A Thanksgiving First

November 27, 2012 § 3 Comments

Trying to explain our first Thanksgiving without Dad is pretty much indescribable. So, I think I’d rather not even try. I’ll just say that we managed to make it through. All in all, it was as good a day as could be. But honestly, I’ll be happy next year when I’ve got my baby girl with me. It will surely give us all a reason to smile.

Now onto the food. I got away with having a fully vegan Thanksgiving! I was hosting – a first for us. My mom had planned to bring a turkey. I was literally sick all week just thinking about. I just didn’t want that turkey in my house. Well, luckily for me (and the turkey) she wasn’t able to bring it. So, score! We had a fully vegan Thanksgiving!

I had really hoped my family would ooh and ahh over the food and say they didn’t even miss the bird. But reality is, that did not happen. Everything I made was a new recipe and we had about a 50% success rate. It wasn’t that some of them were bad, they just weren’t all great. So lesson learned, next year I’ll try and test recipes prior to the day of – or let’s be real, with a new baby I’ll probably barely be making it through my first Thanksgiving as a parent!

Here’s a full run-down of what I served for a vegan Thanksgiving. It is a long list, I know. My hope is this feedback will help you plan for Christmas and future holidays to come. I spend a lot of time researching vegan holiday recipes and know how hard it is to find them so hopefully this helps a few of you. For more ideas, visit my vegan holiday pinterest board.


“Pigs” in a blanket

I nearly squealed with delight when I realized crescent rolls were vegan. My mom makes pigs in a blanket all the time at the holidays for us to snack on while she cooks dinner. I tried Lightlife’s smart dogs and was pleasantly surprised at my first bite. It tasted just like I remember pigs in a blanket tasting. Definitely worth a try. Just cut crescent roll dough into strips and wrap around the smart dogs. Cook according to crescent roll package instructions.

Pumpkin Poppers with Pumpkin Butter 

These may have been the best things I made all day – I really wish the picture did them justice. I didn’t have a mini muffin tin so my poppers turned out to be more like muffins. But trust me, no one complained! These are so good on their own and even better with the pumpkin butter – btw, I made this “butter” the night before and it seriously took everything within me to not finish the whole bowl. It was that good! (Note: for the poppers, I added 1/2 tsp baking soda as some of the comments said to do and substituted EnerG for the egg and Earth Balance for the butter to make them vegan)

vegan pumpkin muffins, donuts

Fried Ravioli 

Pre-vegan, I absolutely adored Giada’s fried ravioli recipe. It was a hit and my family would always ask for it. I wanted to see if it was possible to recreate as a vegan option. I found this recipe which worked great. I wish I kept the name of the brand of ravioli I used but I didn’t. They were from Whole Foods, vegan, and in the freezer section. I just sat them out about an hour before I needed them and then followed this recipe’s instructions. Now, they weren’t ooey gooey like Giada’s – but for a vegan option, they fit the bill! And as a bonus, something about them was even easier to fry than the non-vegan version.

Marinated Vegetable Salad

Sadly, I can’t share this recipe as it’s a friend’s treasured family recipe but I just wanted to prove that we had something decent to eat and not just a carb overload!


Vegan Brie en Croute 

OK, I’ve learned my lesson. I hate nutritional yeast. Sad as many vegans claim this to be one of their favs and it is used to make vegan cheese. But it is just not for me. With this vegan brie, all I could taste was the nutritional yeast so I didn’t like it. My sister and grandmother on the other hand enjoyed it – and neither of them are vegan. Go figure. If you like nutritional yeast this may be for you. If you’re like me, stay clear. 😦

Fig & Olive Tapenade

This recipe was from a Thanksgiving cookbook and I really liked the sweet/salty combo.

Vegetable Wellingtons with Port Wine Reduction Sauce 

These wellingtons were pretty easy to make. You just cook the veggies and then place them in the puff pastry (the pepperidge farm version is vegan!) Overall, they were so-so. I think they were a bit sweet with the squash and the port wine sauce but I was trying to dress them up. Everyone seemed to like them just fine, they just weren’t the show-stoppers I’d hoped for.

Crispy Potato Roast 

If you’ve spent any time on Pinterest, you’ve probably seen this recipe or one like it. It’s taunted me for over a year – so I decided to give it a try this Thanksgiving. I had high hopes for salty, crispy, potato chip-like dish. That didn’t happen. I followed the recipe to a T and it just didn’t pan out. It wasn’t particularly bad – it just didn’t meet the picture’s expectations. Needless to say I will not be spending so much time on the mandolin to try this again in the future.

