More often than not, the alternative eaters get left out of Thanksgiving and are given a paltry plate of sides instead of a real meal. While working with The Biggest Loser, I learned that trainer Bob Harper is vegan, so I focused on making the menu accessible for him as well. The result is this whole grain stuffing that, when served in a roasted squashed half, doubles as a main so the non-meat eaters still feel the holiday love. As is, this recipe is very low in fat and calories, but feel free to add more to it like, some roasted chestnuts, crumbled chorizo, or some crisp bacon if you’re feeling indulgent.
Whole Grain Stuffing with Apples and Toasted Walnuts Recipe
By the numbers: A serving of traditional Thanksgiving stuffing has about 340 calories and 15 grams of fat, but a serving of this stuffing has only 150 calories and 5 grams of fat.
- Makes: 10 to 12 servings (5 1/3 cups total)
- Total Time: 1 hr
- Hands-On Time: 15 mins
- 1 cup uncooked farro, rinsed and drained (can substitute wheatberries or barley) (see note)
- 4 teaspoons olive oil
- 1/2 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
- 3 medium celery stalks, finely chopped
- 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves
- 2 small Fuji or Gala apples, halved, cored, and medium dice
- 1/2 cup low-sodium fat-free vegetable or chicken broth
- 1/3 cup currants or raisins
- 1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh Italian parsley
- 1/4 cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
Bring a large pot of heavily salted water to a boil over high heat. When it boils, stir in farro and cook until just tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Drain well and place in a large bowl. (Can be done up to 1 day ahead.) Heat the oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Heat oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. When it shimmers, add the onion, celery, and garlic, season with 1/2 teaspoon of the kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, and stir to coat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until just softened, about 5 minutes.
Remove from heat and stir in the apples, grains, remaining 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, broth, currants or raisins, parsley, walnuts, and some freshly ground black pepper. (The stuffing can be made through this point up to 4 days in advance and stored refrigerated until ready to proceed.)
Place filling in a 2 quart baking dish and bake until the filling is heated through, 15 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
Note: Farro is an ancient wheat grain that can be found in high-end grocery stores and in many health food stores. If you are pressed for time, look for semi-pearled farro, which will cook faster. Wheatberries are whole, unprocessed wheat kernels, and they are usually available in the bulk section of health or high-end grocery stores. If you can’t find them, go ahead and use farro, spelt, barley, or brown rice instead. Barley would also work well if you can’t find either farro or wheatberries.
Roasted Squash for Meatless Main Option:
- 5 medium acorn or buttercup squash (see note)
- 2 tsp olive oil
- 1 tbsp agave nectar
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oven to 450°F and arrange a rack in the middle.
Place squash cut side up on a baking sheet, brush with oil over the tops and insides of the squash, drizzle with agave nectar, season with kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set in a baking dish or baking sheet and roast until just knife tender, about 35 to 40 minutes. (Can be done up to 4 days in advance and stored refrigerated until ready to proceed.)
Reduce oven to 375°F. Divide the stuffing (see recipe above) among the squash halves and roast until the squash is completely fork tender and the filling is heated through, 15 to 20 minutes. Serve hot or warm.
Note: To easily halve the squash, place in the microwave whole then microwave at 30 second intervals until you can easily cut through the flesh, about 1 to 2 minutes total. Alternatively, place in the oven while it is heating up and bake until you can easily cut through the flesh, about 2 to 5 minutes.
Nutritional Information Without Squash (per serving)
- Calories 150
- Fat calories 45
- Total fat grams 5
- Sat fat grams 0
- Cholesterol mg 0
- Sodium mg 250
- Total carbohydrates g 25
- Fiber g 5
- Sugars g 9
- Protein g 4
- Vitamin A IUs % 4
- Vitamin C % 8
- Calcium % 2
- Iron % 6