I’ve gotten a number of requests from gluten-free readers for alternatives to the usual bread stuffing.  While my Wild Rice Pilaf with Butternut Squash is an amazing gluten-free option, I wanted to come up with a new side dish that contained some protein – because protein is often lacking for vegetarians at Thanksgiving. Thus, this warm quinoa salad with chickpeas and walnuts was born. The apple adds just the right amount of sweetness (I would use a sweet apple rather than a tart one here, unless you want to add some dried cranberries for sweetness.)

This salad doesn’t need to be limited to a gluten-free Thanksgiving table. It’s so delicious, it will surely appeal to just about everybody. I can picture carnivores eating it cold with a turkey sandwich the day after Thanksgiving, too!

This is my sixth recipe for this year’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge.

Warm Quinoa Salad with Apples, Walnuts and Chickpeas

1-1/2 cups quinoa
1 tablespoon finely minced shallots
2 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)
½ teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil , divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large, crisp sweet apple, cored and diced
2/3 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped and toasted
1 cup cooked chickpeas (if canned, recommend Eden brand, for BPA-free cans)
1-2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the quinoa in a medium saucepan with 2¼ cups cold water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and simmer for 12-14 minutes, until done but still a bit crunchy. Set aside but mix with dressing while still somewhat warm.

To make the dressing, mix the vinegar, mustard and shallots in a bowl. Whisk in the olive oil. If needed, season with a bit of extra salt or vinegar.

Combine the dressing, apple, walnuts and parsley. Add salt and pepper if necessary. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Serves 6 as a side dish

I’m so pleased to bring you a guest post from Jodi, the natural foods chef behind the truly lovely and inspiring blog What’s Cooking Good Looking. My favorite quote from Jodi: “Ingredients taste best when they are in their purest form, so it is only natural that cooking with these types of foods will produce amazing meals.” I couldn’t agree more. And the awesome dish she brings us today is going to be on my own Thanksgiving table!

Brussels sprouts are one of my all time favorite vegetables. I understand that not everyone shares this same love, so if you are not a huge fan, try these. I promise they will change your mind. If you are already a lover, give this version a whirl. This has been my new go-to side dish and will surely be a staple at all of our holiday meals. The toasted almonds and red cabbage are such great compliments to the caramelized sprouts. I am certain this will be a favorite side on your Thanksgiving table.

This is the fifth recipe for this year’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge. Be sure to take part, and while you’re at it, enter to win some great cookbooks.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Sautéed Brussels Sprouts & Cabbage with Toasted Almonds and Shallots

2 cups of Brussels sprouts, trimmed and sliced in half

2 cups of red cabbage, roughly chopped

3 tablespoons of grapeseed (or another high-heat oil)

¼ cup of slivered almonds

¼ cup of diced shallots

2 cloves of garlic, minced

salt + pepper

Heat 2 tablespoons of the grapeseed oil in a cast iron pan oven medium-high heat. Add the Brussels sprouts (I like to start them off cut-side down). Cook the sprouts for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they start to brown.

While the sprouts are cooking, heat up the remaining tablespoon of grapeseed oil in a small pan over medium heat. Add the shallots. Sautee for 3-4 minutes until clear and then add in the almonds and garlic. Cook for another 3-5 minutes until everything starts to brown, but be very careful not to burn the almonds or garlic. Remove from the heat.

Once the sprouts have started to brown, add the red cabbage and continue to sauté until the cabbage is tender. Turn off the heat and add the toasted almonds and shallots. Give it a good toss and then season with salt + pepper.  Serve warm.

Serves 6-8 as a side dish

This is the perfect hearty salad to complement the flavors of Thanksgiving.  I love the sturdy-but-not-tough texture of escarole and curly endive, and its slight bitterness goes really well with the sweetness of the root vegetables. Add toasted walnuts and a garlicky, mustardy dressing with a touch of maple syrup, and you’ve pretty much achieved winter salad nirvana.

This recipe serves a crowd, so it’s a good holiday dish. I think it would be fine for 10 people. My husband and I ate it for days on end!

This is my fourth Thanksgiving recipe for this year’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge. Be sure to take part, and while you’re at it, enter to win some great cookbooks.

Winter Green Salad with Butternut Squash and Beets

½ cup extra virgin olive oil, divided

1 medium/large beet, peeled and cubed

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed

2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves (optional)

5 tablespoons champagne vinegar (or white wine vinegar)

1 garlic clove, finely minced

2 teaspoons coarse-grain Dijon mustard

2 teaspoons maple syrup

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 head escarole, washed and chopped

1 head curly endive/frisee, washed and chopped

1/2 cup walnuts, lightly toasted and chopped

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the beet and squash with 1tablespoon olive oil and thyme, and place on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 35 minutes, or until tender and browned.

To make the dressing, whisk the vinegar, garlic, mustard, maple syrup, salt and pepper. Slowly whisk in the remaining olive oil.

Place the greens in a large serving bowl. Toss with the dressing, then add the roasted beets, squash and walnuts.

Serves 8-10

I love the idea of a healthy but luxurious soup to start off the Thanksgiving feast. But I keep the servings small, to avoid filling everyone up, and keep the soup simple, to warm up your tastebuds for the onslaught of flavors to come. This winter vegetable soup fits the bill perfectly. The clean flavor of the root vegetables shines through, and unlike many similar soups, it’s not cloyingly sweet. And of course, it’s not enriched with heavy cream or anything else to make it too heavy.

