Next week is the official beginning of the holiday season. And while we have been seeing ads and commercials for the ‘stuff’ of the holidays for weeks, Thanksgiving, our one day of the year dedicated to gratitude and abundance, is just about upon us.
It’s a lovely holiday, with food and friends and family coming together to celebrate our blessings. For me it’s about being together; it’s not about my life’s mission; it’s not about bringing my political agenda to the table (literally). So…to promote world (or just family) peace, I create a feast with something for everybody. In all the years I have been cooking for the family on this lovely holiday, I have not once had someone ask where the ‘bird’ was. And in all the years I have been cooking, I have never once declared that there would be no bird. We have created our own traditions of celebration.
In my view, I think people just want to enjoy a delicious, satisfying feast with their loved ones, bird or no bird.
Let some of these festive dishes help you create or continue your own holiday feast traditions. Mix and match as your tastes desire and guide your hand to build a feast people will remember.
SQUASH AND SWEET CORN CHOWDER
A calming, sweet starter course. This creamy, rich bisque is laced through with sweet corn. The perfect soup to transition from the intense heat of summer to brisk, chilly autumn weather. Warming winter squash will relax your middle organs, while the sunny yellow corn keeps the memories of summer alive.
MAKES 5-6 SERVINGS
1 small leek, split lengthwise, rinsed well, diced
3 cups cubed winter squash (peeled)
3 cups spring or filtered water
3 cups unsweetened organic almond or soy milk
1 ½ cups fresh/frozen organic corn kernels
2 ½ teaspoons sweet white miso
small handful fresh parsley, minced, for garnish
Layer leek and then squash in a soup pot. Add water, cover and bring to a boil. Add rice milk, cover and reduce heat to low. Simmer until squash is quite soft. Transfer soup, by ladles, to a food mill or chinois and strain to create a silky texture. Return soup to pot, simmering over low heat. Remove a small amount of broth and puree miso. Stir gently into soup with corn and simmer 3-4 minutes, to activate the enzyme activity of the miso. Serve garnished with fresh parsley.
This elegant soup will turn any simple dinner into a magical feast. Richly flavored, simple to make and so comforting, this bisque will have your guests moaning with pleasure.
MAKES 4-5 SERVINGS
2 tablespoons avocado oil
3 small to medium leeks, split lengthwise, rinsed free of dirt and diced
1 small onion, diced
2 cups thinly sliced peeled potatoes
2 cups spring or filtered water
1½ cups unsweetened almond or soymilk
Cracked black pepper
4 or 5 fresh chives, minced, for garnish
Place oil in a soup pot and sweat leeks and onion over medium heat until quite soft, but not browned, about 7 minutes. Stir in potatoes, water and milk, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper, keeping the flavor light. Simmer 5 minutes more to develop flavors. Transfer soup, by ladles, to a food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Serve garnished with chives.
CINNAMON- SCENTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP
When the weather outside is frightful, there is nothing more delightful than winter squash. It’s sweet, comforting, warming, centering, and loaded with antioxidants to ward off colds and flu. In this soup, I add cinnamon to up the ante on the warmth, increase sweetness, and help to stabilize blood sugar.
MAKES 4–5 SERVINGS
1 yellow onion, diced
3 cups diced, unpeeled butternut squash, do not peel
Generous pinch ground cinnamon
1 cup unsweetened almond or soy milk
3 cups spring or filtered water
Whole nutmeg, to be grated for garnish
Place oil and onion in a soup pot over medium heat. When the onion begins to sizzle, add a pinch of salt and sauté for 2–3 minutes. Stir in squash and cinnamon to taste. Add milk and water, cover and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook for 35 minutes or until squash is tender.
Transfer soup to a food processor and puree until smooth. Return to the soup pot and keep soup on low heat until ready to serve. You may also use an immersion blender to puree the soup.
To serve, ladle soup into individual bowls and garnish with a few grates of nutmeg.
STUFFED WINTER SQUASH
This is a lovely centerpiece dish or side dish to serve at holiday feasts or buffets. Along with the basic recipe are several variations on stuffing, each more delicious than the next, so choosing the one you want to make could be the toughest part of the preparation. In each recipe, you will notice the directions call for cooling the stuffing before filling the squash. Placing hot stuffing in a naturally sweet squash can cause it to sour, so take the time to cool it down before proceeding.
MAKES 4-6 SERVINGS
1 large winter squash (buttercup, hokkaido or hubbard)
Extra virgin olive or avocado oil
Spring or filtered water
Stuffing of choice (recipes follow)
Preheat oven to 325F (165C). To begin, remove the top of the squash, jack-o-lantern style, so that you can scoop out the seeds and pulp. Replace the top and lightly oil the outer skin. Place in a baking dish with about ½ inch of water. Bake, uncovered, about 25 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool while preparing the stuffing.
