Guest Host: Diane Vogel

The turkey may be the traditional center of attention on Thanksgiving. But many families’ holiday tables include an array of delicious, healthy vegetable dishes. And some vegetarians and veggie-lovers are making them the center of the feast. We get some vegetable-centered ideas for fall, and explore whether “Turkeyday” should be rebranded.


  • Kim O'Donnel Writer, "Family Kitchen" Column, USA Today; Author, "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour" (Lifelong)
  • Tracye McQuirter Author, "By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat" (Lawrence Hill)
  • Tara Parker Pope Writer, Well Blog,


Shepherd’s Pie With Chard-Lentil Filling

(Courtesy Kim O’Donnel and DeCapo Press; From “The Meat Lover’s Meatless Cookbook”)
Makes about 6 servings

Looking for cozy cookin’? Dog-ear this page pronto. Curled up under a blanket of garlicky mashed is a lentil-chard filling that totally hits the spot. But wait, there’s more: Your hunk o’ pie gets extra love with a sultry caramelized onion gravy.

Kitchen notes: Although this is a four-pot affair, it need not feel like a three-ring circus. First item of business: Get the lentils on the stove. While they’re simmering, work on the onion gravy. While the gravy simmers, boil the potatoes for the mashed topping. Everything comes together in a pie plate.

1 cup wine-braised lentils (details follow)
1 1/2 cups onion gravy (details follow)
2 pounds medium-size potatoes
(4 to 5 potatoes; my favorites are Yukon Gold or Yellow Finn), washed, trimmed/peeled as needed, and cut into quarters
2 teaspoons salt
3 cloves garlic, peeled but left whole
5 tablespoons olive oil
Ground black pepper
3 to 4 cups chard (from 1 bunch), washed, stemmed, and chopped finely into “ribbons”
1 clove garlic, chopped roughly
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Here’s What You Do

  1. Grease a 9-inch pie plate.

  2. Fill a medium-size saucepan with 4 cups of water, and add the potatoes and salt. The water should just barely cover the potatoes. This is important.

  3. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the whole garlic. Return the lid and cook until fork tender, about 30 minutes.

  4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

  5. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer the potatoes and garlic to a large mixing bowl and mash with a hand masher. Stir in the reserved cooking liquid as necessary to moisten the potatoes. Add 3 tablespoons of the olive oil and stir in vigorously with a wooden spoon. Taste for salt, pepper, and texture and season and stir accordingly; mashed potatoes should be smooth and well seasoned.

  6. In a large skillet, heat the remaining olive oil over medium heat and cook the chard with the chopped garlic, until wilted, 3 to 5 minutes, regularly tossing with tongs to cook evenly. Stir in the nutmeg and season with more salt to taste, if needed. Transfer to a medium-size bowl.

  7. Portion out 1 cup of the lentils (the rest is cook’s treat) and stir into the chard until well combined.

  8. Assemble the pie: Transfer the chard mixture to the greased pie plate. Top with the mashed potatoes, and with a rubber spatula, smooth the mash so that it’s evenly distributed and completely covers the surface. Top off with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

  9. Place the dish in the oven and heat through, 20 to 25 minutes. During the final 2 minutes of cooking, set the oven to the broil setting to brown the cheesy-mashed top.

  10. Remove from the oven, slice into wedges, and eat hot with a ladleful of onion gravy.

Wine-Braised Lentils

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1/2 cup onion, diced
1/4 cup carrot, peeled and diced
1 sprig fresh thyme, or
1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 cup dried brown or green lentils, rinsed (the smaller French lentilles du Puy, with a more refined texture, are my preference, but they’re not always available. Use what you can find in your local market.)
2 tablespoons red wine you enjoy drinking
3/4 to 1 cup water
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon salt

Here’s What You Do

  1. In a small saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat and add the onion, carrot, and thyme. Cook for about 5 minutes, until slightly softened.

  2. Add the lentils and stir to coat. Add the red wine (if using) and bring to a lively simmer. The wine will reduce a bit.

  3. Add 3/4 cup of the water, return to a lively simmer, then lower the heat, cover and cook until fork tender, about 40 minutes.

  4. Check and add a little extra water if need be, to keep the lentils from drying out completely. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon of the salt, taste, and add the remaining salt, if needed.

Makes 1 1/2 cups. If you love these lentils, amounts may be doubled for a big pot that will keep for days and pair up seamlessly with your favorite grain.

Onion Gravy

3 tablespoons butter
2 cups onions, sliced thinly into half-moons
1 or 2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 cups water
1 tablespoon cornstarch dissolved in 1 tablespoon water
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pinch of sugar
1 teaspoon soy sauce

Here’s What You Do

  1. In a deep skillet, melt the butter over medium heat and add the onions and thyme. With tongs, toss to coat the onions with the butter and cook over medium-low heat, until softened, reduced, and jam-like, about 25 minutes.

  2. Add the balsamic vinegar, stir, and cook for an additional 5 minutes.

  3. Add the water and bring to a lively simmer. Reduce by half, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cornstarch mixture and cook for an additional 5 minutes; the gravy will continue to reduce. Stir in the salt and sugar, and taste. Finish off with the soy sauce.

  4. Turn off the heat, cover, and gently reheat at a simmer, just before serving with pie.

All Hail the Kale Salad

(Courtesy Tracye McQuirter and Lawrence Hill Books; From “By Any Greens Necessary”)


2-3 bunches curly kale, chopped or torn into small pieces
1 medium red onion, chopped
5 cloves of garlic, chopped
3-4 TB olive oil
2-3 TB Bragg Liquid Aminos
2 TB nutritional yeast
Cayenne pepper to taste

  1. Place the kale in a large bowl and pour the olive oil over it. Toss with salad tongs to make sure all leaves are coated.

