Thanksgiving 2012

A small-scale Thanksgiving feast

With just three of us, the holidays were never such huge occasions for my family. Growing up, we already saw each other all the time, so it wasn’t like we were waiting all year to be together again. But since I’ve moved out and only go home once or twice a year, the holidays have become much more meaningful as it’s one of the few times a year I get to spend time with my parents.

This year, my parents came to visit me here in New York, their first visit since they helped me move into my apartment in May 2011. As a thank you to them, I decided to go all out and plan and cook the entire menu myself, and even arranged a pretty legit-looking centerpiece.

Thanksgiving Centerpiece

The best centerpiece is an edible one

I’m a vegetarian and my parents aren’t huge fans of turkey anyways, so the star of the meal was a nut-stuffed squash that magically tasted similar enough to sausage to satisfy even my father’s carnivorous appetite. The menu went like this:

And that’s how you do Thanksgiving for three people.

Whole Wheat Potato Rolls
Adapted from Taste of Home, October/November 2012

Makes 8 large (think fist-sized) rolls

  • 1 tsp active dry yeast, dissolved in 1 cup warm water + 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup canola oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1/4 cup mashed potato flakes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 1/2 cups whole-wheat flour
  1. Dissolve yeast with warm water and sugar in a mixing bowl. Mixture will fix and bubble and turn a light tan color.
  2. Add the sugar and wet ingredients and mix until well incorporated. Add the dry ingredients to the bowl and mix with the dough hook attachment until the dough is soft and sticky.
  3. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, about 6-8 minutes. Return to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  4. Punch down dough and turn out onto a floured surface. Divide into balls and place 2 inches apart on greased baking sheet or pan. Cover with plastic wrap or tea towel and let rise again until doubled.
  5. Bake at 375F for 8-10 minutes or until tops are lightly browned. Serve warm.
  6. Store in airtight container and reheat in oven to serve. Baked rolls also freeze well in an airtight container.

Mashed Potatoes

  • 1 pound Idaho and Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
  • Splash of heavy cream
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch cayenne, paprika, garlic powder
  1. Peel Idaho potatoes and roughly dice. Wash and dice Yukon Gold potatoes, but leave skin on.
  2. Transfer potatoes to a stock pot and pour enough water to just cover the potatoes. Heat on medium-high for about 20 minutes or until water is boiling and potatoes are tender when poked with fork.
  3. Let potatoes cool to room temperature. Mash with a fork or potato masher to desired consistency.
  4. Add a splash of heavy cream for richnes (or use butter or milk).
  5. Season with salt and pepper. For a nice kick, I add cayenne, paprika, and garlic powder as well.
  6. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Thyme Roasted Broccoli, Carrots, and Red Potatoes

  • 1 head broccoli
  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 red potatoes
  • Splash olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Preheat to 400F.
  2. Chop broccoli into florets. Peel and dice the carrot and potatoes (leave the skin on for color).
  3. Arrange in a single layer in a baking dish and drizzle with olive oil. Make sure all vegetables are evenly coated.
  4. Sprinkle with thyme and salt and pepper.
  5. Cover pan with aluminum foil and roast in oven for 40 minutes or until all vegetables and soft and tender.

Nut-Stuffed Butternut Squash
Adapted from Shutterbean

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onions finely chopped
  • 1 cup white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 cup chopped almonds, toasted pecans, cashews, and toasted walnuts
  • 3 heaping tablespoons Greek yogurt
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • 1/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • 1 butternut squash, halved lengthwise
  1. Cut butternut squash in half, lengthwise. Scoop out seeds and roast in oven at 400 for an hour, until squash is just beginning to get soft. Scoop out enough of the squash so you have room to add your filling.
  2. Turn oven down to 350F. Toast the pecans and walnuts on a baking sheet for 10-15 minutes, until nuts are lightly browned and fragrant.
  3. Heat olive oil in a medium fry pan on medium high. Add the onions & cook until translucent. Add the mushrooms and sage and cook until soft.
  4. Add nuts to the pan and cook until nuts are fragrant and moisture from onions and mushrooms is evaporated. Turn off heat and set aside.
  5. In a medium bowl, lightly beat the egg and add the cheese and yogurt. Add salt and pepper to taste. Add the nuts to the mixture and stir until completely incorporated. Mixture should be dense like a thick cake batter.
  6. Fill each half of the squash and sprinkle with more cheese.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes. The mixture will have thickened up and squash should be soft when poked with a fork.
Nut-Stuffed Butternut Squash

