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Side Quest: Four New Thanksgiving Recipes

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Side Quest: Four New Thanksgiving Recipes

Nov 16, 2023

Spice up your Thanksgiving feast for the vegetarians in your circle or just try something new. Theresa assigns each Cooking Crew member a recipe beyond the traditional Thanksgiving spread. Discover the verdict on Scot's Three Sister's Harvest, whether Nayeli's Pumpkin Chia Seed Pudding stole the spotlight, if Jhonny's Roasted Beet Crostini was a crowd-pleaser, and whether the Miso Spinach Salad felt like an odd one out or seamlessly blended with the rest of the festive fare.


      Serves: 6 sides


      • 3 tsp. olive oil, divided 
      • 1 large acorn or delicata squash, halved, seeded, and thinly sliced
      • 2 finely chopped shallots
      • 3 garlic cloves, minced
      • 1 15-oz can of Black beans, rinsed and drained 
      • 2 cups canned hominy, rinsed and drained
      • 1 cup vegetable broth, low-sodium
      • 1 tbsp. fresh sage, chopped
      • 1 tbsp. fresh mint, chopped
      • 1 bay leaf
      • 1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
      • freshly ground black pepper
      • ¼ cup pepita seeds, or other roasted squash seeds


      1. Preheat oven to 400°. Toss squash with 1 tablespoon olive oil and a dash of salt and pepper. Spread evenly on a sheet pan, and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until tender and starting to brown. Set aside.
      2. While squash is roasting, heat the remaining olive oil in a large sauté pan on medium, add shallots and garlic to the oil, and sauté until opaque. Add hominy, black beans, vegetable broth, bay leaf, sage, and mint. Allow to simmer for 5-7 minutes, stirring intermittently to avoid sticking. 
      3. Reduce heat to low for 10 minutes, stir as needed. 
      4. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Fold in roasted squash slices. Top with pepita seeds. Enjoy!


      Serves: 12 appetizers


      • 2-3 beets
      • 1 baguette, sliced
      • 1 clove garlic 
      • olive oil for brushing
      • 4 oz chevre 


      1. Preheat oven to 350°. Clean beets and wrap in tinfoil. Place on baking sheet/pan. Bake for 45 minutes or until soft through the center. Allow to cool slightly.
      2. When beets are cool enough to handle, using the tinfoil scrap away outer skin. Trim off edges and slice thinly. 
      3. Brush baguette with olive oil and toast in oven with beets approximately 10 minutes.  Once out of oven and still warm, cut end off garlic clove and rub toasts.
      4. Top toasts with chevre and sliced beets. Garnish with fresh herbs if desired.


      Serves: 4


      • ¼ cup organic miso paste
      • ½ cup avocado oil
      • 1 leek, both white and green parts, halved and thinly sliced
      • ½ teaspoon Maldon flake salt, or other flakey salt
      • 1 large shallot, peeled and finely diced
      • 1 lime, juiced
      • 1 Meyer lemon, juiced (regular lemons work too)
      • 3 tbsp. truffle-infused olive oil (regular olive oil works too)
      • 10 oz baby spinach, washed and dried


      1. Preheat the oven to 190°F.
      2. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Spread the miso paste as thinly as possible using a soft spatula or icing spatula. Bake for 45 minutes or until browned, checking frequently toward the end to avoid burning. Remove from the oven, cool.
      3. Crumble miso into pieces and set aside.
      4. Heat the avocado oil in a small skillet over medium-high heat. Toss the leeks into the skillet with the oil and fry until lightly browned and crisp, about 2-3 minutes. Drain the oil from the leeks and lay them on a paper towel, sprinkle with flake salt.
      5. Whisk the shallot, lime, lemon, and truffle-infused olive oil together in a small bowl to create a vinaigrette.
      6. Toss the spinach with the shallot vinaigrette, then top the salad with the crackled miso and crispy leeks.


