Our First Vegan Thanksgiving

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Thanksgiving has always been one of my favorite holidays; sitting around a table of gratitude, eating food that everyone participated in making, having a chance to say how grateful we are for the blessings of the year. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I came from a family that didn’t express our feelings when we were growing up.  We loved each other and there was lots of laughter and love felt but little or no verbal expression of that love. Then one year my husband suggested we go around and express one thing we are thankful for. It is one of the traditions I cherish the most now that both of my parents are gone.

Now our daughters are married and have given us grandchildren, our son is working with Youth With a Mission in Salem Oregon, and the tradition continues.

But the very best of Thanksgiving is the food.  We have lots of dishes, you might be surprised how many. I come from a traditional Mexican background (never mind I found out I am not Mexican, LOL, but that’s for another post) so we serve pinto beans, Spanish rice, potato salad, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole, stuffing, green bean casserole, broccoli casserole, gravy, cranberries, homemade hot salsa and dinner rolls. People are always surprised at how many dishes we bring. But it is our tradition. 

Making it vegan was a little nerve wracking this year. I wanted to make sure everything tasted just as good and that we didn’t “ruin” the tradition. So I researched and researched. I went to some of my favorite vegan blogs and also changed up some of our own family recipes to make them vegan and still delicious. It was a success! One of the comments was “This may be vegan but everything is delicious.” #gratitude.


A yet-to-be-converted omnivore surveying the options.

We stayed with a traditional turkey that my daughter brought and we made the Gardein roast. I researched that and found this was the most popular for flavor.

Appetizers:

I found the following recipes for cheeses from the YouTube channel, The Mushroom Den.

Sweet Potato Cheddar Cheese Wedge

Creamy Herb Cheese Spread with Crackers

Side Dishes:

Stuffing

The first dish I veganized (Is that a word?) was our stuffing. It used to be flavored with broth from the meat of the neck I cooked in a small pot and chopped meat from the neck. I eliminated that and tweaked it.

I know this alone is not traditional stuffing, most grow up with savory stuffing, but I grew up with a sweet stuffing and we can’t imagine eating stuffing any other way. My mom who died suddenly didn’t leave me with the best recipe. I remember asking her on the phone how do I make it and it was a little of this and a little of that.  This year I wanted to get it right. Our son said I finally did. He told me “Mom, it took 7 years but you did it”.   Here is the result.   Click on the link for the recipe.

Grandma’s Sweet Stuffing

Creamy Mashed Potatoes

This recipe is from the website My California Roots and you can find the recipe here.  I modified it to make it more creamy by adding about 1/2-3/4 cup of  non-dairy half and half.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts

This was a simple dish prepared by Bruce.  You can find his recipe here.

Roasted Mediterranean Cauliflower

This side dish is a copycat recipe from True Food Kitchen, one of our favorite restaurants with vegan options.

Homemade Bread Rolls

These delicious bread rolls were courtesy of a recipe from an essential website for vegans, MinimalistBaker.com.

Sweet Potato and Marshmallow Casserole

This was a winner with the Thanksgiving Day crowd! If you are trying to back off of dairy on your holiday eating, this is a great dish to make for vegans or non vegan eaters! I used a classic sweet potato casserole recipe that I’ve used for many Thanksgivings and modified it.

Main Dish

Gardein Stuffed Vegan Turkey Roast

This was the only item we served that was not homemade.  We knew that making a plant-based turkey substitute would be very difficult for our first time so I did some research and found this Holiday Roast made by Gardein to have rave reviews.  Everyone loved it.

Homemade Mushroom Gravy

We found a recipe for vegan gravy from Forks over Knives.  We used the gravy recipe but made the mashed potatoes from the recipe above.

Dessert

Homemade Pumpkin Pies

We featured two types of pumpkin pie, one, from Food Network, utilized tofu and we also offered an alternative from Minimalist Baker that used almond milk instead.  Both were delicious but if avoiding tofu, go with the almond milk option.

Also pictured are some beautiful non-vegan cookies made by our daughter at Better with Love Bakery.

We loved our first Thanksgiving as vegans and look forward to trying new Christmas recipes.  Watch for our vegan tamale recipes coming soon.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Casserole with Marshmallow Streusel

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This was a winner with the Thanksgiving Day crowd! If you are trying to back off of dairy on your holiday eating, this is a great dish to make for vegans or non vegan eaters! I used a classic sweet potato casserole recipe and modified it.

Vegan Sweet Potato Casserole with Streusel and Marshmallows

2 pounds sweet potatoes

3 tablespoons vegan butter

¼ cup non dairy half and half or almond milk

1/2  teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

2 tablespoons organic brown sugar

pinch of salt

Topping

4 tablespoons vegan butter soft

¼ cup organic brown sugar

¼ cup all purpose flour

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

¼ tsp. salt

½ cup chopped pecans

bag of mini marshmallows

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Use a 2 quart casserole dish.

Place the peeled, large chopped chunks of sweet potatoes in pot of water and bring to a boil until soft. About 15 minutes. Drain water and put potatoes back in pot.

Add the milk, spice, brown sugar and salt. Mash with a potato masher until somewhat smooth. Transfer to casserole dish.

