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Natural Awakenings Metro Phoenix & Northern Arizona

7 Simple Steps to Add a Few Delicious Plant-Based Dishes to Your Thanksgiving Meal

Oct 29, 2018 09:38PM ● By Melanie A. Albert








Enjoy celebrating Thanksgiving with your family and friends, and have fun creating some beautiful plant-based dishes to add to your meal. Thanksgiving is such a popular holiday, as it focuses on a few of people’s favorites: food, family and friends. It also happens to be a busy time of the year. Use these simple steps to be mindful with your cooking and enjoy Thanksgiving even more this year. The steps and recipes are your guide to experiment in the kitchen and share your culinary creations with your family and friends.


  1. Preview shop at your local farmers’ market. A week or two prior to Thanksgiving weekend, visit your local farmers’ market to see what farmers are growing locally this season. This way, you’ll have an idea of what local produce you’ll have available for your plant-based Thanksgiving dishes.
  1. Research recipe ideas. Once you have an idea of the foods that local farmers are growing, spend a little time brainstorming a few different plant-based dishes you’d like to share with your family and friends this Thanksgiving. Maybe it’s an appetizer, side dish, or even a dessert. If you are new to plant-based cooking, use the recipes in this article, or research for ideas online, in cookbooks, or ask your friends for their ideas.
  1. Test your recipes. If you are thinking about preparing a new-to-you recipe or cooking technique for Thanksgiving, then a week before buy some produce at the farmers’ market and experiment with recipe testing. Be creative and intuitively create with what’s available from local farmers. Be sure to taste test while you’re cooking and make any refinements in your flavors. Use your intuition and add additional ingredients to create the flavors you enjoy.
  1. Plan and enjoy shopping. Part of the Thanksgiving holiday is enjoying the shopping and cooking process while preparing your dishes for family and friends. Whether you are cooking at home or taking a dish to a Thanksgiving dinner you’ve been invited to, enjoy the shopping and cooking process. Once you’ve determined your plant-based dish recipe, create a list of ingredients you’ll need. Be sure to include the veggies, fruit, nuts and seeds, and any staples, such as organic extra virgin olive oil and sea salt.
  1. Be organized and enjoy cooking. Set up your mise en place—that is, get all your ingredients and cooking equipment in place—before you start cooking. This organization in the kitchen creates a mindful cooking environment and makes the flow of cooking so much easier. Plus, when we set up with our mise en place, we can be sure to have everything we need to cook with prior to starting our cooking.
  1. Mindfully plate. We eat with our eyes first. Often when we eat out at restaurants, the food on the plate looks beautiful and adds to the positive dining experience. For Thanksgiving, we can also plate our dishes—such as the olive tapenade and squash soup (see recipes below)—to make them pleasing to the eye. With plating, we mindfully and consciously place the food on our plate, or even into a bowl, to enhance the beauty and visual appeal of our meals. Use a variety of foods, textures and colors to add to the beauty of a dish.
  1. Share with family and friends. Once you have mindfully shopped, cooked and plated your dishes beautifully to showcase your creations in an eye-pleasing way, enjoy your Thanksgiving celebration with your family and friends.


Four Beautiful Plant-Based Thanksgiving Dishes

If you are new to plant-based eating, the following recipes will give you a few ideas to create a plant-based dish for the Thanksgiving holiday. Appetizer: Kalamata Olive Tapenade. Side dishes: Winter Squash Ginger Soup and Sweet Potato Brussels Sprouts Fall Veggie Sauté. Dessert: Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie and Goji Berries.


Appetizer: Kalamata Olive Tapenade

Enjoy refreshing tapenade with local Arizona veggies. This rich appetizer is an update to the olive trays that families once enjoyed with holiday meals. When you make your tapenade, have fun experimenting with a variety of olives, and mindfully plate with favorite veggies from your farmers’ market.