      Serves: 6


      • 2 cups milk (of choice)
      • ¾ cup chia seeds
      • ¾ cup pumpkin puree
      • 1 tbsp. maple syrup
      • 1 tsp. cinnamon
      • ½ tsp. ground cardamom 


      1. Place pumpkin, spices, maple syrup, and chia seeds in a medium bowl, and stir to combine. Add milk slowly, while stirring to combine.
      2. Cover and let sit in the refrigerator for at least 6 hours or overnight.
      3. Serve and enjoy!

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      Scot: Welcome to the Cooking Crew's Thanksgiving special. With Thanksgiving coming up, we thought it would be fun to have a special episode featuring four Thanksgiving-inspired dishes that are vegetarian and also something a little different than the usual Thanksgiving fare, but still would go well with the old favorites. So our favorite registered dietitian and nutrition expert, Theresa Dvorak, assigned each of the Cooking Crew a different dish to make. We made them, and then we got together and we had a Friendsgiving feast, and it was fun, wasn't it?

      Alex: Yay. Yes, it was.

      Jhonny: Yeah.

      Scot: Glad you all reacted that way. I was a little nervous there. By the way, you can find these recipes that we made at So go online to And we'll get into how it went in the kitchen and how it was in a moment. But first, let's introduce the Cooking Crew. My name is Scot, and I made something called three sisters harvest. That was my dish. Jhonny, what was your dish?

      Jhonny: I made, or at least attempted to make, a roasted beet crostini.

      Scot: And Alex?

      Alex: A miso salad.

      Scot: And Nayeli?

      Nayeli: I made a pumpkin chia pudding.

      Scot: And also joining us is our recipe architect and nutrition expert, Theresa Dvorak. She's a Registered Dietitian and the Director of Culinary Medicine in the University of Utah College of Health's Department of Nutrition and Integrative Physiology. And Theresa, what was your overall goal when you selected these four items for us to make and maybe a brief bit of background? The original ask was from me. I said my wife's a vegetarian, and I wish that there was some variation between what vegetarians get at Thanksgiving because it tends to be the non-meat items, right? So that's going to be mashed potatoes, the green bean casserole. Stuffing, probably not because a lot of times it's in the turkey or there's some sort of sausage in it. So we were looking for some alternatives. So beyond that, what was kind of your goal or your thought process?

      Theresa: Yeah. I was thinking about the seasonality, but also a little bit of kind of melding of different cultural cuisines that might bring a little bit of diversity and some flair to your Thanksgiving table with as well kind of thinking about reaching in also to some roots of Thanksgiving feasts and our ancestral lands that we live on here, especially in the Mountain West. The chia, and the three sisters' harvest are very much speaking to indigenous foods and having some of those thematics throughout.

      Scot: All right. Going to go ahead and start, I think, with mine. So we got together today, we made these, and then we got together today and we put everybody's food on, you know, our own plates and we had a meal. My contribution was the thing that was called the three sisters harvest. I'm like, "Well, what is that?" So I looked it up, Theresa.

      Theresa: Oh, my God.

      Scot: The three sisters are crops that are planted together in a shared space, and it's corn, beans, and squash or maize, which is also corn. And the indigenous agricultural practices would plant these plants together because they would protect and nourish each other in different ways and they also provided a very solid diet for the people that grew them. Does that sound good?

      Theresa: Yes, that is spot on.

      Scot: Okay. So I think that's kind of cool. The three sisters' harvest was easy to make. I was a little concerned in the store about buying the right kind of hominy because I've never used hominy before, but I don't think it makes too much of a difference from what I did a little . . . I was sitting in the store online saying, "Is there a difference between Mexican hominy and white hominy and yellow hominy?" And I don't think it really does make a difference too much.

      Theresa: No.

      Scot: One of the other challenges I had, the store was out of fresh sage. But I went to the internet and they told me if a recipe calls for a tablespoon of fresh, one teaspoon of dried would work. Is that accurate?

      Theresa: Yeah. And that's a pretty common that you can certainly substitute a dried herb for the fresh herb. It's just, because a dried herb is much more concentrated because all the water is extracted through the dehydrating process, that you usually go down by a half to a third. So yes. So going from one tablespoon to one teaspoon, which is a third of the quantity, sounds perfect.

