Happy Plate: a vegetarian Thanksgiving

By Annalena Eckton, Reporter

For the vegetarian, there are few occasions less daunting than Thanksgiving. A day of merriment, of gratitude, spending time with family, all focused around one core theme: meat.

Many people cut straight to the chase and simply call it “Turkey Day.”

For those with dietary restrictions, the classic holiday feast often causes unwanted stress. Choosing not to eat the well-awaited turkey makes one stand out like a sore thumb. “Come on, just try it, who cares.”

Vegetarians are pestered and questioned. Watching everyone around you dig into their heaping, juicy portions while staring down at a sad little tossed salad is not a position anyone wants to be in. Luckily there are easy fixes that will make Thanksgiving a day of anxiety-free indulgence regardless of dietary choices.

Tip #1: Bring your own main course. If you don’t want to eat the turkey your host kindly prepared, whip something up that meets your needs and bring it with you to share. No matter what else is there, you know you are equipped with something to eat.

Tip #2: Communicate ahead of time. Talk to your family and fill them in about your current food choices/restrictions. More likely than not they will want to help accommodate. This also eliminates the uncomfortable moment of having to explain why you aren’t eating what is being served.

Tip #3: Choose wisely. Although the image we immediately conjure in our heads when thinking of Thanksgiving is meat, many of the traditional dishes are, in fact, meat free. Or can be easily adapted to be. For example, potatoes (mashed, sweet potatoes, baked potatoes), roasted vegetables, stuffing, cranberry sauce, autumn salads, corn, casseroles — all vegetarian friendly.

If you’re considering bringing your own main dish, here are two ideas.

Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash


2 acorn squash, halved lengthwise with seeds removed
1 Tbsp. butter, melted (or butter substitute like Earth Balance to make vegan)
1 Tbsp. light brown sugar, packed
Kosher salt and pepper to taste

2 cups cooked quinoa (one cup uncooked)
3/4 cup pecans, toasted and finely chopped
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 Tbsp. olive oil
2 garlic cloves minced
Grated zest of 1 small orange
Salt and black pepper to taste
Option: a sprinkling of feta cheese (for the non-vegans)


Place the four squash halves (cut side up) on a baking sheet and brush with butter. Coat the entire top surface. Sprinkle with brown sugar, salt and pepper, then roast in the oven at 450
degrees for about 20-30 minutes. Until tender when tested with a fork.

Pre-cook the quinoa, and combine with all remaining ingredients in a bowl. Divide between the four squash halves, filling each one with quinoa mixture. Place back in the oven for an additional 5-10 minutes until thoroughly warm.

Goat Cheese Green Bean Casserole (not vegan)


4 Tbsp. butter (plus more for greasing)
2 1/2 pounds green beans
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 cups milk
1 garlic clove, finely grated
5 ounces fresh goat cheese
Salt and black pepper
1/2 Tsp. paprika
3/4 cup almonds, coarsely chopped


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and butter a shallow 9×13 inch ceramic baking dish. In a pot of boiling salted water, blanch the green beans for about 4 minutes or until tender. Drain the beans and cool by running them under cold water. Pat them dry and thinly slice diagonally.

For the sauce: Melt the 4 tablespoons of butter in a medium saucepan. Add the flour and whisk over medium heat until lightly browned (around five minutes). Slowly whisk in milk and garlic then bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer, whisking constantly, until the consistency thickens. Remove from heat and stir in the goat cheese. Season with salt, pepper and 1/4 teaspoon paprika.

Toss the green beans with the sauce in a large bowl. Spread this mixture in the prepared casserole dish and sprinkle the almonds and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon of paprika on top. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until it bubbles and the almonds are lightly browned. Wait 10 minutes before serving for it to cool.