To stuff squash, pack stuffing firmly into the opening, until fully stuffed. Replace the squash top and place in a baking dish with a small amount of water. Increase oven temperature to 350F (175C). Cover squash with a foil tent and bake until squash pierces easily with a fork and filling is hot. The exact baking time will vary, depending on the size of the squash, anywhere from 1 to 3 hours.
MAKES FOR 1 LARGE WINTER SQUASH
1 large whole grain sourdough loaf, crusts removed and cubed
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 clove fresh garlic, minced
1 medium onion, diced
2 cups diced celery
1 cup button mushrooms, brushed clean and diced
1 cup tempeh cubes, pan-fried until golden
½ cup pine nuts, lightly pan-toasted
Fresh ginger juice, grate ginger and squeeze juice
¼ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley
Spring or filtered water
Preheat oven to 300F (150C). Arrange bread cubes on a baking sheet. Bake until bread dries slightly, about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Add celery and mushrooms and cook, stirring, until tender, about 7 minutes. Combine bread cubes, vegetables, fried tempeh, pine nuts, sea salt to taste, ginger juice to taste and parsley. Slowly add enough water, while mixing, to make a soft stuffing. Allow to cool completely before using.
MAKES STUFFING FOR 1 LARGE WINTER SQUASH
½ cup currants or raisins
Mirin or white wine
Spring or filtered water
1 cup pecans
2½ cups bulgur
1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, diced
2 to 3 celery stalks, diced
Generous pinch dried basil
2 pears (Bosc or other), halved, cored and cubed
Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Soak currants in a mixture of half mirin/wine and half water until tender, about 30 minutes. Spread pecans evenly on a baking sheet and toast them lightly in oven, about 8 minutes. Coarsely dice pecans and set aside.
In a medium saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil with a pinch of salt. Stir in bulgur, cover and cook over low heat until all liquid has been absorbed and bulgur is tender, about 15 minutes.
While bulgur cooks, heat oil in a skillet over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and cook until translucent, 5 minutes. Add celery and a pinch of salt and cook over medium heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Add basil, stir in pears and a pinch of salt and cook 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and add bulgur and pecans. Drain currants and gently fold into mixture. Allow to cool completely before using.
LENTIL WALDORF SALAD
A delicious turn on a classic autumn salad, the earthy flavor of baby lentils is the perfect complement to the crisp apples and sweet pecans. But it isn’t just another delicious salad--the lentils give us great endurance; the apples relax us, but with just enough tart flavor to give us some sparkle--and the pecans are so packed with vitality (remember, nuts grow into trees--lots of energy)--you’ll be dancing in the streets.
MAKES 4-6 SERVINGS
½-inch piece kombu or 1 bay leaf
2/3 cup Le Puy or small black lentils, sorted and rinsed
1 1/4 cups spring or filtered water
organic soy sauce
2/3 cup Tofu Mayo
2-3 Granny Smith apples, halved, cored, diced (do not peel)--tossed in 1 teaspoon lemon juice to prevent discoloring
1 cup diced red onions, lightly blanched
2 stalks celery, diced
grated zest of 1 lemon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
½ cup pecan pieces, lightly toasted
To cook the lentils, place kombu/bay leaf on the bottom of a pot and top with lentils and water. Bring to a boil, uncovered. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook until lentils are tender, but not too soft, about 35 minutes. Season lightly with organic soy sauce and simmer 1 minute more. Drain and transfer to a small bowl to cool.
Prepare the tofu mayo by boiling an 8-ounce brick of tofu for minutes. Drain and transfer to a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of stoneground mustard, 2 tablespoons umeboshi vinegar, 1 tablespoon brown rice syrup, a pinch of sea salt, the juice of 1 lemon and 3 tablespoons corn oil. Puree until smooth and creamy. (You may also purchase a vegan mayo substitute in most natural foods stores.)
Prepare the salad by combining the cooked lentils with the apples, red onions, celery, lemon zest, nutmeg and pecan pieces. Gently stir in tofu mayo until ingredients are well-coated. Serve warm.
COOK’S TIP: To oven-toast pecans, preheat oven to 250o and spread nuts on baking sheet. Roast at low, stirring occasionally, until fragrant and lightly browned, about 25-30 minutes. Pecans’ flavor is best when they are toasted slowly at a low temperature
BAKED BRUSSELS SPROUTS AND SHALLOTS
This crowd-pleaser is succulent, so make a good bit of it. They will come back for seconds every time. A rich and tasty dish like this warms the body and makes us feel nourished and satisfied.