      Scot: Okay. I also had to look up how to thinly slice an acorn squash, and I didn't know if I should leave the skin on or not. And again, the internet told me it would be okay to leave it on because it does actually get pretty tender. I mean, it's not as tender as the squash meat, but it is definitely edible. And your picture in the recipe had the squash skin on it, so I just left the skin on.

      Theresa: Perfect.

      Scot: I'd imagine there's some good fiber in there too probably.

      Theresa: Yeah, definitely. Definitely. And it brings some texture to the dish.

      Scot: Yeah.

      Theresa: You could certainly peel it if you wanted to. That's why I recommended in the recipe to slice it thinly, so about a quarter-inch slice or even less so that it really kind of the sweet fleshy part of the squash gets kind of crisp and caramelized. You're only getting a little bit of that squash skin, but it's completely edible. Something like an acorn or a delicata squash has very mild skins to the squash, and so you don't necessarily have to peel them.

      Scot: All right. So overall, after I made it and I ate it that night, I felt like the mint was a little overpowering, and I felt like the sage was not quite there. So maybe I needed more sage or if it had been fresh, I think that could have maybe helped a little bit.

      Theresa: Because was your mint fresh?

      Scot: Yes, it was.

      Theresa: Yeah. So that's probably . . . Yep.

      Scot: Where that imbalance came?

      Theresa: Exactly. So if both of them, then certainly, and that's just where tasting it. And sometimes you can't avoid that just because of what's available in the grocery store and just taste it. And, you know, as you mentioned, add a little bit more of the dried sage or start lighter on the fresh herb.

      Scot: So, I mean, when I had it the night before, I thought it was okay. I wasn't like crazy about it. I didn't think it was as great as some of the other recipes that we've had. But when we ate it as a meal today with the other food, I thought it fit in really well, especially with the miso salad. So, anyway, I thought it was a very fall food. And as you alluded to the season, Thanksgiving kind of is about foods that are readily available in the fall, so your squash or stuff that has a longer shelf life, like potatoes, that sort of thing. And it has a very earthy feel too, an earthy taste to it, which I really, really enjoyed. I think if I were to do something in the future, other than what we talked about, I might try to make squash bowls and then put the filling inside of them.

      Theresa: Sure.

      Scot: What do you think of that?

      Theresa: That sounds lovely. You could even do some wild rice with it and kind of do a squash stuffing with something like that too. And, you know, that dish you could change up, but, you know, you're not a fan of the mint, so you see that in the recipe, then try different herbs or seasonings that you do enjoy. Maybe even putting a bit of like a roasted chili or something like that in it if that, you know, speaks to you or, again, the parsley or the chive could be good alternatives as well.

      Scot: All right. Let's move on down to the next person, Jhonny. Tell us about your recipe. How did it go, and how was it?

      Jhonny: So my experience with beets is zero, which is kind of a shame because, I guess, my mom, she told me that she used to eat a lot of beets when growing up. So here I am with no experience. I don't know how it's supposed to come out of the oven, how soft it is. I think it came out pretty well based on my fears that it wasn't going to turn out well at all. I will say, though, that looking at the picture that was in the recipe does not look like that at all. My presentation skills are awful.

      But I think overall the beets, for me, they were soft. And I actually couldn't even taste them with the goat cheese and the olive and garlic baguette that I made. I did not get the fresh herbs, so I just used an Italian seasoning I had and I think that went well with it. But I do have a question about the recipe. So I got like a ready-made packet with, like, little bits of the goat cheese on it. And they look like little marshmallows. So I just took those and I put like a couple on top. Is that supposed to be the presentation, or was I supposed to, like, melt it and spread it? Did I do it completely wrong?

      Theresa: No. Yeah. So if you had let the cheese come to a little bit closer to room temperature, it would have softened it and you could have spread it more. But doing it cold is perfectly fine too.

      Jhonny: I will make that better version at home, and I will be the only one who enjoys it.

