Roasting is one of my favorite ways of making food. Preparing vegetables and fruits at high temperature brings out the natural sugars and flavors they have and releases all sorts of aromas that make your entire home feel more inviting and cozy.
This Harvest Roast was my centerpiece for the Thanksgiving feast and it could not be simpler to make! Basically all you need to do is get the oven nice and hot, cut up some yummy vegetables, toss everything with a bit of salt, freshly ground black pepper, and olive oil, and roast it away. Actually, I recommend adding a cup of water to the bottom of your roasting pan and keeping the veggies covered with foil for the first twenty minutes, then removing the cover for the last fifteen minutes.
The vegetable selection is entirely up to you. Because this is my Thanksgiving roast, the vegetables I used are earthy and hearty, mostly root vegetables that in many ways symbolize the season. I combined sweet potatoes, carrots, turnips, parsnips, butternut squash, corn on the cob, and some apples to create a real comfort food medley.
Simple Harvest Roast
What you’ll need:
1/2 butternut squash, peeled and cubed
3 purple head turnips, peeled and cubed
3 parsnips, peeled and roughly chopped
10-15 baby carrots (or 3 large carrots, peeled and roughly sliced)
3 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 tart apples, roughly chopped
3 ears of corn, cut into 4-5 pieces each
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup water
Salt and pepper to taste
What you’ll do:
Pre-heat the oven to 450 F (230 C).
Add all the vegetables and fruit to a large roasting pan and mix with oil, salt and pepper if using. You can roast without oil, salt and pepper as well.
Add water to the very bottom of the pan. Best is to pour in the four corners and then move the pan around to spread.
Arrange sage leaves and thyme sprigs on top.
Cover the pan with foil and roast covered for 20-25 minutes.
Remove the foil and roast for another 20-25 minutes.
Take the roast out, let it rest for 10 minutes and serve!
If you think you can’t live without the traditional Thanksgiving dinner with the roasted turkey, mashed potatoes full of butter, the stuffing made with rich sausage, gravy made from turkey fat, sweet potato casserole topped with marshmallows, corn bread with cheese, pumpkin pie with vanilla ice cream, and so on and so forth, let me reassure you – you can give this all up, and replace it with an amazing and creative plant-based feast that celebrates the season and gives thanks for the bountiful harvest, our friends and families, and our beautiful and extraordinary planet.
I put together this menu as a testament that food can be colorful, flavorful, aromatic, and delicious without major time and money investment. This entire menu will cost you far less than the regular Thanksgiving feast, and instead of leaving you tired and sluggish, it will leave you filling energized and elevated… and ready for whatever Black Friday may bring!
Joking aside, this menu is meant for entertaining and for making a huge impression. As any well-structure feast, my Thanksgiving offerings begin with appetizers. And since the meal is supposed to go on for an hour or more, and includes two dessert options, I am going light with the appetizer spread. My tray includes couple of different types of olives, Roasted Beets Hummus, Baked Almond Feta Cheese, and pita chips. You can make the pita chips by slicing some pita bread into wedges, spraying them with some oil or cooking spray and letting them toast for couple of minutes until golden-brown. Or you can get them at a supermarket, like I did on this occasion.
Baked Almond Feta, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Do remind your guests to take it easy with the appetizers, because what’s coming next is the most amazing soup ever, the Creamy Cauliflower Winter Soup that owes it’s creaminess entirely to puréed cauliflower. The soup is white with slight gold overtones, which in my view frames the season perfectly. Plus corn and peas give this soup some substance and fresh thyme sets the stage for herbs to come.
Main course is a real harvest celebration, with fireworks of flavors and all the trimmings working together to feed the bodies and the souls. The main dish is a lovely Harvest Roast with cubed sweet potatoes, turnips, carrots, parsnips, apples and squash, lightly oiled and flavored with herbs of the season. Complementing the Harvest Roast is the Chesnut and Mushroom Stuffing (recipe below). Add to that a protein rich Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios and you have your self an amazing feast!
Last but not the least, the meal ends with a glass of Fizzy Cranberry Mocktail, and two desserts that pay homage to the traditionally served pies, pumpkin and apple. The desserts I feature are Pumpkin Truffles, inspired by the traditional pumpkin pie recipe and spices that go into it, and Pecan Apple Baklava with Orange Maple Syrup, which combines the best of pecan and apple pies into one ultra scrumptious dessert.
Pecan Apple Baklava, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Have a thankful, wonderful, healthy and delicious Thanksgiving feast!!!
Chestnut and Mushroom Stuffing
What you’ll need:
1 yellow onion, finely diced
6 stalks celery, finely diced
2 Granny Smith (or another variety of tart) apples, diced
10 oz. (285 g) mushrooms, finely chopped (white, oyster, shiitake, baby bella – any combination of these will work)
10 oz. (285 g) chestnuts, boiled and chopped
4-6 slices of hearty sourdough bread (depending on the size of the slices)
Fresh sage, 4 leaves, chopped
Fresh thyme, 8 springs, pulled
Fresh rosemary, 2 springs, whole
What you’ll do:
One day prior to making the stuffing cut the bread into medium sized cubes, and leave them uncovered to dry. If you forget to do this a day ahead, don’t worry – you can cube the bread and put it in the oven to roast/toast. 10 minutes at 350 F (175 C) should be enough.
Next day, place a large skillet over the medium-high heat. Add the olive oil, onions, celery and apple. Mix well and let it sauté with occasional stirring for 15 minutes.
Add the mushrooms and two whole springs of rosemary (no need to chop, you’ll pull them out at the end), and continue sautéing for another 5 minutes.
Add the chopped chestnuts, mix well to incorporate, and cook for another 10 minutes.