Simple Ingredients

2 cloves garlic, minced

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, rough chopped

1 cup Kalamata olives, pitted and rough chopped

¼ cup fresh parsley

¼ cup capers

¼ - cup organic extra virgin olive oil

Extras for Plating

1 cucumber, sliced

9-10 dehydrated tomato slices

2-3 red or purple radishes, thinly sliced

2 green onions, sliced on the bias

2 Tbsp goji berries, rehydrated in water for 10 minutes


Simple Steps

  • Gather your mise en place.
  • Mince garlic.
  • Rough chop the sun-dried tomatoes, and soak in water to rehydrate 5-10 minutes.
  • In a food processor, pulse garlic and olives until fine, not paste-like.
  • Remove the olive and garlic mixture from the food processor.
  • Place sun-dried tomatoes in food processor and process until fine.
  • Add capers and parsley and pulse a few times.
  • Place olive/garlic mixture and sun-dried tomatoes/capers/parsley mixture into a bowl and mix with a fork.
  • Add olive oil until you reach desired consistency.
  • Enjoy the tapenade on cucumbers with a few extra veggies from your local farmers.


Plate the Tapenade

  • Place several sliced cucumbers onto a plate.
  • Top each cucumber slice with a spoonful of the tapenade.
  • Garnish each cucumber with a few dehydrated tomato slices, goji berries, and a few veggies from your local farmers, such as sliced radishes and green onions.


Side Dish: Winter Squash Ginger Soup

Create your Thanksgiving soup with local winter squash, such as red kabocha (sweeter than green kabocha, which has a more savory flavor) or butternut, delicata, or even pumpkins. While cooking your soup, enjoy the mindfulness and aromatherapy of grating warming ginger, cinnamon and nutmeg. Have fun plating the soup with a few sliced fresh veggies to add color and a crisp texture. Enjoy the soup warm or cold.

The components of the soup include: the winter squash ginger soup, the plating toppings, veggie stock, aromatics and roasted squash.

Yields: 4 servings

Winter Squash Ginger Soup

Simple Ingredients

1 Tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil

¼ cup shallots, minced

1 Tbsp ginger, grated

½ Tbsp coriander seeds

Pinch sea salt

3 cups roasted winter squash (see recipe below)

4 cups veggie stock (see recipe below)

Simple Ingredients – Plating Toppings (per serving)

2 small tomatoes, sliced

1 radish, sliced

5 raw cashews, soaked in water

5 dehydrated tomato slices

1 tsp green onions, cut on diagonal

1 tsp microgreens

Pinch ground cinnamon

Pinch ground nutmeg

Optional: cashew cream 

Cook the Soup

Simple Steps

  • Pour olive oil into the soup pot and warm for 1 minute.
  • Add shallot, ginger and coriander seeds, and gently cook for about 5 minutes to release flavors.
  • Add roasted squash and veggie stock to the pot.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Lower to simmer and cook for 30 minutes.
  • Pour soup into food processor and pulse a few times for desired smoothness.

Plate the Soup

Simple Steps

  • Pour soup into a serving bowl.
  • Top with a few raw cashews and dehydrated tomato slices, plus local seasonal veggies, such as tomatoes, radishes, green onions, and microgreens. 
  • Sprinkle a pinch of ground cinnamon and nutmeg onto the top of the soup.


Simple Homemade Veggie Stock

To enhance the flavor of your soup, make this quick and easy veggie stock, with a mirepoix base of carrots, onions and celery. An option is a box of store-bought organic veggie stock.

Simple Ingredients – Stock Base

1 medium white onion, rough chopped

4 carrots, rough chopped

2 celery stalks, rough chopped

6 cups water

Simple Ingredients – Aromatics

10 parsley stems

3 bay leaves

2 garlic cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns

Simple Steps

  • Rough chop the carrots, onions and celery into 2” pieces.
  • Place carrots, onions, celery, aromatics and water into the soup pot.
  • Bring to a boil.
  • Reduce to simmer and cook with lid covered for 30 minutes.
  • Strain the veggies from the liquid.
  • Use the stock in the winter squash ginger soup.

Roasted Winter Squash

Simple Ingredients

3 cups winter squash, cubed

3 Tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil

3 tsp ground cinnamon

3 tsp ground nutmeg

Simple Steps

  • Toss squash in olive oil, nutmeg and cinnamon.
  • Place squash on a parchment-lined sheet tray, making sure the squash does not touch.
  • Roast for 15 minutes, flip.
  • Roast for another 12 minutes.
  • Use the roasted squash in the winter squash ginger soup.