  2. Add in the rest of the ingredients and toss well.

  3. If possible, let marinate at room temperature for about 15-30 minutes before serving. Makes 6-8 servings.

Apple Crumb Pie

Crumb Pie Crust:

2 cups dry almonds or pecans, unroasted and unsalted
1 tsp sea salt 8 medjool dates, pitted


2 medjool dates, pitted
2 small oranges, peeled and sliced
1 tsp of water (or more, as needed)

5 apples, thinly sliced
1 TB cinnamon

  1. Crust: Pulse nuts, sea salt, and dates in food processor until a crumbly mixture is formed. Set aside.

  2. Syrup: Blend oranges and dates in blender. Add water as needed.

  3. Filling: Stir chopped apples with syrup and cinnamon. Spoon the filling into pie crust.

  4. Sprinkle crust on top of apple filling and serve. Makes 8 – 10 servings.


  • 13:06:39

    MS. DIANE VOGELFrom WAMU 88.5 at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your community with the world. I'm Diane Vogel sitting in for Kojo. This hour on the show, it's the one American holiday that puts food and family front and center, Thanksgiving. A symphony of proteins and vegetables, gravies and side dishes. In the mind of most Americans, Thanksgiving is synonymous with turkey day. The roasted bird is the virtuoso performer. This takes center stage. The veggie's are a humble chorus.

  • 13:07:26

    MS. DIANE VOGELBut across the United States, families are reversing these roles, bringing vegetables front and center. And this is happening in houses that aren't belonging to vegetarians. Sure, vegetarians are doing it, but so are omnivores. And a lot of people agree that vegetables deserve a lot more respect than they get right now, especially at Thanksgiving time. After all, the holiday began as a celebration of the autumn bounty, the harvest. And all those delicious root vegetables and all those things that last all winter long, we're supposed to be celebrating them.

  • 13:08:03

    MS. DIANE VOGELThe squash, the beets, the brussel sprouts, kale, carrots, turnips, parsnips. All right, all right. I can see some people starting to make faces already. But don’t worry. We're guaranteeing that carnivores are not left out of this discussion. In fact, joining us to -- joining us for this inspired conversation about a veggie-centered Thanksgiving are three guests, all of whom have experience with meat in their lives and many of whom continue to happily say that they are carnivores and meat eaters.

  • 13:08:38

    MS. DIANE VOGELThe first, though, is Tracye McQuirter. Tracye McQuirter is the author of "By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Look Phat." That's P-H-A-T. Tracye is here in studio with us. Thanks for being here, Tracye.

  • 13:08:58

    MS. TRACYE MCQUIRTERThank you so much for having me.

  • 13:09:00

    VOGELAlso with us today are Kim O'Donnel. Kim O'Donnel writes "The Family Kitchen" column at USA Today and she's the author of, "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour." She's joining us from the studios of KUOW in Seattle, Wash. Thanks for being here, Kim.

  • 13:09:23

    MS. KIM O'DONNELHappy to be here. Greetings from Seattle.

  • 13:09:25

    VOGELThanks so much. And if her name sounds familiar to a lot of people here, it's because Kim wrote for the Washington Post for more than a decade. And she used to write the "What's Cooking" blog for, right, Kim?

  • 13:09:38


  • 13:09:39

    VOGELTerrific. So we welcome you back home.

  • 13:09:42

    O'DONNELThank you so much.

  • 13:09:43

    VOGELAlso with us, joining us from the studios of WWFM in West Windsor, N.J. is Tara Parker Pope. Tara writes the "Well Blog" for the and this month, Tara dove deep -- or I should say this. Recently, Tara dove very deep into vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving. Thanks very much for joining us today, Tara.

  • 13:10:07

    MS. TARA PARKER POPEThanks for having me. It's a great topic.

  • 13:10:09

    VOGELGreat. Well, one of the things I wanted to start with was this attitude that, you know, people -- when you start talking about vegetarians or vegans or cooking vegetables, there are certainly some people who get very excited and who love the idea of vegetable-centered cooking. But mostly, that's preaching to the choir. These folks will go out and find ways to make vegetables taste good. Most of the people that you have to convince are the omnivores, the people who love their meat, love their fish, love their chicken and also, you know, kind of enjoy their broccoli occasionally or like their potatoes, but they're not ringing bells for it.

  • 13:10:45

    VOGELI guess I'd like to ask each of you about your initial experience with the idea of vegetable-centered eating. And I want to start with you Tracye. I mean, you -- my understanding is that you had a really negative vegetable experience when you were in the 7th grade.

  • 13:11:03

    MCQUIRTERI did. I am from D.C., native Washingtonian, and I attended Sidwell Friend School from 3rd through 12th grades. And then, 7th grade my -- two of my three teachers wanted to have vegetarian food for our annual class camping trip. And I thought this was a horrible idea. It was the first time I'd heard of vegetarian food that I can remember. So I wrote a petition and tried to get my classmates to sign it so that we would not have to have this horrible food for our class camping trip.

  • 13:11:33

    MCQUIRTERBut I was overruled and we had peanut butter and honey sandwiches on whole wheat bread and granola and fruit juice and I just thought it was crazy. And fast forward seven years and I'm a sophomore at Amherst College and we brought Dick Gregory to campus and he surprised us by speaking about vegetarianism and that was what did it for me, hearing that unexpected lecture.

  • 13:11:57

    VOGELAnd we'll find out -- you'll tell us a bit more later. But I understand that not only have you been a vegan for nearly two decades or a bit over two decades, but so is your Mom who is in her seventh or eighth decade?

  • 13:12:09

    MCQUIRTERShe's 74.

  • 13:12:10

    VOGELYeah, in her eighth decade. And so is your sister and you've got some nieces being raised as vegans and so on so we'll come back to that momentarily. I understand, Kim, that you similarly have a vegetable, meat story that you were, as you say, raised with a steak bone as a teething ring.

  • 13:12:30

    O'DONNELYeah, my Mom used to give me t-bones as teething rings and that's kind of how life began. I didn't really know anything else. There's actually a black and white Polaroid of me in the intro of my books sitting in the high chair, circa 1967, elbows loaded up with grease, very pleased with myself. And that sort of set the course of things. Meat was what we had for breakfast and lunch and dinner. And there were very few vegetables hanging out and applesauce was considered a vegetable in the family.

