Celebrating with Healthful Foods

By Vesanto Melina, MS, Registered Dietitian

Recipes are from the new Cooking Vegan by Vesanto Melina and chef Joseph Forest (in Canada as an E-book titles Cooking Vegetarian by chef Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina, publisher Harper Collins, and soon to be released in paperback; same content–great recipes, menus, nutritional analysis, chef tips).  These books make an excellent gift for those who are trying to eat healthfully, and for the vegetarians and vegans on your holiday list.

\"9-15-2013\"9-15-2013What comes to mind when you think of holiday meals? Gravy? Aromas of sage and other herbs? Being so stuffed that you require a forklift to get up from the chair after dinner? It is appealing to know that we can celebrate with those we love—yet have healthful fare and not overindulge to the point of discomfort.

Here we include a well-loved recipe for stuffed squash, a Light Mushroom Gravy, also Roasted Root Vegetables, and Rosemary Gravy

Holiday Winter Stuffed Squash

makes about 8 servings

1 winter squash such as Hubbard, butternut or acorn, about 5 lbs
1 recipe for Quinoa stuffing

Pre heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Pierce the top of the squash with a sharp knife at a 45-degree angle 2 inches over from the top. Pushing the knife blade away from your body, cut around the top of the squash and remove the cone-shaped top piece. Remove any fibrous material from the cone and set the top aside. Remove the seeds and pulp from the cavity of the squash with a spoon. Put the top back on the squash, put on a baking sheet and bake for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool for 15 minutes.

Spoon the stuffing into the squash cavity. Set lid in place, return squash to baking sheet and bake for 45 to 60 minutes or until a toothpick can be easily inserted into the side of the squash. Leftover stuffing can be placed in a loaf pan, sprinkled with 2-3 tablespoons of water, covered and heated in the oven for the last 20 minutes of the cooking time for the squash. Remove the squash from the oven and place on a warm serving platter. Slice into wedges and serve.


Quinoa Stuffing

Makes 5 cups 

1-1/2 cups water
1 cup quinoa
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp coconut or olive oil
1/2 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 cup corn kernels
1/2 cup diced sweet red pepper
1/2 cup sunflower seeds
1 tbsp lime juice
1-1/2 tsp each of basil and dill
1/2 tsp thyme
1/8 tsp pepper


Bring water to a boil over high heat in a small pan. Stir in quinoa and salt, reduce heat to low, cover and cook for 20 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. Put into a large bowl and allow to cool. Heat oil in a skillet over medium heat and cook onions for 3-5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic and celery and cook for 3 minutes then add to the quinoa along with the corn, red pepper, sunflower seeds, parsley, lemon juice, tarragon and pepper.


Light Mushroom Gravy

Makes 4 cups

This tasty gravy is ideal with Holiday Winter Stuffed Squash, UnTurkey, Tofurkey, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes, or to add a festive touch to veggie burgers. You may experiment with different brands of stock cubes or powder; flavorful stock makes a big difference. Stocks vary in saltiness so adjust the amount of tamari or salt accordingly. If the gravy is too thick, add water; if too thin, simmer uncovered to reach the desired consistency.


1 tbsp vegetable oil (such as coconut oil or olive oil)

2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms

1/2 cup fine diced onion

2 cloves garlic, minced

4 cups vegetable stock or water

1/2 cup unbleached all-purpose or whole wheat flour

2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce

1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes

1/4 tsp dried thyme

1/4 tsp dried sage

Pinch of pepper

Salt (optional, to taste)

2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)


Heat the oil in a sauce pan over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms and onion for 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Put one cup of cold vegetable stock or water, flour, tamari, nutritional yeast, thyme, and sage in a jar, tightly cover with a lid, and shake until blended. Put the stock and flour mixture plus the remaining stock into the sauce pan, bring to a boil, decrease heat to low, and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in pepper and salt (if using); top with parsley and serve.

Roasted Root Vegetables

Makes about 8 cups

This colourful, warming combination makes a very welcome addition to festive meals. Other favorites that can be substituted are sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips, or squash, for a total of 8-9 cups of chopped vegetables. Those with deep yellow and orange hues are rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene).


2 carrots

2 yams

2 potatoes

1 large red, yellow, or white onion

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs or 1 tsp dried (eg basil, thyme, oregano, dill)

1/4 tsp salt

Pinch pepper

Heat oven to 375F. Cut carrots, yams, potatoes, and onion into 1-inch pieces; place in large bowl. Sprinkle with oil, herbs, salt and pepper, tossing well to coat vegetables. Transfer to 9×13 inch baking dish (or similar size).  Bake, uncovered at 375F for 35 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.


Rosemary gravy

Makes 3 1/2 cups

1/4 cup coconut oil or olive oil
1/4 cup each of diced onion, carrot, and celery
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup all purpose or whole wheat flour
3 cups vegetable stock
2-3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley
2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried sage
1/4 tsp pepper
Salt to taste
Heat oil in a medium sauce pan over medium heat; add onion, garlic, carrots and celery and cook for 5 minutes or until onion is tender. Stir flour into the vegetable mixture to absorb the oil and cook for 3 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent flour from burning. Add stock gradually until it is smoothly mixed in, bring to boil, decrease the heat to low. Add tamari, parsley, rosemary, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally. If gravy is too thick, add more stock; if too thin, simmer uncovered to let some moisture evaporate. Season to taste; serve.


Vesanto Melina is a BC dietitian, author (www.camd58.sg-host.com), phone 604-882-6782. Other books that include great recipes for select dietary patterns are The Food Allergy Survival Guide, Becoming Raw, and The Raw Food Revolution Diet.

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