Tag Archives: Thanksgiving

Savory Butternut Squash and Tomatoes

I don’t know about you, but as soon as fall rolls around, I’m ready to eat all of the squash. From October to March you can always count on at least one variety of squash (and a pile of sweet potatoes) residing in my kitchen. They’re truly fall and winter staples.

When it comes to squash, butternut and kabocha are my all time favorites. I’m pretty lazy with kabocha and generally just do a quick steam. But I’m willing to put in the time with butternut. True, it’s rich and savory simply baked in the oven with a brush of olive oil. But this dish, adapted from a 2007  New York Times recipe, turns an already beloved ingredient into a complex and comforting centerpiece. Make it for a dinner party, holiday or potluck and I guarantee you’ll get rave reviews.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

Kabocha squash is nutty, sweet and pairs so well with cranberries.

The Times’ original recipe serves as a pasta sauce, but I’ve adapted (and veganized) it into the main affair with the addition of beans. In lieu of said beans, I’ve also used Beyond Meat chick’n or tempeh, either do nicely. Definitely serve it with a heap of broccoli rabe, kale or another dark, leafy green. The garlicky squash and deep greens are the perfect pair. But feel free to round it all out by piling the squash onto whole wheat pasta or quinoa. Either way, this is a satisfying dish that will warm and comfort you on the cold nights to come!

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Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped

1/4 cup sliced shallots

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste

2 cups chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)

1 butternut squash, cubed or shredded

1 can white beans or chick peas

1 Tbsp Nutritional yeast (or to taste)

Pink salt or sea salt and pepper

Directions:

1. Put olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic, shallots and pepper flakes and cook for about a minute; add tomatoes and squash, and cook with some salt and pepper.

2. When squash is tender — about 15 minutes  — add beans and nutritional yeast. Stir to incorporate and cook until beans are heated through.

Your Soon-to-be Famous Mushroom Gravy

Growing up, my Mom made a divine mushroom gravy but once a year. That day was usually Rosh Hashanah, when our house ran wild with rambunctious children who, quite literally, climbed the walls. (My cousin had an unusual talent for doorway climbing.) For a few brief moments we kids were seated for dinner at a card table added to the end of the heftier legitimate table. I was seated only between frequent trips to the buffet for more of that unforgettable mushroom gravy.

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By the time I had graduated from the kids’ table I was vegetarian, and suddenly that gravy was even more integral to my holiday repast. I ladled gobs of the stuff over chewy barley noodles and sundry side dishes while the rest of the family spooned it upon the “roast.”

I had no veg roast at those family dinners as I came late to many vegan staples like Tofurky. Somehow I lived 30 years without even laying eyes on one! When that day finally arrived, I immediately took notice of the mushroom gravy recipe on the side of the box (originally from The Tofu Cookery by Louise Hagler.) It had been years since Mom had made her famous gravy, so my nostalgic palate was ready._MG_1019

Over the last ten years I’ve worked hard to find the perfect amalgamation of Mom’s gravy and that of the Tofu Cookery. Many a gathering from New York to Cleveland has sampled these attempts, and fortunately every rendition has been a resounding hit. One midwest Thanksgiving I received the props every vegan covets- the gravy was ranked as best dish (at a very impressive table) by an omnivore. I think my aspiring chef ex-mother in law was vaguely annoyed.

My mom’s gravy was a brothy one. That was her intention, but I do recall my plate taking on the appearance of soup. On the other hand, I’ve never liked thick, creamy gravies, so the one you find here is a  compromise- thick enough to stick to your Tofurky/Field Roast etc but not so thick that a fork will stand up in it. In my opinion, that’s what your mashed potatoes are for. Which, by the way, are the perfect vehicle for this gravy. But if you like super thick gravies, no problem,  just use more flour in the roux.

Before roux & nooch

Before roux & nutritional yeast

After adding roux. Just the right thickness.

After adding roux and nooch. Just the right thickness.

This past weekend I brought a batch of our recipe along with cranberry sauce to my friends’ annual pre-Thanksgiving feast. All of which, is vegan, of course. The hosts are fabulous cooks- the hostess is famous for killer mashed potatoes, the host for an unbelievable all-from-scratch un-turkey. The event truly yields a cornucopia of delicacies. In addition our hosts’ talents, the rest of the group really brings it when it comes to potlucks. (Scroll below the recipe for some more snapshots from the evening)

Because the un-turkey was running a bit late, we began our feast with the dishes guests brought- pumpkin breads, mashed potatoes, several versions of mac & cheese, brussels sprouts, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, garlicky kale, baked tofu, cranberries, salads, etc…

Just a small section of the buffet.

Just a small section of one of the buffet tables.

Nick's famous un-Turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing.

The famous un-turkey from scratch: Homemade seitan & yuba skin, delicious stuffing. See the steam rising? It was delectable.

So when the gorgeous un-turkey emerged from the kitchen, every drop of gravy had already been consumed. It was no tragedy, however, the un-turkey was so succulent it needed no adornments. But bottom line, the gravy was once again a smash. As will you be when you make it. So get cooking!

