Thankful for Amazing Food, Family, and Friends

Thankful for Amazing Food, Family, and Friends

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Thanksgiving means different things to different people, but, universally, people eagerly anticipate a beautiful and delicious meal with friends and family. Over the years, I’ve celebrated Thanksgiving dinners on my home reservation, the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, various communities across South Dakota, and a potluck in California while traveling for work. I also, in addition to my Sioux heritage, descend from the Oneida (Tribal) Nation of Wisconsin, which meant that, for my family, the wild rice grown in those woodland communities of my maternal grandfather was always a staple on our Thanksgiving table.

Now that I am in northeastern South Dakota as a transplanted Aberdonian, additional foods will join our Thanksgiving table as a nod to my new community, including a pumpkin küchen and a pheasant dish to accompany the usual turkey. In addition to a wild rice dish as a nod to my Oneida heritage, we’ll feast on a cranberry sweet potato bake from that California work trip potluck. 

The preparation for the cover shot was just as challenging as regular Thanksgiving and even a little more so to achieve a picture perfect moment, including heating the top scoop of mashed potatoes a little extra so the pat of butter on it would be perfectly melty. What really made this Thanksgiving photo shoot fun was the random last minute invitation for our daughter’s boyfriend and his Dad, our first meal together. Our guests stepped in and helped us with not only the table set up, but assisting Troy in the gravity-defying photo angle. But after the last photo was taken, we all dived in to a great meal together with a lot of food and laughter.

Some of my best Thanksgiving memories were the surprise celebrations like this photo shoot or the work potluck where I picked up the recipe for the gorgeous and delicious cranberry sweet potato bake recipe in this issue. One of my favorite Aberdeen surprise Thanksgiving guest stories involved inviting a friend of a friend who was a Thanksgiving orphan to my home for the last Thanksgiving I would ever spend with my mother in 2014. My mother’s health had been a challenge for a few years and we were all concerned about her. My mom had been uncomfortable this trip and, as people were joking and laughing, the last minute guest formed an alliance with her in a debate against all of the rest of us. He had my Mom laughing and teasing just like her old silly self over that delightful meal that included her favorite wild rice and giblet gravy recipe in this issue. 

So this Thanksgiving, be grateful for your Thanksgiving adventures, your random guests or the times you were welcomed as the random guest, new local recipes, old family favorite recipes, and all the blessings of family and friends in 2019. Maybe you should celebrate all those blessings with a party worthy of a photo shoot?! // –Troy and Dani McQuillen

Pumpkin Küchen

The idea for this state dessert originated in northeast South Dakota; enjoy it at Thanksgiving as an alternative to pumpkin pie garnished with fresh whipped cream.

Dsc 4112Crust Ingredients

  • 3/4 c. warm water
  • 1/4 c. granulated sugar
  • 1/2 packet (1 ⅛ tsp.) fast-rising yeast
  • 3 Tbs. butter flavored Crisco
  • 2 1/4 c. flour, plus more if dough is slightly sticky and for dusting the countertop
  • 1/4 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp. nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp. salt

Custard Ingredients

  • 1 1/2 c. whole whipping cream
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 5 Tbs. sugar, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 2 Tbs. flour
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3/4 c. canned pumpkin
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon, plus more for sprinkling on top
  • 1/8 tsp. nutmeg
  • Optional: add one Tbsp. sugar to each cup of fresh whipping cream and whip with a mixer until peaks start to form.


  1. Start the crust by putting 1/4 c. sugar and the yeast into the warm water and let it sit for 15 minutes.
  2. Add the remaining dough ingredients to the yeast mixture and use a pastry blender and your hands to combine the ingredients until a soft dough forms. Let the dough rise in a warm place, then knead it down and let it rise a second time. 
  3. Use Crisco or cooking spray on two small pie pans or fluted tart rounds. Roll the dough out into two rounds and fit into the two pans or rounds so they can rise while you prepare your custard. For a fun extra snack, take your dough leftovers and roll them out, cut into squares or strips, butter, sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar and bake for a few minutes while you prepare your custard. 
  4. Pour in enough custard to just cover the bottom of the crust and then add the same amount again (count ladles or pour out of a measuring cup to estimate volume used). 
  5. Sprinkle the tops generously with cinnamon and sugar and bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until set. The centers should jiggle just slightly when shaken.

