I really like the idea of being vegan- the health benefits, increased energy, and emphasis on eating natural, plant-based foods sound great! But honestly, though, I just love cheese too much to make the full-on commitment. That being said, though, I try and make a concerted effort to cook as "cleanly" as I can--which translates to a lot of vegan-friendly dinners for non-vegans.
I came across this particular recipe quite a while ago while browsing one of (what I consider to be) the best vegetarian-friendly recipe blogs of all time, 101 Cookbooks. Although the original Roasted Pumpkin Salad recipe already looked delicious, I tweaked it a bit to make a vegan-friendly dinner that was even MORE appealing to my non-vegan taste buds. And you know what? I think this one was a resounding success. No more than an hour after I started cooking, this delicious, completely vegan dinner was piping hot and ready to devour. Not too shabby for a weeknight meal!
A quick recipe note before I dive in to the (meatless) meat and potatoes of this recipe-- Although the original version used a wild rice base, I have never been much of a fan of the grain so I substituted wheat berries and French green lentils. I can't really speak to what the finished product would've been like had I included the wild rice, but the lentils and wheat berries blended very well with the rest of the dish's flavors as well as added that protein punch most non-vegans find missing in even the most vegan-friendly dinners.
Roasted Pumpkin, Lentils, and Wheat Berries
What to do:
Preheat the oven to 375. Peel and cube the pumpkin, then toss it with the oil, brown sugar, paprika, pepper, and a couple of pinches of salt. When all the pumpkin pieces are well coated, spread them out on a baking sheet. Slice the onions, then toss them in the same container that you coated the pumpkin slices, adding more oil if necessary. The onions should get a lighter coating of the same seasoning you used on the pumpkin. Spread the seasoned and oiled onion slices onto a separate baking sheet. Roast both for about 45 minutes, or until the pumpkin is brown and well-caramelized. Flip both the squash and onion pieces once or twice during the cooking process to ensure even browning. Note: you may need to pull the onions out of the oven about 10 minutes before the pumpkin is done.
While the squash and onions are roasting, make the dressing. With a food processor or small hand blender, puree the sunflower seeds, olive oil, lemon juice, salt, honey, and cilantro until creamy. Add a couple tablespoons of warm water to the dressing if it seems a little too thick- mine ended up more like the consistency of sour cream than dressing, but it worked just fine for this recipe. Taste and adjust the seasoning if you'd like; potentially add a pinch or two of salt depending on your taste for it.
About halfway through the pumpkin and onion roasting, set a pot of water with about 1 part vegetable stock to 3 parts water on the stove and bring to a boil. Once add the wheat berries, then simmer for about 20 minutes, or until they're almost tender. Add the lentils, then continue to simmer until lentils and wheat berries are toothsome. Drain, then set aside.
When the onions and squash are done roasting, put them into a large bowl along with the lentil/wheat berry mixture. Add 2-3 large dollops (maybe around 1/3 cup or so in total) of your dressing, then gently toss until dressing is evenly distributed. Garnish with extra cilantro if you'd like, and enjoy your very vegan-friendly dinner for non-vegans!