Sunday, November 25, 2012

A Healthy Thanksgiving in Review, Warts and All

Thanksgiving was stressful for me.  I think that goes for a lot of people, but it particularly goes for vegans who live almost 300 miles from their family and who have a family who are guaranteed to not make or have a single thing that is vegan, including the rolls, which contained both milk and eggs.  Ridiculous.

I was really organized, though.  I made my pumpkin pie ahead of time, ready to eat upon arrival.  I made the crust of the raw apple pie ahead of time and did the rest when I arrived at my dad's house on Wednesday night.  My spinach-chickpea tart was all prepared, ready to pop in the oven and the gravy was already made, placed in a plastic Tupperware container.  I had the potatoes all cut up with half of them peeled in a plastic bag, ready for boiling, and my cauliflower cut up and coated with oil for roasting, with the additions measured in a baggie to put on it already.  The butternut squash cheese for my mac and cheeze was made and the kale all cut up -- all I had to do was boil the pasta, saute the kale, and put all three together.

My recipes this year came from the internet, at least mostly.  I had some in books, but I ended up referring to the versions I found on the internet.  The pumpkin pie, which was the easiest thing I made, came from the blog Fat Free Vegan, and it's Susan Voisin's Impossible Pumpkin Pie (the recipe is here).
As she explains on her blog, this is based off the "impossible" recipes using Bisquick that formed a crust on the outside when cooked despite not making an actual separate crust.  She figured out how to make it both vegan and gluten free and I thought it sounded like just the thing for a healthier Thanksgiving dessert.  I give it both of my thumbs up!  My family would barely try my food (wtf, man), but one uncle who tried it said he thought it had too much ginger, but I disagree.  It tasted pitch perfect to me, and it was really easy to throw together. 

Then I also made this raw apple pie that is based off the recipe from Raw Food: A Complete Guide to Every Meal of the Day, but when I looked for a version online for easier reference away from home, I found a version (it's here) on a site called Kayley Hoddick Photography that was more tailored to people like me who would be using dried dates instead of fresh ones, because I have never seen a fresh date in the store, have you?  I ended up using that recipe, although I changed a few things: I added some vanilla and cinnamon extract to the crust and I used less cinnamon in the between-layer mush.  It looks like a lovely flower when you put it together.

In my opinion, it was perfect.  I mean, OK, it's not apple pie like you're used to, but it's delicious, and healthy enough to eat for breakfast for a few days.  Oh, by the way, I also added some fresh lemon juice to both the middle layer with pureed apple and banana and to the raw apple laid on top, and I must say, it kept extremely well. I was shocked about that.  The following picture was taken three days after I made it.

Do you guys want to see a picture of me wearing the crazy Wonder Woman apron that my friend Sara gave to me and holding both my pies?  Of course you do.

But I didn't just eat dessert, oh no!  I also made Dreena Burton's Festive Chickpea Tart from Let Them Eat Vegan as my main dish, but I kinda screwed it up.  I just took some frozen spinach from my freezer and didn't look at the size, but mine was 16 oz, and she actually only calls for 10 oz.  The additional spinach really does make a negative difference, but it's still pretty good with lots of gravy.  Sadly, though, (really, I literally cried), on Wednesday night, I went out to hang with some of my old friends in Phoenixville and someone at my house spilled my gravy container out of the fridge.  Nice, leave the lone vegan without the gravy she'd worked to hard to make a double recipe of.  Boo hiss.  Still, mixed into everything, this was fine.  It was not the best, but it was pretty good.  You can find the NOT messed up version of the recipe right here.
You know, it's hard to say what you'd do differently next time for a recipe you already made a major mistake on, but I did also think it was a bit too walnutty.  I think I'd just use fewer walnuts next time, and also the right amount of spinach, and also have plenty of gravy.

