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Meatless Monday: Pardon a turkey on Thanksgiving!

Patricia Conte has a background in marketing communications and works as an independent writer. In 2010, she was given the opportunity to combine her love of writing and food when she started as a contributing writer for the Food channel...

Go cold turkey on the turkey!

Most people look forward to Thanksgiving as, among other things, the one day a year they can feast on so many favorite dishes. There are loads of side dishes, salads, desserts and breads to choose from, not to mention the crowning glory of the meal, the turkey.

Apple and rice-stuffed acorn squash

This year, why not go cold turkey with the turkey?

If you think about it, most people are all about the side dishes when it comes to Thanksgiving anyway. Green bean casserole, stuffing, mashed and sweet potatoes, cranberry sauce, and don't forget to leave room for dessert! So why not try a new Thanksgiving tradition this year and leave the turkey (and other meat) in the past.

If you don't participate in Meatless Monday, you've probably at least heard of the movement established by The Monday Campaigns, in association with the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, that encourages people to set aside one day of the week to commit to meat-free meals.

Why participate in Meatless Monday?

Not only will your mealtimes become more interesting (you'll explore new recipes, vegetables and herbs and seasonings), but there are many benefits associated with cutting back on meat consumption, for your personal health and the health of the planet -- and those are two things you can be thankful for!

Meatless main-dish Thanksgiving recipes

If you can't imagine a Thanksgiving without the meat as the main course, take a peek at these main dish-meat substitutes. Plan to include just one or two of these recipes on Thanksgiving and you're guaranteed to forget about the bird!

Butternut squash lasagna

Serves 8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 large butternut squash, peeled, halved, seeded, cut into chunks
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 pound lasagna noodles
  • 1/4 cup unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups low-fat milk, warmed
  • 2 cups part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 cup mozzarella cheese, shredded

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Combine squash with one tablespoon olive oil, salt and black pepper and spread out on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet. Roast squash for 40 to 45 minutes or until fork tender.
  2. Meanwhile, cook the lasagna noodles in boiling water until tender. Drain the noodles and reserve.
  3. Combine the butter with the flour in a skillet and heat, whisking for two minutes. Whisk in milk, bring mixture to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for five to seven minutes or until thickened.
  4. When the squash is finished cooking, combine it with one cup ricotta cheese, cinnamon and nutmeg in a blender or food processor. Blend until the squash is smooth.
  5. When you're ready to cook, spoon about 1/4 of the sauce onto the bottom of a 9 x 13-inch casserole dish then top it with 1/4 of the lasagna noodles, 1/4 of the squash, 1/4 of the ricotta cheese, 1/4 of the Parmesan cheese and 1/4 of the mozzarella cheese. Continue layering ending with mozzarella cheese until all ingredients are finished.
  6. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 55 to 65 minutes or until heated through. Remove lasagna from oven and let rest for 15 to 20 minutes.

Kale and toasted almond quiche

Serves 8 people

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole toasted almonds
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt, divided
  • 1/2 cup crunchy almond butter
  • 1-1/2 cups heavy cream, divided
  • 8 eggs
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1 bunch kale, stems removed, blanched, chopped, squeezed well to remove excess liquid
  • 4 ounces provolone slices, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 cup toasted sliced almonds, optional

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and spray a 9-inch springform pan with nonstick cooking spray. Line the bottom of pan with a circle of parchment paper and spray paper with nonstick cooking spray. Set aside.
  2. To make the crust, grind the almonds in a food processor until fine. Add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt and pulse to blend. Add the almond butter and 1/2 cup cream and blend until a dough comes together. Dump onto a lightly floured surface and form into a flat disk. Use a rolling pin to roll out to about a 9-inch circle.
  3. Carefully lift the dough (it won't hold together like a pastry crust) and place in the bottom of the prepared pan. Use the bottom of a flat glass as well as your fingers to press dough onto sides and bottom of pan -- make sure it comes two inches up the sides.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together eggs, remaining one cup cream, remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, pepper and nutmeg until well-combined. Stir in kale and pour into pan, making sure liquid does not exceed the top of the sides of the crust. Sprinkle with sliced almonds, if using.
  5. Bake for one hour or until the filling is set and the crust is a golden brown. The filling will be a bit puffed when it comes out of the oven but will deflate upon cooling.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack to cool for at least 15 minutes. Remove sides of tart pan, slice and serve.

Ravioli with green beans and brown butter sauce

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 pounds steamed green beans, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3/4 stick (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter
  • 2 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/3 cup finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, plus additional for serving
  • 2 (9 ounce) packages fresh four-cheese ravioli
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley leaves

Directions:

  1. Place the butter in a large saute pan over medium heat, and cook for two minutes.
  2. Add in the garlic, salt and pepper, and cook for one minute before adding the beans and the cheese. Stir the bean mixture to combine and then set aside.
  3. In the meantime, cook the ravioli according to package directions, drain and then add to the saute pan with the bean mixture.
  4. Gently toss to combine the ingredients and then serve the pasta topped with the fresh parsley and the additional cheese.

Apple and rice-stuffed acorn squash

Serves 4 people

Ingredients:

  • 2 large acorn squash, sliced in half lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup uncooked long grain rice
  • 1-1/2 cups water
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 4 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1/4 cup butter, cubed
  • 2 medium tart apples, peeled and chopped
  • 1 cup shredded cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup chopped pecans
  • 4 ounces cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 3 tablespoons honey
  • 3 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground thyme
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil.
  2. Scoop the seeds and stringy flesh out of the squash and place the squash cut-side down on prepared baking sheet.
  3. Bake for 45 to 50 minutes or until tender.
  4. While squash is cooking, cook the rice in water until it is tender and water is absorbed.
  5. In a large skillet, saute the onion and celery in butter until tender. Stir in the apples and cook for a few minutes (apple should still be crisp). Take the skillet off of the heat and mix in the rice, cheese, pecans, cream cheese, vinegar, honey, ginger and thyme. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Spoon the rice mixture into the squash halves and place back on baking sheet, cut-side up.
  7. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until cheese is melted and mixture is heated through.

Thanksgiving is a time to celebrate! What better things to celebrate than good health and a healthy planet? Try a new tradition this year, and pardon the bird -- it's easier than you think!

Try these Meatless Monday ideas

Sweet potato and caramelized onion quiche
Mushroom stroganoff
Don't be troubled by tofu
Meatless Monday Mediterranean style

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