Wild Rice with Giblet Gravy

Dsc 4117 1Ingredients

  • Turkey giblets and neck or, if none in your turkey 1/2 lb. fresh or frozen gizzards
  • 1 container of chicken or turkey stock (or equivalent mixing water with bouillon)
  • 1 1/2 c. wild rice or wild rice mix
  • 3 c. water or additional broth for cooking rice
  • Corn starch as needed 
  • Optional 1/2 package of minced fresh mushrooms, sautéed in butter


  1. Start the rice cooking with the water or broth. Pure wild rice will take longer, 70-90 minutes until the grains split and curl, and the mixes will take 45-60 minutes until tender. Add more liquid as needed until rice is tender.
  2. Boil the giblets in a saucepan just covered with chicken/turkey stock/broth for 30 minutes. Save leftover giblet boiling broth for gravy. Remove giblets and let cool before mincing after cutting connective tissue in center and edges of giblets as well as slicing off connective skin on one side. If using neck, use a fork to pull the meat from in between the neck bones. 
  3. Add giblets and mushrooms to the giblet boiling water. Bring to a boil. Add four tablespoons of cornstarch to 1 1/2 c. hot water and stir until dissolved, slowly add half to boiling mixture while stirring. Cook for 3-4 minutes while stirring. If mixture doesn’t thicken to gravy, repeat process. 
  4. Serve wild rice smothered with giblet gravy.

Cranberry Sweet Potato Bake

A colorful and delicious addition to your Thanksgiving table where the mellow tang of fresh cranberries pairs perfectly with the sweetness of orange juice and brown sugar.

Dsc 4114Ingredients

  • 4 large sweet potatoes
  • 2 c. fresh cranberries
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 3 Tbs. melted butter
  • 1/2 c. orange juice


  • 1/2 c. chopped walnuts
  • 2/3 c. packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 3 Tbs. melted butter


  1. Boil peeled sweet potatoes until they are tender, but not mushy, 20-30 minutes at a low boil. Drain. When cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4-in. slices. 
  2. Mix brown sugar and butter. Place half of the sweet potatoes in a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Top with half of the raw cranberries and brown sugar and butter mixture. Repeat. Pour orange juice over top of layers. Cover and bake at 350 for 30 minutes. 
  3. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter. Sprinkle over sweet potato mixture. Bake, uncovered, until topping is golden brown, about 10 minutes longer.

Pheasant Stuffed Mushrooms

A great use for pheasant meat that makes for a tasty appetizer or accompaniment to fall dinner.
Feel free to adjust herbs and salt to taste. 

Dsc 4121 1Ingredients

  • 24 button mushrooms, medium size, stems removed and saved
  • 1/4 c. celery, finely chopped
  • 1/4 red onion, finely chopped
  • 1/2 c. mushroom stems, finely chopped
  • 1/4 tsp. ground sage
  • 1/4 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1/4 tsp. paprika
  • 2 c. cooked and shredded
    pheasant meat
  • 4 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1/4 c. shredded cheddar cheese
  • 2 Tbs. bread crumbs
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • Shredded Parmesan Cheese


  1. Wash mushrooms, remove stems. Trim the bottoms of mushrooms to make room for stuffing. Chop mushroom stems and additional mushrooms to fill a 1/2cup. Sauté celery, onion, and mushroom stems in a little oil or butter, about five minutes or until onion is soft. Mix in the herbs. Set aside. 
  2. Preheat oven to 350. In a large mixing bowl add the pheasant, cream cheese, cheddar cheese, breadcrumbs, and salt. Mix together to evenly distribute cream cheese. Mix in the reserved sautéed vegetables. Spoon mixture on to mushroom tops, using your hands to mold the mixture into a heaping dome. 
  3. Arrange on a cookie sheet, top with Parmesan cheese, and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from baking sheet and serve.