It’s almost time for the Thanksgiving feast, and I know many people feel it’s a challenge to avoid gorging themselves and feeling guilty. So I’d like to offer some thoughts on the subject, along with a great recipe for a vegetarian gravy that’s (somewhat) healthier than the usual stuff but every bit as delectable.
This recipe came originally from my wife Briana’s grandfather John Moore, passed down by her dad, also John Moore, to her, and by association to me. There’s something special about following these family recipes – even if they change over time. At the start, deliciousness was the only guiding principle. Then Briana wanted to make it vegetarian, and I wanted to make the flavor a bit more complex and add some spices that might even help to balance digestive-overwhelm.
First let’s talk about overeating and feeling guilty. I’ve written about this in the past, and I’ll say it again: the single most healthful change a person can make to how they eat is to stay fully present during the act of eating.
More than keto or intermittent fasting or veganism or any other diet, being totally engaged and conscious while eating will automatically change how you eat, what you eat, and how you feel afterwards. Furthermore, it will teach you what does and doesn’t work for your body, and it will add a whole new dimension of depth and connection to the act of nourishing yourself. I’ve known people to spontaneously abandon unhealthy behaviors like gambling and codependent relationships when they became more awake to their nutrition and allowed themselves to experience all facets of that process – being both the loving giver and the grateful receiver of their own loving care.
I know there’s going to be good conversation and an abundance of excellent food. Staying conscious while eating doesn’t mean you can’t have it all. In fact, you’ll actually have a more fulfilling experience of all of it – both the food and the company – if you stay present. It might take twice as long to eat half as much food, but you’ll be able to walk away from the table rather than hobbling.
Now for the recipe. As it’s presented below, it contains gluten and dairy, but it can easily be modified to have neither.
- Butter – ¾ to 1 cup (a stick of butter is a half cup) – or ghee, or coconut oil, or vegan butter substitute
- Onion – half to whole, depending on how much you like onion – finely diced
- Mushrooms (optional) – any kind, though I prefer crimini or another variety that isn’t chewy – approximately 1 cup, finely diced
- Garlic – 5 cloves, crushed
- Flour (normal or gluten-free) – ¾ cup to 1 cup – roughly the same amount of flour as the amount of butter you used
- Vegetable broth – 4 cups (have a few more cups on hand). I like the Better Than Bouillon Organic Vegetable Base and Organic Mushroom Base, and I often mix the two together. It comes in a glass jar and one jar makes many cups of broth, so it’s tasty, compact in your fridge, and eco-friendly.
- Soy sauce or tamari (gluten free soy sauce) – 4 tablespoons
- Worcestershire sauce (optional) – 1 to 2 teaspoons – note, it usually contains anchovies
- Rosemary, chopped – approximately 1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried
- Sage, chopped – approximately 1 tablespoon fresh or 1 teaspoon dried
- Fresh ginger – finely grated – approximately 1 tablespoon
- Nutritional yeast (optional) – 1 to 2 tablespoons
- Good quality salt and black pepper
In a large deep pan over medium heat, sautee the onion, mushroom (if using), and garlic in the butter (or butter alternative) until it begins to brown (about 5 minutes).
Slowly add the flour, soy sauce or tamari, nutritional yeast (if using), and worcestershire sauce (if using). Work it with a spoon or spatula to form a smooth paste. Stir occasionally, allow it to become evenly browned.
Gradually add the broth, using a whisk or hand blender to blend it with the flour paste.
Add the ginger, sage, and rosemary, bring to a boil, then immediately reduce to a simmer, and simmer low for about 5 minutes.
At this point the gravy should be delicious and an ideal consistency.
If you need to thin it, add more broth or (if you don’t want to make it more salty) hot water.
If you want to thicken it, add more flour to a small amount of broth in a bowl and whisk or hand blend to make smooth, then add and continue to whisk into the gravy until the desired consistency is achieved. If it’s much too thin, this could also be achieved with corn starch or arrowroot powder – mix 1 tablespoon at a time in a small amount of water or broth until dissolved, then add to the gravy and bring to a boil again, stirring constantly. Repeat as necessary to thicken further.
If you want to give it more kick, add extra ginger, garlic, black pepper, or crushed red pepper.
If it’s not salty enough, add either more salt, or (if it needs more body altogether) add more soy sauce or tamari.
If it lacks body, you may add additional nutritional yeast, a little powdered clove, or a pinch of garam masala.
Serve abundantly over virtually everything or drink by the glass. If you make this gravy I’d love to know how it turns out – along with whatever of your own modifications made it even better! And if you experiment with eating mindfully, I would love to know what’s different about the eating process and how you feel afterwards. Also, when you practice mindful eating, what obstacles do you encounter?