Thanksgiving 101: A few recipes to get you started

Pumpkin cheesecake with gingersnap crust is pictured. Ken Mayer / Wikimedia Commons

Enjoy some Thanksgiving recipes from sophomore Hana Tzou and junior Alex Walter! It’s possible to cook most of these dishes in a dorm kitchen with minimal ingredients, so they’re optimal for your Friendsgiving plans if you won’t be traveling home to celebrate with family this year. All recipes can be adapted to be vegetarian friendly. 

Glazed Squash

Difficulty Level: Easy 

“I recently found a recipe for this, and I kinda freestyled and made it my own,” Walter said.  “I’ve been eating this a lot because I go to the farmer’s market for my produce, and squash is in season right now. I really like the Trader Joe’s umami seasoning, but to make it more ‘Thanksgiving,’ I went with thyme and sage on it. If you use the Trader Joe’s seasoning, use 1-2 teaspoons for a medium squash. This goes really well on a salad with some pecans and apple!” 

Ingredients:

1 squash (Walter uses acorn but says any type of squash works)

1-3 tablespoons brown sugar, depending on how big the squash is

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

Red pepper flakes (optional)

Olive oil (for the baking sheets)

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 F.
  2. Cut the squash in half and scrape the seeds and guts out with a spoon. If you’re using an acorn squash or a small butternut squash, you don’t need to peel it, but other types of squashes will need to be peeled.
  3. Slice the squash into thin pieces, no thicker than 1/2 inch.
  4. Mix the brown sugar, pepper, salt, thyme, sage and red pepper flakes together.
  5. Grease a cookie sheet with the olive oil. Lay out the squash pieces so there is no overlap, then sprinkle the top pieces with half of the sugar/salt/spice mix. Flip the squash pieces, and cover the other side with the rest of the sugar/salt/spice mix.
  6. Bake for 10 minutes, then remove and flip the squash pieces. Bake for another 10 minutes or until the squash is tender and the sugar has melted and caramelized.

Thanksgiving stuffing is pictured. (Alexa / Wikimedia Commons)

Grandma Lucille’s Stuffing

Difficulty Level: Easy

“This is my Grandma’s stuffing recipe that she passed down to my dad, who gave it to me,” Walter said. “I made this vegetarian (because I’m a vegetarian), and it’s pretty easy to turn vegan, but traditionally this uses sweet Italian sausage and turkey stock made from the neck and backbone of the turkey. The walnuts, dates, apple and sausage aren’t necessary, but I really think they add a lot of flavor.” 

Ingredients:

1 pound of whatever bread you like, but ideally stale, torn into roughly 1 inch pieces

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

1 granny smith apple, peeled and diced

1/3 cup dates, pitted and chopped to the same size as the walnuts

1 big or 2 small yellow onions, diced

2 ribs of celery, diced

3-4 cloves garlic, minced

1/3 lb vegetarian sausage, chopped into pieces the same size as the onions

1 1/2-2 cups low sodium veggie stock

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp salt (less if the stock is salted)

1/2 tsp black pepper

1/4 cup fresh sage, chopped, or 1/4 teaspoon dried

2 tsp fresh thyme, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped, or 1/2 teaspoon dried

2-3 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 cup butter

Directions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 F. While it is preheating, toss the walnuts with 1 teaspoon olive oil and the bread with the rest of the olive oil. Toast both in the preheating oven and pull them when they are golden brown.
  2. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the celery, onions, salt, pepper and any dried spices, and sauté for four minutes or until everything is translucent and soft. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute.
  3. Remove from the pan and place into a large bowl. Add the sausage in and sauté until fully cooked. Put into the same large bowl as the onions, celery and garlic.
  4. Put the bread, apples, dates, walnuts, sage, thyme, parsley and rosemary into the large bowl. Mix, then add 1 1/2 cups of the stock and the beaten eggs. Mix by hand until everything feels moist and hydrated. Add the last 1/2 cup of stock if it still feels dry.
  5. Transfer into a greased 8-inch-by-11-inch baking sheet and cover with foil. This can be frozen or refrigerated until it needs to go into the oven.
  6. Bake covered for 30 minutes, or 40–45 minutes if frozen. Uncover and bake for another 5–10 minutes to crisp the top.

Tofu Nuggets

Difficulty Level: Medium

“My replacement for a ‘turkey.’ Really, the turkey is a vehicle for everything else in a Thanksgiving dinner, so that’s what’s happening here,” Walter said. “The first two steps aren’t necessary, but they really improve the final texture of the tofu.”

