Vegan centerpiece meals for the Thanksgiving table
Updated: 4 days ago
Thanksgiving arrives this week — a little earlier in November than it might be. However, we are well into the season as Halloween has come and gone and Christmas is displayed everywhere.
Holding on to this time of the year to give thanks for all that we have been given from God seems to be slipping away. It is up to us to hold on fast. This time of mindfulness, pause and reflection is needed in our world right now.
This is my third Thanksgiving article. I am thankful for the opportunity to write and share my thoughts with you. I have been given the gifts of music, art and teaching. I am so thankful for these gifts. I love preparing good, healthy, plant-based food. I feel privileged to give you some options that will provide a beautiful array of plants on your table for the holidays.
Today’s column offers you some hearty options for your centerpiece instead of turkey. The “It Doesn’t Taste Like Turkey” Butternut Squash Roll and the “It Doesn’t Taste Like Meatloaf” Lentil Mushroom Stuffing Loaf don’t taste like turkey or meatloaf because they have their own distinct flavors.
Meat substitutes have appeared in the natural food sections of the grocery stores as plant-based choices have become more popular. Truthfully, they have never really tasted like meat, and in some cases would turn any meat eater away from converting to a plant based diet.
Some of them have gluten and some have soy. These can be allergy triggers for a number of my readers. Be careful and read the labels. Fresh seasonal fruit
and vegetables, along with herbs and spices that add outstanding flavor have always been more appealing.
The combination of lentils, mushrooms and herbs wakes up the taste buds and is very satisfying. The “It Doesn’t Taste Like Turkey” roll makes a beautiful centerpiece, and the flavors are perfect for this season.
Either of these hearty choices would be a great replacement for turkey and bread stuffing. They provide a great option for people who eat animal-free, dairy-free, gluten-free and are on a sugar, oil or sodium-restricted diet.
The quick vegan onion gravy adds extra moisture and flavor. Add some cranberry sauce, a green vegetable, potatoes and a kale salad, if you wish, and you will have a beautiful table for giving thanks.
There are many vegan blogs with exciting ideas for alternative choices for your Thanksgiving table. I have used the recipe from itdoesnttastelikechicken.com for the squash roll and avirtualvegan.com for the lentil mushroom loaf. The photos and videos are exciting and will take you step by step through the food-prep process.
I have highlighted my earlier Thanksgiving articles on my Blog at www.eatsofeden.com/blog. You will find some other wonderful recipes at the end of my articles. Fill a table with them and have a buffet instead of a sit down dinner.
One more suggestion: Make this Thanksgiving even more memorable and save a turkey through Farm Sanctuary at farmsanctuary.org/adopt-a-turkey.
“It Doesn’t Taste like Turkey” Butternut Squash Roll Recipe from itdoesnttastelikechicken.com.
Serves 6-8 depending on size of squash.
1 butternut squash
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 carrots, peeled and diced
2 stalks of celery, chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ cup wild rice (check notes for cooking times)
2 cups vegetable broth
½ cup red quinoa
½ cup walnuts, chopped
½ cup dried cranberries (fruit juice sweetened)
1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ teaspoon dried thyme
gravy (optional for serving)
To make the butternut squash:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Cut the butternut squash in half lengthwise. Scoop out and discard the seeds, then put both halves on a baking tray, cut side up. Drizzle the olive oil on top of each squash and rub around to coat.
Bake for 60 to 75 minutes until the squash is cooked and fork tender. Be careful to not overcook the squash as it will still bake more when assembled and heated later on.
Once baked, remove the squash from the oven. Let it cool enough so that you can handle it.
Scoop out the flesh in the center of both squash halves, leaving a 1-inch border all around. Set aside the scooped out squash flesh and chop it up. Set aside.
To make the stuffing:
While the squash is baking, you can prepare the stuffing. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.
When hot, sauté the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic until the veggies soften and begin to brown. Add the wild rice and veggie broth to the pan, stir, then cover and bring to a simmer.
Cook for 10 minutes (see notes). Now add the quinoa to the pan, cover and continue to cook another 10 minutes until the rice has cooked and fully absorbed the broth.