  • 13:13:09

    O'DONNELAnd I didn't have fresh broccoli until I was about 18. And this is kind of how it was. But, you know, my father and his mother died at very young ages in the early '80s and it was -- they died of heart attacks and it was health related and it was definitely linked to the diet in our family.

  • 13:13:29

    VOGELWell, that -- thank you, Kim. We look forward...

  • 13:13:31


  • 13:13:31 the conversation. And Tara -- I understand, Tara Parker Pope, I understand that you, yourself -- well, I'm not sure, but you can tell me your first experience with veganism or vegetarianism. But I think the most amusing thing I read was that you once served an all vegan Thanksgiving to a bunch of meat eaters and nobody knew and nobody complained or something like that.

  • 13:13:57

    POPEWell, I think what you're referring to is last year where I had made the decision to just not eat. I don't really enjoy turkey. I don't like it. And it never really made sense to me why I was, you know, eating this food when there's all this other fabulous food on the Thanksgiving table. And I made the decision not to have turkey and a good friend of mine was hosting Thanksgiving and she knew that. And she had a few other vegetarians at the table, but she had meat eaters.

  • 13:14:20

    POPEBut what was interesting is, she was so motivated to create, you know, fantastic non-meat dishes that everybody at the table just devoured the other foods and the turkey was sort of forgotten. And I thought it was an important lesson because the truth is, is that we all really -- the best part of Thanksgiving is the family and the conversation and, you know, enjoying the meal. And what we tend to get excited about is, wow, this is a terrific green bean dish, or, oh, the way you cook the brussel sprouts. You know, people ooh and ah over the turkey as it comes out.

  • 13:14:48

    POPEIt's quite -- but it's more really the center piece for the table. It's more of an aesthetic thing that people appreciate, but what they really love are all these other dishes. And, you know, last year, I was sort of inspired to create this vegetarian Thanksgiving host. Not to, you know, not to suggest people give up turkey if that's not their choice, but to really celebrate vegetables and celebrate the fall harvest because that is really what Thanksgiving is about. And it's been such a food journey and a cooking journey for me and for the readers. And I think if you devote yourself to this concept of celebrating vegetables at the Thanksgiving table that your cooking gets very creative.

  • 13:15:24

    POPEAnd you sort of very slowly discover that the foods that you love and really have fun making tend to be plant-based. And that, you know, I went to the grocery store the other day 'cause I was making a bunch of these dishes and I left the grocery store with one package of chicken and everything else was produce and non-meat. And I thought that was pretty tremendous. That, you know, that -- a big shopping trip and I had very little meat in my cart. And that wasn't an ethical decision. It wasn't because I had decided to be vegetarian or -- you know, it was just because that's what I wanted to eat. And that was a -- definitely a change from a few years ago. And, I think, it's really the result of focusing on the creativity that you have when you cook vegetarian.

  • 13:16:00

    VOGELThanks, Tara. Well, I'm looking forward to this conversation with all of you and with our audience as well. You can join the conversation, make a suggestion about your favorite way to make a side dish into a center piece. What vegetable, you know, you feel gets better with roasting. I know, for myself, I went somewhere and I thought something was mashed potatoes and I dug right in and it turned out to be pureed roasted cauliflower. Now, once I got over the shock that I wasn't eating mashed potatoes, I actually really enjoyed the pureed roasted cauliflower. But that's the kind of thing that I think it would've never occurred to me to do had I not been served it at somebody else's house.

  • 13:16:48

    VOGELYou can join us, make your suggestions for the best ways to treat your vegetables and maybe the best ways to introduce die-hard meat lovers to a new taste sensation. Call us now at 1-800-433-8850. 1-800-433-8850 or e-mail us at You can also join us online at our website,, to leave a comment or on Facebook. And I will tell you you'll definitely want to be logging on after the show, during the show or after because we've got recipes up there. We'll get to talk about some of them on air today, but certainly not all of them. So be sure to check out That was our e-mail, sorry. Be sure to check out

  • 13:17:41

    VOGELAnyway, I think when we talk about vegetables, the things that people fear is soggy greens. You know, collard greens that have been cooked beyond their life expectancy, say, mushy peas. We all go back to that feeling of, you know, what the kitchen -- what the cafeteria at school used to pass off as peas. And the Japanese have something that I understand is called Umami. And it seems to address one of these concerns of, like, the fact that whenever we eat, we have to be sated. And some people feel like mushy peas and soggy greens are never going to sate them.

  • 13:18:20

    VOGELWhat for you is the key to this Umami, this idea of how you satisfied yourself in a vegetarian dish?

  • 13:18:30

    MCQUIRTERWell, I think, it's -- I'm familiar with the concept and I think it's a wonderful one. And when you -- it's beyond dark leafy greens or cruciferous vegetables. It's the whole bounty of plant-based foods, which includes the hundreds of beans and nuts and lentils and split peas, the whole grains and fruits and vegetables, obviously, all of these foods that we know already are so good for us. And when eat foods from these four food groups, you have the world in front of you. So it's actually very easy, you know. I brought in, for you and the crew today, some spicy kale salad, Mediterranean curry chick peas, olive basil garlic bread and an apple crumb pie.

  • 13:19:22

    MCQUIRTERAnd hopefully you will be sated. And, you know, well...

  • 13:19:26

    VOGELIt certainly looks like an impressive dish and I promise to taste test it quietly through the hour.

  • 13:19:31

    MCQUIRTERGood, good.

  • 13:19:33

    VOGELYou said that there were four primary food types. You said pea -- lentils, what -- give me those four types again.

  • 13:19:40

    MCQUIRTERWell, they do -- they're legumes, which are beans and nuts and split peas and lentils and they're fruits and vegetables and grains and whole grains in particular.

  • 13:19:52

    VOGELAnd that's a good way to think about it as you go about planning your meal, that those four groups should be represented. You shouldn't have all vegetables or all fruit based dishes. Having a representation across the board will help sate the appetite.

  • 13:20:07

    MCQUIRTERAbsolutely. Kim, I understand that you are also a fan of this idea and your shepherd's pie...

  • 13:20:16


  • 13:20:16

    VOGEL...which I think most of us know is usually made with ground beef.

