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Suggested Thanksgiving Recipes for Vegetarians

Mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, sweet potatoes, cranberries and UnTurkey? For a growing number of Americans, Thanksgiving doesn't include the traditional poultry bird at the table, but a Thanksgiving "meatloaf" or tofu turkey. Whether one special dish or a whole meal, there are a growing number of resources and recipes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

"It's not like ten years ago," said Jonathan Rivera, 24, the chef de cuisine at the Turtle Club. He added that chefs have to include good vegetarian dishes on the menu for the growing number of vegetarians. "They even have tofu turkey, which is neat. I try to do some things different."

Rivera said that the Grilled Vegetarian Platter is always available at the Turtle Club, and he also prepares special dishes for guests who want a certain ingredient in their vegetarian meal. The three-year chef, who has been cooking for 10 years, suggests when making a dish for a vegetarian to ask what they want.

He also said that the platter is good for Thanksgiving or any time because it "is a big variety of vegetables -- that way it isn't just one thing."

While the company's corporate chef of River City Grill, Stephen Iadevaia, doesn't hear too many requests on Thanksgiving in the restaurants for a vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, his family's table includes vegetarian options for his sister.

"You can do roasted beets, brussels sprouts, spaghetti squash -- it is almost like a meat, very hearty -- and the green bean casserole is usually done," Iadevaia said. "These are very fall-y recipes."

Iadevaia said he has tried to use tofu turkey with a couple recipes, but "it wasn't working for me" so he recommends the Stuffed Acorn Squash because it is a very "meaty" vegetable.

Between 4 and 10 percent of Americans call themselves vegetarians, according to the Vegetarian Resource Group's Web site. In a 2003 VRG Harris Interactive survey -- in which the group asked "Which of the following foods, if any, you NEVER EAT: meat, poultry, fish/seafood, dairy products, eggs, honey" -- 2.8 percent of those surveyed said they never eat meat, poultry, or fish/seafood. The VRG estimated that, with the statistics from the U.S. 2000 census, there are an estimated 5.7 million adult vegetarians in the U.S.

About 6 percent of the population said they never eat meat, according to the Harris Interactive poll. While the numbers are not exact because of possible errors which are associated with polls, this does show an increase of vegetarians in the past few years.

"There is a greater awareness," said Dawn Moncrief, the executive director of FARM (Farm Animal Reform Movement). She said that more people are becoming vegetarians not only because of the health benefits but because of the environment and also the products that are becoming available.

While Burger King continues to offer veggie burgers, a number of stores and companies are now carrying alternatives for a Thanksgiving feast or any time.

Gentle Thanksgiving, a campaign project part of Farm, that advocates a vegetarian Thanksgiving, recommends Tofurky. The Tofurky Roast, made by Turtle Island Foods and available at, is a precooked vegetarian meal made from tofu-wheat protein blend and enhanced with stuffing, according to Gentle Thanksgiving's Web site,

Along with the Tofurky, Gentle Thanksgiving also encourages people to try the Celebration Roast,, or the UnTurkey, Additionally, Gentle Thanksgiving offers a number of recipes and Web sites -- such as and -- for those who want to try a vegetarian side dish or main course. Moncrief said that the campaign also offers free vegetarian starter kits on their Web site.

"Thanksgiving is about celebrating life and giving thanks. It's a life affirming celebration," said Moncrief, who feels that eating an animal goes against the holiday. "It is (still) very traditional."

Local Chefs opened their recipe boxes to provide examples of vegetarian dishes for the holiday or anytime.