Sweet Potato Struedel

Sadly another flop 😦 We tried to veganize this cookbook recipe and we must have taken a wrong turn as our struedel topping didn’t melt. I thought we could just omit the cream but clearly that was a necessary component.

Cinnamon & Star Anise Infused Cranberry Sauce

I was looking for something a bit more special than the recipe on the back of the Ocean Spray cranberry package. While I really liked this, it is quite spicy. You have to really like your holiday spices for this recipe.

Spiced Pumpkin Layer Cake with Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting 

The cake is another cookbook recipe so I can’t share but it was a pretty basic recipe I think. The frosting made the cake! I loved this frosting and added a dash of vanilla to it. Oh, and my sister did ooh and aah over this one 😉


Giving Thanks…Never Say Never

December 9, 2011 § 5 Comments

I’ve been on a big journey the past few years…

Once upon a time, I never thought my husband and I would be able to be together – but we figured out a way to make it happen and have been married 3+ years. 🙂

It wasn’t too long ago I was in the midst of a huge company downsizing, lost my job, and after months of searching was told if I wanted to get hired, I’d need to remove my MBA from my resume. Talk about depressing… Needless to say I never saw my career taking off the way it has – and it did so beyond my wildest dreams.

I never thought I’d be able to travel on my own, something about lonely hotel rooms and solitary dinners made me nervous – but this year was spent taking more trips than I can count, mostly alone, and I did just fine.

I never thought I’d be able to manage a dog with my job – I do, and splendidly I may add thanks to my husband. How we ever managed before her is beyond us.

I never thought I’d spend the holidays with my in-laws, no matter how hard we tried, it just never worked out – but my mother-in-law arrives this weekend and will stay through the Christmas holiday and I can’t wait!

And lastly…I never, never, never thought I’d be a VEGAN (hah!) at our Thanksgiving table. That’s possibly the biggest surprise of all.

OK, surely becoming vegan isn’t the best of this list – but for me it’s pretty remarkable considering I’ve never had any self control in my life when it came to food. If I wanted it, I ate it. So to sit and eat a fully vegan Thanksgiving meal was pretty amazing. And you know what? It wasn’t bad at all – in fact, it was pretty great.

There was no shortage of food – my mom cooked, which means we had way too much food as usual – and all that food was vegan (minus the turkey :))

I feasted on Carrot and Parsnip Osso Buco (recipe info below) which I prepared after looking through my Thanksgiving vegan menu options – carrots, parsnips, pearl onions and porcini mushrooms are slowly braised in red wine, mushroom broth, and curry spices. This atop fluffy mashed potatoes was as delicious as my turkey alternative.

I enjoyed traditional sides of stuffing, green beans, cranberry sauce, sauteed apples, and lastly some scrumptious pumpkin garlic knots – yup all vegan! Amazing that many of our favorite foods can be made vegan just by swapping chicken stock for vegetable stock. I couldn’t even tell the difference!

It was a Thanksgiving to remember, that’s for sure. Watching my mom prepare everything with her new vegan ingredients (which she doesn’t mind using!) made me really proud – we are changing our lives one bite at a time.

Cheers to more festive dinners, compassionate eating, healthier lifestyles, and making a conscious effort to remove the word “never” from our vocabulary.

Now I need to figure out what I’m cooking for that Christmas feast!

Carrott & Parsnip Osso Bucco 

If you’re interested in trying out the Carrot Osso Buco, the recipe can be found here. I added a few cloves of garlic – because honestly, how can you cook anything without garlic? 😉 And I had parsnips on hand so I decided to throw them in as well. Honestly though I enjoyed the carrots more than the parsnips. One last note on ingredients – the recipe calls for porcini mushroom powder. At $10 for a small box of dried mushrooms, I’m not sure this was even necessary. I think the curry and mushroom stock give it plenty of flavor so feel free to forgo the expensive dried fungi 🙂

After sauteeing the veggies, I decided to slowly braise them in the slow cooker to leave my stove clean which worked nicely. The resulting veggies are complex and bold. The curry and wine offers tremendous depth and flavor. And the sauce is really delicious over  mashed potatoes – with or without the carrots. I had some sauce left and spooned it over my leftover mashed potatoes for the next few days – yum.

Pumpkin Garlic Knots 

The pumpkin garlic knot recipe can be found here. As this blogger points out, you can’t taste the pumpkin much and I agree. However, it does give the knots a festive gold color and let’s face it – at the holidays it is fun to say they are made of pumpkin! But seriously, you simply can’t beat the buttery garlic spread – yummmmmy. It’s simply five finger lickin’ good! 🙂

Update: See the vegan mushroom bourguignon I made for Christmas. 

What Do You Cook for a Vegan Thanksgiving?

