Growing up Italian, I can recall wonderful memories of delicious home-cooked meals around the family table. We had an unspoken ritual for “assigned” seating. I can vividly see my place where I sat across from my sister, giggling at her jokes, in our 1970’s gold colored kitchen.  Even though we had our moments, I loved how we sat together for dinner. To this day, I continue to sit at my table when dining.

I also make sure to give thanks. Jesus modeled this before He ate. He always gave thanks to the Father.

Let us give thanks not only on the one Thursday in November we know as Thanksgiving, but always and for everything because we are blessed.

He promises to provide all we need, all the time. (Philippians 4:19)

As my family still dines on some traditional foods this holiday, I “squashed” some and remade a few for health-ful options (or serving a vegetarian) which have been a shared success.

Send me a reply if you try them!

Winter Squash and Apple Soup

Adapted from Whole Foods Market®

Serves 4-6

3 pounds butternut squash, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)

2 organic apples of choice, cored and cut into 1-inch cubes

1 yellow onion, chopped

4 cloves garlic, halved

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 cups low-sodium vegetable

2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

¼ cup chopped fresh parsley (optional) or pumpkin seeds (optional)

Preheat oven to 400o. Line two rimmed baking sheets or shallow roasting pans with parchment paper. In a large bowl, toss all ingredients (squash thru salt) until mixed well. Spread mixture in single layer on each sheet. Roast until tender and beginning to brown about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and puree mixture in large dutch oven with immersion blender or high speed blender with the broth and nutritional yeast. Add water or more broth for desired consistency. Test for seasonings and readjust if needed. Reheat and serve with optional toppings of sprinkled parsley or pumpkin seeds.


Quinoa Pecan and Cranberry Stuffing

Adapted from

Serves 4-6 ½ cup servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed

2 cups low sodium vegetable broth

1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups chopped celery

1 medium onion, chopped

1 cup chopped pecan pieces

1 Tablespoon lemon juice

½ – 1 Tablespoon rubbed sage (start with less and increase for desired taste)

1 Tablespoon Emeril’s Original Essence Spice Blend OR

Make your own:

2 ½ Tablespoons paprika

2 Tablespoons sea salt

2 Tablespoons garlic powder

1 Tablespoon black pepper

1 Tablespoon onion powder

1 Tablespoon oregano

1 Tablespoon thyme

Pinch of cayenne

4 oz dried cranberries

Cook quinoa in broth 15 minutes, covered, till done. In a separate pan, sauté celery and onion in olive oil until onion is glossy but not brown. Remove from heat and pour into bowl with quinoa, adding pecans, lemon juice, sage, and spice blend. Add cranberries. Mix and adjust for desired seasonings. Serve warm.


Chocolate Pudding with a twist

Serves 6, ½ cup or 1- 9 inch pie

1 ripe avocado, pitted

6-10 medjool dates, pitted (soaked in warm water for at least 30 minutes)

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

4 heaping Tablespoons cocoa powder OR 2 Tablespoons carob powder

Pinch of sea salt

½ cup water

Place all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender, scraping down the sides as necessary. Soaking dates makes them easier to blend. Drizzle in water, for desired consistency of pudding. Should be thick and very creamy. Adjust sweetness as desired.

Optional: Create crust by blending ½ cup almonds. Then add 1 cup pecans and ½ cup pitted dates. Dough should come together and stick. Press raw crust into bottom of 9 inch pie plate. No baking required. Top with chocolate pudding and chill.

Nicole Santapola

About Nicole Santapola

Nicole Santapola began her relationship with Christ after 30 years of religion being a mainstay in her upbringing. Experiencing a divorce, Nicole found herself a single woman leaning on God's promises and learning both His faithfulness and love. She calls Discovery Church home. She began attending in 2002 and through bible studies, women's events, and restoration counseling, she was baptized at East Campus in 2006. Nicole has a passion to share God's love and encouragement to others particularly in the area of health and wellness. She has followed holistic health and nutrition and through education and cooking classes, she teaches and shares this with others. She loves to cook and bake mostly plant-based dishes in her home and visit local vegetarian establishments. Her walk began with Romans 12:2, "Do not conform any longer to the patterns of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind".

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