Each autumn, family, and friends anticipate coming together for a traditional meal. The reunions inspire a communal spirit of gratitude for each other, providing the heartwarming and wholesome essence of Thanksgiving. Each new season also brings new dynamics. Perhaps the table includes a returning college student who is a “born again” vegan, grandchildren with nut allergies, or a gluten-free cousin. How do you prepare a traditional meal to accommodate each dietary restriction? I remember the difficulties of my first vegan Thanksgiving. Not only was my newfound designation making my mother’s head spin but at the time, my sister was diagnosed with celiac disease. That meant no turkey, no stuffing, no dinner rolls. The poor woman just about canceled the feast. But instead, our return home and being together was enough. I tried to make a tofu-based, gluten-free pumpkin pie that was a disaster, but it was all a learning process. The next year, we were prepared. I made an all-vegan apple and pumpkin pie, recreated classics like green bean casserole, and we secretly fed my dad some mock glazed ham that he loved… until we told him it was vegan. Sometimes, it’s all mental, but if you can still make food delicious and spare the meat or allergens, everyone will have a full belly to watch football. This plant-based mac and cheese doesn’t skimp on flavor and uses pumpkin which may inspire a local pumpkin-picking outing, perhaps creating new traditions.
Pumpkin Mac & “Cheese”
+ 2 cups of pumpkin puree (1 3-4 lb. pie pumpkin, see sidebar for tips)
+ 1 cup coconut cream
+ 1 tsp. Dijon mustard
+ 1 tsp. salt
+ 1/2 tsp. garlic salt
+ 5 Tbs. nutritional yeast
+ 1/3 cup shredded dairy-free parmesan cheese
+ 3 Tbs. sage
+ Rigatoni pasta
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Using a sharp knife, cut the tops off the pumpkin, and then cut the pumpkin in half. Use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds and strings.
2. Bake for 45 minutes or until tender.
3. Boil water and cook the pasta according to package directions. Once cooked, drain, and set aside.
4. To prepare the sauce, combine pumpkin puree, coconut cream, mustard, salt, garlic salt, nutritional yeast, parmesan cheese, and sage together in a saucepan. Mix in low heat for 10 minutes.
5. Combine sauce with pasta, sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
PICKING PIE PUMPKINS
While canned pumpkin offers convenience, choosing and roasting your own pumpkin is easy as pie. In Central Oregon, visiting a pumpkin patch is a beloved tradition, but field pumpkins are best used for decorating because of their watery and bland-tasting flesh. Instead, select gourds labeled generally “sugar or sweet pumpkins.” These will have smooth and flavorful meats. Their hues may be dull as color fades over time, or even white (such as that of a Lumina pumpkin), but as long as skin is unblemished and free of bruises, your pick should be free from rot. Don’t forget to roast the seeds!