Ayurvedic chef Talya Lutzker shares her favorite recipes for a divine vegetarian Thanksgiving Day meal.
As we all know, Thanksgiving’s purpose and meaning reaches far beyond food. A celebration of gratitude, dinner is the reason we gather around the same table, at the same time, and savor the company of those that we love and call family. But turkey does not have to be the centerpiece for all tables. In fact, it’s becoming more and more common to try alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving fowl. Today I want to share some super-satisfying vegan and vegetarian alternatives to the traditional Thanksgiving meal. It’s good to get that holiday feeling without the bird!
When planning your Thanksgiving menu in accordance with Ayurvedic medicine, it noteworthy to mention that food combining should factor in as a major consideration. Meat and starches don’t mix easily in the gut. So you want to be strategic in your meal planning and find foods that go well together, digestively speaking. If you stick with all vegetables and plant-sourced proteins, you’re good to go. My vegetarian Thanksgiving menu this year looks something like this:
Organic Eggnog, spiked or virgin
Brussels Sprouts with Crispy Crumbled Baked Tempeh
Beautiful Roasted Beet Salad
Simple Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter and Chia Seeds
Quinoa Pancakes with Creamy Saffron Sauce
Flourless Pecan Pie
Organic eggnog starts off the holiday, yet to spike or not to spike is the question. Since eggnog is typically made with dairy-sourced heavy cream—or a rich vegan cream, like coconut milk— eggnog is a specifically nourishing apertif. The “spiking” will stimulate appetites a bit more than those who choose the eggnog virgin-style. But either way, one teaspoon of ground ginger root powder (per 16 ounces of eggnog) can be added to enhance eggnog’s digestibility. I like to spike mine with a bit of brandy, bourbon or dark rum. Use about one tablespoon of alcohol per 8-ounce glass of eggnog.
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Brussels sprouts are a classic Thanksgiving side dish, plus they have the Ayurvedic benefit of being seasonally appropriate and great for the colon. Pairing them with crispy baked tempeh is a wonderful vegan alternative to bacon, and makes the whole recipe light, a fact that benefits kapha, the heaviest of the three Ayurvedic constitutions. Since overeating tends to be everyone’s problem at the holidays, reducing kapha-increasing foods at Thanksgiving (i.e. foods that are especially heavy, dense, and cool) yields positive post-meal results for all. Brussels sprouts, cabbage, and most salads lighten the total caloric load of a Thanksgiving meal, so pepper your menu with them handsomely.
That’s where my Roasted Beet Salad comes in handy (see the recipe below), as well as a dish as casual as Simple Baked Sweet Potatoes with Coconut Butter and Chia Seeds. Bake scored whole sweet potatoes at 375 degrees for 45 minutes, or until the flesh is easily pierced with a fork. Cook one for each guest. Try the white-fleshed variety for a change, they are rich in potassium and their purple skins are delicious when baked. Make one long cut down the center of each sweet potato and fill with a couple tablespoons of fatty acid-rich coconut butter and a tablespoon of whole, nutrient-dense chia seeds. Trust me: It’s sweet-and-savory perfection.
Because they are gluten-free and high in protein, Quinoa Pancakes are an almost effortless crowd-pleaser. They are delicious with just a bit of flaxseed oil or ghee and a dash of salty spice. Or you can do something much more holiday-elegant and top each one with a dollop of Creamy Saffron Sauce. Saffron is a deeply cherished spice around the world. In Ayurvedic medicine, which uses saffron widely, it is revered as a sattvic (balancing and purifying) blood-tonifying herb that also possesses antioxidant properties.
Last on the menu is a flourless Pecan Pie. Why flourless? It’s yet another of my personal methods to lighten the weight of the meal. A whole-nut crust that doesn’t require baking is the lightest way to go, although almost all desserts will increase kapha, so enjoy sparingly and when you are still hungry.
I hope you truly have much to be grateful for this Thanksgiving. Here are a few of my favorites to get you started. Namaste!
