A taste of Thanksgiving

Salon readers share scrumptious holiday recipes for butternut bisque, sweet potato casserole, an Atkins-approved pumpkin pie, and much more!

Published November 24, 2003 5:47PM (EST)

A taste of the Caribbean on Tofurkey Day

My husband and I are vegans. Many people react to this news with murmurs of misplaced sympathy: "It must be so hard for you." Nah! It just means we have to spend a few extra minutes in the grocery store examining ingredient lists. Thanks to imitation chicken, fakin' bacon, soy cheeses, and their ilk, I can re-create all my favorite family recipes in low-fat, cholesterol-free, animal-friendly incarnations.

This Thanksgiving, along with the Tofurkey and mushroom gravy, I'll be preparing a pot of creamy butternut bisque. The whole family savors this delicately flavored soup with its subtle Caribbean zest.

Butternut Bisque


-- 2 medium or 1 very large butternut squash (around 4 pounds total)
-- 1 1/2 cups chopped onion
-- 6 cups well-seasoned vegetable stock
-- Juice of 1 or 2 limes
-- 3 tablespoons hot taco sauce
-- 1 teaspoon cumin
-- Pinch of allspice
-- Salt, black pepper, and Tabasco sauce to taste
-- 2 cups soy milk (you can thicken it up with some soft tofu, if desired)
-- Toppings: sliced toasted almonds, chopped green onion, and diced tomato

Peel squash, scoop out seeds, and cut pulp into chunks. Put in soup kettle with onion and veggie stock. Bring to a boil and simmer covered approximately 15 to 20 minutes, or until squash is very tender. Allow to cool slightly.

Add remaining ingredients, except soy milk and toppings, and purée in a blender or food processor until very smooth. Add soy milk and optional tofu slowly, while motor is running. Serve hot or cold, garnished with toasted almonds, chopped green onion tops, and/or diced tomato. Serves 8.

-- Elizabeth Amberg Livingston

True love and great Thanksgiving casseroles

After communicating for three months via a Salon personals connection, my (now) husband and I met for the first time the day before Thanksgiving in my hometown of San Francisco. Thanksgiving Day was marked by a bracing stroll across the Golden Gate Bridge, followed by a candlelit dinner for two consisting of broiled salmon with lemon marinade, spring greens tossed in a salad and a special recipe for sweet potato casserole. Dessert was, well, you know. We plan to reproduce that style of Thanksgiving this year in our home in Florida.

Sweet Potato Casserole

Precook 3 sweet potatoes in the microwave. (Cut off ends and cook on a plate with a little water until soft.) Cut into 2-inch chunks. Mix with 1 15-ounce can of pineapple chunks packed in own juice.

Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan. Mix with 3-4 tablespoons of maple syrup and 3 tablespoons of dark brown sugar. (A splash of sherry may be used instead of the maple syrup for the more sophisticated palate.)

Pour over the sweet potatoes and pineapple mixture. Sprinkle the top with toasted pecans. Cook at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes until heated through.

This recipe tastes better if assembled the day before and cooked just before serving.

-- Anonymous

A very Atkins Thanksgiving

I'm an avid Atkins devotee, and to complement my low-carb feast of roast turkey, I plan to make a pumpkin pie with a sugar substitute. It's been tested and works fabulously. Try it without the crust for even fewer carbs.

Low-Carb Pumpkin Pie


-- 1 optional (9-inch) unbaked deep-dish pie crust
-- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
-- 1/2 teaspoon salt
-- 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
-- 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
-- A dash of ground cardamom (optional)
-- 2 eggs
-- 1 15-ounce can pumpkin
-- 1 12-ounce can evaporated milk (not sweetened, condensed)
-- 6 packets Splenda or the equivalent to taste.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine sugar, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, ginger and cloves in small bowl. Beat eggs lightly in large bowl. Stir in pumpkin and sweetener-spice mixture. Gradually stir in evaporated milk. Pour into pie shell or greased baking dish.

Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce temperature to 350 degrees; bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until a knife inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

-- Anonymous

Loafing around

My husband is a vegetarian, and our traditional Thanksgiving entree, for the past 15 years, has been this to die for walnut loaf. We got the recipe from "Vegetarian Pleasures," by Jean Lemlin. The loaf is delicious even without the burgundy sauce, and its flavors blend really nicely with all the other traditional Thanksgiving trimmings.

Walnut Loaf


-- 1 pound sliced whole wheat bread (about 14 slices)
-- 1 pound (about 2 cups) walnuts
-- 4 large onions, minced
-- 1 bunch parsley, minced (about 2 cups)
-- 1 green pepper, minced
-- 1 celery rib, minced
-- 3 eggs, beaten
-- 1 teaspoon poultry seasoning
-- 1 teaspoon salt
-- A pinch of thyme
-- Freshly ground pepper to taste
-- 2 tablespoons of oil
-- 1 small (16 ounce) can imported plum tomatoes, chopped and drained
-- 1 bunch of parsley for garnish

Preheat the boiler. Lay the slices of bread on a baking sheet and toast under the broiler on both sides until golden. Cool, then grind into bread crumbs in a blender or food processor. Put the bread crumbs in a large bowl.

