I hope everyone had a wonderful, healthy Thanksgiving holiday filled with great food and family and friends. The holidays can be a time of great joy for many but a time of grief and sadness for others. If the holiday season is hard for you, I hope you find a way to reach out for support and comfort. I find myself having a tough time this time of year, but have found I cope better with stress and sadness when I have something positive to focus on and keep my food full of wonderful plant based nutrients and antioxidants. Our families have accepted that our diet and lifestyle have changed for good and we no longer worry about offending anyone by bringing our own food to share for special occasions. Eating plants is our new normal and we have learned that if we want to celebrate with delicious food that won’t leave us feeling guilty and weighed down, then we have to plan ahead and bring some yummy dishes with us. It is really a small price to pay for better health and feeling great. When you think about it, we plan for sickness by purchasing health insurance, and we even plan for our death by buying life insurance. Why not plan for health and wellness by filling our bodies with the best fuel on the planet, whole plant foods!
Our Thanksgiving celebration actually started the week before with a huge celebration at our church. We have a Thanksgiving pot luck every year and invite some folks from the Clarks Summit State Hospital to celebrate with us. Some of the church members cook turkey and stuffing and everyone brings a dish to pass. My sister Bonnie and I and a few other friends who are vegetarian at church decided we didn’t want to miss the meal and fellowship, so we planned to make our own dishes to share and then put them out on the main table and we had a great variety of dishes and had a great evening. The play the Sunday school children was a great surprise as they did a play about children rescuing turkeys from a farm and inviting them as guests at their Thanksgiving vegetarian meal. It was so cute and so appropriate for the meal we ate! We had sweet potato casserole, roasted potatoes with apples, green beans with almonds, steamed broccoli and carrots, roasted brussel sprouts and carrots, eat loaf, tofu peanut butter pie, and pumpkin pie.
Our second Thanksgiving on a plant based diet was more successful than our first since we made recipes we had already tested and knew we liked except for the cranberry sauce which turned out to be a very good experiment! My sister Judy was also kind enough to leave the butter off of the veggies she cooked and have butter on the table for those who wanted it so we had a great feast at her home. I did compromise and have some foods we normally don’t eat, such as a vegan pumpkin cheesecake my daughter made from a recipe of Susan Voison’s from her blog, fatfreevegan. My husband also made a delicious stuffing full of herbs and spices using bread from a bakery since we didn’t have time to bake our own bread, but the rest of our meal was plantstrong. My daughter and I made the dessert, the cranberry sauce from straightupfood, and the Eat loaf the night before and the rest of the dishes came together easily in the morning by team effort, including mushroom gravy, garlicky mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole. We had the dishes cleaned out of the sink and were at my sister’s by noon. It was great to have helping hands and no rushing or bickering!
There are so many wonderful cookbooks and websites with great recipes that are plant based and even those recipes that include oil can be modified or the oil can often be left out without affecting the dish a bit. This year, we used ‘The Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease cookbook” for the Eat loaf, mashed potatoes and gravy recipes. The Eat loaf is like a party in your mouth with a wonderful mixture of creamy cannellini beans,steamed greens and veggies and topped with a spicy organic bbq sauce I found at our local Wegman’s. The mashed potatoes were yukon gold boiled with the skins on and mashed with fresh garlic I sauteed in veggie broth with some fresh rosemary and thyme I found buried in the snow in my garden and topped with dried chives and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. If you think you’ll never have real gravy again on a plant based diet, think again! Mommy’s mushroom gravy 2.0 is flavorful and hearty and good on everything! It is also super easy to make. I like to make a double batch so we don’t run out. The green bean casserole came from fatfreevegan and my daughter substituted almond milk for soy creamer and left out the vegan margarine and they were fabulous with the fresh green beans my husband found. We did take a shortcut and use the french fried onions in a can on top, but last year we baked our own onion topping. The ones in the can were pretty greasy and I doubt I will buy them again. We didn’t miss the turkey broth in the stuffing at all. My husband used veggie broth and lots of herbs and it turns out that it’s the herbs that really make the dish. We have found that with most of our dishes. If you have delicious herbs and spices, the dishes will be fabulous. One of my sisters scoffed when we made gumbo without shrimp, but it really is the spices that make the gumbo, not the seafood.
Some other great resources for holiday recipes are The Engine2diet website, Happy Herbivore’s website and cookbooks, Dr. McDougall’s website, among so many others. For Christmas the last couple of years, we have been making lasagna, traditional for the omnivores and plant based for us. I hope to continue this tradition this year. I will be working Christmas Eve and Christmas day, but lasagna is a great dish to make ahead, and we can have a huge salad and maybe some home baked bread. My favorite substitute for ricotta cheese is this Rinotta cheez from Ami Mackey’s blog, plantbasedadventures. It tastes so much like traditional lasagna, that I have had people who are not plant based rave about it. I like to make Engine 2 Raise the Roof lasagna but use Ami’s rinotta cheez instead of the tofu mixture in the original recipe. I also leave the sweet potato off of half of it for my husband who is not a sweet potato fan.
Be creative and have fun with your food! Almost any traditional recipe can be re-imagined to be plantstrong and you don’t even have to use recipes if you’re not a fan of cooking. You can keep it simple and just have some rice and veggies or potatoes and veggies with whatever spices and herbs you love. And as always, we find it’s fun to be different! Here is our friend Bobby Anderson, The Plant Fueled Trucker’s “turkey” dinner:
It was 2 years ago on the Saturday after Thanksgiving that my family and I set out to try out plant based eating and we haven’t had one regret that we embarked on this journey. It has been a wonderful two years filled with great food, great fun, and great opportunities to meet new friends and open our minds to new ideas!
When is your plantiversary?