Thanksgiving Recipes


by Dr. Benjamin Maring | More posts by Dr. Benjamin Maring
Food For Health/Kaiser Permanente



Next week many of us will celebrate Thanksgiving, often with friends and family gathered around the dinner table. I’m looking forward to watching my 20-month old daughter tuck into some sweet potato and carrot puree that my mom makes every year, and hopefully some crispy Brussels sprouts, too.

This time of year, with attention to those people who sustain us, we give thanks for health, happiness, and friendship. With so many people around the country gathering and investing in the day, it also seems like as good a time as any to think about, and give back to, that which ultimately sustains us – our environment. It is a time of year when small changes by a large number of people can add up to a big impact.

Living in California, this year I’m thinking about water. Things we eat take a lot of water to produce. One pound of beef requires 1800 gallons of water to produce and process (1). That’s equivalent to a 14-hour shower in the average American house (2). Poultry, like chicken and turkey, require less water, roughly 470 gallons per pound. Most fruits and vegetables require much less. Consider a few of the following tips to make this year’s Thanksgiving your most sustainable yet.

Lighten your bird. If you plan on roasting a turkey, try buying one that is a few pounds lighter than you normally purchase. This will allow you to reduce your water footprint, cook your bird in less time, and save you room for more fruits and vegetables (and, well, pie). Also, look for a bird that is organic and pasture-raised.

Or, go meatless. The largest environmental impact one can probably have this Thanksgiving is to go meatless and celebrate fall with a plant-based meal. Many of you are probably planning on this already. However, if you like your roasted turkey, don’t fret. Go meatless with your side dishes. Check out the mushroom gravy below; it is an ode to umami that will supplant any sausage gravy.

Buy local. Shop at your local farmers’ market for your produce and flowers. Buy organicwhen you can. This will save on transportation energy costs and the produce, even if not certified organic, is more likely to be farmed in a sustainable manner. It will also help the farmer keep doing what he or she loves to do.

Drink local. Tap water tastes good. Use a filter if you want. Drinking tap instead of bottled water will save a lot of plastic and chemicals from being used.

Waste less. Save your vegetable scraps and make a vegetable stock. Compost what’s left. Stretch out your leftovers in fun and flavorful ways (more to come next week).

What are some other ways you plan on reducing your impact this Thanksgiving? Please share below. We’d love to hear them. Happy Thanksgiving!

And, here are a couple of recipes to add to your sustainable table:

Mushroom Gravy

This recipe is a variation on one I found while looking for vegetarian Thanksgiving ideas on the New York Times website. The combination of mushroom and soy is savory and delicious and will eliminate your desire for sausage or bacon in side dishes.

Roasted Squash with Mushrooms and Kale

These flavors scream fall to me. This recipe comes from Anita Lo, a veteran restaurant chef in the New York. I love Thanksgiving.



Mushroom Gravy

10 ounces cremini mushrooms, wiped clean and stemmed

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

2 medium shallots

1 garlic clove

4 sage leaves

2 sprigs thyme

1-2 tablespoons dry sherry (optional)

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

Scant 1/8 teaspoon ground clove

1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce

1 tablespoon maple syrup

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 ¼ cups whole or reduced-fat milk

Zest and juice of ½ small lemon


For Roasted Squash with Mushrooms and Kale

1 pound Acorn or Kabocha squash

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups wild mushrooms

1/3 cup vegetable stock

5 leaves Tuscan kale

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

2 sage leaves, thinly sliced

1 ounce Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated

Kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


For Mushroom Gravy:

Cut the mushrooms into thin slices. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms and cook until softened and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Meanwhile, finely chop the shallots and garlic and then add to the mushrooms. Stir to combine. Mince the sage and thyme leaves. When the shallots are translucent and softened, add the sage, thyme, and sherry and cook until the liquid is almost evaporated.

Pour the mushroom mixture into the bowl of a food processor and add the red pepper flakes, clove, soy sauce, and maple syrup. Pulse to combine.

Place the pan back over medium heat and add the butter. After it melts and the foaming subsides, add the flour and stir constantly until the roux (butter plus flour) is lightly brown and fragrant, about 3-4 minutes. Add the milk slowly, whisking the combine. The mixture may look clumpy at first but keep whisking until smooth. Heat until the edges are bubbling and the mixture thickens slightly.

Pour milk mixture into the food processor and pulse until well combined. Add the lemon zest and juice and pulse some more. A slightly chunky texture is good. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt or lemon juice as needed.

Keep mushroom gravy in the pan and serve warm. Can serve over turkey, potatoes, biscuits, roasted squash (see next recipe), green beans, you name it.

Makes 6-8 servings

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 15 minutes


Roasted Squash with Mushrooms and Kale

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Stem and seed the squash and cut into one-inch thick wedges. Toss with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt and a few grinds of black pepper. (Leaving the skin on is okay – it’s edible after it cooks). Roast on a sheet pan until browned and tender, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, clean and coarsely chop the mushrooms. Heat a sauté pan over medium heat and add the remaining olive oil. When hot, add the mushrooms and cook until tender and starting to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the vegetable stock and let it boil and reduce down for about one minute.

Stem and roughly chop the kale and add it to the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until kale softens, about 3 minutes. Add a splash more of the vegetable stock and the butter and swirl the pan to combine. Turn off the heat and stir in the sage.

To serve, spoon the mushroom-kale mixture over the squash and top with the cheese. This tastes great with the mushroom gravy, recipe and photo above.

Serves 4

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cook time: 20 minutes