  • 13:20:19


  • 13:20:20

    VOGELSo I understand your shepherd's pie has won rave reviews from everyone who's tried it. Tell us about it and tell us about how the umami, the mouth feel, works for that.

  • 13:20:30

    O'DONNELWell, I would say first that umami refers -- it's loosely translated as savoriness. So, you know, for all of us who enjoy meat today or once did, the experience that we have in the mouth, it sort of coats everything. It sort of lingers with it. You know, you could sort of compare it to the finish that you experience when you drink a glass of wine. And it is all encompassing and that is something that we don't really think about consciously when we're eating meat, but it happens. It's also the chew. So when I look at making delicious meatless food, I think about what kinds of ingredients and what is the texture that's going -- that's sort of putting those two things together.

  • 13:21:58

    O'DONNELSo there are certain ingredients that will mimic this umami experience. One of them being soy sauce, another being mushrooms, another being smoked paprika, which is, like, my all-time favorite spice, smoked salts, chipotle chilies and adobo sauce, parmigiano-reggiano or other aged cheeses. And so these ingredients are really key to sort of amping up the flavor profile and that sort of mouth-coating experience that we love when we tear into a piece of meat. And then the texture, I think, is really key when you're making meatless food. So you've got to -- instead of, like, the mono puree, let's look at how we can add crunch or contrast colors to make it exciting. Not only to look at, but it's exciting when it's on your tongue.

  • 13:22:01

    O'DONNELSo with the shepherd's pie, I use lentils, which to me are like the -- sort of on par with the chickpeas in the legume family. They sort of work together, hand in hand. They are the meat, in my mind, of beans and legumes. And so the lentils are mixed with chard and garlic and onions and a little red wine and they're in a pie plate just like you would do with a regular old shepherd's pie. And the top has mashed potato. It's mashed with roasted garlic, which also gives great umami.

  • 13:22:52


  • 13:22:54

    O'DONNELAnd there's no dairy in the mashed because I'm using the cooking water to mash them. So these are really simple things. They're things that are readily available in the store. You've been whizzing by them all this time. There's nothing super fancy here. It's just a different way of looking at maybe the old classics.

  • 13:23:14

    VOGELWell, I think that that's really important. But you've raised a couple of issues within that that I think we should just take care of for everyone to be on the same page.

  • 13:23:23


  • 13:23:26

    VOGELWhen we talk about beans these days, most people think of canned beans because we don't think about soaking beans overnight anymore...

  • 13:23:35


  • 13:23:35

    VOGEL...and things like that. I guess some people still do, but very few of us have that ability to -- or that desire to plan ahead quite so far. So I wonder if we could address just whether or not you use -- how you use lentils, some basics about the different kinds of lentils, which you say are the meat of this discussion.

  • 13:23:53


  • 13:23:54

    VOGELAnd then, when you're done, we'll take a short break, we'll come back with some questions and continue the conversation. So just tell us a little bit more about the lentil and the beans and how you deal with it.

  • 13:24:04

    O'DONNELWell, lentils are a great gateway for meat eaters because they don't require any soaking. I mean, how awesome is that? So you don't have to soak. You can rinse them off, you can put them in a sauce pan, cover them with a, you know, just barely cover them with water. And green lentils, they're sometime -- they're like a green -- a brown or khaki color. They look like coins. They can cook in about 40 minutes. There are also red lentils that are kind of a salmon pink when they're uncooked. And when they are cooked and they practically self-puree, turn into like a marigold color. I find that those cook a little bit more quickly, about 35 minutes. Again, none of the soaking.

  • 13:24:48

    O'DONNELThere's also French lentils, lentil de puy, and they are smaller and almost --they're more brown green than the khaki color that I was referring to. And they actually have a more refined texture. I find those a little less meaty. They're almost -- they're much more delicate and they will also cook in about 40-ish minutes. Those three types of lentils are workhorses in my pantry and I just love them because at the end of the day, I don't have to think about, oh, have I soaked my beans? I mean, I think that one of the problems is, you know, lentils get such short shrift in this country. They're revered in almost every other cuisine around the world. And I think the problem is is that we've been eating them out of a can. And have you ever had lentils out of a can? They're nasty.

  • 13:25:36


  • 13:25:39

    O'DONNELYou know, and it's so easy, you know, you got the lentils on the stove and you can do all the other things that you do when you get home from work. They can be cooking while you're taking care of the other part of the meal or just settling in from your long day. So I really -- I go to lentils a lot and doesn't mean to say that I don't use canned beans, because I do from time to time, particularly chickpeas. But the lentils, I would never use out of a can because the, you know, the dried ones are so much better.

  • 13:26:08

    VOGELWell, thanks. That's very helpful.

  • 13:26:11


  • 13:26:12

    VOGELAnd you've been listening -- that's Kim O'Donnel. She writes the "Family Kitchen" Column at USA Today and the -- she's the author of "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour." Her shepherd's pie recipe is posted at along -- we're also talking with Tracye McQuirter, the author of "By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Woman Who Want to Eat Great, eat -- Get Healthy, Lose Weight, and Look Phat." P-H-A-T. And Tara Parker Pope, the author of the "Well Blog" at, which this month dove deep into exploring vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving. And as she said, she also hosted her own vegan Thanksgiving last year.

  • 13:26:57

    VOGELI'm Diane Vogel sitting in on "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." You can join the conversation by calling 1-800-433-8850. 1-800-433-8850 or sending an e-mail to Do you have a favorite vegetable that other people don't appreciate that you do or perhaps you have a way of preparing something or you eat something raw that other people cook? Pick up the phone and tell us about it, 1-800-433-8850. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Diane Vogel.

  • 13:29:10

    VOGELWelcome back. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show, sitting in for Kojo. We're talking today about veggie-centered Thanksgiving ideas. These are good for Thanksgiving, but they're also good every day of the week around the year. Our guests today are Tracye McQuirter, the author of "By Any Greens Necessary," Tara Parker Pope, the author of the "Well Blog" at and Kim O'Donnel who writes the "Family Kitchen" column at USA Today and who recently wrote "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook." I wanted to go back for a moment and just talk to--specifically about a few vegetables that maybe don't get their due. And I believe -- Tara, was it you who didn't know what a parsnip looked like?