      Theresa: There you go. But yeah, you think about fresh herbs you could do . . . And this was kind of left wide open. You could do sage. You could do thyme. You could do dill. I've also done tarragon before, which is kind of a fun one, but it is quite strong in flavor. So you can really play around with that a little bit. You could drizzle it with a balsamic if you like a little drizzle of balsamic and olive oil. You could crush up some, you know, toasted pecans or toasted pistachios or something like that on top. You could get pretty fancy, Jhonny, if you wanted to.

      Jhonny: Awesome.

      Scot: I thought it was pretty good. That's something that I think I would try to make myself. How about you, Nayeli?

      Nayeli: I don't think I would make it. But, I mean, if Jhonny were to make it again, I would eat it.

      Jhonny: All right.

      Theresa: I like that.

      Jhonny: You'll get the special version.

      Nayeli: Lovely, I'll be waiting for that.

      Theresa: So that's like one lip smack, not five.

      Nayeli: It was good.

      Theresa: I'll eat it if somebody else makes it.

      Nayeli: Yeah. Like maybe that's just me being lazy, but it was good.

      Theresa: It's all good.

      Scot: All right. So who hasn't gone yet? Alex, you need to tell us about yours.

      Alex: Okay. So I had a miso salad. And I didn't even know what miso was, so I texted Theresa and I was like, "Is this right?" And I think it was like soup mix. It was not rice.

      Theresa: It was miso soup mix. Yep.

      Alex: Yeah, it was miso. I was like, "Is this it?" And it definitely was not it. So I was basically working with miso, which I've never worked with, and then a leek, which I've never worked with either. And so I thought I kind of got off easy with the salad, but I didn't really get off that easy.

      Theresa: Not so much.

      Alex: No, I didn't. No, not so much. So, like I said, and I went through the process, I was doing it all and I was like, "Are we doing this right? How is this all going to mesh together?" So I was like so nervous when I was making it. The difficulty I think I had was when I was spreading the miso on the parchment paper, it was supposed to be super, super thin, and I don't think I had it thin enough. So I think I had to make it for, like, 45 minutes, and I think it took maybe like an hour and 15 and it still wasn't probably where it needed to be. So that's lesson learned, like spread it thinner. And then I had to look up how to cut a leek because I had no idea, which I'm really glad I googled that because I would have not done what it told me to do.

      Scot: So our question, so on the shallot, you looked that up. What part did you end up using? Because I think you told me there are three different parts to a shallot. I want to see if Theresa agrees.

      Alex: So it was the leek.

      Theresa: Leek.

      Scot: Oh, yeah, the leek. I'm sorry.

      Alex: It was the leek. And it was this long thing I bought at the store. I was like, "Oh, my gosh." For me, it was intimidating. I was like, "What is this thing?" And I was just going to start going to town on this thing, and I was like I should probably look it up. So you cut off, you know, the root, right? And then you cut off all the leaves. Again, Theresa, I hope that was right.

      Theresa: Yeah. If anything, maybe you trimmed it maybe a little too far because, from what it sounds like, you probably just used the white part . . .

      Alex: I did.

      Theresa: . . . of the leek. So similar to a scallion, you're going to still use kind of the light green section. It's really that dark, the dark green tops of the leaves that tend to be a lot more bitter and just are harder to work with.

      Alex: Got it. Okay. That really helps me.

      Theresa: Good to know. I appreciate it.

      Scot: I know it's been said before, it went really well with the three sisters, I thought. I thought on its own, though, it was really kind of a powerful salad. Like the dressing, like there was, I don't know . . .

      Alex: Did I mess it up, Scot? I probably did.

      Scot: Well, I don't know.

      Alex: Well, that's what I was saying because it was like one whole lemon, I think I read that right, and one whole lime and then like one whole shallot. And so I was getting nervous when I was tasting that vinaigrette because I was like, whoa, it was just like pucker face. So that's why I was like banking on . . . I was like I kept adding a little more oil because I was like maybe that will offset this really tart flavor. And then I was just banking on that the leeks and the miso would offset it. I do like kind of, like, a vinegary sour thing. So maybe I wasn't as thrown off by it, but it might not be everybody's cup of tea.