Reduce the oven setting to 375 degrees. Grind the walnuts in the blender or food processor as you did the bread. They should be fine. Add to the bread-crumb bowl and mix well.

Add all of the remaining ingredients up to the parsley garnish and mix very well.

Generously butter a 1-quart loaf pan and spoon the mixture into it. Press it in firmly and smooth over the top. Cover with foil.

Place the loaf pan in a larger pan or baking dish and fill with enough hot water to reach halfway up the sides of the loaf pan. Bake for 2 hours. Let the loaf sit on a wire rack for 10 minutes before unmolding.

To unmold, carefully slide a knife around the loaf to loosen it from the pan. Lay a serving platter on top of the loaf pan and invert. Garnish the loaf with parsley sprigs around the platter. Serve sliced.

Burgundy Sauce (if you want gravy)


-- 7 tablespoons butter
-- 6 tablespoons flour
-- 1 cup Burgundy wine or other dry red wine
-- 1/3 cup tamari soy sauce
-- 3 cups vegetable stock (homemade or canned)
-- Freshly ground pepper to taste

In a medium-size saucepan melt 6 tablespoons of the butter, then add the flour and whisk until smooth. Cook this roux over low heat for 2 minutes, whisking constantly.

Add the wine, soy sauce, vegetable stock, and pepper, and whisk to blend. Bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sauce is thickened and fragrant. Just before serving add the remaining tablespoons of butter and stir until melted. Do not boil again. Serve in a sauceboat.

-- Laurie

Tofu roasting by an open fire

This is a delicious and beautiful vegan entree that is worth the time and effort. Even turkey eaters love it, plus it's fun to make. You'll need a partner for this one.

Veggie Holiday Roast


-- 2 pounds firm tofu
-- 4 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
-- 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
-- 2 teaspoons agar (can be found at health food store)
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons onion powder
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons garlic powder
-- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt

Inside roll:

3 1/2 cups stuffing (recipe follows)

You will also need: plastic wrap, aluminum foil, a helper, a ruler (to measure the roll, not rule the helper).

In a food processor, purée all roll ingredients, stopping to scrape down the sides, as necessary. Mixture will be pretty stiff; don't add liquid.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

On the counter, lay down two 16-inch-long pieces of plastic wrap, overlapping them about 2 inches lengthwise. Spoon tofu stuff onto the plastic wrap and spread out into an 8-by-12-inch rectangle, about 1/2 inch thick. Make sure thickness is even all around.

Lay a third sheet of plastic wrap down on counter and on it, mound the stuffing, forming it into a roll about 11 inches long. Make sure you don't have too much -- about 3 to 3 1/2 cups. Carefully transfer the stuffing log to the center of tofu rectangle by letting it roll off the plastic wrap slowly.

Now is the time to summon your assistant. With one person on each end of the plastic wrap, bring the two sides together. The tofu will meet over the top of the stuffing roll, encasing it. Gently press tofu stuff together and smooth out any pieces, including ends that have stuffing showing through; twist ends to seal. It's going to look like a big sausage.

Securely wrap roll in 2 layers of aluminum foil, making sure no plastic is exposed. Place on baking sheet and bake about an hour and 15 minutes. Trust me, the plastic will not melt. But do make sure the plastic is all inside the foil. Remove from oven, let cool in wrappings, and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving. (I do all this the night before and chill the roll overnight.)

To serve, carefully remove aluminum foil and all plastic wrap. Rewrap the roll in fresh aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet and bake at 350 degrees until heated through, about half an hour. Remove foil and transfer roll to a serving platter. I garnish it with rosemary on a parsley bed. It looks nice presented sliced, displaying the layers. It should serve eight.

Herb Stuffing


-- 1 large onion, diced very small
-- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
-- 3 celery ribs, diced small
-- 1 tablespoon dried sage
-- 1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
-- 1 teaspoon caraway seeds
-- 5 cups whole wheat bread cubes
-- 1/2 to 3/4 cup vegetable stock
-- Salt and pepper
-- I like to add roasted walnut pieces and fresh cranberries too.

In a large skillet over medium heat, sauté onion in oil, stirring frequently until golden, about 15 minutes. Stir in celery, sage, rosemary and caraway seeds and continue cooking for about 2 minutes. Add bread cubes and toss. Remove from heat and slowly add veggie stock, tossing to combine, until mixture is moistened. Salt and pepper to taste, cover and set aside.

And here's an easy dessert recipe that only takes minutes if you buy a ready-made crust.

