The way we’ve celebrated Thanksgiving throughout history has both changed and stayed the same. What if, instead of the venison and freshly harvested vegetables the Native Americans and the pilgrims shared to celebrate the harvest, this happened:
Once upon a time, back on the first documented Thanksgiving in 1621, the pilgrims that had arrived on the Mayflower shared a feast with the local Native Americans.
“Thank you for welcoming us to this bounteous land. I offer unto you this can of cream of mushroom soup as a gesture of peace. Please prepare it with your freshly harvested green beans and crispy fried onions.”
“Why thank you, kind pilgrim. Please, take this gift of congealed cranberries as a symbol of this shared celebration. And as an extra special bonus offering, this bowl of mashed potatoes, from a tuber that will not actually make its way to ‘America’ until many years from now.”
Sure, our idea of a Thanksgiving feasts has evolved over a few centuries, but the idea of gathering, sharing and eating remains a timeless tradition.
My goal at every holiday is that everyone around my table can eat some version of anything they’d like. Vegetarians, and the lactose and gluten-intolerant people among others, are used to not being able to eat many foods served at holiday meals. Dairy is my kryptonite, and I am always delighted when I can indulge in the tastiest parts of a shared meal, dairy free.
In the coming days before Thanksgiving, I’ll be posting some healthier twists on Thanksgiving sides that I hope everyone can eat!
This recipe isn’t just for Thanksgiving. As soon as the leaves start to turn, I start craving warm spiced flavors. The squash, potatoes and apples are first covered and baked, to soften them up. Normally, baked apples and sweet potatoes are drenched in butter. Not necessary here. I use a little coconut oil or vegan butter to coat everything, and the juices from the apples and squash reduce down and mix with the honey and maple to create a spiced caramel-like glaze. The pepitas are toasted and caramelized using coconut sugar and baking spices, which results in a taste almost like a seed brittle.
We may not exactly be eating what the Native Americans and pilgrims shared back in the 1700s, but we can still gather together and share foods everyone can enjoy!
Spiced Maple-Glazed Sweet Potatoes, Apples and Butternuts with Caramelized Pepitas
- 1 lb butternut squash (half a medium squash, or one small)
- 1 lb sweet potatoes or yams, peeled, halved, sliced 1/2 inch thick
- 2 Granny Smith apples, cored, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 fuji apple (or other red-green variety)cored, sliced into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/4 teaspoon allspice
- 3 tablespoons honey (if vegan, sub agave)
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- 3 tablespoons vegan butter or coconut oil
- Caramelized pepitas for serving, recipe follows
Preheat oven to 400˚ F.
Cut off the ends of the butternut squash. Cut the squash in half lengthwise and scoop out/discard the seeds. Peel the halves with a vegetable peeler. Cut each half lengthwise into halves or quarters, depending on the size of the squash. Cut each lengthwise piece into half inch slices.
Peel, halve (quarter if large), and slice the sweet potatoes into 1/2 inch pieces. Core the apples, halve them, and cut into 1/2 inch slices. Put the butternuts, sweet potatoes and apples in a large casserole dish (11×15 or similar). Sprinkle with the salt, pumpkin pie spice and allspice. Drizzle the honey and maple syrup over top. Toss the ingredients to coat. Dot the butter or coconut oil on top by the teaspoonful. Cover with foil and bake for 35 minutes, or until they are cooked through and have released some juices. Remove the foil and cook until the juice and syrup have thickened enough to form a syrupy glaze, about 30 minutes (checking every 10 minutes, and stirring to coat everything with the glaze).
Serve hot, topped with the caramelized pepitas.
Coconut Sugar Caramelized Pepitas
These pepitas were born out of a burning question: will coconut sugar melt? I’m happy to report, the answer is yes! These crunchy little salty sweet seeds would make a great snack, topping for desserts, or on top of butternut squash soup. Why coconut sugar? It has a lower glycemic index and is closer to its natural state than granulated sugar.
- 1 cup pepitas
- 1/4 cup coconut sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 cup water
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
Toast the pepitas in a nonstick skillet over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until fragrant and golden in places, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle in the coconut sugar, spices and salt. Wait until the coconut sugar starts to melt, then stir like crazy. Once it begins to clump (which it will), add the water, a tablespoon at a time and keep stirring until the pepitas are sticky and evenly coated.
Spread the pepitas evenly on the parchment paper covered baking sheet (they will be in clumps). Chill in the freezer or refrigerator until they feel hardened and less sticky (don’t be afraid to get creative to get those seeds into the freezer. I carefully lift the parchment paper and put it on my freezer shelf, scrunching up the sides to fit.)
Once completely cooled, can be saved in an airtight container for about a week.