Holiday recipe spectacular: Hearty, healthful entrees from Jenny Breen

Day 4 of our six-day holiday recipe blowout continues with heartier, vegan-friendly recipes from professional chef Jenny Breen, co-author of Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table.

Day 3: Corn Chowder by Atina Diffley.
Day 2: Swedish Pancakes and Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranates by Helene Henderson.
Day 1: Sweet Potato and Walnut Salad and Cranberry Snack Cake by Beth Dooley.


Holiday recipes from Jenny Breen



Serves 8 to 10 

Brussels sprouts intrigued me as a kid. We only had them once or twice a year, but they were like fun little mini cabbages—slightly bitter and light and leafy at the same time. This sauce is what makes them work here. The Brussels sprouts combine with the mellow flavor of the sweet potatoes into a beautiful balance of spicy and sweet.

-1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
-3 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced thinly (if you don’t have sweet potatoes, any other root vegetable or tuber works great-beets, turnips, parsnips, potatoes, etc.)
-2 leeks, cleaned and sliced thinly
-2 tablespoons olive oil

For horseradish sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
1/4 cup mustard
1/4 cup horseradish
2/3 cup honey (you can substitute ½ cup apple or orange juice)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 inch ginger, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt

Combine sauce ingredients and set aside. Clean and cut Brussels sprouts, sweet potatoes and leeks and coat with olive oil. Place in large baking pan, pour sauce over vegetables and coat well. Bake in 385 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until vegetables are tender and bright colored. 

[vegan option]

Serves 8 to 10 

Not only is this dish beautiful, it is incredibly nutritious and delicious. Winter squash, including pumpkin, perfectly complement any seasonal green. You can use broccoli, greens, cauliflower or green beans depending upon the season. The coconut milk is creamy and rich, but not overly so, and it is a fun and creative way to use squash and pumpkin.

-2 medium squash such as butternut, red kuri, or pumpkin, peeled and cubed into 1 inch cubes
-2 tablespoons olive oil
-2 tablespoons toasted sesame oil
-2 large leeks, cleaned and sliced into rings
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-2 inches ginger, peeled and minced
-1 tablespoon cumin
-1 tablespoon coriander
-1 tablespoon turmeric
-1 tablespoon chili powder
-2 teaspoons cinnamon
-2 tablespoons fresh thyme or 2 teaspoons dried
-¼ cup lemon juice
-¼ cup sugar or maple syrup
-2 bunches broccoli, cut into bite sized pieces—about 6 cups
-2 teaspoons salt
-1 16-ounce can coconut milk
-2 cups brown rice cooked in 5 cups water

-1 cup toasted cashews
-1 pound mock duck or chicken breast, chopped and stir fried until browned

Steam squash in large covered skillet until tender, not mushy—about 6 minutes. Remove any extra water. Heat olive and sesame oils, add leeks, garlic, ginger and squash and sauté until leeks are soft, then add the seasoning, juice, and maple syrup. Mix well until pumpkin is coated, then add broccoli, salt and coconut milk. Cover and allow to simmer until broccoli is bright green, then uncover and mix well so all vegetables are coated and tender. Add cashews and mock duck or protein if desired. Serve immediately over brown rice. 

[vegan option]

-3 tablespoons olive oil
-1 medium onion, diced
-4 cloves garlic, minced
-2 tablespoons fresh thyme, minced, or 1 tablespoon dried
-1 tablespoon ground cumin
-2 teaspoons salt
-2 teaspoons pepper
-2 carrots, diced
-6 cups assorted root veggies/tubers, diced (use turnips, parsnips, peeled squash, beets, etc.)
-2 pounds stew meat, diced OR meat alternative (tofu, mock duck, or tempeh)
-1 cup red lentils
-1 cup wild rice (hand-harvested)
-1 32-oz. can diced tomatoes, or 1 quart from your pantry
-8-10 cups stock or water

Heat olive oil and sauté onions until soft, about 3 minutes. Add garlic, spices, carrots and other veggies, and beef or alternative to coat and then add diced tomatoes. Bring to a rolling simmer and cover for about 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally to soften vegetables and cook meat.

Add red lentils and 4 cups of stock and simmer another 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If stew begins to thicken too much and stick to pan, add more liquid. After about 20 minutes, add the wild rice and remaining liquid. Simmer again another 15-20 minutes, stirring regularly to prevent any burning or sticking. Continue to add small amounts of liquid to prevent sticking and thickening too much. Adjust according to your preferences. When lentils are full and wild rice has opened, turn heat down to low and keep stew warm and cooking slowly until serving. 


These cookies were born out of my love for Greg Reynold’s cornmeal. I keep trying to think of new ways to use it. They are not dissimilar from the maple cornbread recipe—just a cookie version. The walnuts add a great crunch, and slight bitterness to balance the sweetness of the corn and maple. Try this with other nuts for yummy variations.

-1/2 pound (1 cup) unsalted butter, softened
-1 cup maple syrup
-1 teaspoon vanilla
-2 1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
-2-3 cups cornmeal
-1 teaspoon salt
-½ cup walnuts, chopped

Cream together the butter, vanilla and maple syrup. Add the pastry flour and 2 cups of the cornmeal. Mix until well combined. The dough should be soft, but not sticky. If it is too sticky, add more cornmeal, ¼ cup at a time until proper consistency.

Remove dough from the bowl, and on a floured surface, roll into a log about 15 inches long and 1 ½ inches in diameter. With a sharp knife, cut slices about ½ inch thick. Lay these flat on oiled pan (or silicone pan liner) and bake for about 15 minutes. They will not spread so you can place them fairly close together. Remove from oven when slightly browned and firm.


Jenny Breen has been cooking and baking professionally in the Twin Cities for more than twenty years. She is a co-owner of Good Life Catering (previously Good Life Café) and is a passionate advocate for local and sustainably raised foods. She received a Bush Leadership fellowship in 2009 and returned to school to study public health nutrition and continue her pursuit of healthy food for healthy families in healthy communities on a healthy planet. When not biking or canoeing with her family, she is in her home laboratory, passing along the pleasures of food to her husband, Jon, and their daughters, Solana and Frances. She is co-author with Susan Thurston of Cooking Up the Good Life: Creative Recipes for the Family Table.

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