Side Dish: Sweet Potato Brussels Sprouts Fall Veggie Sauté

Sautéing a variety of seasonal veggies is a simple, quick, delicious, warming side dish for Thanksgiving, with the warmth of fall with sun-dried tomatoes and a mix of aromatics: green onions, shallots, garlic and leeks. Use this recipe as a guide to create your Thanksgiving Veggie Sauté with the veggies at local farmers’ markets. The key to this sauté is to create a tasty flavor foundation sauce with the shallots, green onions, leek, garlic, ginger, red pepper, and cherry tomatoes. Then, slowly cook the sweet potato and Brussels sprouts in the sauce.  

Yields: 4 servings

Simple Ingredients

3 Tbsp organic extra virgin olive oil

3 Tbsp shallots, minced

4 green onions, sliced on diagonal

1 leek, white part, sliced

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 tsp ginger, grated

1 red pepper, rough chopped

5 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 sweet potato, rough chopped

2 fresh limes

1 cup Brussels sprouts, halved

½ cup sun-dried tomatoes, rehydrated in water 10 minutes

¼ cup Kalamata olives

¼ cup capers

1 cup arugula

¼ cup raw walnuts

Pinch sea salt

Simple Steps

  • Gather your mise en place.
  • Preheat sauté pan on low.
  • Pour organic extra virgin olive oil into the pan.
  • Add green onions and shallots and cook a few minutes.
  • Add leek and cook a few minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook 30-60 seconds.
  • Add ginger and cook 30-60 seconds.
  • Toss in red pepper and cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add tomatoes and cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add a pinch of salt.
  • Add sweet potato. Cook about 10 minutes.
  • Squeeze fresh lime on veggies.
  • Add Brussels sprouts. Cook about 10 minutes.
  • Add sun-dried tomatoes, olives and capers. Cook about 5 minutes.
  • Add arugula with a squeeze of lime juice and a pinch of sea salt. Cook about 2 minutes.
  • Plate with walnuts.
  • Enjoy.


Dessert: Chocolate Sweet Potato Brownie and Goji Berries

This is a delicious vegan, gluten-free chocolate dessert made with a sweet root veggie—the sweet potato—and Medjool dates and maple syrup as the natural sweeteners. This brownie is always a favorite for the holidays, and perfect for a Thanksgiving dessert.

Yields: 8 servings

Simple Ingredients

2 medium to large sweet potatoes

12 Medjool dates, pitted (Arizona, if available)

cup raw almonds, ground

½ cup brown rice flour

4 Tbsp raw cacao powder

3 Tbsp maple sugar

Pinch sea salt

3 Tbsp goji berries

Simple Steps

  • Preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Peel sweet potatoes, cut into chunks, and steam in a bamboo steamer for about 20 minutes until they become really soft.
  • Once sweet potatoes are soft and beginning to fall apart, remove from steamer.
  • Mix sweet potatoes and pitted dates into food processor and process.
  • Put remaining ingredients into a large bowl and stir to combine.
  • Add sweet potato/date mixture to other ingredients and stir well.
  • Place mixture into 8-inch by 8-inch parchment-paper-lined baking dish.
  • Cook for about 20 minutes.
  • Test doneness by pushing a toothpick into the brownie. The brownie is ready when a toothpick comes out dry.
  • Allow baking dish to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Remove the brownies from baking dish.
  • Cool for a few minutes and cut into squares.
  • Enjoy with goji berries.


Melanie Albert, founder and CEO of Experience Nutrition Group LLC, in Phoenix, is the author of the award-winning cookbook A New View of Healthy Eating and healthy recipe blog at, and offers cooking workshops, team building events, and recipes. Albert has step-by-step tapenade plating photos and a soup step-by-step video for those who are interested. Recipes and photos courtesy of Albert. Photo of Sweet Potato Brownies courtesy of Melissa Corter (brownies on tray) and Cassie Hepler (brownies on table). For more information, visit


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