When possible, I cook gluten-free for crowds because I know a lot of gluten-intolerant or sensitive folks, thus I’ve used brown rice flour for the roux. And I find it doesn’t lump.

I generally use all fresh herbs in this recipe, but if you can’t find fresh rosmary, thyme and sage, (sorry, no parsley here!) you can definitely get away with 1 fresh, the other 2 dried. It’s more complex with all 3 fresh, but it will still be phenomenal with just fresh rosemary.

You’ll need two pans here. I tend to make the roux in a small pan and do the rest in a huge one.

Giant pan works best for this.

Giant pan works best for this.

A note on cleaning all those mushrooms: some people are under the false impression that you can’t clean mushrooms with water. They’re wrong! You won’t want to wet them in advance, but right before using them, it’s no problem. Here’s a good method. Get a large bowl, dump the shrooms in, then pour water over them. Submerge them a few times, rinse, repeat. You get the vast majority of dirt off in one fell swoop, then touch up with a towel as you’re cutting. Easy.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

My method of mushroom cleaning. To the chagrin of my ex-mother in law.

Mushroom Gravy
Adapted from Tofu Cookery, Louise Hagler
Enough to feed a large group (10-25, depending on how much they like gravy!)

Ingredients:
2 pkgs. mushrooms, sliced (together, 16-20 oz) : I suggest 1 white button, 1 crimini
1/2 Cup sliced onions
3 Tbsp Olive oil, divided
1/4 Cup brown rice flour
4 cups vegetable stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
4 sprigs fresh rosemary, chopped
About 5 fresh sage leaves, chopped (more if you really dig sage)
2 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
2 Tbsp Nutritional Yeast
1/4 tsp black pepper

Method:

Lightly sauté the onions in 1 Tbsp olive oil for about a minute in a large pan. Add the sliced mushrooms and incorporate. Add the stock, along with the soy sauce, herbs and black pepper. Lower the flame while you make your roux.

In a small pan, make the roux. Combine and bubble the flour and 2 Tbsp olive oil over low heat for one minute. Scrape the roux into the larger pan, I generally use some stock to thin it toward the end, then pour the thinned roux in. Whisk into the stock, then add your nutritional yeast. Cook (on low-medium flame) until thickened and mushrooms are tender.

For all of you in the US, I hope you have a lovely Thanksgiving! And now some snaps from yet another fantastic Harvest Feast.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat.

Seriously, we vegans have nothing to eat. This was just one of the tables full of food!

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

The eagerly anticipated arrival of the un-turkey

It's an exciting moment, obviously!

It’s an exciting moment, obviously!

Check out that steam!

Check out that steam!

Eleanor's colorful plate of goodies

Eleanor’s colorful plate of goodies

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Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

Demetrius at the other buffet- his amazing kale and Mac n cheeze, and a fabulous sweet potato casserole with candied pecan topping. Yum!

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

David guards a plate for late arrival Cathy.

Lovely Robyn.

Robyn, one of the beautiful Moms at the soiree.

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Annie and her beautiful daughters Seneca and Rae

Sorry Rae,, I was never very good with that thing.

Sorry Rae, I was never very good with that thing.

Grace's amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Grace’s amazing and gorgeous apple pie!

Always fashionable Rachel!

Rachel, another vegan babe.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

If you can believe it, this is only a sampling of the desserts. Two more pies and cashew cream soon took up residence on the table.

Our lovely hostess, Susanne, and LiLi. Everyone has someone/thing to hold here. Always something to do chez Susanne/Nick!

Many a set of full arms!

Susan spearheads the activities committee

Susan spearheads the activities committee

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the painting. Only Jen's prettier and not at all spooky.

In her green dress I thought Jen resembled the girl in the groovy painting. Only Jen’s prettier and not at all spooky.

Superfast Cranberry Pineapple Sauce

Ah, those gorgeous colors of fall. And I don’t just mean the trees! I love the saturated, contrasting color of autumn foods. I waited patiently for cranberries to re-emerge on the shelves, and excitedly picked up the first bag I saw. While it was the middle of the day and I should have been doing homework, I simply couldn’t wait any longer to make this year’s first batch of cranberry sauce.

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Now I know what you’re thinking: “I can find a recipe for cranberry sauce on the back of the bag.” Well that may be true. But I for one have a hard time ruining perfectly beautiful cranberries with refined white sugar. Sorry! Just can’t do it.

Anyway, I like a lot of cranberry sauce on my Tofurky, or whatever cranberry vehicle is on my plate. And that means a lot of cranberry sauce, considering everything is a vehicle for cranberries in my book. So around Thanksgiving each year, I search the web for a lightened up cranberry sauce, never to find one I like. This year I decided to get it down to a science and share it with you lovely people.

This cranberry is lightened up, but has such complex, bright flavors you’ll never miss all that sugar. It’s tangy, subtly sweet and gorgeously healthful. The maple syrup sets it up beautifully, and gives it that extra fall -esque comforty flavor. So quick to make, it’s an any- day affair.