Grilled Vegetarian Platter

* 1 large or 2 medium portobello mushrooms (cleaned and rinsed)

* 16 ounce fresh baby spinach

* 1 beef steak tomato (ripened and juicy)

* 1 red onion

* 3 ounces of fresh asparagus

* 1 teaspoon or unsalted butter

* 1 tablespoon minced garlic

* 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar (preferably aged)

* 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

* Sea salt and fresh ground black pepper

* Dried herbs (optional)

Start by combining vinegar, garlic, herbs, pinch of sea salt and pepper (black) in a small mixing bowl. Slowly whisk oil into other ingredients. Clean the portobello mushrooms by turning them upside down and gently removing the ribs with a small spoon. Then soak the portobello in marinade for at least an hour. Preheat the grill to 400 degrees. Prep other vegetables by slicing the tomato and onion in 1/4 slices, season with salt and pepper, then set aside. Bring water to a boil in medium saucepan. Blanch asparagus in water for 2 minutes.

Then place portobello on the grill, crown down first, for 3 1/2 minutes. Flip and continue cooking for another 3 1/2 minutes until portobello is tender (be careful not to burn). Place tomato and onion slices on grill and cook the tomatoes for 2 minutes and cook the onions for 5 minutes. Melt the butter in a saute pan over medium heat, add spinach and season with salt and pepper. Cook for 1 to 1 1/2 minutes (be careful not to overcook). Serve on a large platter and garnish with fresh sprig of basil.

Jonathan Rivera, chef de cuisine at the Turtle Club in Punta Gorda, keeps this Grilled Vegetarian Platter on the menu for his guests at the downtown restaurant.

Stuffed Acorn Squash with Corn Bread Dressing and Chestnut Gravy

Makes 2 squash -- serves 4-6 people.

* 2 each acorn squash

* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

* 1/2 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper

* 1 ounce olive oil

* 1/2 ounce olive oil

* 1/2 ounce butter

* 1 tablespoon garlic -- ground

* 1 white onion -- diced small

* 1 carrot -- peeled and diced small

* 2 each portobello mushroom -- diced small

* 3 rib celery -- diced small

* 1 tablespoon rubbed sage

* 1/2 cup white wine

* 6 each prepared corn muffins

* 8 ounces roasted chestnuts -- canned, drained (reserve juice)

* 2 each shallots -- sliced

* 1 ounce butter

* 1 ounce flour

* 2 ounces heavy cream

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half -- width-wise -- and remove seeds. Cut off about a 1/4 inch slice from the bottom and top to use as base. Rub squash with 1 ounce of oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet in oven for 20-30 minutes or until slightly tender. Remove and reserve

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, place 1/2 ounce of oil and 1/2 ounce of butter. When hot, place in garlic, saute until just golden. Add onion and saute until translucent. Add carrot, parsnip and celery and saute until slightly softened. Add mushrooms and sage and saute for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and add wine. Replace on heat and cook until reduced by half.

Crumble up muffins and toss in with vegetables, add salt and pepper to taste. Once well incorporated, remove from heat and stuff evenly into squash halves

Place butter in small stock pot over medium heat. Once foamy, add shallots and saute until translucent. Add flour and cook for 1 minute, be careful not to allow to brown. Add heavy cream and chestnuts, bring to boil. Puree with hand blender until smooth. Add reserved juice to achieve desired consistency. Strain through medium sieve (or any fine wire sieve). Add salt and white pepper to taste and serve.

You can make this ahead of time, and then when ready to serve place stuffed squash back into 350-degree oven for 10-15 minutes prior to serving. Place warm sauce on plate or platter and stand squash up in center, drizzle top with more gravy. Garnish with fresh sage.

Chef Stephen Iadevaia, the corporate executive chef with River City Grill and Zen Asian Bistro in Punta Gorda, suggested the following recipes for a vegetarian Thanksgiving.

Roasted Butternut squash soup with Chipotle spiced seeds

Makes two quarts of soup -- serves 6-8 people

* 2 each butternut squash

* 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

* 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

* 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

* 1/4 teaspoon white pepper

* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

* 1 ounce olive oil

* 1 quart heavy cream

* 1 cup vegetable broth

* 1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder (or chili powder)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cut squash in half length-wise. Remove and reserve seeds.

