For many families, a traditional meal is at the heart of their Thanksgiving celebrations. Some might argue that the holiday would be incomplete without a lavish turkey served alongside stuffing and gravy. So while a growing number of people are transitioning to a plant-based diet for ethical or environmental reasons, it can be particularly challenging adapting holiday meals to this lifestyle.
And yet, there are many benefits to making plant protein and vegetables the stars of your Thanksgiving dinner. In addition to causing less pollution than meat options, a plant-based holiday meal tends to be healthier, makes use of seasonal ingredients, and allows you to explore new flavors. Here are just a few delectable comfort food dishes to consider for this year’s spread:
• Hearty chickpea “meatloaf” with a maple glaze and thyme mashed potatoes
• Lentil, mushroom, and walnut balls topped with a sweet pear-cranberry sauce
• Sweet potato gnocchi with an apple cider sauce and sautéed rapini
• Butternut squash vegducken, stuffed with eggplant, zucchini, and an onion-lentil stuffing
• Tempeh shepherd’s pie or pot pie with corn, carrots, and peas
• Individual pumpkins stuffed with rice, black beans, corn, cashews, and mushrooms
An additional perk is that most of these dishes can be prepared in more flexible portion sizes than the traditional 15-pound turkey or whole ham. This allows you to waste less food and prepare a hearty meal regardless of how many people will be gathered around the table this season.
If you’re not ready to forgo the turkey, consider opting for an organic or pasture-raised bird from a local farm. This sustainable choice is better for the environment and supports the regional economy.
Vanilla crème brûlée with Grand Marnier
One of the simple pleasures in life is breaking through the crispy top of a crème brûlée to scoop up spoonfuls of the creamy custard beneath. Enjoy!
Start to finish: 4 hours (2 minutes active)
• 5 egg yolks
• 3/4 cup white sugar, divided
• 3 cups heavy cream
• Seeds of a vanilla bean
• 3 tablespoons Grand Marnier
1. Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a large bowl, whisk the egg yolks and 1/2 cup of sugar. Set aside.
2. In a saucepan, gently heat the cream, vanilla bean seeds, and Grand Marnier without bringing it to a boil.
3. Gently pour the hot cream over the eggs and sugar, whisking continuously to avoid cooking the eggs.
4. Pour the mixture into 6 small ramekins, and place them in a large, deep baking dish. Pour hot water into the dish until the bottom half of the ramekins are submerged. Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the crème brûlée is firm but still jiggles in the middle.
5. Let cool at room temperature for about 1 hour, then refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup of sugar evenly on top of the crème brûlées, then caramelize it with a torch or in an oven set to broil.
How to barbecue like a pro
Do you enjoy cooking outdoors on your barbecue? Here are five tips to help you grill mouth-watering meals for the whole family.
1. Use the right barbecue. Charcoal grills give food a delicious, smoky taste, but you’ll need to account for longer cook times. Propane models, on the other hand, provide rapid heat for quick cooking.
2. Keep an eye on the fuel. Regularly check your supply of briquettes or propane, so you’re never caught without fuel. To determine how much propane is left in a tank, pour a cup of hot water over it. The exterior will remain cool to the touch wherever the gas reaches.
3. Select cook time by cut. If you want your meat to be medium-rare, cook tender cuts for five minutes on each side and let them sit for a few minutes before slicing. For the same results with tougher cuts, adjust to four minutes per side, then let sit for 10 minutes.
4. Turn your grill into a smoker. Choose a smoking wood and soak it in water for 30 minutes, then drain and wrap it in aluminum foil. Poke a few holes in the foil and place the package below the grill on the heat source.
5. Make the most of the marinades. Season meat at least a few hours before you put it on the barbecue. If you use a marinade, apply the remaining mixture to the meat while you cook it to further enhance the taste and keep it juicy.
For everything, you need to become a grill master, visit the stores in your area.
Spotlight on red radishes
The crisp white flesh and peppery taste of radishes make them a great addition to salads and sandwiches. Plus, the leaves of this root vegetable can be used as a leafy green much like lettuce and spinach. Although they can be found year-round, red radishes are generally ready to be harvested in the spring.
Radishes pack a punch with their distinct taste, but they’re also loaded with nutrients. In particular, radishes are a good source of vitamin C and other antioxidants that protect your cells from damage. They’re also rich in minerals like calcium and potassium, which help lower blood pressure and reduce your risk of heart disease. Other compounds in radishes can help prevent diabetes. Plus, this vegetable is low in calories and a natural appetite suppressant.
Selecting and storing
For maximum taste, choose radishes that are about the size of ping pong balls. Make sure they’re firm with a smooth, vibrant red exterior. If you buy radishes in bunches, the leaves should be stiff and bright green.
Radishes can be stored for about a week in a perforated plastic bag. Place them in the crisper drawer of the fridge to help prevent them from drying out.
To stock up on these tasty vegetables, visit your local farmer’s market.
