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The Main Attraction: Vegan Feast Alternative
Nothing truly replaces a traditional turkey for Thanksgiving dinner. But these days there are plenty of options that deliver all the fall feels for vegans and people trying to adopt a more plant-based. But for a lot of us out there, it’s also important for dishes to be grain-free and paleo. Which is pretty tricky for a Thanksgiving feast. Enter this baked delicata squash with paleo stuffing.
One part squash, one part flavorful paleo stuffing, without any gluten, grains, dairy, or carbs. The stuffing itself is also low-carb and keto-friendly.
Top it off with vegan gluten-free gravy, and now you’re really in business. It also works as a hearty side dish, and the stuffing can stand alone as a delicious paleo alternative to stuffing.
Thanksgiving dinner and holiday feasts are already complicated enough, I wanted something that would come together relatively quickly. The squash does require an oven, but the stuffing can be made in advance and cooks up in one pan in about 10 minutes. Boom.
And seriously the flavors are just so satisfying. I adore herbs like rosemary, sage, and tarragon, and they pair so well with the earthiness of the mushrooms and the aromatic leeks.
Paired with the hearty sweetness of the squash, it creates a tantalizing blend of satisfying flavors..
Delicata Squash: The Cheerful Holiday Guest
I don’t cook often with delicata squash, but it’s so darn cute and cheerful that it makes a great addition to a holiday feast. It’s the cute and dainty member of the squash family. It’s smaller, tending to weigh less than a pound, oblong, and has yellow and green stripes accented with orange running down the sides.
The skin is thin and actually edible. Not everyone loves to eat the skin, but it adds that visual appeal to your holiday plate. It tends to be a tad bit on the dry side, which is why I bake it with oil and top it with stuffing and gravy.
Delicata Squash Health Benefits
Delicata squash is rich in fiber and provides a healthy dose of iron, which is crucial for healthy cell production. It also provides a solid dose of calcium, so there’s no need to worry about nixing the dairy and missing out on this key nutrient for bone health.
Like other orange and yellow-hued foods, delicata squash provides a nice dose of vitamin A, as well as vitamin C, which are both crucial for immunity. Vitamin A is also essential for eye health.
Paleo Stuffed Baked Delicata Squash
A vegan, paleo main or hearty side dish for the holiday table
- 2 delicata squash
- 1+1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil coconut oil works well
- 2 cups cauliflower rice *may purchase or make by pulsing a head of chopped cauliflower in a food processor until it resembles rice
- 1/2 cup chopped mushrooms I use cremini or button
- 1/2 cup chopped leeks
- 1 sprig fresh rosemary, de-sprigged
- 1 sprig fresh sage, chopped
- 1 sprig fresh thyme, de-sprigged
- 1 tsp apple cider vinegar
- salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 450. Cut the squashes in half from top to bottom and coat with olive oil. Bake for 35-45 minutes.
While the squash is baking, heat the olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower rice, mushrooms, leeks, and fresh herbs and sautée about 8-10 minutes, until thoroughly soft and slightly browned.
Add the apple cider vinegar and season with salt and pepper.
When the squash is ready, remove from the oven, stuff with the stuffing, and serve.
Serving size: about 1/2 squash per person. Stuffed, this alone makes for a meal for most. As a side, cut into quarters.
The stuffing may be made in advance and added about 10-15 minutes before the squash is finished.
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Healthy Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip
With the holidays coming up I wanted to make a healthy version of some kind of pumpkin-pie inspired dessert. I wondered what pumpkin pie filling would be like as a dip – like pumpkin pie without the crust – and sure enough pumpkin pie dip is a thing.
But it’s mostly not a healthy thing. The versions I found were filled with cool whip, heavy cream, powdered sugar, and altogether processed, chemically-laden, sugar-filled and dairy-heavy ingredients.
So I figured I’d create a clean vegan, paleo, sugar-free fix. And sure enough, it worked out quite simply and here we have it: a paleo, vegan, sugar-free pumpkin pie dip.
And yup, it’s super easy! It’s possible to make this in five minutes with just five simple ingredients if you have pumpkin pie spice on hand. But with variations in brands and whatnot, I have also included a version that addresses consistency and ingredient availability. We can call it the ‘gourmet’ version, if you will, still just five minutes to make.