Mix together cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, salt and pepper in small bowl. Rub flesh of squash with oil and sprinkle with spice mix -- reserving 1 tablespoon. Place squash, flesh side up, in oven on baking sheet and roast for 35-45 minutes or until tender. Remove and set aside.

Place heavy cream in large sauce pot and set over medium flame until simmering (watch for boil over).

Remove squash from skin with spoon and place into cream. Puree with hand blender until smooth. Raise heat and bring to boil. Adjust consistency with vegetable broth. Add salt and white pepper to taste.

Clean and wash seeds. Add chipotle powder to remaining spice mix and toss seeds. Place on baking sheet and toast in 350-degree oven for 10 minutes.

When ready to serve, heat soup and place into bowls -- garnish with toasted seeds.

Another fall recipe by Iadevaia.

Cranberry Panna Cotta with Orange Caramel Sauce

(Note: This recipe calls for gelatin, which is not vegetarian. Arrowroot, kudzu, agar-agar, and non-gmo cornstarch can usually be substituted.  Read package for instructions. Then again, butter and heavy cream aren't always very vegetarian either, depending on preference.)

Makes 6-8 desserts

* 1 quart heavy cream

* 1 teaspoon vanilla (bean is preferable, but vanilla extract also works)

* 1/2 each orange zest

* 3/4 cup superfine sugar

* 4 ounce whole cranberry sauce

* A pinch of salt

* 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

* 2 tablespoon warm water

* 5 leaves fresh mint-julienne

* 6 ounce store bought caramel sauce

* 1 ounce Grand Marnier (or any orange liqueur)

Place 2 tablespoons of water in small bowl, sprinkle gelatin over top and let bloom.

Place cream, vanilla, orange zest, sugar and salt in medium stock pot over medium heat and whisk. Raise heat to high and bring to boil (watch for boil over), whisking occasionally. Add cranberry sauce and incorporate.

Remove from heat and add gelatin mixture and mint, whisk in fully. Evenly distribute into 4-6 ounce ramekins (or another type of souffle dish) and chill, uncovered for 2 hours to overnight.

When getting ready to serve, place caramel sauce in microwave-safe container and warm for 25 seconds, stir in Grand Marnier. Pour sauce into center of plate. Dip ramekin in warmed water for 5 seconds and invert to remove. Place in center of sauce.

Garnish with whipped cream and fresh mint.

Another fall recipe by Iadevaia.

Mushroom Gravy

* 1/2 cup dried mushrooms, chopped into small pieces

* 1 cup strong vegetable broth

* 1 small onion, diced

* 2 tablespoon of flour

* 1 1/2 tablespoon margarine

Hydrate chopped mushrooms with about 1/2 cup boiling water. Cover and let sit for 10 minutes.

Melt margarine in a small-medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute the onion lightly. Don't brown too much. Add the flour, and stir constantly with a wooden spoon until frothy. Do not let it burn. Add the mushrooms and their liquid and your vegetable broth. Cook over medium heat to a boil, stirring constantly. After it comes to a boil, turn the heat down a bit and let thicken.

The Gentle Thanksgiving Web site,, suggests this gravy recipe from Sonya at, as an alternative to a turkey gravy.

Easy Veggie Stuffing

* 1 tablespoon olive oil

* 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

* 1 large onion, chopped

* 1 cup fresh mushrooms, chopped

* 1 cup celery and tops, chopped

* 3/4 pound of bread or cornbread cubes (or both)

* 1 and 1/2 cup vegetable broth

* 1/2 teaspoon each of sage, thyme, and savory

* 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

* salt and pepper (to taste)

Saute the onion, mushrooms and celery in a large pan with olive oil until softened; add some broth if necessary to keep from sticking. Remove from heat. Add remaining ingredients and mix well (bread should be moist).

Grease a casserole dish with sesame oil, pack in the stuffing, and brush with more oil. Cover with foil and bake at 325-375 degrees for about an hour.

Also suggested by Gentle Thanksgiving, this stuffing is one of a number of vegetarian recipes from Bryanna's Vegan Feast Web site,

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