Fresh summer meals inspired by Asian cuisine
Are you looking for delicious, healthy recipes to try this season? If so, there are a variety of Asian dishes that are light, low-calorie, and ideally suited for the hot weather. Here are a few simple ways to let Asian cuisine inspire your summer meals.
Use a wok
Only a small amount of oil is needed when you cook in a wok, which helps lower the fat content of your meals. In addition, the short cook time allows ingredients to retain more of their nutritional value. Plus, you’ll spend less time standing over a hot stove.
Favor fresh veggies
Fresh vegetables are a core component of many Asian dishes. You can serve them raw as an appetizer, steamed as a side, or grilled on the barbecue. Rich in vitamins and fiber, they’re also easy to digest and will increase your satiety.
Try your hand at sushi
Sushi is the perfect summer meal and easier to make than you might think. Assembling the rolls with a bamboo mat will simplify the process, and you can pick up the ingredients you need at your local Asian food market or in your grocery store’s international aisle.
Make rice your go-to side
This grain is high in fiber, minerals, and antioxidants. It takes one to two hours to digest, which will leave you feeling full for some time. Plus, it’s a great source of energy. Easy to prepare in large quantities, rice is equally delicious served hot or cold.
Visit the farmer’s markets, grocery stores, and restaurants in your area to enjoy tasty, nutritious meals all summer long.
Easy cream scones and lemon curd
Enjoy the sunny, sharp flavor of lemon curd on a warm scone, fresh from the oven. It doesn’t take a pastry chef to throw this combo together, either. From start to finish, these scones are ready to eat in less than an hour, and the lemon curd takes about 15 minutes, plus time to chill in the refrigerator (overnight is best). Meyer lemons, with their lower acidity and sweet, floral flavor are perfect for this curd, but regular lemons are also delicious. If you like more than just plain scones, jazz them up with dried fruits, nuts, or chocolate chips.
3 large eggs
3/4 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup fresh-squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemons preferred if available)
Zest from 1 to 2 lemons, depending on size and preferred flavor intensity
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
Place eggs, sugar, salt, juice, and zest in a medium saucepan, away from heat. Whisk the ingredients together until smooth and incorporated. Place over low heat and stir constantly with a wooden spoon or silicone spatula until the mixture thickens, around five minutes. Turn the heat all the way to low when the mixture thickens and add the butter. Stir until smooth. Remove from heat and pour into a jar or other storage container, then chill. Makes around two cups and keeps for about a week in the refrigerator.
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting surface
1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, diced
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1-1/4 cups heavy cream, plus more for brushing
Coarse sugar for sprinkling
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit. Combine granulated sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, and flour, stir to combine. Alternatively, you can combine in the bowl of a large food processor and quickly pulse to mix dry ingredients. Add butter and toss to coat.
Using your fingers or a pastry blender, or quick pulses if using a food processor, work the butter into the flour until pea-sized. If using a food processor, dump flour mixture into a bowl now. Make a well in the center of your flour/butter mixture and add the egg and cream, mixing with a fork while incorporating dry ingredients a little at a time until a shaggy, dry dough forms. Don’t overwork the dough — it’s okay if it looks a little bit dry.
Once the wet ingredients are incorporated, use your hands to gently knead the dough until it just comes together. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and pat it into a 1-inch thick round. Cut into wedges and place wedges onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, giving each wedge room to expand. Brush the dough wedges with cream and sprinkle with your coarse sugar.
Bake 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Scones can be made ahead of time and stored in a covered container.
This coastal delicacy can carry a nasty bacteria
Some people should pay more attention to that little warning on the seafood menu about the dangers of consuming raw fish.
Of course, millions of people every year enjoy a plate of oysters on the half-shell washed down with a crisp chardonnay or beer, and it’s an actual way of life in coastal areas. So, one should not overstate the danger, except when it comes to people with compromised immune systems.
If you have diabetes, liver disease, blood disorders, stomach or digestion issues, or if you take immune-suppressing drugs for cancer or steroids for breathing problems, then never eat oysters on the half-shell.
In fact, if you have any of these problems, don’t even touch brackish water (partly salt, partly fresh) or seawater habitats of oysters. Even a small cut (or in one case, a new tattoo) can expose you to nasty bacteria called Vibrio parahaemolyticus.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, about 80,000 people each year get vibriosis, the disease caused by bacteria. Most have relatively mild, but very unpleasant symptoms of diarrhea and vomiting. But about 100 people each year die from it, mostly those with the underlying health problems mentioned earlier. In the worst cases, it can cause blood infections, blistering skin lesions, and even necessitate limb amputations.
Vibrio parahaemolyticus is a naturally occurring and has nothing to do with water pollution, so even water that seems to be clear can contain it. It tends to proliferate in warmer waters between May and October.
If you don’t have any of those underlying problems, get your oysters at a restaurant that closely follows oyster guidelines, such as freshly shucked oysters and keeping the oysters continuously on ice.
Anyone can eat oysters when they are completely cooked. The bacteria dies in oysters when fried for three minutes at 375 degrees, baked at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, or boiled for three minutes.
Neither hot sauce (no matter how spicy) nor lemon kills the bacteria.