Jill Fergus

I began cooking as a child and feeding family and friends has always been my passion. My kitchen is a busy one. I love to experiment and embrace the kitchen successes along with the accidents. I love to cook and collaborate with friends. I am seasonally driven (I love the farmer's market!), avoid processed foods and focus on whole and organic (mostly plant-based, but not exclusively) choices. In my home, my family has a variety of eating preferences from plant-based, gluten free, refined sugar free to full on omnivore. My goal is to create dishes to please all, either as is or with minor adjustments to the recipe. Where did "Feed the Swimmers" come from? When my kids began swimming competitively and growing into young adults, I realized, even more, how important nutrition is to performance, growth and overall health and emotional well being. Everyone (including the coach during travel meets) would ask "what are you feeding the swimmers?" This has become my mantra whenever I'm in my kitchen cooking for family and the friends I love.



Root Vegetable + Squash Gratin with Cashew Bechamel

Root Vegetable + Squash Gratin with Cashew Bechamel

This one came to me while trolling the farmers market. I craved everything I saw and decided to creat a send up to all of it! 


I love the abundance and variety of root vegetables this time of year and wanted to use them creatively and all at once. This was supposed to be the new hit side at my Thanksgiving table, but I forgot to serve it. Seriously. Something always gets left behind. My great grandmother was notorious for always leaving a dish behind in the kitchen and this seems to happen regularly at family gatherings. We all get a good laugh every year and believe it’s Nana’s ghost dropping in to say “hi!”

Leftover Friday, however, didn’t suffer! I reheated this and melted some local cheddar cheese on some for those who aren’t vegan (because, let’s face it, melted cheese...). I knew I was going for an ombré effect, but wasn’t certain how well it would work. One thing I did know for sure, is this was going to taste good! It’s gently seasoned so all of the delicious earthy flavors of the root veggies shines through and the squash adds that subtle sweetness. I love this with the cashew bechamel but feel free to use a traditional one. I also think this would be amazing with some fresh chèvre layered within. I don’t have all of the measurements for this one, but I don’t believe this is a dish that requires a formal recipe but I will lay out the method below (I will provide a recipe for the cashew bechamel). Layer in what you can find. Remember- the red beet goes on the bottom as anything below it will absorb it’s intense color. 

If you’re expecting a crowd, this dish is perfect to make the day before and reheat when ready! 


I spread the purée from the bottom on some crusty sourdough and was not disappointed! This is where I would also like to see some chèvre in the mix.  

Root Vegetable and Squash Gratin with Cashew Bechamel  

Makes one very large baking dish full (adjust quantities to suit your needs). As written, about 8 generous portions.

RECIPE (or What I did):


1 small-medium sized red kuri or kabocha squash, chopped into chunks, roasted and puréed (either of these so not require peeling)

2 large red beets, peeled and sliced 

2 large purple potatoes, peeled and sliced 

2 sweet potatoes or garnet yams, peeled and sliced 

1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced (I used the “neck”

2 golden beets, peeled and sliced 

2 rutabaga, peeled and sliced 

1 large or two small nobs celery root, peeled and sliced 

2 large Yukon gold potatoes, sliced (peeling optional)

2 very large or one generous bunch hakurei (Japanese) white turnips, sliced 

1-2 tsp fresh thyme

Cashew Bechamel-

1 cup raw cashews, soaked overnight.  

1 clove garlic, minced  

1/2 onion diced 

1 1/2 Tbs nutritional yeast  

2 Tbs good olive oil

1 Tbs white wine or champagne vinegar or 1 Tbs lemon juice  

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground pepper (use white pepper if you would like a truly white sauce) 

pinch of nutmeg

1/3 cup Crushed toasted hazelnuts  

extra virgin olive oil

 ***note: The list of sliced veggies here goes from dark to light. You may substitute based on what you like and what you find at your local farmers market/grocery store. It’s hard to go wrong. I chose the turnips for the top as they are the whitest. White beets would be lovely here, too. 

Golen beets and white beets may “oxidize” and develop black edges once peeled. Slice these just before you are ready to assemble.

Also, while using a mandolin, I recommend using a “cut-proof” glove (available at most kitchen/cooking shops and online). If you don’t have a mandolin, use a sharp knife, work slowly and practice your skills! 


preheat oven to 425F

1- Roast chopped squash with olive oil, salt and pepper for about 30 minutes or until tender with caramelized edges. Remove and lower oven to 350F.

2- Add squash to a high speed blender and purée until smooth. Add small amounts of almond milk or water to get it going. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.

3- Make the Bechamel: Sautee onion and garlic until translucent. Remove from heat. Drain and rinse cashews. Add to a high speed blender with 1 cup cold water, nutritional yeast, sautéed onion and garlic, sea salt, pepper and vinegar/lemon juice and nutmeg. Purée until smooth and creamy.

3- Using a mandolin, carefully slice each vegetable less than 1/4” thin, keeping them in separate piles, dark to light, so assembly is easy and the beet doesn’t discolor the others. Set aside a handful of your “white” slices and toss with olive oil. You may need these for the last 30 minutes of baking  

4- In a large baking dish, spread bottom with squash purée. Layer red beets to fully cover. Layer purple potatoes to fully cover. Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper. Pour some of the bechamel to cover. Continue to layer veggies, seasoning as you go and occasionally drizzling a gentle amount of good olive oil. layering in the bechamel every two-3 layers. Start to sprinkle in chopped hazelnuts as you approach your last few layers, sprinkling just a few on the top as you don’t want them to burn. 

5- Brush top with olive oil, place on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour, checking every 30 minutes. If top layer begins to get too brown, layer the extra white slices on top, sprinkle with sea salt and pepper and finish baking. Allow dish to rest for 15-20 minutes before slicing. Or, cool and refrigerate (covered) and reheat before you’re ready to serve. An offset spatula makes it easier to remove the first slice. 

***More notes:  this dish is wonderful for vegans and non vegans alike. For your non vegans, melted cheese on top was really delicious. I used a sharp local cheddar. Parmesan would be delicious as would layering fresh chèvre throughout. If you have no plant based preference, go ahead and use a traditional bechamel.  

Leftovers reheat beautifully and I recommend turning this side into its own main attraction by topping it with a poached egg and calling it one great brunch!


I hope you like this as much as we did! 

Pumpkin Bread (gluten free)

Pumpkin Bread (gluten free)

Polenta with Chèvre, Pumpkin and Mushrooms

Polenta with Chèvre, Pumpkin and Mushrooms