I love family dinners, especially with my in-laws. They are perhaps the funniest group of humans I’ve had the privilege to meet, and it is definitely a gift to have married into the family. Height Family holiday dinners are invariably a cacophony of laughter, utensils and roll-throwing, a tradition that was established long ago, wherein my Grandmother-in-law tosses a dinner roll to everyone at the table… or the kids’ table. She has excellent aim.
I love, too, that American Thanksgiving dinners are a little different than Canadian ones: I don’t know if that’s regionally specific, or specific to certain families, but I’ve learned that things like green bean casserole, pasta salad and macaroni and cheese have just as much a place at this dinner as at a picnic. And that makes me wildly happy.
I tend to gravitate towards veggie side dishes at most big dinner gatherings: I usually like sides best, and when you choose to stay away from meat, gluten and dairy, they tend to be the safest options. Gram’s mashed turnip and gooey roasted sweet potatoes, in particular, are my favorites. Mmm. ;)
But suppose you wanted to amp up your Thanksgiving food experience a little, oh vegan and/or gluten-free eater and/or turkey reductionist and/or paleo-explorer… what to eat then?
Allow me to introduce my favorite super-hearty fall dish that doubles beautifully as an entrée in place of turkey, or as a flavorful side to accompany whatever else ends up piled on your plate.
Delicata Squash with Gluten-free Quinoa Stuffing and Mushroom Gravy.
Yup, it’s way good. Let’s compare with a traditional Thanksgiving main dish, shall we?
Turkey: hearty, toothsome, easily piled up; tryptophan-tastic, meaning you feel all blissed out and then uncomfortable and then hungry again
Squash: hearty, creamy, fills a plate with eye-popping volume but not a ton of excess empty calories; no tryptophan
Stuffing: a varied texture with chewy and crunchy bites, filling, grounding, comfortable
Quinoa stuffing: a varied texture with chewy and crunchy bites, filling, grounding, comfortable, plus a ton of protein to make the satiety last
Gravy: velvety smooth and filled with flavor, providing that creamy texture to make every mouthful just a little more delicious
Mushroom gravy: velvety smooth and filled with flavor, providing that creamy texture to make every mouthful just a little more delicious. Gravy is just good, no matter how you pour it, and this gluten-free vegan version is actually good for you!
It’s a simple dish to prepare, and because you can make several at once, you can appeal to both the vegans and omnivores at the table. Have it as the main event or a side, up the nutrient- and yum-factor of Thanksgiving without having to eat a weird non-food Tofurkey, and leave the table still able to walk. Everyone – especially the turkeys – wins.
- 2 delicata squash, halved and seeded
- olive oil
- 2 cups cooked quinoa
- 1 white onion, diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
- 1 tsp poultry seasoning
- 1/2 tsp sage
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground fennel
- 4 tbsp dried currants or raisins, optional
- salt and pepper
- **Mushroom Gravy
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp fennel seeds
- 1 tsp dried sage
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 2 cups baby bella or crimini mushrooms, sliced
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup cooking sherry or cheap red wine
- 4 tbsp chickpea flour
- 1/2 cup water
- 1. Preheat oven to 375F.
- 2. Lightly oil the insides of your squash and place cut-side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 25-30 minutes until tender-firm. You should be able to pierce them easily with a fork, but the squash should retain its shape.
- 3. While your squash cooks, get started on your gravy. Heat remaining oil over medium in a saucepan. Add fennel, sage and thyme and let it cook through until fragrant (about 90 seconds). Add mushrooms and stir to coat with spice-oil mixture. Season with salt and pepper, reduce heat, and cook for about 10 minutes.
- 4. While these cook, warm a little oil over medium heat in your other skillet and add garlic, onions and remaining spices. Sautee together for 5-6 minutes until tender and very fragrant. Then add cooked quinoa and stir everything together to mix evenly. Add currants (if using), and salt and pepper, then turn heat to low to keep stuffing warm. Stir occasionally.
- 5. At this point, your mushrooms should have released their juices and reabsorbed them. Add sherry and stir.
- 6. Whisk in the chickpea flour and 2 tbsp of water at a time. Whisk to remove any flour lumps, add a little more water, repeat until it reaches a thick, gravy-like consistency. Remove gravy and stuffing from heat.
- 7. Remove squash halves from the oven and fill each one with stuffing. Still have time to kill until dinner? Turn your oven down to 250F and return the squash to the oven, with filling, to stay warm until you serve them. Serving right away? Go for it. Everything should be cooked and in good shape to head right to the table. Serve with gravy on the side.
- Save time by prepping your quinoa in advance. If you're making it from scratch, put it on to cook for 15 minutes while you prep your squash. Combine 1 cup dry quinoa with 2 cups water, cover and bring to a boil. Once rolling, reduce heat to simmer and cook 12-15 minutes until all water is absorbed.