Posts tagged with Thanksgiving

A jewel of a seasonal side dish

Red, red, as far as the eye can see.

Red, red, as far as the eye can see. by Sarah Henning

Given it’s the week before Thanksgiving, chances are you’re thinking a bit about the big ol’ dinner that we all have on the final Thursday of the month.

My husband and I host Thanksgiving each year at our house, but the cooking is left to my dad, who ties on an apron and takes over all the duties that day. Basically, the rest of us clear out and let him do his thing.

That said, I like to contribute something aside from my kitchen and a fridge full of ingredients. So, I tend to make a side or dessert ahead of time to add to the heap of traditional fare my dad pulls out of his hat.

Last year, it was these awesome Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars. And they were so fabulous, I’m sure they’ll be hitting the table yet again this year.

But I also wanted to make a little something else as a side. This desire, plus the fact that I actually got to go to the grocery store by myself, led me to a moment where I could just wander the produce aisle, dreaming up Thanksgiving Day combinations to my heart’s content.

The result of this kid-free bit of peace was the following recipe, something I’m calling Garnets and Rubies.

It makes use of two of the season’s best fresh ingredients and is so pretty you might not want to eat it.

But you should, because it’s mildly addictive. In fact, I posted the above photo of it to Instagram, and one of my followers tagged me back with a picture of her own version that night. In her words, “It’s weird at first, and then suddenly I’m devouring it.”


So, if you’re still looking for a side to bring or make for Thanksgiving, or just in the market for something fun to have with dinner, definitely give this one a try. It’s simple, looks elegant and the amount of folate and vitamin C here is off the charts.

Garnets and Rubies

2 bunches red beets

2 large pomegranates

Red wine vinegar

First, roast the beets: Preheat oven to 375 F. Cut off greens and use for another recipe or discard. Scrub beets clean and dry. Wrap unpeeled beets in foil and place on a cookie sheet. Roast for 45 minutes. When they’re finished, pull them out of the oven and use an oven mitt to open the foil packages to help them cool off. When completely cool, use a knife to skim off the stem and the ends, then chop into half-inch to quarter-inch pieces.

Next, seed to pomegranates: Fill a medium mixing bowl about halfway with water. Score your pomegranates four or five times and then cut off the very top of the fruit. Plunge each pomegranate in water and work open each of the scored sections. Began seeding the pomegranate. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the water and the bitter pith will float. When all your seeds have been removed, rinse them in a colander and remove any remaining pith.

To assemble: Place cooled beets in a medium serving bowl. Top with pomegranate seeds as artfully as you can. Splash on red wine vinegar to taste. Serves four.


Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars

There's a chocolate surprise at the bottom of these cake-like pumpkin pie bars.

There's a chocolate surprise at the bottom of these cake-like pumpkin pie bars. by Sarah Henning

OK, I can’t believe I’m going to admit this, but — deep breath — here it goes: I am not a pumpkin pie person.

There, I said it.

Yes, I will eat pumpkin in pretty much any form. Pumpkin chocolate chip cookies, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin bread, pumpkin cupcakes, pumpkin smoothies, pumpkin soup, pumpkin muffins, etc.

But when it comes down to it, do I like pumpkin pie enough to warrant the caloric penalty?


I can’t tell you why this is. Maybe it’s a texture thing. Maybe it’s not sweet enough. Maybe it’s because chocolate isn’t involved (I think pumpkin and chocolate are perfect companions).

But as someone who thinks dessert is a super important part of any holiday meal, I’ve been working on a solution for this year’s festivities. Last year I made cookies, but this time around I’m trying to get a little closer to pie.

You know, without crossing the line into what I don’t really like.

Luckily, I think I found a pretty good middle ground that will keep the pie lovers in my family happy without a mutiny from the people like me who want something a little different.

It looks like pumpkin pie, but it's not!

It looks like pumpkin pie, but it's not! by Sarah Henning

These pumpkin pie bars are super soft, giving them a texture somewhere between pie and cake. That’s a huge bonus to me, but there’s more: they really aren’t horrible for you.

