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Good Gravy! Sides for a Special Diet Thanksgiving

November 22, 2017

While traditional Thanksgiving dishes like turkey, bread stuffing, mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and pumpkin pie still have a prominent place on today’s holiday tables, times are a-changin’. The rise in awareness of special diets, along with the wider availability of ingredients once considered exotic, have brought unexpected and delightful dishes to holiday feasts. It’s no longer uncommon to see a meatless Thanksgiving feast that features a portabella-and-shiitake mushroom potpie instead of turkey. Or how about a lower-sugar cranberry sauce sweetened with agave nectar and jazzed up with red wine, or lower-carb, antioxidant-rich purple mashed potatoes instead of russets? The sky’s the limit.

Quinoa has quickly become one of my favorite grains. It’s versatile and works well in soups, salads, and side dishes. While growing up during the 1970s and 1980s, the mention of quinoa would have resulted in quizzical stares, but today I make a gluten-free and vegan quinoa, leek, and sage stuffing that pleases my traditionalist relatives, as well as the more health conscious people in my circle. I originally discovered this gem on Kevin Jacob’s A Garden for the House blog. Below is his original recipe, and I’ve tweaked it a bit by omitting the butter (for a vegan version) and adding a sprinkle of chopped fresh rosemary:

Root and cruciferous vegetables are the stars of fall, found in abundance in grocery stores and farmers markets. Yet carrots seem to take a backstage to carb-heavy potatoes, cauliflower and the like on the Thanksgiving table. Here’s a simple yet healthy recipe, courtesy of The Food Network, to bring vitamin-rich, lower-carb carrots to the forefront. To give the dish a more festive appearance, use some heirloom purple and white carrots, in addition to the traditional orange variety:

Condiments can stymie even the most well-meaning cooks when preparing a Thanksgiving meal for guests with dietary restrictions. It’s one of those details that are way too easy to forget about until the last minute, until you notice a vegan or lactose intolerant guest searching for something other than butter to spread on a roll or bread; it’s a good idea to have on hand a non-dairy butter replacement or savory marmalade.

Gravy is a popular choice to top both meat or non-meat substitutes and potatoes, but most gravy is made with meat. There are some good (and not-so-good) meatless and mushroom-based gravy on the market, but this Golden Gravy, made popular by Real Food Daily restaurant in Los Angeles, Calif., and later published in their cookbook and reposted on numerous blogs, is rich, creamy gravy with zero animal products. It has wowed the omnivores and carnivores in my circle (use low-sodium tamari sauce and omit the salt for a low-sodium version):

This holiday season, share traditional fare, or dishes that incorporate twists of our favorite classics, or anything in between—food is the universal language that brings everyone together. Cheers to a happy and peaceful holiday season!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.


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