I bought a set of vintage mini-bowls that I think would be perfect for serving a soup like this on Thanksgiving. (Unfortunately I forgot about them before I shot this photo!)

This is the third of my Thanksgiving recipes for this year’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge. Be sure to take part, and while you’re at it, enter to win some great cookbooks.

Puréed Winter Vegetable Soup

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 cups chopped leeks, sliced
1 medium red bell pepper, chopped
2 cloves garlic
1 very large or 2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
1 small celery root, peeled and cubed
1 carrot or turnip, peeled and cubed
½ cup dry sherry
4 cups vegetable broth (recommend Imagine No-Chicken stock)
4 cups water
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
Pinch freshly grated nutmeg
Black pepper to taste

Heat the oil over medium heat in a heavy pot or dutch oven. Add leeks, bell pepper and garlic. Cook until the vegetables are soft and starting to brown, about 10 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until vegetables are very tender, about 40 minutes.

Let cool, then puree in a food processor or blender until very smooth, adding water or broth if the soup seems too thick.  Reheat and serve.

Serves 4-6

I’m excited to present a Thanksgiving Challenge guest post by Valentina K. Wein of the lovely blog Cooking on the Weekends. Valentina knows her stuff, people – she had her own catering business, ran Sur La Table’s cooking program in Santa Monica and was a contributing recipe writer to the Los Angeles Times, Food Section. She now works as a recipe developer, and you can always find her Cooking on the Weekends.

This is the second recipe in my Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge. Be sure to take part, and while you’re at it, enter to win one of three great cookbooks!

While Thanksgiving is a huge feast, it’s still lovely to have hors d’oeuvres to serve friends and family before the main course. Often times, the “feast” doesn’t make it to the table for a while after everyone arrives. (At my house, anyway.)

This is a wonderful heart healthy, Vegan Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvre!

It’s the cooking technique in this recipe that brings out all of the rich, deep earthy flavors of the mushrooms. Each bite is hearty and oh-so-delicious!

A Thanksgiving Hors d’Oeuvre: Wild Mushroom Croustades

3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 cup thinly sliced brown onion
2 medium-sized, finely minced garlic cloves
1 tablespoon finely chopped, fresh thyme, plus a couple extra sprigs for garnish
1-1/2 pounds fresh, mixed wild mushrooms, washed, dried and roughly chopped (I used Shitake, Maitake & Oyster)
1/4 cup dry sherry
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 medium to large French baguette

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Coat the bottom of a large sauté pan with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and place it over medium-high heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onions are caramelized, about 15 minutes.

Add the thyme, the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and mushrooms.

Turn the heat to low, and add the sherry. Then turn the heat to high and deglaze the pan with the sherry, scraping any bits of onion and mushrooms off the bottom of the pan, and back into the mixture. Cook for another 5 minutes or so.

Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Cover and set aside.

Cut the baguette into thin slices (about 1/4 to 1/2-inch) and place them on a baking sheet. Toast them in the preheated 375 degree F oven until they are beginning to turn golden.

Add 1 to 2 tablespoons of the mushroom mixture on top of each toast.

Serve warm with a bit of fresh thyme on top.

Makes about 1 dozen
Prep Time: 25

Roasted grapes are an underrated food in my book – they’re sweet little nuggets of deliciousness. So when I was searching for a new twist for Thanksgiving stuffing, roasted grapes naturally came to mind. I also added pecans, and used wild rice in addition to the usual bread. Between the chewy wild rice, the slightly crunchy nuts and the soft, juicy grapes, this stuffing has textures galore.

Be sure to get real wild rice, harvested by hand from lakes in Minnesota or Canada. Read the label carefully, because some “wild rice” produced in Minnesota isn’t necessarily the real thing. And pay special attention to the cooking time – you want the grains to open up but not be exploded like popcorn. (I cooked it too little this time, as you can see in the photo, and it was a bit crunchy!)

To keep the stuffing heart-healthy, I used a whole grain bread and olive oil, rather than the usual white bread and butter. This recipe is vegan, but if you’re not a vegan you might want to add a couple of eggs, which would make the stuffing hold together more. But it’s delicious either way.

This is the first of my Thanksgiving recipes for this year’s Healthy Thanksgiving Challenge. Be sure to take part, and while you’re at it, enter to win some great cookbooks.

Wild Rice and Bread Stuffing with Roasted Grapes

1 cup wild rice (see note above)
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
2 ½ cups seedless red grapes
1 large onion, diced
3 ribs celery, diced
½ cup dry white wine, such as sauvignon blanc
1 one-pound loaf whole wheat sourdough bread, crusts removed, cut into ½-inch cubes (about 10 cups)
2 tablespoons fresh sage, minced
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, minced
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 cup pecans, chopped and toasted
¼ cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock (recommend Imagine No-Chicken)

Cook the wild rice according to package directions, and drain off any remaining liquid at the end of the cooking time. Heat the oven to 400 degrees.

Toss the grapes with 2 teaspoons oil and bake on a rimmed baking sheet for 15 minutes. Lower the heat to 300 degrees. Place the bread on rimmed baking sheets and bake until dry, about 25 minutes.  Place in a large bowl.

Heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Sauté onions and celery for 5 minutes. Add wine and cook for 2-3 minutes.

Add to bread mixture, along with 4 tablespoons olive oil, herbs, salt and pepper, pecans, parsley, cooked wild rice and roasted grapes. Stir gently, then add broth. Place the stuffing in a baking dish.

Cover and bake for 20 minutes at 350 degrees, then uncover and bake for 15 minutes longer.

Serves 8-10