My 1st Vegan Thanksgiving!

November 25, 2010

So. Today is the big day. My first big challenge. Thanksgiving. You see, I recently switched to a vegan diet, and so far haven’t really been tested. But today is one of the biggies, for meat-eaters. Now I’m not gonna lie to you – I am bummed that I will no longer be partaking in the succulent, juicy turkey that I usually look forward to smothering in homemade cranberry sauce. Not to mention the mini-leftover turkey sandwiches that I won’t be enjoying in the days to come. But, in life you sometimes have to make sacrifices for things you believe in, and today is one of those times.

The problem is, I’m the only vegan in my family. And being vegan, it’s not just a matter of avoiding the turkey. I can’t eat hardly anything that my family will prepare. My dad makes his mashed potatoes with milk and butter, the carrots are cooked in butter, the green bean casserole calls for cream of mushroom soup and milk, and all the different pies have milk, eggs, and butter. And I’ve told them that I don’t want my personal diet choice to be a hassle or burden for anyone else. I don’t want them to have to alter their favorite dishes, for me. My brother that hosted, was worried about what I was going to eat. So, in order to simplify it for everyone else, I told them to carry on as usual, that I would prepare enough dishes to ensure I had plenty to eat, and don’t they worry about it. Which was great, except it meant I pretty much had to make an entire vegan-Thanksgiving spread. We essentially had two versions of everything at the party this year.

I scoured the internet, and actually found several vegan Thanksgiving dishes that sounded really good. I narrowed it down to: Curried Sweet Potato & Wild Rice soup, Cranberry Vinaigrette Salad, Grilled Asparagus, Butternut Squash with Whole Wheat, Wild Rice & Onion stuffing, Cranberry-Pear Wild Rice stuffing, Garlic Mashed Cauliflower, Carrot Cake, and Pumpkin Pie. Whew! I steered clear of Tofurkey, because I’m not too keen on faux meat, plus I figured with all the recipes I found calling for “real” food, it wasn’t even necessary. Granted, I probably went a bit overboard – I didn’t need to make two different stuffings, and why did so many of my dishes call for wild rice? But, whatever. Trial and error here, people. The main goal was to have so much to eat, that I didn’t even notice the turkey missing from my plate.

Now some of the food I made was delish, some I won’t repeat next year. I do want to share two recipes that were quite popular:

Curried Sweet Potato & Wild Rice Soup [1]

Ingredients:

  • 1 med sweet potato
  • 1/2 sweet onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 cup vegetable broth (I used a low-sodium broth.)
  • 1 tsp mild curry powder
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala (I found this in the ethnic food aisle at Whole Foods.)
  • 1/2 cup non-dairy milk (I used soy, but think rice milk would be good too.)
  • 1/4 cup wild rice, cooked

Instructions:

  • Preheat oven to 425. Bake sweet potato until fully cooked, about 45 min – 1 hr. Allow to completely cool, then peel skin & discard. Transfer potato to a blender.
  • While the potato is baking, cook the wild rice according to package instructions.
  • In a medium saucepan, combine onion, garlic, broth, curry & garam masala. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Cover & simmer until onions are translucent, about 5 – 7 min.
  • Transfer to the blender, add non-dairy milk, blend until smooth & creamy. Return to saucepan & heat thoroughly. If the soup becomes too thick, thin out with a little non-dairy milk or water.
  • Laddle into a bowl & spoon warm wild rice into the center. Sprinkle ground cinnamon for garnish and serve.
  • *This recipe becomes more flavorful over time. If possible, make a day in advance and gently reheat.

Cranberry-Pear Wild Rice Stuffing [2]

Ingredients:

  • 2-1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 2/3 cup raw wild rice
  • 1-1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 med red onion, chopped
  • 1 lg celery stalk, diced
  • 2 med firm pears, cored & diced
  • 4 cups whole grain bread, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup pecans or walnuts, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp salt-free seasoning (I omitted this.)
  • 1/4 – 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1/2 cup apple or pear juice

Instructions:

  • Bring the broth to a simmer in a small saucepan. Stir in the wild rice, then cover & simmer gently until the water is absorbed, about 35 min.
  • Preheat the oven to 375.
  • Whirl chunks of whole grain bread in a food processor until fine. (This is a great time to use up ends, or slightly dated pieces of bread.)
  • Heat the oil in a medium-size skillet. Add the onion & saute until translucent. Add the celery & saute over medium heat, until both are golden.
  • Combine the onion-celery mixture with the cooked wild rice & all the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl, except the apple/pear juice. Stir well to combine.
  • Drizzle the apple juice in slowly, stirring all the while, until the mixture is evenly moistened.
  • Transfer the mixture to a lightly oiled, large shallow baking dish. Bake for 30 – 35 min, or until the top begins to get slightly crusty.

________________________________________________________________

References: [1] I found this recipe at http://happyherbivore.com/2009/10/sweet-potato-soup/. [2] I got this recipe from http://www.vegkitchen.com/recipes/cranberry-pear-wild-rice-stuffing/.

Image Source: http://www.lassiwithlavina.com/foodieheavan/the-no-turkey-indian-thanksgiving/html, http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/11/01/giving-thanks-for-vegetables-not-turkey/, http://happyherbivore.com/2009/10/sweet-potato-soup/, http://travelbloggers.wordpress.com/2008/11/24/thanksgiving-without-the-turkey/

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