  • 13:30:00

    POPEYou know, I was at the grocery store and I wanted to make one of the dishes in our series. It was an apple and parsnips soup. And I was looking around the grocery store and I could not find parsnips. And I kind of thought I knew what it looked like, but I thought, have I ever actually cooked with a parsnip and do I really know what this looks like? And I realize I don't think I've ever prepared it. And I actually asked somebody working in the produce section and he guided me.

  • 13:30:25

    POPEAnd as soon as I saw it, I recognized it, but I realized -- I thought, I don't think I've ever cooked with this food. And so I went home that night and, you know, peeled it and cut it up. And my daughter came into the kitchen and took a bite and really liked it. And, you know, we made the soup and we had a -- it was a great meal that night. We had an apple and parsnip soup and we had a flatbread with a white bean garlic puree that we used instead of a red tomato sauce and then we added some squash and some apples and some caramelized onions. And it was a fantastic dinner. No meat. Like I said, not by intention, just because these were the dishes we wanted to eat and, you know, my daughter loved them.

  • 13:30:59

    POPEAnd it was a lot of fun, but I thought, huh, the parsnip, you know, I have another dish on the series from the chef of 11 Madison park, which is a very celebrated restaurant in New York. And he was named -- Daniel Humm was named the best chef of 2010 by the James Beard Foundation. And he gave me a recipe of pureed parsnip instead of mashed potatoes and you mentioned that. And you can do this with celery root, you can do it with cauliflower, you know, you can take another root vegetable and cook it and, you know, mash it and substitute it and you get a lot more flavor without...

  • 13:31:33


  • 13:31:33

    POPE...needing all the extra stuff, without needing the butter and all the other -- and so, yeah, the parsnip is a new vegetable in my repertoire. I'm quite excited about it.

  • 13:31:41

    VOGELI'm going to stop you for a moment, though, and I'm going to say you still haven't told us what it looks like. I happen to know, but I'll...

  • 13:31:45


  • 13:31:46

    VOGEL...let you describe it to those who haven't seen a parsnip.

  • 13:31:48

    POPEWell, it's kind of -- wouldn't you say like a giant white carrot?

  • 13:31:52

    VOGELYes, it's a giant white carrot.

  • 13:31:52

    POPEIt sort of looks like a carrot.

  • 13:31:53


  • 13:31:53

    POPEYeah, quite thick. And it's actually -- I learned it's the bottom of parsley, which I did not know. I learned that from a chef. And so the top, when you're buying parsley, you're buying the top of a parsnip. And so what this chef suggested is that -- you know, the perfect dish, in his mind, is to use the whole food. So you mash your parsnips and then you garnish it with the parsley from the top of the parsnip.

  • 13:32:13

    VOGELNow, you have made my day 'cause I love learning little facts like that, that parsnip is the root and the parsley is what comes up above the ground. That's kind of like coriander and cilantro, right? I'm going to ask you, Tracye, is there a vegetable that you think doesn't get its due, that you'd like to tell us about, one of your favorites?

  • 13:32:35

    MCQUIRTERWell, one of my favorite vegetables is kale and I make -- this is probably my signature dish now. And when I take it to potlucks and, you know, or have -- just make it, take it to family gatherings, people love this dish. And a lot of people tell me that they've never eaten kale raw or they just haven't had kale, period. And kale is such a powerhouse vegetable. It is so healthy for you, so loaded with vitamin K. It has iron. It has calcium. So, so good for you. And I just think that this is something that should be on rotation during the week for everyone. And it's so easy to do. And another one I want to...

  • 13:33:24

    VOGELWait. Before we move off kale...

  • 13:33:25


  • 13:33:25

    VOGEL...let me ask you, 'cause we do have posted on our website at

  • 13:33:30


  • 13:33:30

    VOGEL...your kale salad recipe.

  • 13:33:31


  • 13:33:32

    VOGELIf you can tell us just a little bit about it and in that time period, I'll tell everyone that I'm going to go take a couple more fork-fulls of it because it is absolutely delicious.

  • 13:33:41

    MCQUIRTERThank you.

  • 13:33:41

    VOGELGive us a little idea about what your kale salad recipe is and whether there are any other greens...

  • 13:33:47


  • 13:33:47

    VOGEL...that could substitute for this. Because if for some reason you don't like kale, can you use Swiss chard or spinach...

  • 13:33:53


  • 13:33:54 its place.

  • 13:33:54

    MCQUIRTERYeah, any dark leafy green, depending on how bitter you want to go -- you can use Swiss chard, you can use spinach, you can use -- even use collards if they're chopped very finely. And with this kale salad, I use the green curly kale and small red onion. I use about three cloves of garlic. I used an ingredient called nutritional yeast. It has a kind of funky sounding name, but it's actually very good, loaded with vitamins and other nutrients. And it kind of gives it a parmigiany cheese flavor. And I use something called Bragg Liquid Aminos, which is a healthier version of soy sauce. And that actually breaks down the green so that it looks like you sautéed it, but it's actually raw. Then I add a dash of cayenne pepper to make it spicy. And it really is something that can be substituted for other greens. Dandelions are favorites of mine and people don't eat enough dandelion. They're so good for you.

  • 13:34:59

    VOGELVery nice. Well, I will say...

  • 13:35:00

    O'DONNELTracye, what's your...

  • 13:35:00

    VOGEL...having tasted it...

  • 13:35:03

    O'DONNELThis is Kim. What's your favorite type of kale?

  • 13:35:05

    MCQUIRTERActually, my favorite -- I think this is my favorite, but I rotate them.

  • 13:35:11

    VOGELIs it curly kale?

  • 13:35:12

    MCQUIRTERThe green curly kale.

  • 13:35:14


  • 13:35:14

    MCQUIRTERBut then there's red and there's lacinato. So, you know, I actually like to mix them together. But when I take them out and I'm -- and I feel like I may be introducing kale, I use -- I usually bring this green curly kale because it's the milder of those.