Add chopped sage and thyme, mix in the bread cubes, and once everything is incorporated well transfer the stuffing to a large baking dish.
Cover the stuffing with foil and bake for 20 minutes at 350 F (175 C), then remove the foil, bring the temperature to 400 F (190 C) and bake for another 10 minutes.
Let the stuffing cool for 5-10 minutes before serving. The leftover stuffing, if you have any, can be an easy lunch on its own!!!
Like a fabulous supporting actor in a movie, the perfect side dish for a rich, holiday meal is subtle and complementary to the lead actors laid out on the festive table, yet able to make a lasting impression of its own.
This Holiday Quinoa with Cranberries and Pistachios is just that – visually pleasing, with layers of complexity in terms of texture and flavors, yet not overwhelming. Additionally, for anyone putting together a vegan, fully plant-based feast this side dish will add lots of protein to your plate.
Quinoa, just in case you are not familiar with it, is a grain, not a cereal, like wheat, but more like rice, and you would cook it like rice as well. When cooked it actually looks like couscous, and you will need to fork it up the same way. Although quinoa is fine served by itself, given that we are in the midst of fall/winter holiday season I decided to add just a bit to it, by adding some chopped pistachios and some oven-roasted cranberries.
One note on cranberries: fresh cranberries are very tart, and almost impossible to eat without adding a huge amount of sugar to them. I decided to try roasting and that worked to a point. Roasted cranberries are still tart, but a bit of tartness in this dish is actually a nice thing. If you prefer something with less bite, toss your cranberries with some sugar or a sweetener of choice, or simply chop some dried cranberries up – those are most certainly sweet.
Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios, via Eat the Vegan Rainbow
Quinoa with Roasted Cranberries and Pistachios
What you’ll need:
1 cup quinoa
1 1/2 cup water or vegetable stock
1 shallot, finely diced
1 cup pistachios, chopped
1 1/2 cup fresh cranberries – this will yield about 3/4 cup roasted
What you’ll do:
Preheat the oven to 425 F (220 C).
Wash and sort the cranberries. Place them on a baking sheet lined with foil and roast them for 20-25 minutes. Once soft and slightly browned, take the cranberries out the oven and set aside to cool for a bit.
While cranberries are roasting, cook your quinoa. Mix 1 cup quinoa with 1 1/2 cups water, bring to boil, decrease the heat to a gentle simmer and let quinoa cook for about 20 minutes. Turn the heat off and let quinoa stand for another 10 minutes. Use the fork to fluff up quinoa before using in the next step.
Spray the bottom of a skillet with some cooking spray and place over medium heat. Add finely chopped shallots and let them sauté for 5-8 minutes.
Once shallots are done, add chopped pistachios and let them toast just slightly, for 2-3 minutes.
Add the fluffed up quinoa, mix well, and sauté for 5 more minutes or so.
Turn the heat off and mix in the roasted cranberries. Go gently as they will be very soft and falling apart.
Thanksgiving desserts are all about pies, most often pumpkin, apple, sweet potato, or pecan. Those are the big four, with pumpkin pie being the gold standard. I am not a baker – I mean I do bake, and I have made pies, including the pumpkin variety, in the past, but these pies are a bit too much for me to handle if I am making a big holiday feast.
So, this year I am trying out a no-bake route to a dessert offering that captures the spirit of winter holidays but does not require any oven real estate or lengthy prep work. With this in mind I developed these Spicy Pumpkin Truffles and I did them two ways – Dark Chocolate Covered and the Traditional, which means rolled in cocoa powder.
No baking, a handful of simple ingredients, and your holidays feast will be complete! The only trick, which by the way I am yet to master, is getting an even coat of chocolate. This batch turned out just a bit too irregular but that did not make them any less irresistible – the treats disappeared in a blink of an eye.
The truffles themselves are very easy to mix together and they are inspired by the pumpkin pie recipes. I used some canned pumpkin and mixed it with almond meal, almost flour, and coconut flour. I added some maple syrup to sweeten things up because the pumpkin I was using was not sweet at all. But before you add the sweetener of your choice do try your mix and adjust to taste. Keep in mind that your chocolate is sweet as well, unless you are using bitter kind, so you may need to play around a bit to achieve the right level of sweetness for your taste.
What pulls these truffles over the top are actually the spices. I used ground cinnamon, ground nutmeg and ground cloves. Those three spices blended well with the pumpkin, maple syrup and the almond/coconut flour mix and gave these yummy treats a real winter holidays flair. Bite in, and you’ll forget all about baking and enjoy the no-bake holiday desserts!!!
What you’ll need:
1 15 oz. (425 g) can pumpkin
1 1/2 cup almond meal
1 1/2 cup almond flour
1/2 cup coconut flour
2 tablespoons maple syrup
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
12 oz (g) vegan dark chocolate (chunks, chips, or blocks)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
What you’ll do:
In a large mixing ball combine all your ingredients except cocoa powder and the chocolate – those will come later.
Mix everything well and using your hands for the dough into balls that are approximately 2 in (5 cm) in diameter. Place the preformed truffle balls on a platter and set aside.
Melt the chocolate using either a microwave oven or a double boiler.
Dip half of your truffles into the melted chocolate and place on the platter or a plate that’s lined up with wax paper.
Put your chocolate covered pumpkin truffles in a refrigerator so that the chocolate coating hardens.
Pour the cocoa powder in a flat dish and roll the rest of the pumpkin truffles in cocoa powder.
Arrange the two kinds of Pumpkin Truffles any way you like. You may want to place couple of pieces of cloves in the bottom of your serving dish, or line your serving dish with some finely pulled orange peel. None of this will change the fantastic flavor of the truffles but it will make your dessert tray more festive! Enjoy!!!