I serve it with fresh apple slices, but this morning I was really craving something warm yet healthy. I decided to throw some apple slices in the oven and bam, naked baked apple slices were born. Brilliant on their own, but a perfect match for this pumpkin pie dip. I threw a portion of the dip in the oven for a few minutes, and it was like fall pie heaven for breakfast…
Imagine pumpkin pie meets apple pie, and it’s ALL healthy and clean. Boom. Win. I’m 100% sure the dip would also taste amazing with some paleo, gluten-free gingersnaps, so I’m gonna work on that…!
While this is *not* a low-calorie treat, it is full of nutrition, healthy fats, and all-natural ingredients. Plus it skips the added sugars so it won’t send you on a sugar-cravings roller-coaster. Healthy fats and fiber keep you satisfied, so you’re less likely to go into over-eating mode.
Health Benefits of Pumpkin
Pumpkin puree (not the pre-sweetened pumpkin pie filling) is high in fiber, loaded with vitamin A, and is a solid source of iron, vitamin C, and calcium. It is also jam-packed with beta-carotene.
Due to it’s nutritional profile, pumpkin contains many health promoting benefits, including anti-cancer properties from the beta-carotene, improved immunity, and sharper vision.
Health Benefits of Coconut
Coconut, while high in fat, is actually full of health-protective benefits. First off, there are misconceptions regarding the fat in coconut milk. Full-fat coconut milk is actually composed of medium-chain saturated fatty acids which are metabolized faster by the liver. Studies suggest that coconut consumption has no deleterious impact on cardiovascular health.
Additionally, the lauric acid is known to be a powerful antifungal, antiviral, and antibacterial that destroys a wide variety of disease-causing organisms. So, coconut products may actually protect the body from infections and diseases.
Health Benefits of Arrowroot Powder
Arrowroot powder (also known as arrowroot flour or starch), which I used to thicken the dip, is a stellar addition to the paleo pantry. Not only does it work beautifully as a substitute for processed, GMO-laden cornstarch, it actually contains a number of health benefits. It contains a good amount of potassium, iron, and B vitamins which benefit metabolism, circulation, and heart health.
Furthermore, studies have shown that arrowroot powder may stimulate the immune system. As a potentially potent prebiotic, evidence suggests it is excellent for gut health (which is key to all health) and is therefore implicated in gut-associated immunity. Arrowroot powder is also bland, which makes it suitable for people on neutral diets or with digestive upset.
Health Benefits of Warming Spices
Finally, the warming spices in pumpkin pie are packed with too many health benefits to list them all. But to name a few, cinnamon, ginger, and the pumpkin-pie spice blend itself possess anti-inflammatory powers, antioxdidants, anti-microbial properties, and disease-fighting powers.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip: A Health-Promoting Dessert
Due to it’s ingredients, this pumpkin pie dip is not only a healthier version of dessert, but without the sugar and dairy, it may actually be a health-promoting treat. These ingredients help us fight off invading pathogens, so with cold and flu season upon us, eat up! It’s no wonder we crave these flavors this time of year: our bodies know what we need!
Just go for organic, high-quality ingredients, and serve with healthy dippers like fresh apple slices or naked baked apple slices.
Paleo Pumpkin Pie Dip: Sugar-Free, Vegan, Paleo Recipe
This sugar-free, paleo, vegan dessert dip tastes just as decadent as other versions, but swaps in health-promoting ingredients and skips the sugar.
- 1 can organic pumpkin purée about 2 cups
- 1 cup organic full fat coconut milk may increase, if using a thick milk and skipping the flour
- 1/4 cup arrowroot flour
- 1/4 cup coconut cream may skip if using extra thick coconut milk
- 1 tsp all natural organic vanilla extract
- 1/2-1 tsp monk fruit sweetener adjust sweetness to taste
- 1 1/2 tsp cinnamon *may sub pumpkin pie spice blend for all spices below
- 1/2 tsp ginger
- 1/4 tsp cloves
- 1/4 tsp nutmeg
- 1/4 tsp allspice
Add all ingredients to your food processor (a good blender can work too).
Blend on high until thoroughly mixed.
Refrigerate until serving. *The arrowroot actually thickens further overnight, so this is even better made a day or two ahead, which is a win-win for your holiday menu planning!
The simple version just requires the pumpkin purée, full fat coconut milk, 2-3 tsp pumpkin pie spice, vanilla, and sweetener of choice (all natural monk fruit or stevia ideally, maple syrup to keep it paleo). Bear in mind coconut milk consistency varies by brand. If it's too runny, you will likely need to add a thickening agent like arrowroot powder and/ or extra coconut cream.
Adjust spices to taste.
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