Add in the walnuts, dried cranberries, sage, thyme, salt and pepper. When ready, add in the scooped out squash flesh. Stir well to combine.
To stuff the squash:
Pack in as much of the stuffing into both sides of the cooled squash. You will likely have leftovers. Make both sides heaping full. Pick up one squash half and flip it on top of the other.
Use kitchen string to tie up the squash in 3 or 4 places to hold it together. At this point you can choose to let it cool, cover with foil and store in the fridge for up to 3 days until ready to bake. Or you can bake it right away.
When you are ready to bake, lightly brush the top with more olive oil. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20 to 35 minutes until hot all the way though.
Season the top with cracked pepper, and some more sage. The slices are tender and will easily fall apart. To help hold them together use a wide spatula, and carefully transfer them to a plate (the cooked skin is edible). Serve hot with Quick Onion Gravy.
Note: Different types of wild rice may vary the cooking time. The wild rice in the recipe requires 20 minutes of total cooking time. Look at your package of wild rice to see if it needs longer cooking time. If it does, cook longer as directed, leaving 10 minutes of that time to add the quinoa.
Easy Vegan Onion Gravy Recipe from itdoesnttastelikechicken.com.
1/4 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 tablespoons gluten free flour
1 ½ cups vegetable broth (low sodium)
coconut aminos or gluten free tamari to taste
In a medium sauce pan, melt vegan butter over medium heat. Saute onion in butter until onion is caramelized. If you are in a rush, you can do this quickly, but the slower you go, the more rich the flavor will be.
Mix in flour and cook for 1 minute. Now whisk in broth and cook until the gravy thickens. Add coconut aminos or tamari to taste if needed. This will make the color a richer brown.
"It doesn't taste like meatloaf" Lentil Mushroom Loaf
Adpated from avirtualvegan.com
Makes 8 thick slices
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 cup red lentils (measured after cooked) - do not overcook
1 cup cooked green lentils (measured after cooked) - do not overcook
3 coups mushrooms, finely chopped (measured after chopping - white, button, cremini or Portobello are all fine to use)
1/2 cup walnut pieces (sub sunflower seeds if allergic to nuts)
1/4 cup ground flax seeds (4 tablespoons ground)
1 cup breadcrumbs (use panko crumbs for gluten-free)
1 cup flour (oat or rice for gluten free)
1 tablespoon soy sauce (coconut aminos for gluten-free)
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dried thyme
Preheat oven to 370 degrees.
Make sure everything is finely chopped. If you have a food processor, you can use it to chop and mix all ingredients. It should stick together nicely when squeezed with your hands.
Add water a little at a time if you would like to have a more moist loaf. You may need no water at all. Don't add more water than it needs or it will make loaf soggy.
Lay a strip of parchment paper down length of a loaf tin with enough length on either end to act as handles for pulling finished loaf out.
Spoon in mixture and pack down tightly.
Bake in preheated oven for 50 to 60 minutes. Keep an eye on it toward end so it doesn't dry out too much. You want it to be a pit crusty and brown on the top, but not too dark. You can cover it with a piece of foil if it does start getting too brown.
Remove from oven leave to cool in the tin, covered lightly with foil for at least 15 minutes but up to 30 is OK. Then remove and slice.
Use a gravy of your choice. See recipe for Easy Vegan Gravy. re
Notes: This loaf can be made ahead and stored in the fridge a few days before baking. Leftovers reheat perfectly. Wrap in foil and warm through in oven. You can even pan-fry until golden brown.
Tips for Lentils: Don't soak prior to coking. Rinse in fresh water and remove any debris or dust. Cook on a stovetop, using 3 cups liquid to 1 cup lentils. Be sure to use large enough saucepan, as lentils will double or triple in size.
Bring to a boil, cover tightly, reduce heat to low and simmer until they are tender. For whole lentils, cook time is usually about 15 to 20 minutes.
For split red lentils: Cook time is typically only about 5 minutes. Spoon a couple and taste to check doneness periodically. As soon as they are ready, drain and leave to cool. Keep some aside to decorate the top of the loaf before serving. Leftover lentils will keep 5-6 days in a sealed container in fridge and they also freeze really well.