Kabocha, kale, Barry's Tempeh (all 3 steamed out of laziness/hunger) and Superfast cranberry-pineapple sauce.

Kabocha, kale, Barry’s Tempeh and Superfast Cranberry-Pineapple sauce.

It’s perfect to accompany basics like squash, (I used kabocha here) and for complimenting any savory veggie protein staple. For me it was the incomparable Barry’s Tempeh, (so good it needs no marinade) but future plans include robust Apple-Sage Field Roast Sausages, and of course, Celebration Loaf. And I won’t judge you if you simply spoon it onto Tofurky slices in front of the refrigerator. (hmm, I wonder who has been doing just that?;)

The gorgeous, saturated color that makes cranberries so nice to look at is also why they are amazing antioxidants. In that red color are the polyphenols- phytochemicals that have some of the most potent antioxidant activity. Polyphenols may contribute to cardiovascular health, immunity, and play an important role in cancer prevention. So get those cranberries in- as usual, without dairy, as dairy inhibits antioxidant activity.

So get this sauce on the stove and listen to the music of the popping cranberries- one of my favorite sounds! Serve up the sauce with your favorites, and bask in the warm Thanksgiving-like vibe without feeling like you need to open your pants.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone! Hope you have a wonderful day filled with family, friends, joy and compassion. I consider all animals my friends, and I don’t eat my friends! Turkeys are no exception- my table will be full of delicious plant-based foods. Around this time of year I think about how special turkeys are- so does Karen Dawn. I hope you’ll watch this heartwarming rescue story – it shows how loving, warm and friendly these birds truly are- just like your cats and dogs.

Cranberry – Pineapple Sauce

Recipe notes: About stevia- make sure to get a good quality brand. Some are just crazy bitter, causing many to believe they don’t like stevia. It doesn’t have to be that way! I suggest Trader Joe’s organic, or 365 brand from Whole foods. If you know any other good ones, please share in the comments! If you’re not into stevia, don’t worry- just follow the no-fail tried and tested non-stevia sweetening directions below.

Ingredients:

12 oz package cranberries

1/3 cup water

2 Tbsp maple syrup

2 tiny stevia spoonfuls (about 1/8 tsp)

3/4 cup fresh pineapple, diced

Method:

Add cranberries, water and maple syrup to a small pot. Bring to a boil, stir, then reduce to low-medium and cover partially, just so that the cranberries don’t splutter everywhere! After about 7-10 minutes, add pineapple and one tiny stevia spoon-full of stevia, stir well to incorporate. Cook until pineapple is just soft enough and the water is fully incorporated. (in total, about 15 minutes) Check for sweetness, mix in the second spoon of stevia at this point if it’s too tart.

This sauce is a lightened up version of a classic, but if you’re not into stevia, sub in 1/3 to 1/2 cup maple syrup. (start with 1/3, add a bit more if needed. I find 1/3 cup is perfect, but you may like it sweeter.)

A Compassionate Thanksgiving

This post began as a simple link to Colleen Patrick Goudreau’s marvelous new Thanksgiving video. But since she is my patron saint of inspiration, it doesn’t surprise that it developed a tiny life of it’s own. (I’ll still get to the video, which you must check out.)

The spirit of Thanksgiving is obviously in it’s etymology- so each year I wonder, shouldn’t the day be just that- a day to give thanks? Like many others, I find it hard to feel thankful when a dead bird lies before me on a table, when the air is thick with the smell of her body and so many others in neighboring homes. Obviously the 45 million turkeys have nothing for which they need give thanks. And is the destruction of our planet a cause for thanksgiving? Turkey “farming” yields massive carbon emissions, thus substantially contributing to global warming. Are we really thankful for the foodborne diseases, such as avian flu, MRSA, and super-strains of Salmonella created through animal agriculture? And are the world’s hungry thankful that millions of turkeys are raised on grain that could otherwise keep them fed year-round?

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

A happy flock of friends at Farm Sanctuary

On this day, as ever, shouldn’t we behave in a fashion worthy of thanks? Imagine the collective good we could accomplish in changing just one meal. It’s really quite easy to have a joyous, meaningful holiday and decadent meal without killing innocent animals.  When you think about it, Thanksgiving is a harvest festival, so most of the foods are inherently plant-based. Why not build your holiday around these beautiful, nutrient dense foods? Below are just a few of the many fabulous vegan foods I have made or enjoyed on Thanksgiving.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Turkeys are some of the most loving, loyal animals out there.

Garlic mashed potatoes

Coconut sweet potatoes

Mushroom gravy

Roasted root vegetables

Roasted brussels sprouts

Roasted butternut squash

Acorn squash stuffed with wild rice

Garlicky string beans

Cranberry sauce

Tofurky Roast & Celebration Roasts

Pecan pie

Pumpkin pie

Pumpkin cheesecake

Cookbook author extraordinaire, Colleen Patrick Goudreau makes a gorgeous, cruelty-free Thanksgiving easy to envision in this wonderful video.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zljsYQ3jjWE&feature=share

What plant-based foods are you planning to make for Thanksgiving this year? I’d love to hear the menu!