Lifestyle Feature By: Cherise Mazur, Gamma Xi-Montclair State University
The holiday season is upon us and up next, Thanksgiving! Yes, this holiday is about being thankful for what we have and spending time with family and friends, but it’s also about the FOOD! Traditionally, the turkey is the star of the dinner table, but what do you do when you have a vegetarian member coming to dinner, or maybe you are the vegetarian? Have no fear, I have you covered with a few of my favorite plant-friendly recipes that will win over even the carnivores at the Thanksgiving table this year!
Appetizer: Vegan Carrot Soup
Let’s get started with a welcoming appetizer. I feel soup is always a great way to kick off a meal. It’s warming and the aromatic smells will leave your guests feeling warm and fuzzy inside. Carrots are a root vegetable and during the Fall months, our bodies crave these types of vegetables to go with the season. They are a good source of beta-carotene (hello orange color), fiber, potassium and antioxidants. Apples are added in as a natural sweetener and coconut milk is added to finish it off with a creamy touch, without the dairy. So this recipe is vegan-friendly!
Tip: Keep the soup warming in a Crock-Pot as guests arrive so they can enjoy it warm and go back for more as they please! I like to have festive mugs out to serve them in, because it makes it easy for guests to sip from and still mingle!
Main Course: Stuffed Acorn Squash
Now onto the main course. Keeping with the Fall root vegetables, this stuffed acorn squash recipe is also versatile, so adding in protein is always an option too. Acorn squash is also filled with vitamins and nutrients (your guests are going to thank you for keeping them healthy). You can find this and other squash at your local farmers market or grocery store this time of year.
Once sliced in half, scoop out the seeds from the acorn squash and roast in your oven for about 30-40 minutes, until it’s fork tender. While the squash is cooking, you can prepare the stuffing (you can even prepare this a day before). Farro is the grain of choice in this recipe as I love the nutty flavor it has and it holds up well with the other ingredients. Feel free to swap out farro with another grain, such as quinoa, wild rice or even cauliflower rice. Adding in toasted pumpkin seeds, dried cranberries, goat cheese and fresh parsley will round out all the flavors in this yummy dish.
You can always add in chickpeas or some of that turkey from the table for other guests to enjoy as well. I love that this stuffing is great on its own, as a salad or side dish. Make a double batch so you have leftovers to enjoy for yourself after the party is over!
Dessert: Healthy Pumpkin Bars
Now onto what most think of as as the best part of any family holiday meal – DESSERT! When pumpkin season arrives, I am that girl who enjoys every minute of it. So yes, dessert is pumpkin-themed! These pumpkin bars have a crumbly crust made from a blend of dates, cashews and pumpkin seeds. Then it’s topped with a pumpkin filling that is creamy and delicious. Remember that coconut milk I used with the carrot soup above? Add some of it into this pumpkin dessert. Feel free to top the bars with whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. I think they are best served warm so heat them up before serving if possible. Either way, they are yummy!
Whether you try all three recipes or maybe just one recipe this time around, incorporating plant-based recipes into your diet is super beneficial. I strive to keep recipes simple and free from refined sugars and grains. Over the years, I’ve noticed what these ingredients do to my body and since we only get one body, I say let’s keep it happy!
You can find more healthy recipes over at my blog www.cherisemazur.com. Be sure to sign up for my weekly newsletter, where I share my latest simple healthy recipes and lifestyle hacks!
Have a Happy and Healthy Thanksgiving!
Cherise Mazur – My Fit Life, LLC