  • 13:35:34


  • 13:35:34

    VOGELAnd, Kim, I know you've been thinking and writing about meatless Mondays for a number of years now. And I'm guessing that while you've been doing your meatless Monday campaign, along with many other people started here at John's Hopkins. But while you've been doing it, you've probably come across some favorite unusual vegetables as well. Can you give us -- which is your one or two vegetables that you think are under-appreciated?

  • 13:36:04

    O'DONNELWell, I'm with Tracye. I am a big fan of kale. And my favorite, that's why I was asking her, is the dinosaur kale, also known as lacinato, which is that dark green, almost black variety that looks like the front of a tuxedo shirt. And I make kale chips from that and I throw it into my mashed potatoes or my version of colcannon. But I also think that squash is -- winter squash trips people up because as beautiful as it looks from afar, people are really afraid of it.

  • 13:36:39


  • 13:36:39

    O'DONNELAnd so, you know, how in the world am I going to cut through this thing? And I would say the easiest one to cut through is the delicata, which is the oblong-shaped winter squash that sometimes have stripes on it. And it's got a really thin skin so you can actually cut right through it. I like to do it in rings and roast it for like 20 minutes, 400 degrees. And you can cut it. And the skin you can eat because it's really thin. And you can cut with a knife so it feels quite meaty. And I'll do that with white beans and also some of my favorite kale, dynamite weeknight dinner. But also kabocha squash and people -- I just actually did a demo here in Seattle at a farmer's market and I said to folks, say, how do you open this? Do you have any thoughts on how to cut this thing, get it going?

  • 13:37:33

    VOGELWhat does a kabocha squash look like, for those of us who have no idea what a kabocha squash is?

  • 13:37:35

    O'DONNELOkay. There's two different colors. There's one that is like a green-gray color. It's kind of bulbous. It's not Turbanny so you'll sometimes see turban squash. This has like a little hat on top. This one just -- it looks kind of gangly. It's usually round, kind of pumpkiny. So there's the orange version, which is called sunshine kabocha and then there's the gray-green variety. The reason why I love the kabocha, once you get it open, is that the texture is velvety. And it is actually a bit meaty. So I'll braise it in gingery broth with garlic and chilies. I don't even use stock. I use water. I cover it. It sort of cooks down. It cooks in two-inch chunks of squash. It cooks in like 15 or 20 minutes so rice or another grain can be cooking at the same time. I mean, it's -- and the house smells amazing. And it's squash.

  • 13:38:43


  • 13:38:43

    O'DONNELYou know, that's -- to me, it's like wonderful, delicious food first, meatless second. You know, if you can get that dynamite, you know, over-the-top flavor, you do not miss the meat at all. And my little trick for opening up one of those squashes is to actually crouch down close to the floor and hit it on the floor a few times. Just go bam, bam. And then, there's something about it. It's almost like that jar opener experience where it releases some pressure and then it's much easier to whack your knife into the squash.

  • 13:39:15

    VOGELThat's a great tip, Kim. Thank you so much. Kim O'Donnel.

  • 13:39:17

    O'DONNELMy pleasure.

  • 13:39:19

    VOGELKim writes the "Family Kitchen" Column and USA Today and is the author of "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook." Also with us are Tracye McQuirter, author of "By Any Greens Necessary," and Tara Parker Pope, who writes the "Well Blog" at I'm going to go to Margaret and I wonder, Margaret might want to challenge you, Kim, on your last statement, which was that you won't miss the meat. Margaret, can you hear us? You're on the air.

  • 13:39:46

    MARGARETI don't know that they'll ever take me.

  • 13:39:52

    VOGELWho is they in this case?

  • 13:39:53

    MARGARETI wanted to tell you why.

  • 13:39:57

    VOGELAll right. Can you hear me, Margaret? You're on the air.

  • 13:40:01

    MARGARETOh, good. Well, there are two things. First of all, she should check her English grammar. A turnip or a lentil isn't healthy, it's healthful, which means it gives health to us.

  • 13:40:16


  • 13:40:16

    MARGARETSo a person can be healthy or unhealthy, but the thing you eat is either healthful, giving you health, or unhealthful. The other thing is all those vegan dishes sound really delicious, but turkey is Thanksgiving to me and I would like the turkey also with the cranberry sauce and all the trimmings.

  • 13:40:41

    VOGELAnd I don’t think anybody is suggesting that it go completely away. At least Kim and Tara, I understand you are both still meat eaters, both still omnivores who eat everything. Tracy here has been a vegan for 20 years. But Margaret...

  • 13:40:59

    O'DONNELCan I add something to that?

  • 13:41:00


  • 13:41:03

    POPEI just wanted to make the point that I think that that's a really important point because I don't think we want to alienate meat eaters and think, well, this is not for me. This is about the celebrating the side dishes and celebrating the vegetables. I was talking to our food writer today, Mark Bittman, and the term he likes is a conscious omnivore. You know, we're eating what we want any time we want, but we just want to think about the food we're putting in our mouths.

  • 13:41:21

    POPEAnd I think the more you celebrate vegetables, the more creative you get with cooking. And what you end up doing is that slice of turkey becomes less important and a small -- it's still on your plate for sure, if that's what you enjoy, but it's not necessarily the reason for, you know, for eating the meal. And you're celebrating more the harvest and the bounty. And yes, the turkey is there, but all these other wonderful foods are there, too.

  • 13:41:41

    POPESo I think it's important not to set this up at meat versus no meat because what happens if you're conscious about the food choices you make, you do end up naturally eating less meat because that's your choice and that's what you prefer. It's better for your body, better for the environment, but there's still room in everybody's diet, if that's your choice, you know, for conscious eating of meat. So I don't think anybody's saying that, you know, you definitely should not do that, if that's not how you choose to eat.

  • 13:42:06

    VOGELThanks, Margaret, for that call. We'll be coming back to the telephones in a few moments after we take a short break. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show sitting in for Kojo. We're talking about veggie-centered cooking, not necessarily absolute banning of anything, but giving veggies their rightful place in the center of our meal at the harvest time. And we hope you'll join the conversation at 1-800-433-8850 or e-mail us at You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show."

