Thanksgiving used to be my favorite holiday of the year. I remember my grandparents thawing the giant, frozen turkey overnight by sitting it on the register in the living room. And…we always lived to tell about it. Ha! My mom would stay up until the wee hours of the morning making deviled eggs, Dutch apple pie, pumpkin pie, potato salad, macaroni salad (which was apparently so good numerous people had dreams about it… I’ve never been into saucy salads, so I can’t really comment), sour cream dill dip, radish rosettes, and the list goes on. Thanksgiving morning, everyone would sleep in and begin cooking as soon as the sun was high in the sky. The turkey went in the oven, the white potatoes went on the stove for mashing, the sweet potatoes came out of the can to be simmered with brown sugar, butter and marshmallows, the brown-and-serve rolls came out of the plastic, the cheese got sliced, the cans and jars of olives got opened, and we all ate until we burst. (There was gravy and stuffing too, but I was never a fan of either.) Ah…a happy, SAD Thanksgiving…straight from a can, bottle, box and package, and straight into my giant tummy. By the way, there were only four of us for dinner most years. Yes, all that food for four people. And a month worth of left-overs
This year is my third Thanksgiving as a vegan. And, this is my third Thanksgiving with nobody to cook for. Boo. Mr M and I do not live near any of our family, so another Thanksgiving is about to come and go, and I don’t have anyone to eat the obscene amount of food I’d like to spend days cooking. But, instead of lamenting the lack of hungry mouths to feed, I’ve created a list of my favorite Thanksgiving foods and some that I’ve been wanting to try.
Side note: I’m sharing this list with a group of newbie plant-based eaters at my University. I’m the guest speaker this week. Woohoo!
Brunch: I’ve never been to Thanksgiving Brunch. We always at dinner – a late dinner around 5 or 6 p.m. I’ve been to Thanksgiving lunch at friends’ houses, but the food served has always been traditional Thanksgiving fair. But, if you are hosting some guests and/or you want to save the big meal for later in the day, a light brunch might be for you
Try something sweet! I made Happy Herbivore’s Cinnamon Rolls last year for Christmas, and they rocked! Very dense and super sweet. Mmmm….If you want something a little more decadent, try Kathy’s recipe for Pumpkin Pecan Cinnamon Rolls. I swear I’m going to make these some day!
Better than eggs? Oh ya! I’ve made the Fat Free Vegan’s Asparagus-Mushroom Quiche with Brown Rice Crust numerous times, and every time, it’s been delicious. I’ve mixed up the veggies, doubled the recipe, and even frozen some for later, and it’s always, always a winner. I substitute the vegan Parmesan called for in the recipe with about double the amount of nutritional yeast, and you won’t need need all of the brown rice called for unless you have a freakishly giant pie plate.
Another tasty egg substitute is tofu scramble. If you’ve never made a tofu scramble before, you’re missing out. Although I was a never a big fan of scrambled eggs or omelets (I was never a fan of eggs, really), tofu scramble is a different story. There are tons of recipes on the web (Isa has a couple of good ones), but you really don’t need a recipe to make this a hit. Just saute your favorite veggies until they’re almost tender, add your tofu and seasonings, and continue to cook until the veggies are completely done and the tofu is warmed through. Not sure what to do with the tofu? No worries; it depends upon how you like your “eggs.” Like them soft? Just open a package of extra-firm tofu, drain, rinse, and crumble into the pan with the veggies. Like them a little more firm? Press the tofu block over night and you’re ready to crumble and cook. Not sure what spices to use? Stick with your favs, but add some turmeric for a more authentic egg color. Paprika is also a great add. And, if you happen to have some, throw in a pinch of black salt for a hint of sulfur egginess. (Some dulse or kelp flakes would also do the trick.)
Lunch or Dinner: The main meal! There are so many things you can do the with the main meal; the choices are almost endless. I tried to represent all of the classics and a few new ones.
Soup for starters? I can’t remember ever attending a Thanksgiving meal that started with soup, but hey, there’s always a first! Soup is a nice, light way to introduce or accompany the main meal. And, it’s a great option for people who don’t want to indulge in traditionally heavy holiday foods.
I have quite a few soups listed on the Recipes page that would work great as starter, accompaniments or meal replacements. A few of my favorites are Roasted Butternut Squash Soup, Vegetable Chowder, and classic Vegetable. For an ethnic flair, try super quick cooking Lemony Lentil Soup.
Don’t forget the greens! Much like soup, I don’t know that I’ve ever had salad at a Thanksgiving meal, either, but everybody can use a few more greens in their life. Right?!
Take this opportunity to introduce people to massaged kale salad (Massage a couple bunches of torn kale leaves with EVOO until nice and wilty, add your favorite veggies, seasonings, and a good squeeze of lemon juice.), toss up a nice Romain dressed with my new favorite dressing, or go for something a little more non-traditional with some raw tabouli.
Appetizers, any one? If soup and salad don’t go with the flow of your day, offer up lots of appetizers to keep your eaters happy until dinner is ready.