MAKES 4-5 SERVINGS
2 to 3 cups fresh Brussels sprouts, trimmed and left whole
3 or 4 shallots, halved
2 or 3 cloves fresh garlic, finely minced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 375F (190C). Cut a shallow cross in the base of each Brussels sprout; this promotes thorough cooking. In a casserole, arrange Brussels sprouts and shallots, avoiding overlap. Sprinkle generously with garlic. Drizzle lightly with sea salt, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Toss to coat the vegetables. The goal is to cook the vegetables in their own juices, causing them to contract, reduce and secrete their own sweet tastes.
Cover the casserole and bake 45 to 50 minutes. Remove the cover and bake until vegetables lightly brown and any liquid reduces to a thick syrup. Toss gently before serving.
ARTICHOKE, CARROT AND ZUCCHINI SALAD WITH LIME VINAIGRETTE
I love this salad so much. It’s interesting with lots of different flavors. It’s perfect when you think you want something fresh and just a little different.
MAKES 5-6 SERVINGS
1 jalapeño chili, roasted over an open flame, peeled, seeded and finely minced (see Variation below)
5 to 6 tablespoons fresh lime juice
5 to 6 sprigs flat-leaf parsley, finely minced
Generous pinch sweet paprika
Generous pinch cracked black pepper
½ cup vegan mayonnaise
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1 cup finely shredded green cabbage
2 cups baby arugula, rinsed well
2 to 3 sprigs basil, leaves removed, left whole
1 medium carrot, cut into long ribbons with a peeler
1 medium zucchini, cut into long ribbons with a peeler
8 canned artichoke hearts (in water, not oil), halved (you may also use frozen)
10 to 12 cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
Prepare the dressing: Whisk all ingredients together, adjusting salt to your taste. Cover and refrigerate for 30 minutes before using. Whisk again before mixing with the salad.
Combine all vegetables in a mixing bowl. Just before servings, toss with dressing to coat. Serve immediately.
COOK’S TIP: You can eliminate the chili from this recipe for a sweeter, less spicy version of the dressing.
WATERCRESS AND FRIED MUSHROOM SALAD
There’s nothing like the clean, peppery taste of watercress to make you look your best. A great liver tonic, watercress can aid the body in cleansing itself of toxins, giving us great-looking skin and clear, bright eyes, with eye whites that are...well...white, instead of yellow or bloodshot. Adding sautéed mushroom to the mix, moisturizes the skin and hair, cleanses fat deposits from the veins and arteries, making our skin look fresh and alive. And since this recipe is so simple, you’ll look totally relaxed.
MAKES 4 SERVINGS
12 dried shiitake mushrooms, soaked until tender, stems removed (reserving soaking water)
1 cup unsweetened organic almond or soy milk
organic yellow corn meal, for dredging
sunflower or avocado oil for frying
3 tablespoons sesame tahini
½ teaspoon umeboshi or red wine vinegar
½ teaspoon organic soy sauce
juice of 1 lemon
1 teaspoon fresh ginger juice
1 teaspoon brown rice syrup
spring or filtered water
1 red onion, cut into 1/4-inch thick rings
2 bunches watercress, rinsed well, left whole
Place softened shiitake mushrooms in a saucepan with milk and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to a boil, uncovered, over medium heat. Reduce heat to low and simmer until shiitake are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain mushrooms and dredge to coat in cornmeal. Set aside. Heat about 1 inch oil in a deep pot, over medium heat.
While the oil heats, make the dressing. Simply whisk ingredients together until smooth, slowly adding water until you achieve the desired consistency. Set aside.
Bring a pot of water to a boil. Quickly blanche onion rings (for about 30 seconds), drain and lay on a platter. Blanche watercress (again, about 30 seconds), drain and slice into bite-sized pieces. Set aside to cool.
Finally, when the oil is hot, raise the heat to high and quickly fry the mushrooms until crispy golden brown. Drain on parchment paper.
To serve, arrange watercress and onion rings on individual salad plates. Top with 3 mushrooms on each salad. Drizzle with salad dressing and serve immediately.
CRUNCHY TUSCAN KALE SALAD
Seriously, I never thought I could like raw kale, but in this salad, the textures and flavors shine. This is no ordinary salad; it’s a great source of fiber, vitamin C, A, K, and folic acid and because the kale is raw, no enzymes are lost.
MAKES 3–4 SERVINGS
1 bunch Tuscan kale (also called lacinato or dinosaur, but regular kale will work)
1 teaspoon extra- virgin olive oil
¾ cup coarse bread crumbs
1 clove fresh garlic, mashed
½ teaspoon sea salt
⅛ teaspoon cracked black pepper
Pinch crushed red pepper flakes
3 tablespoons extra- virgin olive oil
Juice from ½ fresh lemon
Rinse the kale leaves and towel dry. Shred the kale leaves, removing the stems if they are thick.