RECIPE #1: Roasted Beet Salad
Preparation Time: 50 minutes
Yield: Serves 4
6 medium purple beets
6 medium golden beets
2 medium carrots
3 T coconut oil, melted
2 tsp Celtic Sea or Himalyayan salt
1 T fresh thyme leaves or 2 tsp dried thyme
1/8 C fresh-squeezed orange or lemon juice
2 tsp apple cider or ume plum vinegar
2 T fresh basil leaves, minced
2 T cold-pressed olive oil
3 C fresh arugula leaves, packed
1/4 C raw pine nuts
1/2 C feta or blue cheese, crumbled (optional)
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Scrub the beets and carrots well. Remove any obvious blemishes from the roots but leave most of the skins on if you can. Slice the beets and carrots into 1/4”-thick moons and half-moons. Put into a large mixing bowl. Melt the coconut oil over low heat on the stove or by placing your jar of coconut oil into a shallow bowl of very hot water. Pour the melted coconut oil over the beets, stir in the salt and thyme and toss. Spread the coated beets in a single layer onto the two cookie sheets. Bake for 15 minutes. Give the beets a quick stir and rotate the pans in the oven. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes, until the beets are fork-tender. Remove from the oven.
Meanwhile (while the beets are cooking), stir together the orange juice, apple cider vinegar, fresh basil and olive oil in a small bowl. Set aside. Place a skillet over medium-low heat and add the pine nuts. Toast them until they are fragrant and just barely turning a golden brown, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Return the roasted beets to a large mixing bowl. Toss with the dressing. Serve over a bed of arugula and top with the toasted pine nuts, optional feta cheese and black pepper.
RECIPE #2: Creamy Saffron Sauce
Preparation Time: 20 minutes
Yield: About 1/2 Cup
1 C shallots, peeled and minced
1 C vegetable broth
2 T apple cider vinegar
Two healthy pinches of saffron
1/4 C organic heavy cream, egg nog or coconut milk
2/3 C cold (refrigerated) ghee or coconut oil
2 T fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp Celtic Sea or Himalyayan salt
1 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
Place the shallots, vegetable broth and apple cider vinegar in a medium stockpot over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil and cook down the shallots until the entire mixture is reduced to about 1/4 Cup. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the saffron, cream, and refrigerated ghee. Use a wire whisk to fully incorporate the ghee into the mix. Then add the lemon juice, salt and pepper. Season to taste and blend the sauce until smooth. Serve over baked fish, Quinoa Pancakes or brown rice. A recipe for Quinoa Pancakes can be found in my cookbook, The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen.
RECIPE #3: Flourless Pecan Pie
Preparation Time: About 45 minutes, plus refrigeration time
Yield: One 9-inch Pie
1 C raw walnuts
1/2 cup raw pecans
2 T shredded unsweetened coconut
1 tsp. ground dried ginger root
1 pinch mineral-rich salt
1 1/4 C Medjool dates, pitted and roughly chopped
1 C Medjool dates, pitted
1 C organic raisins
4 whole dried plums (or prunes), pitted
3 C purified water
1/2 C reserved soak-water from dates, raisins, and prunes
1 cup raw whole pecans, plus 1/4 C reserved for decorating
1/8 C maple syrup, brown rice syrup or coconut nectar
1 T vanilla
1/8 teaspoon mineral-rich salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp nutmeg, ground fresh if possible
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Dash of black pepper
For the filling, soak the dates and raisins in 3 cups of purified water for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, combine the crust ingredients in a food processor and pulse until you have a sticky mass. Press the crust dough into the bottom of a coconut oil-greased 9-inch pie or springform pan. Refrigerate while you make the filling. Now add 1 cup of the pecans, the maple syrup, vanilla, salt, and spices to the food processor. Drain the dates, raisins and prunes, reserving at least 1/2 cup of the soak water*. Add to the food processor with the other ingredients and pulse on high for about 30 seconds, pausing occasionally to scrape down the sides of the blender. Taste for sweetness and spice. Pour the pie filling into the crust, cover and refrigerate for 2 hours before serving. Decorate with the remaining whole raw pecans.
Talya Lutzker is a Certified Ayurvedic Practitioner, nutritionist, chef, and yoga teacher, and the founder of Talya’s Kitchen. Her latest cookbook is The Ayurvedic Vegan Kitchen. Learn more at TalyasKitchen.com.