Swanksgiving: Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranate

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Thanksgiving is a time to appreciate. It’s a single day to gather with friends, loved ones, or even strangers to give thanks for all that we are lucky enough to enjoy in our lives. In my family this translates to making endless fun of my mom on car rides [all weekend], throwing back a few glasses of wine/beer about five times over my normal college student alcohol budget, petting my grandma’s face (88-year-old skin is the softest), talking about Life Plans with my cousins then abruptly switching to topics like Big Sean, or going on several semi-drunken tangents about one or more of the following: 1) Russia 2) veganism 3) Putin 4) how underrated Wisconsin is 5) #occupyyourmom jokes. Don’t make me explain #5.

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The one of the best things about Thanksgiving is leaving and realizing that as all of the children in my family get older (I’m the middle of nine), this holiday gets exponentially better. We’ve become—or are ast least in the process of becoming— real people, which is wobble-dy wobble-dy wawesome. That was a Big Sean reference. OK.

This year I walked away from Thanksgiving with another realization:

My family is THE SHIT.
I mean, I’ve always kind of realized it in an obtuse way but now I can see that everyone is not only interesting, smart, funny, and overall great, but in a setting surrounding food I felt  lucky to have so much support for my veganism. I was given creative freedom to make a vegan appetizer, two side dishes, and a dessert, and people not only tasted my concoctions but complimented them and asked for seconds. I recognize that “fake butter” is not everyone’s cup of tea so I appreciated the open minds and positive feedback more than my family could know.

For what I’m calling my ”Swanksgiving” meal I tried to make dishes which were not only delicious but erred on the side of “just so happen to be vegan,” since tofu and fake cream cheese are not two of the things which make me most proud to not eat meat or dairy. The first of these dishes Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates with a recipe adapted from My New Roots. This blog is loaded with awesome recipes using delicious, wholesome ingredients. Czech it out!

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Poppy Seed-Crusted Butternut Squash with Kale and Pomegranates

Serves 4

  • 1 medium butternut squash
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tablespoon melted coconut oil (worth the investment!)
  • 3 Tbsp. poppy seeds
  • ~1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 3 cups packed shredded kale
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 Tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 Tablspoon apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon pure maple syrup
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1. Preheat oven to 400º. Peel, de-seed, and cube squash. Pour on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and toss with garlic, coconut oil, poppy seeds, and a generous sprinkle of sea salt. Roast 30-40 minutes until soft but not mushy.

2. While the squash is in the oven, make yourself useful by shredding the kale, slicing it in thin strips and removing the spines. Add the juice of 1 lemon, a pinch of sea salt and massage into kale to wilt. Set aside.

3. Remove the pomegranate seeds. Fill a bowl with water, cut the fruit in half, then roughly pry out the seeds with your fingers and let them fall into the water. The seeds with white pith will float to the top – remove the pith as much as possible leaving the seeds, which will then sink. Drain them and set aside.

4. For dressing, whisk together olive oil, vinegar, maple syrup, and dijon mustard. When the butternut squash is done, remove from oven and let cool for 5 to 10 minutes. Add to kale and pomegranate seeds and mix. Top with dressing and mix well to coat. Season to taste and serve!

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Now that’s something I’m thankful for.

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