      Scot: And Theresa, should it be kind of pucker face like Alex described? I mean, does it have a big flavor?

      Alex: Yeah. Is that right?

      Theresa: Yeah, this salad will have . . . it may feel intense, right? It's not going to be your flavorless salad.

      Scot: Okay. Fair enough. Not for the timid.

      Theresa: Yeah.

      Scot: Yeah. All right. And finally, Nayeli, what did you make?

      Nayeli: So I made the pumpkin chia pudding. It was very simple to make. It actually took me about I want to say, like, less than 10 minutes to put together. The longest thing that I had to do was leave it in the fridge for six hours or overnight, but I just ended up leaving it overnight.

      And yeah, I mean, overall, I feel like, I mean, I'll let everybody kind of give their opinion on what they thought about the pudding, but I feel like nobody really liked it. But I will say I think it's because everybody kind of had the same feedback that it wasn't very sweet. So I think adding more maple syrup might make it a little bit more, a little bit better for everyone. But, yeah.

      I guess the only modification that I made in the recipe was adding a little bit more pumpkin puree because once I put all the ingredients together, it was still a little watery. So I did add a little bit more. And then I think the recipe called for one tablespoon of maple syrup. And I did add a little bit more. And even then, I think it still needed a little bit more sweetness. But I'll probably just end up taking it home and adding a little bit more syrup just to see how it tastes. But yeah, that's kind of the situation with the chia pudding.

      Theresa: Yeah, definitely. I think you could certainly up the sweetness. You could add some more honey or the maple syrup like the recipe had originally called for. And so, no, it's certainly not going to be like your traditional pudding, where we think lots of sugar and egg for that pudding. And yes, it is meant to be watery initially. So even though you added more pumpkin, that probably just upped the pumpkin flavor in it. But it is the chia seeds that expand as they soak in those liquids. And so super high in fiber as well as being pretty filling. Folks will often add them to like smoothies or drinks just to add some of that filling sensation to them as well as the high fiber content.

      Scot: I thought it was fine. Like I heard everybody else saying they thought it needed to be sweeter. And I wonder how much of that is the programming of our taste buds to desserts in our society because in other cultures, not that I'm this big cultured guy, desserts kind of sometimes downplay the sweetness a little bit. Like they're not these big sugar bombs that we're used to in a lot of our desserts here. So I wonder how much of it was that. But, Nayeli, I really liked it. I thought it was good. I thought it was a nod to pumpkin pie and probably a much healthier version of that, if that's what you're going for. Jhonny, what was your take on it?

      Jhonny: I definitely didn't hate it.

      Nayeli: Lovely. Love that.

      Theresa: Well, maybe or think about it as an afternoon snack instead of a dessert.

      Jhonny: Sure. So the way that I saw it, I was in . . .one of the people that told Nayeli like maybe if you add a little bit more sugar to it, it would be better because, like I ate it and I didn't, like, hate it. I didn't dislike it. I just thought it was okay. And I thought too what Theresa has said on the previous podcast about dessert, just being dessert, it's okay to have like this sugary thing. But now that Scot said the whole cultural thing, now it's got me thinking what if I am being pre-programmed to just think, oh, dessert is supposed to be this like diabetes-inducing treat?

      Scot: And Alex, what did you think?

      Alex: Yeah. So I'm actually with you, Scot. I actually loved the flavor. I thought it was really good. I'm not a big sweets person. I just can't handle a lot of sugar. And so it was the perfect taste for me. It was the texture. I think I was envisioning more of like a . . . I don't know, I won't say proper pudding. I don't know what that even means.

      Theresa: Like a pureed pudding.

      Alex: Yeah, like a softer . . .

      Theresa: Like a smooth.

      Alex: Yeah, like a smooth. This was very like . . .

      Theresa: Chunky.

      Alex: . . . chunky and gelatin-like. And maybe that's, again, preference. But, no, I thought the flavor was good.