Nut-stuffed butternut squash

Lentil Pot Pies
Adapted from Life Currents

Lentil Filling:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup brown lentils
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 stalk celery, diced
  • 1 1/2 cup white mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup water
  • 1/2 medium potato, cut into 1/2-inch chunks
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste


  • 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 tbsp cornmeal
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 2 tbsp chilled unsalted butter diced
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream (or milk)
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  1. To make filling: combine 1 1/2  cups water, lentils, and salt in a medium saucepan; bring to boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until lentils are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Keep lentils in water  (should reduce down to about 1 cup or less) and set aside.
  2. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion, and cook until browned, about 20 minutes. Add carrots, potatoes, rosemary, and thyme, and cook until carrots are beginning to soften. Add celery and mushrooms and cook until celery is tender. Add water 1 tbsp at a time, if the mixture starts sticking to the pan. Reduce heat to medium-low. Mix flour into vegetables; cook 1 minute.
  3. Add lentils and the liquid they cooked in and simmer on medium heat. Add the remaining 1 cup of water, soy sauce, and tomato paste, and cook until mixture starts to bubble, about 10 to 15 minutes.
  4. Transfer mixture to a small oven-proof serving dish or individual baking dishes.
  5. Filling can be made 2 days ahead. Cover; chill. Bring to room temperature before continuing.
  6. To make topping: Preheat oven to 400° F. In a large bowl, mix together flour, cornmeal, baking powder, and salt. Add butter and rosemary, and blend with a pastry blender or fork until mixture resembles coarse meal. Add cream and mix with clean hands until dough forms moist clumps.
  7. Turn dough out onto lightly floured surface. Divide into 3 equal pieces; shape each into 2/3-inch-thick disk. Set rounds atop filling.
  8. Bake pies on baking sheet until tester inserted into biscuit topping comes out clean, about 30 minutes.
Lentil Pot Pies

Lentil pot pies

Pumpkin Chiffon Pie
Adapted from Mamie Eisenhower’s recipe

Gingersnap Nut Crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups crushed gingersnap cookies
  • 1/2  cup toasted pecans and walnuts
  • 3 tbsp butter, melted

Pie Filling:

  • 3 large eggs, separated into yolks and whites
  • 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream or milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/4 cup rum or water
  • 1 tablespoon unflavored gelatin
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  1. To make the gingersnap crust: Preheat oven to 375F. Pulse gingersnap cookies and toasted nuts in food processor until they turn into crumbs. Measure 1 1/2 cups and combine with melted butter. Press into 9-inch pie pan and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is fully cooked.
  2. To make the pie filling: Bring an inch of water to a boil in a saucepan over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low so the water is barely bubbling.
  3. Beat the egg yolks in a medium mixing bowl that fits into the saucepan to form a double boiler. Add the brown sugar, pumpkin, milk, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg, stirring to thoroughly combine. Place the bowl over the hot water and cook until the mixture has thickened, stirring constantly, about 10 minutes.
  4. Place the rum (or water) in a small bowl. Sprinkle the gelatin on top and whisk until incorporated. Add to the pumpkin mixture and stir to thoroughly incorporate. Transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill until the mixture is partially set: A spoonful of the mixture dropped onto a plate will just hold its shape.
  5. To assemble the pie, beat the egg whites in the clean bowl of a stand mixer or hand-held electric mixer on low, then high speed until they form soft peaks. Add the granulated sugar and beat on high speed to form stiff peaks.
  6. Fold the whites into the pumpkin mixture, combining them gently until there are no streaks of white. Pour the mixture into the pie shell and chill overnight until set.
  7. Serve chilled or at room temperature. Store, covered with plastic wrap, in refrigerator.
Pumpkin Chiffon Pie

Pumpkin chiffon pie