Autumn Fall background with red, brown and yellow leaves, orange pumpkin and monarch butterfly on dark recycled rustic wood table with orange table place setting.

Thanksgiving meals prepared with love take many forms!

Special diets abound! What’s a family cook to do when so many guests have various diet choices, food sensitivities or allergies? I think most people know they can go to the grocery store and pick up something that’s gluten free, or vegetarian for Uncle Joe the vegetarian and Aunt Janice who has celiac.

But what if Aunt Janice and Uncle Joe are vegetarians with celiac, or who have chosen to go soy and corn free? That complicates matters since many vegetarian meat replacements have a higher amount of gluten than bread, or are soy based! Keep reading for some suggestions. It’s become more complicated to cook for family, but there are some simple answers.

After all, at Thanksgiving we give thanks for our many blessings. One of the greatest blessings in life is the blessing of family and friends. As we give thanks for our relationships, if we’re cooks, we want to cook special meals and add the love ingredient. It’s become difficult to do that when we don’t know how to cook something that our friends will eat!

Back when I became a vegetarian, I used gluten flour, also called vital gluten to make my own 99{5b6c00ae8a31f44c65b344f315968efbd322bfc6ea45e4e8cca9716c4473fad8} gluten meat replacements! Sometimes I combined these with ground nuts. I also created many tasty dishes using extra-firm tofu, nuts and some kind of binding ingredient such as eggs or oats.

I didn’t expect anyone to make something special for me. I’ve always brought my own dish to share, hoping others will see that vegetarian food can be delicious. Also, I brought my own dish to show that vegetarians don’t just eat a platter of raw or cooked vegetables. We like a meat-like dish too! And little by little I began to learn that some people can’t eat or don’t want to eat soy-based products even if they taste good, or that some people have problems that prevent them from eating nuts or gluten.

I see vegetarians as fitting into one of three categories, and I’m not talking about what ingredients they use (like lacto-ovo or vegan). I’m referring to the texture and flavor preferences.

  1. If you were brought up eating meat as I was, you crave the texture and flavors of meat dishes from your childhood, even if you make a choice not to eat meat from now on.
  2. If you were brought up in a healthy vegetarian home, and choose to remain a vegetarian, you don’t have these types of cravings, but your meals may be closer to a traditional diet if your parent cook was a meat eater as a child.
  3. And then there are vegetarians from other cultures, such as vegetarian Indian cuisine. They aren’t bound by our American ideas of what a meal should look like (meat and potatoes).

Some of the suggestions below are not exact recipes, but more like strategies for creating something your friends will like. Choose ingredients that your friends and family members can eat. I hope you enjoy these alternative Thanksgiving recipes!

Meat Replacement Dishes — (With Ingredient Choices)

Mushroom Main Meals

Two portobello mushrooms marinated and grilling with purple onion

You can even grill portabella mushrooms!

Quickest of all: Buy large portabella mushrooms. Use each as a “meat” cutlet. Flavor with vegetarian bouillon, soy sauce, Bragg Aminos or vegetarian soup stock. Cook briefly in the flavored liquid, drain, then sautee with onions and/or garlic in olive oil or coconut oil. Sprinkle with seasoning of choice.

Mushroom “Meat” Replacement Mixture

Dice gourmet mushrooms, onions and celery. Dice other veggies if desired. Sauté in choice of olive or coconut oil. Allow to cool. Mix with binding food such as eggs, egg replacement, or ground oatmeal flour (gluten free). Add chopped or ground nuts if desired. Add poultry seasoning, onion and garlic powder, nutritional yeast flakes (not active yeast). This ingredient adds a hearty flavor. Add olive oil or coconut oil. You can add any seasoning of choice. This mixture can be prepared in the following ways after being mixed:

  1. Roast — put into a greased bread loaf pan and bake at 350 degrees F until cooked.
  2. “Meatballs” or patties — shape and cook or bake in oil.
  3. Turkey replacement — make a mound of prepared bread stuffing and put mushroom mixture around it, shaping into a mound. Bake until cooked through.

    Yes! Cranberry sauce is delicious with these recipes!

    Yes! Cranberry sauce is delicious with these recipes!

Neutral grain-like products that your paleo friends might eat. (I say “might” because some are more strict than others.)

  1. Quinoa
  2. Millet
  3. Teff

Sources of tasty gluten free breads:

  1. Grocery stores — Kroger in Marietta, Athens and Belpre; Food Center Emporium in Caldwell, Ohio
  2. Indian restaurants — check with the Star of India truck parked at 123 Greene Street in Marietta. Indian cuisine is fascinating with many different grains. They make delicious bread out of lentils too!

Vegetarian Gravy

Delicious Vegetarian Gravy!

Delicious Vegetarian Gravy!

2 cups water

1/2 cup cashew pieces or flour (gluten free, wheat, etc.)

1-1/2 tablespoons onion powder

1/4 teaspoon garlic powder

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons oil

3 tablespoons soy sauce or 1 teaspoon vegetarian bouillon

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 tablespoon thickener of choice (such as cornstarch or arrowroot)

Blend all ingredients. Pour into pan and cook on medium heat until thick, stirring constantly. Adjust liquid level as needed, depending on thickener used.

Creatively prepared -- Nuts are a great ingredient in meat replacement recipes.

Creatively prepared — Nuts are a great ingredient in meat replacement recipes.

Nut Roast

2 cups chopped onion

2 cup diced celery

1/2 cup diced carrots

2 tablespoons olive oil or coconut oil

1 cup chopped walnuts (or ground in blender)

1/2 cup chopped pecans or sunflower seeds

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups milk (almond, soy, etc.)

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon sage

1/4 teaspoon thyme

3 cups bread crumbs (gluten free or any type)

Sauté veggies until soft. Add all ingredients to the veggies and put into oiled 8 x 8-inch baking pan. Bake at 300 degrees F for about 50 minutes, and then 350 degrees F for 15 minutes to brown top.

Meatless diets are never boring!

Meatless diets are never boring! And always delicious!

Tofu Balls

1 pound of mashed tofu (extra firm preferred)

1/2 cup of (choose from: flour, rolled oats, bread crumbs)

3 tablespoons flavoring such as bouillon, Bragg Aminos or Soy sauce

Herbs to flavor as desired: parsley, basil, thyme, sage, cumin

1/4 cup nutritional yeast flakes.

Choose a binding ingredient — egg, ground fresh oats mixed with a little water, and/or ground flax seeds

If family member can tolerate nuts, nuts add a nice flavor — nut butters such as almond or peanut butter, or raw nuts ground in blender. Add about 2 to 4 tablespoons. Nut butters will also help bind the ingredients into a ball or patty.

Optional — add sautéed onions and olive oil.

Shape into balls and bake on a cookie sheet at 350 degrees F for about 45 minutes.

This mixture can also be shaped into a mound or loaf as a turkey replacement. Or you can use it as a “meatball” replacement and serve with spaghetti and sauce.

You can also buy prepared products, but keep an eye on the ingredient panels! Quorn makes a chicken-like cutlet mostly from mycoprotein (from mushrooms), and everyone knows about Tofurkey. But Tofurkey, for example, has gluten as an ingredient.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Let me know if you have any questions!


P.S. Watch for an article on how to cook brown rice so even a picky eater will like it! Coming soon!

Oh, and ways to make this humble ingredient shine!

Humble tofu absorbs flavors. Create gourmet meals with it!

Humble tofu absorbs flavors. Create gourmet meals with it!