Thanksvegan

Well……..Thanksgiving is fast approaching.  And speaking of Thanksgiving, I have to say, I’ve never been a fan of that particular holiday.  😦

I’m not saying I don’t enjoy spending time with loved ones during Thanksgiving weekend….I do.  I also love that there is a general focus on gratitude this time of year; and being reminded of what we should be grateful for is important.  All that stuff is great!!!!!

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My issue with Thanksgiving is the meal itself.  Part of the problem is that I am vegan, and this leaves me with very few options.  Obviously I don’t eat Turkey anymore, and many traditional Thanksgiving side dishes incorporate meat or dairy in some way.  So I am usually left picking at what I can while my concerned family looks at my empty plate confused about my life choices and worried that I am not getting enough food.  I can already hear it……. “But how do you get protein?”, “What about calcium?”, “It’s not meat, it’s Turkey!”, “It’s just one day, what’s the big deal?”.

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It’s not so easy to be a vegan, especially during the holidays, when we are so often judged and even picked on.  I don’t like to worry my family or create drama.  I don’t want to concern the hosts about “the vegan guest”.  In the past, I’ve simply given in and alloted myself a teeny tiny piece of turkey and sides, picking out any sausage or bacon.

But this year I have decided that I will not eat meat or dairy of any kind….and here are the four main reasons why:

1) I don’t like the taste of Turkey, never really have.

2) After eating mostly vegan for some time, I’ve started to realize how much meat and dairy upset my stomach, and feeling bloated and lethargic is not my idea of a good time.

3) I don’t believe in the mass killing of animals for our consumption.  Period.

4) It is important to me that I stay true to my convictions and life choices, even when it is not convenient.

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So what is a vegan to do during the holidays?  I can’t force my loved ones to join me on this vegan quest, especially since I am not hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner (maybe next year).  What I can do is take some time and create a few hearty, delicious, protein and calcium rich vegan dishes to bring with me and share.  If someone asks my why I don’t eat Turkey, I will kindly let them know why and leave it at that.  If they judge, let them judge.  I will focus more on being grateful for my wonderful life, family, friends, career and health.  And hopefully, after sharing some of my Thanksgiving vegan fare, I will enlighten the Turkey lovers to the fact the vegan food is not all Kale and quinoa.

If I were hosting my own Thanksgiving dinner, here are a few recipes I would most likely make…….all 100% vegan and delicious!

Pumpkin Chickpea Fritters (makes 6 – 8 fritters)

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  • 1 can chickpeas, drained
  • 1/2 cup organic pumpkin puree (canned)
  • 1/4 cup hemp seeds
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
  • a few dashes of pepper, cayenne and salt to taste
  • 1-2 tsp flour to assist in binding if needed
  • 1 cup organic bread crumbs for coating

Preheat over to 350 deg.  Add the chickpeas and pumpkin to a large mixing bowl. With a large fork or potato masher, mash the beans until at least 75% of them have been mashed together with the pumpkin.  Add in the spices, apple cider, hemp seeds and optional flour. Fold together until a moist mixture forms.  Fold the mixture into golf ball sized balls and roll in your bread crumbs until well covered.   Bake on parchment paper or a lightly greased baking sheet for about 20 minutes – or until toasty.  Transfer cooked fritters to a paper towel to cool. Serve in about 5 minutes after cooling a bit.

Mandarin, Pecan, Almond and Cranberry Salad (serves 6 as a side)

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  • 6-8 cups raw spinach, washed and dried
  • 1 small can Mandarin oranges, drained (fresh even better)
  • 3/4 cup chopped pecans, toasted
  • 1/4 cup slivered almonds (optional), toasted
  • 1-1.25 cup organic cherry tomatoes, washed and cut in halves
  • 1/4 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup dried cranberries
  • Balsamic Dressing (recipe below)

Dressing (about 1/2 cup)

  • 2.5 tablespoons balsamic, white, or red wine vinegar
  • tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard or regular mustard
  • 2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
  • 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
  • Ground black pepper to taste
  • 1/2 minced clove of garlic (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Wash and dry spinach and place in a large salad bowl. Chop all tomatoes and nuts and toss into bowl, mix in remaining ingredients.  In a small dish mix the salad dressing. Pour over salad and mix well.

