Holiday gifts

NUTRISPEAK by Vesanto Melina MS, RD

Portrait of Vesanto Melina

• What comes to mind when you think of holiday meals? Gravy? The aroma of sage and other herbs? Being so stuffed you require a forklift to get up from the chair after dinner? It is appealing to know we can celebrate with those we love and have healthful fare and not overindulge to the point of discomfort.

In last December’s Common Ground, we included a well-loved recipe for stuffed squash. (See This holiday season, we offer a recipe for Light Mushroom Gravy, and a dish welcome at any winter gathering: Roasted Root Vegetables. These recipes are from Cooking Vegetarian by Joseph Forest and Vesanto Melina (Wiley Canada, 2011), and are an excellent gift for those who want to eat healthfully, and for the vegetarians and vegans on your holiday list.

Light Mushroom Gravy
Makes 4 cups

This tasty gravy is ideal with Holiday Winter Stuffed Squash, UnTurkey, Tofurkey, baked potatoes, mashed potatoes or to add a festive touch to veggie burgers. You may experiment with different brands of stock cubes or powder; flavourful stock makes a big difference. Stocks vary in saltiness so adjust the amount of tamari or salt accordingly. If the gravy is too thick, add water; if too thin, simmer uncovered to reach the desired consistency.

1 tbsp vegetable oil (such as coconut oil or olive oil)
2 cups thinly sliced mushrooms
1/2 cup finely diced onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups vegetable stock or water
1/2 cup unbleached, all-purpose or whole-wheat flour
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1 tbsp nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 tsp dried thyme
1/4 tsp dried sage
Pinch of pepper
Salt (optional, to taste)
2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Heat the oil in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook the mushrooms and onion for 5 minutes or until they start to brown. Add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes. Put one cup of cold vegetable stock or water, flour, tamari, nutritional yeast, thyme and sage in a jar, tightly cover with a lid and shake until blended. Put the stock and flour mixture plus the remaining stock into the sauce pan, bring to a boil, decrease heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 to 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in pepper and salt (if using); top with parsley and serve.

Roasted Root Vegetables
Makes about 8 cups

This colourful, warming combination makes a very welcome addition to festive meals. Other favourites that can be substituted are sweet potatoes, parsnips, turnips or squash, for a total of 8-9 cups of chopped vegetables. Those with deep yellow and orange hues are rich in vitamin A (beta-carotene).

2 carrots
2 yams
2 potatoes
1 large red, yellow or white onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs or 1 tsp dried, i.e. basil, thyme, oregano, dill
1/4 tsp salt
Pinch pepper

Heat oven to 375F. Cut carrots, yams, potatoes and onion into 1-inch pieces; place in large bowl. Sprinkle with oil, herbs, salt and pepper, tossing well to coat vegetables. Transfer to 9×13-inch baking dish (or similar size). Bake, uncovered at 375F for 35 to 40 minutes or until vegetables are tender.

Vesanto Melina is a BC dietitian, author (, 604-882-6782. Other books that include great recipes for select dietary patterns are The Food Allergy Survival Guide, Becoming Raw and The Raw Food Revolution Diet. Visit

See Vesanto December 2, 7:30PM at Eternal Abundance, 1025 Commercial Drive. She gives a fun talk on “Veg Simplicity, Veg Diplomacy.” Snacks included.

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