The Thanksgiving season focuses our awareness on food and volunteerism. Food represents abundance, the blessings we have in our lives and the bounty we want to share with those close to us, and to make connections with others.
The Billings Food Bank and Montana Rescue Mission gear up during the holidays to serve a hot meal to nearly 500 people in our community on Thanksgiving Day. Food packages are also delivered to the home-bound by volunteers at the Montana Rescue Mission, and distributed at the Billings Food Bank for pickup, keeping in mind that both facilities service the community throughout the year.
Turkey is the center of the Thanksgiving feast accompanied with gravy and side dishes traditionally of green beans and potatoes finished with pumpkin pie.
This year the Billings Food Bank will cook up 86 donated turkeys. Led by chef instructor David Maplethorpe and his eight culinary students, they will roast turkeys and make 60 gallons of gravy to split between the food bank and the mission. Denise Smith, the Marketing and Public Relations Director at the Montana Rescue Mission shared that they will be making the potatoes and green beans to go along with the turkey. They start cooking on Tuesday with a team of volunteers while turkey preparation begins on Monday at the Billings Food Bank.
Carl Kurokawa, Executive Chef at Juliano’s, Maplethorpe’s good friend, will head up cooking efforts by the Chefs and Cooks of Montana. Thirty years ago, Kurokawa and three of his friends started the Thanksgiving dinners. They cooked wherever they could find space whether it was at a school or at individual houses. These days they have the state of the art kitchen at the Fortin Culinary Center.
Billings Food Bank CEO Sheryle Shandy said protein items such as turkey or ham are needed this time of the year along with pies. For those who want to provide hands on help, assistance with prep and clean up are most needed.
For those who want a Thanksgiving meal and unable get to the Billings Food Bank, she asks that they call the food bank to make arrangements. “No one is turned away without food any time of the year.”
Felicia Lehman, Charity Coordinator for the Billings Food Bank explained what else volunteers can do, “They can help us fill food boxes, they can help us sort donations, they can help us hand out boxes for Thanksgiving. We have vegetables we need bagged up and of course they can help out Thanksgiving meal to serve and clean up afterwards.”
On the day I visited, there was a flurry of activity, as Brian Henderson and his group of two dozen sophomore students from the Billings Christian School were on hand to help sort canned foods. Student Chloe Robinson said, “I am volunteering because I enjoy helping,” while Matthew Chisom found gratification in helping people get food.
For those of us making a Thanksgiving meal, Bernie Mason, who writes the Local Food column for the Billings Gazette, came into the studio to share some ideas on what to do with leftovers. Sandwiches and salads were her first suggestions. The carcass can be put into a pot or a slow cooker with the addition of carrots, celery and onion. The key here was to leave some meat on the bones for more flavo for the soup. For more added flavor, Mason suggests using a chicken bouillon cube. Leftover mashed potatoes can be added for additional texture and richness. Mason suggested making a pot pie topped with mashed potatoes or biscuit dough.
Happy Thanksgiving to you and yours. I know I am grateful to those who listen to and support Yellowstone Public Radio. May this season be filled with a bounty of blessings.
Recipe from Bernie Mason
Holiday Turkey Salad
Try this colorful and full-flavored salad as a way to make use of some of your turkey left-overs. If desired, substitute some of your left-over cranberry relish in place of the dried cranberries.
5 cups cooked, diced turkey
1 (12 oz.) bag dried sweetened cranberries
1 ½ cups blue cheese crumbles
1 teaspoon coarse-ground black pepper
2 cups chopped pecans
1 ½ cups diced celery
2 cups mayonnaise
1 cup dill pickle relish
1 teaspoon sea salt
In a large bowl, combine all salad ingredients. Cover and refrigerate overnight to blend flavors.
Source: Adapted from “Holiday Treasures”, MSU Yellowstone Co. Extension Service Publication.