Place a teaspoon of oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the bread crumbs until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Set aside.
Mix together garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper, oil, and lemon juice. Adjust seasonings to your taste and mix well.
Toss kale with bread crumbs and dressing to coat. Allow to marinate for about 5 minutes before serving.
NO-MEAT MINCEMEAT PIE
I never liked mincemeat pie when I was a kid, but everyone raved about my mother’s version at our Thanksgiving feasts. For Robert’s and my first holiday season together, I asked him what pie he’d like and he voted for mincemeat. Well, as anyone who has been in love, and especially in new love, can tell you, you bend over backwards to impress and accommodate. Referring to my mother’s recipe and praying for inspiration, I came up with a recipe that still wows Robert to this very day.
MAKES 6-8 SERVINGS
1 cup raisins
1 cup dried apricots
3 cups unfiltered, unsweetened apple juice
Pinch sea salt
4 cups chopped tart apples
2 tablespoons red or barley miso
½ teaspoon ground allspice
2 tablespoons kuzu or arrowroot, dissolved in ¼ cup cold water or juice
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
½ cup walnuts, broken into small pieces
1 recipe Pastry/Tartlet Dough (see Pecan Pie crust recipe below)
Soak the raisins and apricots together in the apple juice 6 to 8 hours. In an uncovered pot, combine the soaked fruit, the soaking juice, salt and apples and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, 1 hour. Remove about 2 tablespoons of hot juice and use to dissolve the miso. Stir mixture into the pot and simmer 15 minutes. Stir in allspice, then stir in dissolved kuzu and cook, stirring, until the mixture thickens, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the orange and lemon zests, orange juice, and walnuts. Set aside to cool as you prepare the pie crust.
Preheat oven to 400F (205C). Prepare pie dough. Roll out thinly between 2 sheets of waxed paper into a 10-inch circle. Lay over a 9-inch pie pan, pressing it into the pan without stretching the dough. Trim the excess dough around the edges, leaving an even ½-inch overhang. Turn the excess dough up toward the edge of the pie and crimp or flute to form a decorative edge. Prick crust with a fork.
Bake the pie shell 10 minutes. This prevents a soggy crust when serving the finished pie.
Reduce oven temperature to 350F (175C). Pour filling into pie shell. Bake 30 to 40 minutes, until filling is set.
COOK’S TIP: When making this pie, I like to prepare it as a single-crust pie, but you may also double the pastry recipe and make a lattice top. This recipe also makes really beautiful miniature tartlets.
A good pecan pie is just the best thing ever. But it’s usually loaded with sugar and calories, making it less than desirable when you are eating a healthy diet, even as an indulgence. Well, this version is still an indulgence, but there’s no simple sugar and it’s truly delicious.
MAKES 6–8 SERVINGS
1 cup whole-wheat pastry flour
¼ cup semolina flour
½ cup avocado oil
¼ cup avocado oil
1½ cups pecan pieces coarsely chopped
1¾ cups unsweetened organic almond or soy milk
¾ cup brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch sea salt
3 tablespoons arrowroot powder
4 tablespoons agar flakes
2 cups pecan halves
⅓ cup brown rice syrup
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Preheat oven to 350°F and lightly oil a 9-inch pie plate.
Prepare the crust by mixing flours with salt. Using a fork, cut the oil into the flour to form the texture of wet sand. Slowly add cold water until the crust gathers together. Knead dough about 4 times to pull it together. Roll the crust out evenly between 2 sheets of parchment paper to a size about an inch larger than your pie plate. Remove the top sheet of parchment and invert the crust over the pie plate. Without stretching the dough, press the crust into place, allowing the excess to hang over the rim of the plate. Pull up the excess and, pressing the first finger of one hand and the thumb and first finger of the other hand together, pleat the top of the crust decoratively. Pierce the crust in several places with a fork and bake for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
Make the filling by combining all ingredients in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook, stirring as it comes to a boil. Reduce heat to low and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes, until the agar is dissolved and the mixture has thickened. Spoon evenly into pie shell. Arrange pecan halves decoratively over the top of the pie. Bake for 12–15 minutes.
Remove pie from oven. Heat remaining syrup and orange zest to a high rolling boil. Quickly spoon over the pecans on top of the pie. Allow to cool for at least 30 minutes so the pie sets before slicing into wedges.
(All recipes courtesy of Christina’s new e-book, Christina Pirello’s Wellness 1000, a collection of, you guessed it…1000 recipes to create a healthy life. Get your copy here: Amazon.com or BarnesandNoble.com or Apple iTunes)