To the benefit of 12 of my Asheville friends, this post, and rather the idea of hosting a “run through Thanksgiving,” is the result of my mother’s concern about Thanksgiving this year with my being dairy free as well as meat free. We have anywhere from 17 to 25 people come to Thanksgiving dinner at my parent’s house each year and I am an integral part to the cooking, baking, decorating, and place setting process which all starts 24 hours before the guests arrive (the morning of Thanksgiving I run in a Turkey Trot race.)
Side dishes have always been the best part of Thanksgiving dinner to me and are usually vegetarian, but everyone always asked what I ate instead of turkey! Eight years ago when we had to ‘cater’ to me being vegetarian, I came up with a dish that has since served as the vegetarian entree – Butternut Squash Lasagna. My family fell in love with it and my mother was very concerned with missing out on in because it involves a creamy bechamel sauce and mozzarella cheese. In order to please my mother therefore, I am going to make a vegan version using Daiya mozzarella cheese and an almond milk bechamel sauce. To make sure I get it right, and to try out some new vegan Thanksgiving recipes, my friends got to take part in a Thanksgiving dress rehearsal!
On the dairy free, egg free, meat free Thanksgiving menu:
Cranberry, Apple, Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf
Butternut Squash and Kale Lasagna
Balsamic glazed shallots and Brussel Sprouts
Whipped Sweet Potatoes with Walnuts
Cider braised Red Cabbage with Apples
Pumpkin pie with Pecan Streusel topping
Pumpkin Cheesecake Pie with a chocolate pumpkin sauce
The lasagna may not be as pretty as the Parmesan crusted entree of previous years, but it sure did taste good! The bottom left corner of the picture above has the almond milk bechamel sauce with basil, which is super easy. The other pictures are off the assembly and the final product with Daiya cheese sprinkled on top. The recipe below is adapted from my own vegetarian recipe which was adapted from the Food Network’s Giada De Laurentiis’ recipe. I go heavy on the butternut squash and add in some hearty Kale for a wonderful bright orange and green contrast. The Bechemel sauce adds the creaminess to the lasagna and the Daiya cheese on top just adds that little bit of cheesy gooey-ness, but at a later date I will probably make a batch without it.
Vegan Bechemel Sauce:
1/4 c. Vegan buttery Spread (I use whipped Earth Balance)
1/4 c. All purpose flour
3 cups of unsweetened almond milk
pinch of nutmeg, plus for this I blended in about a cup of loosely packed basil
Melt the butter substitute in a heavy saucepan and whisk in the flour for 30-60 seconds vigorously. Then add in the almond milk about 1/2 to 1 cup at a time, whisking the whole time. Once all the almond milk is added, bring it to a boil then let simmer until it coats the back of a spoon. Transfer all or half of the mixture to a blender or food processor with the basil. Return to the saucepan and add nutmeg. Enjoy your newfound vegan “cream” sauce!
Layer this sauce over mashed up roasted butternut squash and pieces of kale and lasagna noodles to assemble the lasagna. Sprinkle the top with Daiya cheese or another vegan mozzarella style cheese and bake for 40 minutes covered in a 375 degree oven, uncovered for 10 minutes and you have yourself a super delicious centerpiece to any meal.
More recipes from this meal (including the pies!) are coming soon!