Citrus, Fennel & Pomegranate Salad_frame; photo by H. KirbyHolly Kirby spent 12 years as chef at one of Bucks County’s best vegetarian restaurants. Here she shares her favorite holiday menu, and how to pull it off without going nuts. Full of seasonal ingredients, many of the recipes could be used as side dishes and/or as an entrée for the vegetarian or vegan at your table. Read more of her recipes at her blog, The American Vegetarian

This is the Part One. Look next week for Part Two…and start planning that menu now!

by guest blogger Holly Kirby,

Thanksgiving dinner. Your menu is probably filled with family classics that everyone looks forward to (“It’s not Thanksgiving without it!”). For me, it’s my Great Grandmom’s candied sweet potatoes. Passed down family recipes are what make this meal and this celebration, Thanksgiving but it’s always good to add a few new recipes to the menu each year. I have selected six of my favorite go-to Thanksgiving recipes that showcase the fall harvest with all its spectacular Bucks County produce. Three courses of perfect additions to any Thanksgiving menu.

The trick? Prepare 80% on the days before and only 20% before serving.

Thanksgiving dinner doesn’t have to be overwhelming or exhausting if you’re organized and choose a menu with recipes that can be prepped in advance and then finished last minute. When you prepare your menu 80 percent of the way and only have 20 percent to complete right before serving, it makes it simple to feed a crowd fast.

Planning and executing. When I plan out a menu I think about the season, occasion, what’s available and how much time I am really going to have to prepare the menu. Then I map out the menu with ingredient lists and prep lists.

I start from the weekend before and write down what can be done each day, so that I’m not prepping everything the day before or day of. Then the day of Thanksgiving, I write out a timeline. What needs to go into the oven, when and at what temperature? What needs to be pulled out of the refrigerator to come to room temperature and when? And most importantly, which items are going into which dish.

Then, during the last crucial hour of trying to get everything on the table hot, you can use those extra hands that are always offered at the last minute (as they wander into the kitchen and say, “Can I do anything?”) And don’t be afraid to ask for help. If you were working in a restaurant with a team of people, you would not be expected to do it alone!

Always remember this holiday is about family, friends and the blessings we all have and share. Happy Thanksgiving!

Vegan Thanksgiving; photo by Holly Kirby


Citrus, Fennel and Pomegranate Salad

I love this salad.  The colors are sparkling and the flavors are bright. It’s a nice contrast from the rich holiday menus. I serve this salad in vintage martini glasses as a first course. It breaks up the meal and cleanses the palate after the hors d’oeuvres. The other great thing about this salad? It can be prepared ahead of time, assembled last minute and can even be set out at place settings before guests sit down. On a buffet, just portion into glasses and set out. Having some things served family style and some things in individual servings adds a nice touch to your buffet.

Makes about 2 quarts

8 navel orange, cut into supremes (remove the skin, pith, membranes, and seeds, and separate into segments)
4 ruby red pink grapefruit, cut into supremes
½ fennel bulb, core removed and sliced thinly
¼ cup fennel fronds, chopped
1 pomegranate, seeds removed
Black pepper to taste

Citrus, Fennel & Pomegranate Salad_step by step_frame; photo by H. Kirby

How to

Each component can be prepared a few days before and assembled that day.

  1. In a medium bowl, add orange supremes, grapefruit supremes, fennel and fennel fronds, and stir together gently.
  2. Spoon into serving dish or individual cups.
  3. Top with pomegranate seeds and fresh cracked black pepper.


Oven Roasted Brussels Sprouts

This is my favorite way to prepare Brussels sprouts. They get caramelized and the outer leaves get crispy. You’ll never boil them again. I also serve these at room temperature if I’m doing an antipasti table and they always go first.

Brussel sprouts_frame tan; photo by H. Kirby


2 pounds of Brussels sprouts (look for the smaller ones)
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste

Oven roasted Brussels sprouts_frame_step by step; photo by H. Kirby

How to

  1. Brussels sprouts can be prepped the day before and put in a zip top bag until ready to roast.
  2. Preheat oven to 400° F.
  3. Trim the bottoms off the Brussels sprouts and cut in half, store in zip top bag for later or place in bowl.
  4. Add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, and mix until combined.
  5. Place on half sheet pan cut side down and place in oven on lower rack.
  6. Roast until cooked through but still bright green, about 15 -20 minutes depending on size.