Fresh veggie and fruit trays are always a hit. If you have dip lovers, make a raw ranch/soup cream dip by blending soaked cashews with a bit of water and some lemon juice (or apple cider vinegar) until creamy then add your favorite seasonings. Add garlic and onion powder for more of a ranch flavor. Toss in some dehydrated onion and garlic for a French onion style dip, or stir in some minced dill for a dill dip that nobody will ever guess is dairy free. For a fruit dip, make the same cashew cream, but sweeten it up and add a bit of fruit puree to make it extra special.
The main meal. Need I say more? All your family favorites – healthier and cruelty free.
Looking for a meat substitute? You can try a commercial brand, or whip up some of your favorite veggie burgers or a nice, big veggie loaf. If you’re feeling creative, shape your loaf into something holiday familiar.
If you want to go a completely different rout, try roasting and stuffing your favorite squash. Roast your favorite winter squash and stuff it with your favorite grain mix. Quiona, rice or kamut make nice gluten-free based grain stuffing.
Missing potatoes? Well, stop it. Vegan mashed potatoes are super easy. If you use Earth Balance, just replace the butter in your old standby recipe with EB and replace the milk with plain, unsweetened non-diary milk. Soy and hemp are the thickest. If you don’t use EB and want or need to keep your potatoes nut/seed free, mash up your favorite golden-skinned white potatoes with vegetable broth, and if you want a little fat, throw in a scoop of coconut oil. Additionally, if you want to cut the starch of the potato, use half potato and half boiled cauliflower or roasted parsnip. If your holiday meal just isn’t complete without sweet potatoes, try Susan’s lower-fat Sweet Potato Casserole with Pecan or Angela’s more traditional This Ain’t Grandma’s Sweet Potato Casserole. Or, if you want to try something different, try Emily’s Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Miso Sauce. These are a must try!
There’s no need to force veggies onto your guests with dishes like these! I love, love, love Susan’s Best Vegan Green Bean Casserole. Seriously. I could do eat it all myself…sometimes before it makes it into the oven. To make life easier, I use canned French style green beans, and I skip the sherry. I’ve also made this gluten free with oat flour many times, and it works great! Any plain and unsweetened nut/seed milk will work to, and I don’t top the dish with anything. Low maintenance, baby!
Don’t forget the roasted root veggies like potatoes, parsnips, rutabagas, carrots, fennel, etc. Just toss with a little melted coconut oil and sprinkle with a little salt before cooking for about 30 minutes at 425F.
Brussels sprouts are also a holiday favorite for some. My very favorite are the Shaved Brussels Sprouts in Appetite for Reduction. I looked for a posted recipe, but couldn’t find one. Basically, you just thinly slice the sprouts and saute them with a tiny bit of oil. I add in sliced onions for extra flavor. The hardest part is not stirring the veggies. Letting them sit forms this awesome crust/carmelization that really adds to the dish.
Don’t forget the gravy! I love this one! And if you need stuff to make your meal complete, try this one. I don’t include the tofu (although I did try it once, and it was pretty good, the stuff is great on it’s own!). And finally, if your meal just isn’t complete without Mac-n-Cheese, why not add some extra nutrition with butternut squash? If I only make one new dish this holiday season, this is going to be the one.
Although I’ve never been a fan of cranberry relish or jellied cranberries or whatever other cranberry dish I’ve encountered during Thanksgiving dinner, I have seen a few recipes this year that make me want to incorporate this classic dish into my virtual meal. This one looks really good!
Dessert is served! There’s really no way you can go wrong with dessert. Anything you want to make or share is going to be awesome! But, if you want to make a traditional style pumpkin pie, there are endless options available. You can try my raw pumpkin custard, pumpkin pie balls, or a more adventurous raw pumpkin cheese cake or raw pecan cake. If chocolate is more your speed, try one of these: Raw Brownies with Chocolate Pumpkin Frosting or Double Chocolate Cherry Cheesecake.
Snack time! Snacks are great for after dinner family time, football game watching, and hungry grazers who didn’t get enough to eat at dinner. Or just can’t stay out of the kitchen
Whip up a quick, thick, seasoned seed or nut cheese and spread it on some cucumber slices. Top each slice with tomato bits and an olive slice. Or, dehydrate or bake up some kale chips. Amber’s Pizza Kale Chips are among my favorite! And don’t forget about homemade veggie chips and/or oven fries. Just about anything can be sliced thin and dehydrated or baked until crispy or cut into fry shape and baked until soft and fluffy.
Holiday cheer. Some days calls for special food – and special drinks. Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to try vegan hot chocolate with a twist or eggless nog. (I like this one because it doesn’t use banana. I’d add something to thicken it a bit – maybe white chia meal. I’d go with the suggestion of using cashew or macadamia nut butter – or thick cream. Mmm….)You can spike either, both, or none. I drink alcohol, but there are many vegan wines, beers, and liquors. Double check the company’s website if you aren’t sure of ingredients. (Major allergens like milk have to be listed on the label by law; look for it.)
I hope you found something here to make your Thanksgiving a little easier. If not, well, I tried
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone!