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Leslie Cerier has been teaching about local, seasonal, organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking for more than 30 years.

For the Gazette; Friday, November 11, 2016

Creating a vegetarian menu for Thanksgiving? Try this combo: Tempeh Stew, Red Quinoa with Shiitake Mushrooms and cranberry sauce.

Leslie Cerier’s Tempeh Stew, top, Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf and cranberry sauce

The air is full of the sweet sounds of Thanksgiving — talk of the traditional turkey and pie, and all fixings of the big meal. But some folks seek something different: perhaps meatless options, or gluten-free. Shutesbury food educator and cookbook author Leslie Cerier is among them, and she has lots of festive ideas for the holiday.

“For me, Thanksgiving is about gratitude for the local harvest. … There’s no end to what one could have at the table,” she said.

For an appetizer, for example, she might choose a Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Dip using local feta, and for the main dish, Butternut Squash and Tempeh Stew with Shiitake Mushrooms.

Or, she adds, “I could make an Ethiopian Stew with the carrots and cabbage and say that’s Thanksgiving. … I pick what I would like most.”

Cerier, a vegetarian who calls herself an organic gourmet, has a master’s degree in movement sciences and education from Teachers College, Columbia University, and has been teaching about local, seasonal, organic, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free cooking for more than 30 years.

She has developed recipes for many health-food and organic food companies, and is the author of half a dozen books on healthful eating, including “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook,” a seasonal vegetarian cookbook and “Going Wild in the Kitchen”; both feature her health-conscious recipes.

Two of Cerier’s upcoming classes focus on the winter holidays. On Dec. 4, “The Contemplative Feast” looks at nourishment, at slowing down during this busy time and using the benefits of movement, meditation and writing. On Dec. 15, the topic is “How to Feast and Not Gorge: Cooking with Healthy Fats for the Holidays.”

The latter class is hands-on, she says, and covers recipes, from main courses to pastries, that will enhance energy.

“We will use extra-virgin olive oil from California, and also extra-virgin coconut oil, as well as hemp oil and red palm oil from Ecuador. There are so many oils. In classes, people get to try different ones,” she said.

Cerier cooks only gluten-free food in her classes, which are taught in her handsome Shutesbury kitchen, newly renovated with counters of local Ashfield stone.

She began her career as a photographer, but though she still takes photographs (and has a show of her work at her home Nov 12&13; Saturday and Sunday), she switched her main professional interest to food in 1985, the year she moved to Shutesbury.

“I heard my dad had a brain tumor,” she said. “That was a big wake-up call for me. I said, ‘OK let’s get out of the toxic darkroom.’ So I turned to cooking originally because I was looking at food as medicine.”

She says she remains deeply committed to healthful eating. The classes she gives focus on organic foods and how diet affects health. She became a vegetarian 16 years ago.

“I found I was cooking fish and meat less and less,” she said. She noticed her aches and pains decreased, but she embraced her new way of eating for another reason, too: “For me being vegetarian is a celebration of the local harvest.”

Cerier also discovered that eating wheat bread — which has gluten — did not feel good. This led to her exploration of gluten-free grains, and to writing her book “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook.”

She says the energy boost she needs for the cycling, hiking, swimming and cross-country skiing she does comes from gluten-free products. Quinoa, from Peru, is a special favorite.

“It’s a powerhouse of nutrients — one of the few whole grains that provide complete protein,” she said. Quinoa comes in red, tan and black varieties. Cerier especially admires the subtle nutty flavor of the red one.

Another favorite is teff, the national grain of Ethiopia.

“I love it for pancakes, cookies and pie crusts,” she said, noting its slightly chocolate flavor. She also enthuses about wild rice and heirloom varieties of rice, such as Madagascan pink rice.

“Rice takes only 20 minutes cooking, and quinoa and teff just 15 minutes,” she said. “I am all about quick and easy, but everything must be absolutely yummy. If it’s not yummy, why bother?”

Several of her recipes that could star at the Thanksgiving table follow. For more recipes and information about her classes and this weekend’s photography exhibition, visit

Leslie Cerier, an organic gourmet, plates Tempeh Stew in her Shutesbury home.

Leslie Cerier’s Tempeh Stew, top, Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf and cranberry sauce



Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf and cranberry sauce are shown Oct. 27 in Leslie Cerier’s Shutesbury home.

Roaster Red Pepper and Feta Cheese Dip

The recipe comes from Cerier’s first book, “Going Wild in the Kitchen” and is reprinted with permission from Square One Publishers.

¾ cup feta cheese

cup roasted red peppers

1tablespoon pitted kalamata olives

Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and blend until smooth. Use immediately, or cover and chill until ready to use.

Butternut Squash and Tempeh Stew with Shitake Mushrooms

Tempeh Stew is shown Oct. 27 in Leslie Cerier’s Shutesbury home.

Cerier suggests this dish as the star of the Thanksgiving feast. Noting its appeal and versatility.

“The cooked butternut squash practically melts to form a sweet sauce in this warming stew,” she said. “If you use soy-rice tempeh, the dish offers complete protein; or you can just serve it over cooked millet or rice.”

Chickpea miso is especially complementary to the flavors of this stew, she says, but you can substitute other gluten-free varieties if you like; hearty brown rice, adzuki bean, or millet miso would all be good choices.

You can use either red or white wine in this dish — or any other wine for that matter.

“I recommend using whatever wine you’d like to drink with the stew. For a special treat, try pear or peach wine.”

½ cup organic dried shiitake mushrooms, stemmed

cup organic wine

2 tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil

1 pound organic soy tempeh, cubed

4 cups cubed organic butternut squash

4 cups cubed organic potatoes

1½ cups water

2 tablespoons organic chickpea miso

2 tablespoons prepared organic mustard

1 tablespoon chopped fresh organic rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried

1½ teaspoons dried organic thyme

1 teaspoon dried organic sage

Soak the shiitake mushrooms in the wine for about 15 minutes, until they soften.

Heat the oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the tempeh and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 to 10 minutes, until golden brown. Add the squash, potatoes, water, wine and mushrooms. (You may want cut the mushrooms into bite-size pieces or at least halve larger mushrooms.) Bring to a boil, then lower the heat, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender and the butternut squash is melting into the pot.

Stir the miso and mustard into some of the hot broth, then stir the mixture back into the stew, along with the rosemary, thyme, and sage.

From Cerier’s book “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook,” and are reprinted with permission from New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf

Cerier says the leeks, celery and mushrooms give this dish a flavor reminiscent of stuffing. It could be used either as a stuffing or as a side dish. Other types of mushrooms could substitute for the shiitakes: white button mushrooms, criminis, or portobellos would all be great choices.

Cerier says her Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf works well as a Thanksgiving stuffing or as a side dish.

1½ tablespoons organic extra-virgin olive oil

2½ cups chopped organic leeks (white and tender green parts)

2 cups chopped organic celery

1½ cups stemmed and sliced organic shiitake mushrooms

1¾ cups organic red, tan or tri color quinoa, rinsed

½ teaspoon sea salt

3 ½ cups boiling water

Heat the oil in a medium-size saucepan or skillet (one with a tight-fitting lid) over medium heat. Add the leeks, celery, and mushrooms and sauté, stirring continuously for about 5 minutes, until vegetables become fragrant and their colors brighten. Stir in the quinoa and salt. Lower the heat, then slowly pour in the water. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until all of the water is absorbed.

From Cerier’s book “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook,” and are reprinted with permission from New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Leslie Cerier says her Quinoa and Shiitake Pilaf works well as a Thanksgiving stuffing or as a side dish.

Corn Muffins

Learning about the many uses for corn from the Native Americans saved the first European residents of Massachusetts from starvation, so cornbread has a worthy place at the Thanksgiving meal. This muffin recipe from Leslie Cerier could be made into a loaf by baking it in a standard loaf pan.

2 organic grass raised eggs

1 cup organic apple or pear juice

¼ cup melted organic unsalted butter

¼ cup organic maple syrup

1½ teaspoons organic vanilla extract

1 cup organic corn flour

1 cup organic brown rice flour

1½ teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon sea salt

Preheat the oven to 350º degrees. Oil a muffin tin or line it with paper liners, or oil a standard loaf pan.

Whisk the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Stir in the juice, melted butter, maple syrup, and vanilla extract. Add the flours, baking powder, and salt and stir until well combined. Scoop the batter into the prepared muffin tin, filling each cup about two-thirds full, or pour the batter into the loaf pan.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean (15 to 20 minutes for muffins, or 30 to 40 minutes for a loaf).

From Cerier’s book “Gluten-Free Recipes for the Conscious Cook,” and are reprinted with permission from New Harbinger Publications Inc.

Chocolate Chip Chevre Cheesecake

This choice for Thanksgiving is “is all about the yum,” Cerier said. She adds that her favorite choice for the chocolate chips are those with 70 percent cacao.

For the honey almond pie crust:

1 cup organic almonds

2 tablespoons organic honey

1 teaspoon organic vanilla extract

Pinch of sea salt

Grind the almonds into a meal in a food processor. Add and blend in the honey, vanilla extract and salt. Press the honey almond mixture into the bottom of a 9-inch pie plate. (No need to go up the sides).

For the pie filling:

1½ cups plain chevre, tightly packed

cup organic cocoa powder

cup organic honey

1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract

½ cup organic dark chocolate chips

Puree the chevre, cocoa, honey and vanilla extract in a food processor. Taste and adjust the flavor, if desired. Pour and spread the chocolate chevre filling on top of the honey almond pie crust. Decorate with chocolate chips. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

Leslie Cerier is also a recipe developer and developed this recipe for Equal Exchange with their organic fair traded cocoa, honey, almonds, and chocolate chips.

Teff Pecan Pie Crust

The important thing to remember when cooking with teff flour is that unlike wheat, teff will lose its shine when it is baked, but be soft to the touch. “So don’t over bake it,” Cerier says, “and trust that when it cools it will become just right.”

¾ cups organic pecans

1¼ cups teff flour

cup organic maple syrup

¼ cup organic extra virgin coconut oil

1 tablespoon organic vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 350° degrees. Lightly oil a 9-inch pie pan and set aside. To make the piecrust, place the pecans in a food processor and grind to a meal. Transfer to a large bowl along with the remaining crust ingredients and mix to form a soft dough. Press the dough over the bottom and sides of the pie plate with your fingers. Poke holes in the dough with a fork, then bake for 10 minutes, or until the crust is lightly browned.

From Cerier’s “Going Wild in the Kitchen” and is reprinted with permission from Square One Publishers.

All photos by Gazette Staff Photographer/SARAH CROSBY

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