Bake in oven for 10 minutes. While they bake, make the streusel. In small bowl add, butter, sugar, flour, cinnamon, salt, pecans. Mix with a fork and then use your hands to bring it together until combined. Add half marshmallows’ to dish and drop half the streusel on top of baked mashed potatoes. Then rest of bag of marshmallows and drop rest of streusel on top. Bake in oven about 15 minutes, or until marshmallows melted and bubbly.

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Roasted Brussels Sprouts Recipe

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Ingredients:

1 Lb Brussels Sprouts

2 Tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1 tsp Kosher Salt

1/2 tsp Ground Pepper

1 Clove – Minced Garlic

1 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Instructions:

Preheat Oven to 450 degrees. Cut the Brussels Sprouts in half, top to bottom and place in a roasting pan.  Drizzle with Extra Virgin Olive Oil until lightly coated.  Season with salt, pepper and minced garlic, mix together by hand until coated.  Place in top rack of oven and let cook until lightly charred.  Remove from oven and drizzle with Balsamic Vinegar.

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Grandma’s Sweet Stuffing Recipe

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Ingredients
3 Bags of seasoned stuffing mix (or you can make your own bread croutons)
1/2 stick vegan butter
2 stalks celery finely diced
1 yellow onion finely diced
2 red apples skin on cored and diced
2 cups red wine
1 cup raisins
4 cups Veggie broth
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp thyme
1 1/2 cup organic sugar
1 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Put butter in skillet. Add onions and celery and garlic. Sauté for a couple of minutes. Till soft. Add apples and sauté for a few minutes. Add the red wine and let it bubble together. Pour in bowl and set aside. In the same skillet add the veggie broth, turmeric and thyme. Bring to a boil and simmer for a few minutes then remove from heat.

In large bowl add seasoned stuffing croutons, apple mixture, raisins, salt and pepper and mix well. Add the broth a cup at a time to make it moist but not drenched. You may not need all the broth. Just use enough to moisten it. Add it to the skillet and bake in the oven for 30 minutes at 350.

We had a lot going on in the oven, so I did put it on the top rack and it went in an oven that was 375-400 degrees. I kept an eye on it and that might have been why it came out crispy. I encourage you to work with what you have going on in your oven. No need to stress!

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Our Story

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Clara’s Story

Hi, I’m Clara Welch, a recently converted plant-based cook. I am a wife, mom of three incredible kids and Nonny of two amazing grandchildren. I started really cooking 15 years ago, before that I cooked from boxes. I started watching Food Network and realized I could cook like that too. So I got my kitchen ready with some essentials needed to make cooking easier and dove in. I fell in love with cooking. About 7 years ago I realized I needed to start cooking healthier and getting in better shape. Which ultimately led to plant based cooking. Since I began this healthier cooking I have lost about 60 pounds. I am self-taught; I am not a nutritionist or a chef. But anyone can learn how to eat better and cook delicious meals for yourself and your loved ones.

I am grateful for the people God has put around me. Including my loving family and friends that make me a better person. Grateful for a more sustainable and kinder way to eat. From this gratefulness Table of Gratitude was born. Everyone’s welcome at the table.

Bruce’s Story

I’ll never forget the night of July 2, 2017.  My wife Clara and I were in bed and I had just dozed off when Clara said to me, “I think we’re going to have to become vegans.”  When I opened my eyes, I saw that she was watching a food documentary, What the Health? on her iPad.  I told her “Please don’t tell me something that major as I’m about to go to sleep!”  I never thought I would hear those words come out of her mouth and I never thought that I would be a person who would transform from being a proud carnivore into a vegan.

The next night after work I sat down with her and watched What the Health? and a couple of other food documentaries and I told her “I’m in.”

There were many parts of the films that were convincing but what helped me make the switch was the concept of the quote originally by Socrates, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine by thy food”.

I have struggled with my weight all of my adult life and have found the most success in losing weight through the Atkins Diet.  The first time I went on it I lost 40 pounds!  This diet seemed perfect to me, I loved eating meat, it was my favorite food other than ice cream.  Whenever I wanted to lose weight I would go back on it.  I would guess that over the years I’ve probably lost more than 200 lbs. through eating a high protein diet, but I always gained it back.

My “Before” Picture

The day after watching the documentaries was the 4th of July.  We went over to my daughter’s house for the day and my wife and sister-in-law prepared some vegan dishes that were incredible.  My wife made black bean hamburger patties and my sister-in-law made a vegan southwest potato salad.  I was delighted at how tasty and filling the food was.  I knew that I could do it.

It was hot outside and I stayed inside the air-conditioned house most of the day.  The TV was set to ESPN and they were showing The Nathan’s Famous Hot Dog Eating Championship.  If you are not familiar with it, the contestants are given 10 minutes to eat as many hot dogs as they can.  The winner, Joey Chestnut, ate 72 hot dogs in 10 minutes!  I was totally disgusted. To make things worse, as ESPN ran Sports Center the rest of the day they showed a recap about every 15 minutes.  I wanted nothing to do with eating a hot dog, or meat for that matter, ever again.

As of this writing (November, 2017) it has been five months.  I haven’t craved meat, cheese or eggs and I am loving eating plant-based. I must say that my wife has made the change much easier for me.  She has always been an incredible cook and she relentlessly looks for quality plant-based food ideas that provide the taste we crave with the health we need. We welcome you to follow us on this journey, we will provide periodic updates to our progress and changes we are experiencing.  We welcome you to the Table of Gratitude. ­­­­

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