      Scot: All right then. Well, which one was your favorite out of all of them that were made? Jhonny?

      Jhonny: I'll go with mine.

      Scot: Well, that's good.

      Alex: Nice.

      Scot: That's good. All right.

      Jhonny: I also liked Scot's and Alex's dish put together. I thought that worked really well. But I was just really surprised that the beet, I couldn't taste it.

      Scot: Okay. Alex, which one did you like the most?

      Alex: Probably Jhonny's, the crostini. And again, I'll say like warmed up, like in the oven, like I think it would be . . . We travel to work. And it was still good, but I think it would be really good just straight out of the oven. So I'm going to go with Jhonny's.

      Scot: Nayeli, which one was your favorite?

      Nayeli: I really liked the miso salad. I feel like I would make it as a side salad for, like, any meal. So if I were to try one of them, I feel like I would do that.

      Scot: I feel like a modified version of mine. I think like a squash bowl. I'm actually excited to try that. So that's the win for this whole experience for me, I think. But I think Jhonny's, again, the beet crostinis, I think those are just really kind of cool and they have a good flavor and I like them. And that would be the one I would take to somebody else's house if I was invited over at this point in its evolution. I think so.

      Jhonny: I don't feel weird about voting for my own dish anymore.

      Scot: All right. As we wrap this up, any final thoughts about our Friendsgiving feast that we had today when we got together and we shared some food? I thought it was fun making these and getting together. So we've talked before about, like, how can you force, how can you encourage yourself, maybe that's a better word, to try something new, to cook more at home, and then maybe, you know, this would be it, right? Maybe you've got a little small office and you each can try one of these dishes and then have a little Friendsgiving feast.

      For me, to steal a page out of Jhonny's book that he said, you know, the last episode of the More Meals at Home Challenge, like the friendship. Like I enjoyed hanging out with you guys and trying each other's food and just talking and laughing, you know, and that social aspect. So I thought that was pretty cool.

      Theresa: It was definitely a bonding moment.

      Scot: Yeah.

      Jhonny: Oh, for sure. We were all scared, and I thought that really bonded us together. But it also, I think, gave us maybe just a little bit more confidence that the dishes weren't as terrible as we thought they were. And so next time, if we do something like this, we're going to feel better about the outcome, I think.

      Scot: Yeah. And I think we all should give Theresa a little bit of love for putting this together because each one of us said, maybe individually, we weren't all that enthused about our dishes, but they all came together, I thought, on that singular plate to complement each other. So that is all on Theresa, our recipe architect. So thank you, Theresa . . .

      Alex: Thanks.

      Nayeli: Yay.

      Scot: . . . for putting the thought into, like, what flavors are going to go together and how can we help this group of clowns. Let me rephrase that. How can we help this group of lovely people enjoy a little Friendsgiving event and have something that's not quite traditional Thanksgiving, but still gives that wink and that nod towards, you know, Thanksgiving flavors and Thanksgiving food and vegetarian? So I'm going to try one of them at our Thanksgiving at home. I'm going to make it for us. And I think my wife will be excited about that. So I'm pretty stoked. So thank you, Theresa.

      Theresa: Excellent. You're most welcome.

      Scot: All right. You can check out the recipes and let us know what you think and how it went. You can find these recipes online, That's Go ahead and try them out. And if you're looking for a bonus dish, check out Theresa making sweet and savory twice-baked potatoes on our social media channel. It's a little bonus for you. You can find that on Instagram and TikTok. The handle is @uofuhealth. I feel like you're holding out on us, though, Theresa. I feel like you're holding out on the cooking crew by not sharing this one. I'm definitely going to check that out.

      Theresa: But you wanted something different. And so yeah.

      Scot: Okay. Fair enough.

      Theresa: But these are it. These are legit.

      Scot: All right. I look forward to trying these. I'm going to go over to our Instagram and TikTok channels and check you making those out, so I can get that recipe. Again, that's @uofuhealth. And thank you for joining us and Happy Thanksgiving.