Ingredients:

1 block of tofu

1/2 cup flour

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme or rosemary (optional)

Olive oil to grease the pan.

Directions

  1. The day prior, cut the tofu block in half so it is two thin pieces, and press with something heavy for 30 minutes to two hours. This is to get the water out of the tofu and give it a better texture.
  2. Cut the tofu into 1 1/2 inch chunks. Put into a container and freeze overnight. The day of, remove from the freezer and thaw. This draws even more water out of the tofu.
  3. Preheat the oven to 400 F. Grease a cookie sheet or shallow roasting pan with olive oil.
  4. Mix the flour, salt, pepper and any spices in a shallow bowl. Put the panko in a shallow bowl or on a plate.
  5. Coat the nuggets in the flour, then the egg, then the panko (like making a chicken cutlet). Put the coated nuggets on the pan.
  6. Roast for 20–25 minutes or until golden brown and crispy.

Vegetarian Mushroom Gravy

Difficulty Level: Medium/Hard

The roux can be difficult, but don’t be intimidated!

“Gravy is iconic. Don’t come for her. This uses mushrooms to get the ‘meaty’ flavor you would normally get from a Thanksgiving gravy,” Walter said. “This gravy uses a roux method to thicken it, which sounds intimidating but really just means cooking flour and fat together. Make it vegan by using a vegan butter instead of the regular butter, or make it with turkey drippings to get the traditional Thanksgiving gravy. Enhance the flavor even more by adding a few dashes of soy sauce for even more umami flavor.”

Ingredients:

2 cups cremini or white button mushrooms, finely diced

1 shallot or half a yellow onion, finely diced

2-3 cloves garlic, minced

3 tbsp unsalted butter

2 tablespoons flour

1 1/2 cups vegetable stock

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

1/4 teaspoon dried sage

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

 Salt to taste

Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet on medium heat. Add the mushrooms and cook until they are brown and crispy (it takes a while, be patient). When the mushrooms are almost there (just starting to crisp up) add the shallot, garlic, dried spices and pepper.
  2. Once the mushrooms are crispy, add the flour. Mix and allow the roux to cook for about 2-3 minutes, or until it looks golden brown and toasty (but not burnt).
  3. Add in the stock 1/2 a cup at a time, mixing continuously. With the last 1/2 cup, add in the chopped parsley.
  4. Allow to cook until slightly thinner than the desired result, as it will thicken when it cools. Taste, and add salt.

Pumpkin Cheesecake

Level of difficulty: Medium

Tzou recommends the “Pumpkin Cheesecake” recipe from “The New Vegetarian Epicure: Menus for Family and Friends” (1991) cookbook by Anna Thomas. Tzou has been making this cheesecake every Thanksgiving for almost five years to the date.

“It’s definitely a Thanksgiving staple,” Tzou said. “It’s basically like a pumpkin pie, but it has the texture of a cheesecake and it has a little tang from the cream cheese. And then, of course, a graham cracker crust, which is just heaven.” 

Ingredients:

Crust:

1 1/2 cups graham cracker crumbs

4 tablespoons melted butter

3 tablespoons sugar

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Filling:

24 ounces cream cheese

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 1/2 cups cooked pumpkin

1 teaspoon allspice

2 teaspoon cinnamon

¼ teaspoon nutmeg

A pinch of cloves

4 eggs

4 tablespoons heavy cream

You can find directions for how to make pumpkin cheesecake here.

Chrissy Teigen’s honey balsamic brussels sprouts are pictured. (via Chrissy Teigen)

Honey Balsamic Brussel Sprouts

Difficulty Level: Very easy

Tzou also recommends “Honey Balsamic Brussel Sprouts,” a recipe from Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook “Cravings: Hungry For More” (2018).

She believes it is the perfect Thanksgiving side. 

“It’s delicious when the glaze of the honey and the vinegar mixes with mashed potatoes … you can just kind of put [the glaze] on everything,” Tzou said.

Teigen uses blue cheese in her recipe, but Tzou decided to remove that from her own version. 

Ingredients:

1 1/2 pounds brussel sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise

15 garlic cloves, peeled

¼ cup olive oil

4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

½ cup chopped toasted walnuts

¼ cup dried cranberries

Salt and pepper

1 cup balsamic vinegar

½ cup honey

You can find Teigen’s recipe here


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