Quinoa pilaf; frame_photo by H. Kirby

Quinoa Pilaf with Green Apples, Dried Cranberries and Pecans

Quinoa may not be that familiar on the Thanksgiving table, but I think this mix of ingredients – using classic Thanksgiving flavors like apples and cranberries – will become an instant classic. I’m a big fan of quinoa not only because it’s super healthy and delicious, but because it’s fast and easy to prepare. I make this a lot. It’s great as a side dish but also perfect as an entreé. I’ve also used this pilaf inside roasted turnips or acorn squash. I hollow them out and finish them in the oven. Either way this pilaf is perfect for fall.

This dish can be made ahead and then reheated in the oven, or can prepared and then served right away. It fits a 2.5 L casserole dish.


1 cup white quinoa
1 ½ cups red quinoa
4 cups vegetable stock
¼ cup olive oil
½ red onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 ½ tsp. Herbs de Provence
1 tsp. salt
Black pepper to taste
2 green apples, diced (skins on)
½ dry white wine
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup toasted or maple pecans (recipe to follow)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped

Quinoa pilaf_step by step_frame; photo by H. Kirby How to

  1. Rinse quinoa in a fine mesh colander and drain. Then pour into a heavy-bottom stock pot. Top with vegetable stock and stir. Turn on medium high heat when stock comes to a boil and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down to medium low and simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes until quinoa is al dente.
  2. While quinoa is cooking, place a sauté pan on medium high and add the olive oil, onions, celery and garlic, and stir. Add herbs de Provence, and salt and pepper. Sauté until the onions and celery are translucent, about 8 minutes. Add apples and pour in wine. Simmer 5 minutes to cook out the alcohol.
  3. Pour onion mixture over cooked quinoa and stir until combined.
  4. Fold in cranberries, pecans, and parsley. Check for seasoning.
  5. Serve immediately by spooning into serving dish (or it can be made ahead and reheated later.)
  6. To reheat, cover with lid or foil, and bake in a 350°F oven for about 30 minutes, stirring halfway through.

What is Herbs De Provence?

A traditional Provençal dried herb blend of rosemary, fennel seed, basil, savory and lavender. It became very popular in the US in the 1960s, thanks to Julia!

Where to buy Herbs De Provence locally?

Peace Valley Lavender Farm
802 New Galena Road
Doylestown, Pa 18901

You can order online but it’s more fun to visit the store and the lavender fields.


Maple pecans; photo by H. Kirby Maple Pecans

This is a pantry staple at my house. I use them in salads, entreés and desserts. I mean, if you have to toast the pecans anyway, why not add maple syrup?


2 cups pecans (whole or chopped)
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
Sea salt to taste

How to

These will last for at least two weeks in an airtight container.

  1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
  2. In a medium bowl, add pecans, oil and maple syrup. Stir until combined, pour into a half-sheet pan, and spread out in an even layer.
  3. Place on middle rack in oven and roast 20 minutes, stirring after 10 minutes.
  4. Remove from oven, sprinkle with sea salt and scrape onto a cooled half-sheet.
  5. Store in a container with a lid in cool, dry place.


Tune in next week to the rest of the menu:

  • Pumpkin, Crimini Mushroom and Kale Cannelloni,
    with Thyme and Black Pepper Fresh Pasta
    and Pumpkin Cashew Cream Sauce, and,
  • Pumpkin Tiramisu.

5 Responses to A vegan Thanksgiving…and then some.

  1. […] Here’s the rest of Holly’s delicious Thanksgiving menu. See Part One here. […]

  2. […] veggie dishes? See our previous posts by chef Holly Kirby, as she shares her favorite holiday menu: A vegan Thanksgiving…and then some, and Part two: A vegan Thanksgiving…and then some. And if you are looking for a great latke […]

  3. […] We haven’t forgotten our vegan and vegetarian friends. Holly Kirby, a vegetarian restaurateur in Bucks County gives some great tips and recipes on how to make family classics while still sticking to the vegan needs. Try out a citrus, fennel and pomegranate salad or quinoa pilaf with green apples, dried cranberries and pecans. With dishes that look this good (and no doubt, taste good) you don’t even need a centerpiece. She wrote a blog entry that includes the recipes to those dishes and more, which you can find here. […]

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