Roasted Carrot and Ginger soup (serves 4)

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  • 1 1/4 pounds carrots (about 10 total, depending on size) peeled and cut into French fry-sized sticks
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 box (32 oz) organic vegetable broth
  • 1 sweet potato, peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 piece ginger, an inch long, peeled
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • Olive Oil
  • Sea Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 425°. Put the carrots and garlic on a sheet pan, drizzle with olive oil and salt, and mix until coated. Spread mixture evenly on sheet pan. Roast in the oven until carrots are starting to brown (20-25 minutes).  Put stock in a pot over medium heat. When the carrots and garlic are browned, add them to the pot with the grated ginger and sweet potato. Cook for 20 minutes on medium/high heat until sweet potatoes are soft. Use a hand blender to purée soup in the pot (or blend in a food processor/blender). Add salt to taste and serve warm.

Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout and Bread Stuffing with Apples (serves 6)

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  • 1 lb organic butternut squash, cubed
  • 1 lb organic brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1 medium organic Gala apple, cut into 1/2 inch dice
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons cold pressed organic olive oil
  • 1 cup organic onion, diced
  • 10 slices bread of choice (gluten-free bread would work fine).  Prior to preparing the recipe, leave bread out for a day to become slightly dry, then cut into cubes.
  • 1 1/2 cup organic vegetable broth (plus extra as needed
  • 2 teaspoons fresh rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage
  • 1/3 cup organic dried cranberries
  • 1/3 cup raw pecans or walnuts
  • sea salt and pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Toss the squash, brussels sprouts, apples, and shallots in 2 tbsp oil and season well with salt and pepper. Roast till vegetables are very tender (20-30 min) and remove from oven. Reduce oven heat to 350.  eat other tbsp oil in a large pot. Sautee the onion and celery till translucent (about 5-8 min).  Add the bread cubes and allow them to get golden brown with the veggies in the oil.  Add a dash of salt and pepper. Add the roasted vegetables, vegetable broth, cranberries, pecans, and seasonings. Stir the mix till the broth has almost entirely absorbed in the toasted bread. Transfer to a baking sheet and bake at 350 for about 20 minutes. Serve hot.

Cauliflower Mash (serves 2)

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  • 1 head of cauliflower washed and cut into florets
  • Salt and Pepper to taste
  • (two cloves roasted garlic (or 1 clove raw garlic, minced)
  • -4 tbsp almond milk (add more to reach a smoother consistency)
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance (vegan buttery spread)
  • ½ tsp Italian seasoning (or herbs of choice)
  • 2 tsp nutritional yeast (optional, but it gives the mash a yummy, slightly cheesy flavor)
  • chopped chives (optional)

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.  Steam the cauliflower for 5-10 minutes or until the cauliflower is tender.  Place the still-hot cauliflower into a food processor or use a hand held immersion blender and blend until smooth.  Add the remaining ingredients and blend well.  Adjust the almond milk and seasonings to your liking.  Serve warm and enjoy!

Tofurkey (serves 6)

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*note:  I probably wouldn’t make Tofurkey on Thanksgiving but I wanted to share a great recipe for those of you who can’t imagine Thanksgiving without Turkey.  Warning, it is quite involved but well worth it.  Otherwise, do as I would and prepare tons of great sides)

For the Tofurkey

  • 5 14-oz. tubs extra-firm tofu
  • 2 tsp. ground dried thyme
  • 2 tsp. rubbed sage
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • about 1 tsp orange zest (optional)
  • salt and pepper to taste

