt and black pepper


  1. Season turkey legs with salt and pepper.
  2. Heat Instant pot by pressing the Saute button. When the pot is hot, add 1 tablespoon olive oil, coating bottom of pot.
  3. Add turkey legs and let brown for 2-3 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.
  4. Reduce heat to medium. Add sliced onion and stir. Add a pinch of kosher salt and ground pepper. Cook for about a minute until softened, stir for 30 seconds until fragrant.
  5. Add celery, carrots and herbs. Cook for about a minute Add bay leaves, a pinch of rosemary and thyme. Stir
  6. Add the sherry or white wine to deglaze the bottom of pan and let wine cook to evaporate the alcohol. Add stock and soy sauce. Taste for seasoning. Add salt and pepper if needed.
  7. Place turkey legs in pot. Close lid. Cook at high pressure for 18-20 minutes.
  8. Natural release for 10 minutes. Then release rest of pressure.
  9. Turkey should register about 170 degrees and be falling off the bone. If not, return it to the pot for 4 or 5 more minutes.
  10. Thicken gravy if desired or serve as is with vegetables.

Mix 3 tablespoons cornstarch with 1 tablespoon of water. Gradually mix into turkey gravy until thickened.

This can easily be made on top of the stove or in the oven.

For an atypical holiday dessert, try orange-cranberry rugelach. They do take some time, but will freeze well. Plan ahead and do in stages and you’ll find these are manageable to make. Once you’ve made your own rugelach – of any kind – you won’t want Costco’s anymore.

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