  • 13:44:18

    VOGELWelcome back. You're listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show" on WAMU 88.5. I'm Diane Vogel, managing producer of the show sitting in for Kojo. And we're talking today about veggie-centered cooking and ideas for Thanksgiving with Tracye McQuirter, Tara Parker Pope and Kim O'Donnel. And I wanted to read you just one or two of the e-mails we've received so far and then continue on the conversation.

  • 13:44:46

    VOGELKeith in Silver Spring said, "I have to write about rutabagas. Everyone should try mashed rutabaga. It's easy to prepare, has a mild sweet flavor of its own, but it also takes on added flavors from spices. I recommend trying cloves, ginger, anis or cardamom. And it also has a wonderful lightness of flavor if you roast it and mash into regular mashed potatoes." Thanks for those ideas, Keith.

  • 13:45:16

    VOGELAnd we also have a question about beets posted on our website. So I'm going to ask you for the best way to prepare beets or your favorite way to prepare beets. I know our commenter on our website says, "I never do anything more than boil them and serve them with butter, but doing something else would be great." So I'll start with you, Tracye, do you have a beet recipe or a place to go with that?

  • 13:45:40

    MCQUIRTERI like to add beets into my drinks in the morning, my green drinks. I make fruit and vegetable smoothies every morning. And I'm not a beet lover and so that is the way -- and beets are so, so nutritious. That's the way that I get them in. I add beet roots into, you know, slice them and add pieces into my smoothie in the morning.

  • 13:46:05

    MCQUIRTERBut the greens themselves, I love and I sauté those in a little bit of olive oil and add some pine nuts and some sundried tomatoes with some garlic and they are delicious. They cook very quickly. So that's the way that I like to eat the beets and the beet greens.

  • 13:46:23

    VOGELTara or Kim, do you have a favorite beet recipe? And if not -- I was going to say if not, Tara, I know that your daughter responded very well to the brussel sprout recipe, also a vegetable that is not everyone's favorite, but your daughter seemed to love.

  • 13:46:45

    POPEYeah. And I think actually the key there is the same. I think with beets -- we have a little bit of an obsession with beets on the "Well Blog. " It's sort of a funny debate because people either love them or hate them. They are a great healthful food. But the thing about -- what I would say is that I think, for me, what I've discovered is the joys of roasting vegetables in the oven and not necessarily boiling.

  • 13:47:01

    POPEYou know, when you cut up root vegetables and put them in a pan with a little olive oil, cook them up, they taste delicious. I mean, they're sweet and just absolutely incredible. And it's the same with brussel sprouts. You know, when you really cut up brussel sprouts and you cook them the right way -- you know, boiling vegetables tends to just take a lot of the flavor out.

  • 13:47:16

    POPEAnd so I think that you need to kind of make friends with your roasting pan and look at some different ways to roast vegetables. Roasted cauliflower. Alice Waters gave me a fabulous recipe once where you slice the cauliflower sort of in cross sections. Not in florets, but you cut it flat and you put a little olive oil and you roast that for 20 minutes and it's like candy. It's incredible. And again, my kid loves these foods and she's a normal kid, you know.

  • 13:47:39

    POPEShe wants foods that, you know, are going, you know, hit the right, you know, the right taste buds and she doesn't want to eat boiled vegetables. But roasting your vegetables, roasting beets, root vegetables, I think that for me -- I'm not a chef. I'm not really a cook. I'm just a mom who, you know, wants to feed my kid healthful foods so, you know, Kim, I'm interested in what you think about beets and how to cook them.

  • 13:47:59

    O'DONNELI'm not a huge fan, Tara, of beets. But I have found a few ways to get them in. Like Tracye, I like to sauté the greens as well. They're killer. But I can do -- I think the thing for me with beets is the texture. So if I can get them sliced super thin and then cooked in a skillet even, um, with the greens and some onions and some oregano, I'm good to go.

  • 13:48:29

    O'DONNELI also will eat them roasted, and, you know, it brings to mind -- what you're talking about with roasting vegetables, I actually think that roasted vegetables are the gateway for the more recalcitrant of meat eaters, in that, you know, they soften, they sweeten and they absorb seasonings a whole lot better. So, you know, who likes boiled broccoli or boiled beats like someone was mentioning. You know, they -- you're right.

  • 13:48:58

    O'DONNELThe flavor goes away. They're wet and slimy. The butter rolls right off. I mean, no wonder we're running for the hills when we talk about, you know, vegetables being cooked in water.

  • 13:49:12

    MCQUIRTERAnd my five year old -- I just wanted to add to that that my five-year-old niece loves roasted beets.

  • 13:49:16


  • 13:49:16

    MCQUIRTERAnd that's a new food for her. She pops them in her mouth like candy.

  • 13:49:21

    VOGELAnd I would agree with that. As somebody who roasts beets, that's really the only way I want to eat them. I will say the warning is that in the same way that the native Americans made their dyes for their clothing out of roasted -- out of beets, you have to be very careful when you're roasting beets because if you get some of the juices on light-colored countertops, you can run the risk of having a pink-oriented countertops or new pink kitchen towels, which I had right after I roasted my set of beets.

  • 13:49:55

    O'DONNELOne tip for that is to keep the skins on. That will actually minimize the bleeding.

  • 13:50:01

    VOGELGood to know.

  • 13:50:02

    O'DONNELSo you'll still have some on your hands, but they won't explode as much with that color if you keep the skins on.

  • 13:50:09

    VOGELGood to know. The roasted vegetables also, we should probably say, besides the fact that we have recipes at our website,, roasting vegetables for anybody who hasn't done it, is fairly simple. It's a 400 or 450 degree oven, put it out on a baking sheet and then basically some vegetables will be done in five minutes when they're soft to the fork, and some of them will take 20 minutes or 45 minutes, depending on the nature of the vegetable. But any other keys to roasting vegetables we need to know?

  • 13:50:42

    MCQUIRTERWell, I have a great sweet potato dish that my mom made. And you can actually cook them, and you cook them on top of the stove and then -- for the sweet potatoes and then you can put them in a pan and kind of broil them quickly and sprinkle some orange juice over it, maybe add some walnuts, and it makes -- and it has this nice creamy crunchy texture to it. It's really good.