November 23, 2011 § 4 Comments

Vegan or not, if you’re like me, you’re still going through the cookbooks figuring out what to cook for tomorrow. Luckily we are going to my mom and dad’s house for Thanksgiving – so I only need to narrow it down to one item to bring. My mom has promised me that all items on the menu will be vegan – except for the turkey of course.

My family has jumped on the healthy bandwagon and have come along way…it’s crazy for me to think back and realize I’ve been on this journey for five months now. Since my 30 day vegan challenge, I’ve stayed vegan, my husband eats mostly vegan, my mom has given up all dairy (her joints thank her) and meat and has just been eating the occasional piece of fish, my dad has cut out all dairy, and my sister who thinks life doesn’t exist without cheese has decided to start with red meat. You know what, I’ll take it! Friends have even jumped onboard much to the chagrin of their husbands.

So, with all these recent changes the question of what to cook for Thanksgiving was bound to come up. The debate started some several weeks ago when I made my stand for a turkeyless thanksgiving. I might as well have said I was wanted everyone to stop eating good food altogether and eat cardboard the rest of their lives. I was met with sad eyes, I’m pretty sure a few tears, and exclamations of “No turkey? On thanksgiving? What?!?!?!?”

I lost that battle, and a pretty bird will be sitting on our table whether I like it or not. It really got me thinking about food and emotions. It’s not that my family loves turkey – sure they like it – but I think it is more the emotion and representation of what the turkey means. Turkey was only served in my house on Thanksgiving and Christmas. My mom would spend about 6 hours total in prep and cook time – it was a big deal – and always a big turkey to ensure plenty of leftovers. That juicy bird adorned with fruit and plumped up with butter meant celebration. It’s hard to change those traditions – or dare even mess with them.

I will not be eating the turkey, and my mom I’m pretty sure is a bit sad at that thought. To be fair, I never loved the turkey. I just ate it to be kind. So I’m not a turkey fanatic like some of you. But, in my quest to search for the perfect side item to bring – I came across so many delicious recipes that the turkey still seems unnecessary. Who needs turkey when you can have items like these?

Here’s some of the recipes I’ve found as well as some of my own that stand out and look worthy enough to take center stage. Note that these don’t include tofu options like tofurkey as I’m not a big tofu fan – but there are plenty of good options out there if that’s your thing. Whether you’re looking fore recipes for tomorrow, or possibly considering adding more veggies at your table next year, I hope these will inspire you as well.

Note that some blogs are more lenient than others in allowing re-posting of pictures which is why only a few are shown here. I strongly encourage you to link through to all of them because they all look amazing!

Itty Bitty Garlic Pumpkin Knots from Oh She Glows
Garlicky, buttery, pumpkiny bread. Need I say more?

Stuffed Shells with Butternut Squash and Toasted Walnuts
Some additional options include switching out sweet potato for the squash, pecans instead of walnuts, adding sauteed or roasted mushrooms, and topping with a drizzle of truffle oil.

Carrot Osso Bucco by Richard Blais, found on Food & Wine
I love Richard Blais and was just giddy when I stumbled across this recipe. Carrots are simmered in dark red wine and an earthy mushroom broth. Can be served over celery root puree as suggested or what I’ll likely do – mashed potatoes.

Photo Credit: Lucy Schaeffer

Hazelnut & Chard Ravioli Salad from 101 Cookbooks
This dish looks hearty and fresh – bursting with flavor. The crunch of toasted hazelnuts against delicate squash, pasta, and vibrant greens sounds amazing. Heidi offers tips on how to make this vegan in her post.

Root Vegetable Tagine with Sweet Potatoes, Carrots, Turnips, and Spice-Roasted Chickpeas from Bon Appetit
This slightly spicy vegetable medley could also be served over wild rice.

Butternut Squash and Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
Again, a drizzle of truffle oil further dresses up this dish. Consider using arborio rice for a truly rich and decadent risotto.
You won’t even believe you’re not eating pasta – such a healthy dish full of flavor!

Maple Glazed Brussel Sprouts
There are many tasty options on this post but the maple glazed brussel sprouts stood out to me.

Chocolate-Pumpkin Bread Pudding from Chef Chloe
This chocolate-pumpkin bread pudding sounds amazing! I’d add a little liqueur to give it a kick – perhaps bourbon?

No-Bake Chocolate Pumpkin Pie from Sweet Beet and Green Bean
No-bake, chocolate, and pumpkin. Those three sound pretty good to me! Looks all creamy and delicious too. This is my first visit to this blog and with a recipe like this, will not be my last.

Photo Credit: Sweet Beet & Green Bean

Update: See what we ate for our Vegan Thanksgiving Dinner and Vegan Christmas Dinner.

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