Cranberry-Apple Pie


-- 1 cup sugar
-- 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
-- 2 cups fresh cranberries
-- 4 cups apples, pared, cored and sliced
-- Pie crust
-- 2 tablespoons butter or margarine

Combine sugar, flour, cranberries and apples in a bowl and stir to coat fruit.

Line 9-inch pie pan with crust, fill with fruit mixture, dot with butter.

Bake at 425 until browned, about 45 minutes. Serves eight.

-- Anonymous

A single man's Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving tradition, going on its eighth year now, has little to do with diets, veganism, religious restrictions, or even a dislike of turkey. I love turkey. And stuffing and pie and all the trimmings. But I won't be having any of that come Nov. 27.

In the fall of my junior year at Cornell, way back in the heady days of 1996, I had a decision to make regarding Thanksgiving. My parents offered me a plane ticket home, but my semester exams were all early, and I knew that I would be home in about two weeks anyway. One of my housemates, Nathan, would still be in town so I wouldn't be stranded all alone. I stayed.

Come Thanksgiving Day, Nathan and I went to the grocery store and, after shrugging off the idea of turkey or ham, I decided to whip up something I knew would be delicious. I bought chips, ground beef, seasoning, Monterey Jack and cheddar cheese. I would be making nachos. Really good nachos.

Since it was Thanksgiving, I felt like a one-course meal would be lacking. When we got home, we started calling around to see who was still delivering. The only restaurant answering its phones was a pizza place.

It was a magnificent feast. Delicious nachos, hot pizza, cold beer, and football on television. It seemed to get even better with every phone call from my friends who said they were "checking up on me," but ended up complaining about the nightmare that was their family at Thanksgiving. And how was I doing? I was full, sated, happy, a little buzzed, and glad I made the choice to stay.

I love my family, and Christmas dinner has become a de facto Thanksgiving dinner since all four of us are never in the same place in November, but I have been keeping up this tradition since that fateful Thanksgiving. And even though I am mocked by many of my disbelieving friends, every year I make nachos, order pizza, drink beer, watch football and have one happy Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving Nachos


-- 1 large bag of tortilla chips
-- 1 pound ground beef
-- 1 packet of taco seasoning
-- 1/2 cup of water (depending on the seasoning)
-- 2 cups Monterey Jack cheese
-- 2 cups cheddar cheese

Brown the ground beef in a skillet. Add the seasoning and water and simmer (follow instructions on the packet as to amount of water and cooking time).

Put layer of chips on bottom of large bowl/round casserole dish. Add layer of beef on top. Add cheeses on top of that. Repeat layering until bowl/dish is full. Cover bowl/dish and heat in microwave or conventional oven until cheese is melted.

-- Anonymous

Pears and pumpkins

This year, my partner and I will join about eight other food-lovin' veg friends for a lovely Thanksgiving dinner. Our dinner menu does not include a substitution for the turkey, because, well, you just don't need it.

Autumn Pear Salad (from Vegetarian Times)


-- 1/3 cup olive oil
-- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
-- 6 cups mixed greens
-- 2 medium Anjou or Bosc pears, cored and thinly sliced lengthwise
-- 3 tablespoons chopped walnuts
-- 3 tablespoons dried cranberries
-- 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
-- 1/3 cup rice vinegar
-- 2 teaspoons cranberry juice concentrate

Dressing: In small bowl, whisk together vinegar, juice concentrate, and mustard. Slowly add oil, whisking until blended and thickened. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide greens among six individual serving plates. Top each with sliced pears, walnuts and cranberries. Drizzle each with some dressing -- serves six.

-- Anonymous

Garlic goodness

I'm unfortunate enough to be following a dairy-free, gluten-free diet. Fortunately, Thanksgiving is an easy holiday to adapt -- turkey is naturally dairy- and gluten-free, after all. And mashed potatoes, though usually made with butter and cream, are quite easy to make deliciously with neither.

Non-Dairy Mashed Potatoes with Roasted Garlic

Peel the very outer skin only off a head of garlic. Place on a piece of tinfoil and bring the edges of the foil up to meet at the top. Pour good olive oil all over the garlic and let it pool in the bottom of the foil.

Twist the foil together at the top to seal. Place in a loaf pan or on a baking sheet and roast at 325 until soft, but not caramelized -- about half an hour. (You can do this in a toaster oven if the main oven is busy.) Remove from oven and let cool.

Peel 4 small boiling or baking potatoes, cube, and cook in salted boiling water. Drain and mash.

Separate the individual roasted cloves from the head. Squeeze the garlicky pulp from each clove directly onto the mashed potatoes. Mash into the potatoes. If the potatoes could use a bit more moisture, mash in some of the garlicky olive oil that's collected at the bottom of the foil. You can also mash in a spoonful of the potato cooking water. Add salt to taste.

Serves two to four.

-- Natalka Roshak

By Salon Staff

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