For the Marinade

  • 1/4 -1/2 cups low sodium tamari or gluten-free soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp orange juice
  • 1/2 tsp sesame oil

Stuffing (use the recipe above or try the following recipe instead)

  • about 4 cups of gluten free bread cubes ( or use oatmeal or whole wheat bread cubes)
  • 1/2 cup almonds, coarsely chopped and toasted
  • 1 small-medium red onion
  • 1 celery stick
  • 1 apple, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 tbsp fresh sage, cut into thin strips
  • 1/2 tbsp chopped cilantro or parsley
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 tsp ground peppercorns
  • 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 cups dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup no-salt vegetable broth or water

Previous night Bring the tofu to room temperature. Squeeze tofu of excess water and take small bits and place them in a processor.  Process them little by little until smooth.  Place them in a large bowl and mix all the Tofurkey seasonings. You can at this point even taste the tofu and add more seasoning or flavor to make sure it does not taste real bland.  Wet cheesecloth, wring it out and smoothly line a colander with it—no wrinkles.  Drop the tofu inside the colander and press it into the sides and bottom of the colander.  Place this colander on a plate. Bring the hanging cheesecloth on the sides into the center to cover the tofu.  Now place a plate right on top of the tofu and give it a slight press. Use a heavy object to place on top of the plate. This is to help the tofu drain excess water through the colander. Place this inside the refrigerator overnight (ideal time). This helps the tofu to absorb the seasoning well too.

On day of making the tofu turkey.  For the Stuffing, Place the cubed bread cubes on a baking sheet and bake them in a preheated 225F oven for 20-30 minutes or until dry and crisp.  Meanwhile, heat a skillet. Add about 1 tsp oil and saute the onions and cook for 3-4 minutes or until soft. Add celery and saute for 2 minutes more.  Stir in the apples along with other seasonings. Cook for 5 minutes.  Add maple syrup and the vinegar and remove from heat.  Combine the bread cubes along with apple mixture. Stir in almonds and dried cherries. Transfer to a greased baking sheet and pour broth over the top. Cover with foil and bake for 20-30 minutes or until the stuffing begins to brown on top. You can make a crisp filling by removing the foil and baking for 10 minutes more.

For Marinade, mix all the ingredients for the under the marinade until combined.  For assembly, preheat oven to 375F.  Drain the Tofu water from the plate on which you placed the colander.  Remove weight and plate from colander.  Now scoop some tofu from the center.  Make sure to leave at least 1-2 inches on the sides and bottom.  Now fill this hollow with the stuffing.  Now top the stuffing with the scooped out tofu.  Make sure to smooth the surface and level it out.  Place a large oven to table baking sheet (I used a pie plate large enough to cover the colander opening) on top of the colander.  Hold tightly, and slowly invert colander onto the plate so that tofu-turkey drops gently onto dish.  Now slowly remove the cheesecloth from the tofu.  It should look like a white dome.  Baste the tofu turkey with the prepared marinade.  Bake for 15 minutes.  Baste again. reduce the heat to 350F and bake for another 1 hour, basting as many times it strikes your fancy.  Once baked, you see a beautifully crisped tofu surface.  The most amazing after effects of this meal with striking similarities to the real thing with a lot fewer calories!

Apple Cranberry Crisp (serves 8)

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  • 3 large organic red apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 cup fresh organic cranberries
  • 1/2 cup organic apple juice
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon organic all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  • two cups organic granola
  • pinch of sea salt (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 deg.  Combine the apples and cranberries and pour into an 8 to 9 inch square baking dish.  In a small bowl, whisk together the apple juice, flour, pumpkin pie spice and sea salt.  Pour over the fruit.  Sprinkle the granola evenly over the fruit and lightly press down.  Bake until hot and bubbly, 30 – 45 minutes.  Serve warm.

* Please note, these recipes are not mine, but I have tried them and I think they are all delicious.  If you would like to find the main source for these recipes, simply click on the recipe images and you will directed to the website. 

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