As the holiday season kicks in, food begins to take center stage in the midst of family gatherings, traditions, and feasts. Elaborate Thanksgiving spreads have us coming back for seconds and thirds, while dessert tables at parties could draw a crowd on their own. With such a large emphasis on food, it’s especially important during these months to maintain nutrition as the leading role.
Holiday parties are too often accompanied by high-fat, high-cholesterol meats and other heavy animal products. Think turkey, gravy, and buttery mashed potatoes. Cutting back on these foods and replacing them with healthier, plant-based options can have huge health benefits. Most animal products are laden with artery-clogging cholesterol and saturated fat: the perfect recipe for heart disease and other preventable ailments. A growing amount of research is suggesting that a more plant-based diet can greatly lower one’s risk of developing the leading causes of death in the U.S. The China Project, conducted over the course of twenty years, examined 240 countries and over 880 million Chinese people. Rates of heart disease, diabetes and cancer across China were all found to be positively correlated with the amount of animal protein consumption. For more information about this study, click here.
Implementing more plant-based meals into our diets can be easy, fun, and satisfying and we can do so without sacrificing flavor. Whip up one of these recipes for your Thanksgiving feast to enjoy a delicious meal with your loved ones while celebrating your good health!
1. Quinoa Stuffed Sweet Potatoes
4 sweet potatoes
1 cup quinoa
2 cups vegetable broth
1 tbsp. butter substitute, such as Earth Balance
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2 cups kale, broken into 1 inch pieces
1/2 cup toasted slivered almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries
salt and pepper
- Bake the sweet potatoes in an oven at 350 degrees for 1 hour or until fork tender.
- While sweet potatoes are cooking, make your filling. Cook the quinoa in the vegetable broth.
- While quinoa cooks, saute the onion in the butter and olive oil with a pinch of salt until soft.
- Add in the kale, almonds and cranberries and saute until the kale is soft, about 3 minutes.
- Add the finished quinoa to the frying pan and mix together.
2. Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Add to food processor:
2 cups almond meal flour or ground walnuts
8 soft pitted dates (soak first if they are dry)
1 tsp cinnamon
Puree until it begins sticking together. Press into a deep ceramic pie dish. Note: You do not need to grease or line the dish first. The raw crust won’t stick.
1/4 tsp ginger
1 batch of cornbread, coarsely crumbled
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1/2 cup chopped celery
1/4 -1/3 cup chopped poblanos or jalapeños (depending on spice level)
2 cloves garlic, minced
scant 1/4 cup chopped fresh sage
1 tablespoon dried oregano
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup corn (fresh or frozen)
1/2 cup chopped scallions
1/4 cup dried currants
1/2 cup thinly sliced kale
salt & pepper
1/2 cup almond milk, unsweetened
1/4 cup melted butter (or Earth Balance butter)
1.5 tablespoons maple syrup
1/2 cup chopped cilantro (reserve some for garnish)
1 cup cornmeal
1/2 cup all-purpose gluten free blend (or regular all-purpose)
1/2 cup almond flour (or whole wheat flour)
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 cup almond milk
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Whisk together the dry ingredients.
- In a separate bowl, whisk wet ingredients.
- Using a large spoon, combine weat and dry ingredients. Be careful not to overmix.
- Pour into a greased 8×8 baking dish and bake for approximately 25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.
- In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Add onions, cook for a few minutes until they start to soften. Add carrots, celery, salt and pepper, and continue cooking until the vegetables soften. About 5 minutes. Add poblanos, garlic, sage, oregano and cook a few minutes more. Deglaze the pan with a splash of white wine. Add the corn, scallions, currants and kale (and some more salt) and cook for just another few minutes until the kale wilts down. Remove the pan from the heat and set aside.
- Whisk together almond milk, melted butter and maple syrup. Set aside.
- Place crumbled cornbread in a large bowl, add the cooked veggies from the pan, and toss it all together. Pour almond milk mixture on top and toss again. Mix in the chopped cilantro. Taste and adjust seasonings, keeping in mind that it will taste a lot less spicy once it’s baked.
- Pour into a greased 11×9 (or similar) pan and bakeat 350 degrees for approximately 15-20 minutes. You want the inside to remain soft, and the outside just slightly crisped. I turned my broiler on for the last 2-3 minutes to get a nice golden crust.
4. Maple Butternut Squash & Apple Casserole
1.5 pounds butternut squash, washed, peeled, chopped into 1” cubes
3 tbsp Earth Balance
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 tsp sea salt
3 small apples, cored and chopped into cubes
3.5-4 tbsp pure maple syrup
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
2-3 cups cooked Brown basmati rice
3-4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp Sucanat or brown sugar, optional
- Preheat oven to 375F.
- Wash squash and place in microwave on high for 3 minutes to soften.
- In a medium sized pot, cook the brown rice.
- While the rice is cooking, peel and chop approx. 1.5 pounds of butternut squash. Place into a large bowl. Add in pumpkin seeds and stir again.
- In a small bowl, mix the melted Earth Balance, curry powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, sea salt, and 1 tbsp of pure maple syrup. Add sauce to butternut squash in the large bowl. Mix well. Pour into a large casserole dish and cover with tin foil. Bake in the oven for 20 minutes at 375F.
- While baking, core and chop apples.
- In a small bowl mix 2 tbsp of maple syrup and 1 tbsp of apple cider vinegar. Add chopped apples and mix well.
- After 20 minutes, remove squash from oven and scoop on the apple mixture. Stir in the cooked brown rice. Cover with tin foil and bake another 10 minutes.
- Uncover the dish, stir the mixture, and sprinkle with Sucanat or brown sugar. Place into oven for another 30 minutes uncovered, stirring every 10 minutes until squash is fully cooked.
- Just before serving, drizzle with another tbsp of maple syrup and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Adjust seasonings if necessary and enjoy!