  • 13:51:11

    VOGELAs we start looking towards Thanksgiving next week, I think one of the experiences that every vegetarian or vegetable-oriented person has had, there are probably two main experiences. One is that you go to Thanksgiving and everybody sort of -- you all of a sudden notice this odd gulf between you and the meat eaters perhaps. And everybody also starts to make fun of Tofurkey because it's a great brand name that has become almost a throw -- you know, some people love it.

  • 13:51:44

    VOGELBut it also has become almost synonymous in the same way that in the 1970s, you know, some sort of barley nut roast was what everybody thought of as what was vegetarian, you know, lentil nut roast. Tofurkey now becomes the go-to story line for what a vegetarian or a vegan-oriented Thanksgiving would be. I'm curious what each of you think of Tofurkey and meat substitutes in general. Can I start with Kim?

  • 13:52:10

    O'DONNELYeah, sure. I actually made a deliberate decision to not put any fake meat or meat analogs in my book because I find that, for the most part, they are highly processed and often are very high in sodium. And the gist of my book is to sort of help meat eaters take a break. And I feel like if you're going to do that one day off from meat, that perhaps we shouldn't pretend that we're eating meat.

  • 13:52:38

    O'DONNELThat, you know, again, like embracing plants and celebrating, you know, seasonal harvests as we work through the year. So I've had Tofurkey. I'm not wild about it. I feel there are just so many other options. And the way that I would look -- I actually really feel for vegetarians at Thanksgiving. I think that they get the short shrift. And I think that the hosts often just say, hey, you know, they can cobble together the sides and call it a day.

  • 13:53:11

    O'DONNELAnd I actually think that, you know, meat eaters are celebrating a turkey which, you know, it comes out all glistening and beautiful. And there's this main, you know, the centerpiece there and there's nothing for the meatless folks who also would like a centerpiece and a divine thing. And so why not have a meatless Thanksgiving or mixed company Thanksgiving and do it in courses. And start off with a soup that everybody can have and make it ceremonious and festive.

  • 13:53:43

    VOGELTracye, I know your family definitely has a vegan-celebrated Thanksgiving or at least a vegan-oriented Thanksgiving. If you can tell us the story of your family and how you guys do Thanksgiving and how you and your mom and your sister came to this.

  • 13:53:58

    MCQUIRTERWell, my family -- my extended family has been celebrating Thanksgiving together for about 50 years and we have a very large family here in the city. And so what we do is we come together -- it used to be on Thanksgiving day and now it's the Saturday before so it's actually going to be this Saturday. And we -- it's a potluck. So everyone is known for a particular dish and they bring that dish.

  • 13:54:25

    MCQUIRTERAnd when my middle sister -- I have an older sister. My middle sister, my mom and I became vegetarian and then vegan 20 plus years ago. We were kind of like the vegan ambassadors and we brought lots of vegan food to our Thanksgiving and we brought enough for everyone else to prove how good vegan food was. And over the years, we kind of got relaxed about it. We were teased so -- we were really teased about our food in the beginning.

  • 13:54:59

    MCQUIRTERBut over the years, over these 20 years, we've just become very relaxed about it. We bring our own food or we may go and buy food and bring it. It just depends on what we want to do. And our family members actually usually eat our food and they eat the meat and dairy-based dishes as well. It's a very relaxed gathering.

  • 13:55:20

    MCQUIRTERAnd what we found is that when we became relaxed about what we were eating and not trying to prove anything or be self-righteous, but just enjoying the food and the family and the fun, everyone else relaxed as well. And I have to mention also, that over the course of the 20 years, my mother in particular, she became vegetarian then vegan in her 50s. And she's from South Carolina so that's no small feat.

  • 13:55:45

    MCQUIRTERAnd she's now 74 and she has no health conditions at all and still has -- which I love to say, mom, I hope you're listening, her 37-36-37 inch figure. So over the course of time, you know, out of her 13 siblings who are still alive, she is the one who has no health conditions. And so the food that we eat and her vigorous exercising six days a week, has spoken for itself over the years.

  • 13:56:13

    MCQUIRTERAnd so, you know -- and now, of course, I have the "By Any Greens Necessary" book and am so excited that my relatives are reading it and asking -- getting excited about the foods that we eat all over again. So it really is not an issue for our family and it really does not need to be an issue, I think, for any family. It's all about the love and the fellowship that you have with your family and with your friends and the food, whether -- you know, food, it's a process.

  • 13:56:47

    MCQUIRTERIf you, you know, if you're eating -- if you want to explore more plant-based dishes, then by all means do that. If you want to -- it's all a stage. It's all a part of the process of getting more and more plant-based foods on your plate and hopefully to become vegan, if that's what you choose. But definitely everybody can start this Thanksgiving by adding more vegetables, more plant-based foods to their plate. And you will find that your family members will enjoy it.

  • 13:57:16

    VOGELAnd I'm so sorry to have to interrupt the discussion here. It's amazing how fast an hour in radio passes us by when we have an interesting topic and three great guests. I'll encourage everyone to go to the website at We've been talking about veggie-centered ideas with Tracye McQuirter, the author of "By Any Greens Necessary: A Revolutionary Guide for Black Women Who Want to Eat Great, Get Healthy, Lose Weight and Look Phat." That's P-H-A-T.

  • 13:57:44

    VOGELWe've been talking also with Kim O'Donnel, the writer of the Family Kitchen column at USA Today, and the author of "The Meat Lover's Meatless Cookbook: Vegetarian Recipes Carnivores Will Devour," and Tara Parker Pope. I'm sorry we didn't get more time with you, Tara. You write the Well Blog at, which this month had a ton of vegetarian dishes for Thanksgiving. We hope that all of you will come back and visit with us in the future.

  • 13:58:11

    VOGELOne correction. You are listening to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show." One correction that many people pointed out, was that an earlier guest had said that parsley roots and parsnip are the same vegetable. I'm told they are related, but completely different vegetables, and some people are allergic to the leaves so be careful. I'm Diane Vogel in for Kojo.

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