Calling them “healthy” might be a stretch, but they don’t have any refined sugar or flour in them but they still taste great — that’s why I call them “sneaky.” Well, there’s a tad bit of sugar in the chocolate chips I sneak in, but you can leave those out if that tiny amount of sugar bothers you. These will still be good without them.

Note: The chocolate chips will sink to the bottom of the batter once you’ve but these in a pie plate. That makes these bars a little bit sneaky in another way because the chocolate is hidden like a little present in the bottom of each bar.

These won't last long. I promise you.

These won't last long. I promise you. by Sarah Henning

Sneaky Pumpkin Pie Bars

½ cup pumpkin

½ cup raw, unsalted almond butter

⅓ cup maple syrup or honey

½ cup chocolate chips

2 eggs or 2 flax eggs (1 tablespoon ground flaxseed and 3 tablespoons water for each egg)

2 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice

1 teaspoon vanilla

½ teaspoon baking soda

¼ teaspoon salt (less if you happen to be using roasted almond butter)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Oil a deep-dish glass pie plate with coconut oil. Set aside.

Put all ingredients except for the chocolate chips in a bowl. Stir well. Once all of those ingredients are incorporated, stir in chocolate chips.

Pour batter into your oiled pie plate. Bake 25 minutes or until the the edges are golden and the center is firm. Let cool completely before cutting into bars. These store well in the fridge, as the cold helps them set up a bit more.


No Tofurkey here. (Or: What vegetarians actually eat on Thanksgiving)

Our Thanksgiving table this year.

Our Thanksgiving table this year. by Sarah Henning

The most popular question I think nearly any vegan/vegetarian gets after the ubiquitous “But where do you get your protein???” question is this: “But don’t you miss _?” And, this time of year, that blank is more often than not filled with something related to holiday food.

“But don’t you miss turkey? Gravy? Pumpkin pie???”

Honestly? No.

I could say this is because there are vegan/vegetarian answers to pretty much anything that ends up on the table at Thanksgiving or Christmas. Which is totally true, but in my case I don’t miss any of those things because, I never really ate them in the first place.

Everyone is different, of course. That goes for you, too, omnivores! No one thinks to ask you, "But don't you miss _?" just because you don't eat something. Thus, not every omnivore eats every single thing on his or her Thanksgiving table. Example: Thanksgiving is my sister’s absolute favorite “food” holiday, but even she only eats turkey, mashed potatoes and gravy. No pie, no stuffing, no cranberry sauce. The woman likes what she likes, even if she could eat all of it.

The same thing goes for vegetarians. Just because we don’t choose to eat everything on the Thanksgiving table doesn’t mean we miss every single thing that won’t pass our lips.

Back when I ate animal products, my Thanksgiving meals were still vegetarian, if not vegan. I pretty much just at cranberry sauce, squash/sweet potatoes, rolls (yes, plural) and plain mashed potatoes. Yep. Pretty much from the time I have a memory on up until now. My favorite part of the holiday was always the family fun time and football, and never the food. In fact, I always wished there were some good restaurant open, so I could load up on anything BUT the normal holiday fare.

Of course, this isn’t true for every vegetarian or vegan out there. Some may sit through the whole dinner, pining away for a piece of dark meat beached in a pond of gravy or a slice (or three) of pie.

So, with all that in mind, I’m going to tell you exactly what I had for Thanksgiving dinner. It’s not the norm, but it was fabulous and I didn’t feel the need to hop in the car for a last-minute Tofurkey (which, to be honest, I’ve never had and probably will never want to have).

This was my plate:

My Thanksgiving plate: Brussels and Butternut.

My Thanksgiving plate: Brussels and Butternut. by Sarah Henning

Yep. That’s it. Two things. My Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans and Real Simple’s yummy Sautéed Brussels With Poppy Seeds recipe.

No Tofurkey, mushroom gravy, vegan pumpkin pie. Though, I did have a massive amount of chocolate (Hey, I’ve got to get those guilt-laden holiday calories from somewhere.).

And, chances are, I’ll have something similar for Christmas. With a side of vegan Christmas cookies. Because, honestly, that’s one “But don’t you miss __?” blank that I must fill.

Therefore, next week, I’m planning on sharing a yummy holiday cookie recipe. Get excited!


The perfect squash for Thanksgiving

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans. by Sarah Henning

I’m a sucker for squash in pretty much any form — summer, winter, grilled, roasted, baked, steamed, pureed, etc. While my hubby tires of it before winter has hit halfway, I could have it pretty much every night and be happy.

To try to keep him from rejecting it too early, I try to use as many different types as I can, and try to vary how I cook them. Butternut, red kuri, kabocha, acorn, spaghetti, carnival, buttercup, pumpkin, blue hubbard, etc. — I buy pretty much every type imaginable. But, no matter what kind I buy, there’s not that much you can do differently. I mean, squash is squash.

So, I continue to play around with it. And that’s how I created this recipe, which is perfect for pretty much any cold night, but would be an epic addition to a Thanksgiving table. It combines one ubiquitous and yummy squash, butternut, with a treat that only comes for a few winter weeks fresh: the pomegranate. Mix in spices and crunchy pecans and you’ve got yourself a great side dish. Seriously, it is SO good.

A side note: The best way to seed a pomegranate is to plunge it underwater. Fill a mixing bowl with enough water that you can submerge your hands and the whole pomegranate. Next, cut the top off the fruit and score the outside into a few sections. Plunge the fruit into the water and then pull it apart along your score lines. Free the seeds with your thumbs and rub off the white pith. The pith will float and your seeds will sink. When all your seeds are free, rinse them in a colander to remove extra pith. Throw out any pale/strange-looking seeds along with the skin and the pith.

Roasted Butternut Squash with Pomegranate Seeds and Pecans

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and chopped into ½-inch pieces

1 pomegranate, seeded

½ cup pecans, broken or chopped

1 teaspoon coconut oil

Sea salt

Black pepper


Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cover a large glass lasagna pan with parchment paper. In a large bowl, coat the butternut squash with the coconut oil. Spread the coated squash onto your parchment-lined pan and set in the oven to roast. Set a timer for 45 minutes. Stir every 10 minutes.

When there’s 10 minutes to go, pull your pan out and season the squash with a pinch each of sea salt and black pepper and about a half teaspoon to a whole teaspoon of cinnamon (just eyeball it). Stir to mix and let cook the final 10 minutes.

To serve, top with pomegranate seeds and pecans. Serves 4-6.

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The bird and my dad’s word: Giving thanks for precision


by Robert Linton

If you got your paper this morning or checked yesterday (or even today), you may have seen that we revamped our Thanksgiving Survival Guide that debuted last year. Basically, our guide is meant to be a handy "Cliff's Notes" to get you through the trials and tribulations of holding Thanksgiving.

Now, what you don't know is where that idea came from. Not from any editorial meeting or reader call asking for help. No, it came from an email I typically get each year a few weeks before Thanksgiving. An email that contains not only a page-long grocery list, but a minute-by-minute account of just how the holiday should go down — starting with the fact that I need to defrost the turkey starting this Sunday.

I don't have a Thanksgiving fairy godmother, and I haven't signed up for some reminder service or anything like that. No, this email comes from the real king of Thanksgiving:

My dad.

My dad isn't a chef, though he probably could've made a lot of money off his cooking prowess. (I'm a baker at heart — I do not claim his talents.) In fact, he's trained as an engineer and that sort of anal-retentive mind goes perfectly with the dance known as "getting Thanksgiving dinner on the table on time."

His list and timing are precise, right up to the brands of food I need to buy ahead of time. For example:

— Pepperidge Farm Herb Bread stuffing (not cubed)

— 1 can Le Sueur Peas

— 10 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes (not really a brand, but you get the point I'm making here).

My job is to buy everything ahead of time (yes, he pays me back), put the turkey out to defrost and then just get out of the way. Well, and I generally make rolls from scratch, but I tend to do that a day or two ahead.

I'm sure these sorts of marching orders might make others cringe or demand that they get to do it themselves. But it's really not a bad deal when you think about it — I get to have Thanksgiving in my own home and I don't have to do anything but set it up. Plus, I love watching my dad cook — as I said earlier, he's really talented, and I learn just by seeing what he does. Honestly, I wouldn't have Thanksgiving any other way.

How does your family do Thanksgiving?