I really wanted to make some mac and cheeze, but next year, I think I'll stick to a simple one that gets baked in the oven.  This year, though, overcome with Thanksgiving cheer, I made the Smokey Butternut Mac and Cheese from Manifest Vegan (recipe here) because the squash is nice and seasonal and I had the opportunity to veg up my mac, which is of course awesome.  The cheeze tasted absolutely amazing when I made it, but I could also tell that I'd really made it too lemony.  See, I always wash my lemons well before zesting them, and normally I'd make damn sure it was dry before zesting, but the days leading up to Thanksgiving were busy for me, and I prematurely zested my lemon and ended up with a very generous teaspoon of zest.  It was a big mistake, but the fresh squash in the cheeze tasted so good, I figured it wouldn't be a big deal.
That lemon did end up being a big deal, though.  Over time, the squash taste became less intense and the lemon taste intensified.  It really wasn't great, which is a true shame.  Live and learn, though, live and learn.  Next time, it'll be perfect, and I'll never zest another wet lemon again.

I did finally win the people of my family over with one of my dishes: the mashed potatoes.  They agreed that, next year, they'd at least leave the mashed-making to me, because mine was better than theirs with cream and butter, and it was far lower-calorie because I made cauliflower mashed potatoes.  What I did was roast a head of cauliflower with almonds and nutritional yeast, as directed by Dreena Burton once again, on this here recipe.  Then, I boiled my potatoes and put the two together and used an immersion blender to mix the two things, along with a good bit of Trader Joe's unsweetened coconut milk beverage and a little bit of olive oil and a little bit of Earth Balance.  It was utter deliciousness, and although it's too boring to take a picture of mashed potatoes by themselves, they do appear on my overall dinner plate.  You also get to see a bit of the gravy that managed to get saved from the Thanksgiving eve fridge disaster.

You can see here that there were three other things that were vegan that I did not make.  My aunt brought some terrific string beans that really made everything better, my uncle bought some sort of carrot thing from an Indian store that was tasty, but out of place on the Thanksgiving table because it had a curry taste, and my step-mother's cranberry sauce, at least, contained no animal products.

The truth is, this was my first vegan Thanksgiving.  It used to be that, although I cooked vegan at home, I had very little care about what was fed to me by others.  That's because it was environmental sustainability that made me cook and eat vegan for myself, so it didn't seem to matter if I ate what was already prepared elsewhere.  Once it became also about health, it mattered to me to never consume animal products.  And after that happened, I could finally open my eyes to the humanitarian reasons to be vegan.  It's weird.  I love animals more now.  I really got down with my dad's dog Brisket during this trip home.  I mean, I always liked Brisket, but this time, we chilled.  He did the thing where he walks between my legs, which is only something he does with people he wants to show affection for, and it made me feel so nice.  Now I want a dog.  You can see me in all my only-at-home, makeup-free glory with my little sister and Brisket here:

He's such a sweet puppy!  Now I'm back in Pittsburgh with my cat, though.  She missed me so much.  She's actually sitting on top of my extended legs right now because the laptop is on my actual lap.  Sweetest. Cat. Ever.

20 comments:

  1. Get a border collie!
    -Steve

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    1. Haaaaa, we'll see! I prefer little dogs, but I like bigger ones too, so who knows. Right now, I live in a little apartment with a cat, and, frankly, I'm not sure I take such great care of her even. She wants a ton of attnetion from me, and I think she'd be happier living with a family, maybe with yougsters who, like, DREAM of a lap cat like her. A dog needs even MORE time and attnetion.

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  2. I'm impressed by how much food you made, and I love the picture of you in your apron! :)

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    1. Thank you! I was impressed with myself too, but my family's rejection hurt my feelings, I'm not gonna lie. I can be a little sensitive.

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  3. all the food looks so good. especially the cauliflower mashed potatoes. and I'm jealous that your cat is polite and doesn't just step all over your laptop, like mine. - Tessa

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    1. Ha! I wouldn't exactly call me cat "polite" because she thinks she can just plop down into my lap whenever she wants, even if I'm trying to give myself a shot of insulin, but I would say that she's sweet. And submissive, she aims to please me, and will settle for my legs if I kick her off my keyboard.

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  4. Lost gravy and stress? Boo hiss indeed. Still, at least you did get a good dinner in the end and a happy cat to welcome you home!

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    1. I think that if I ever have a band, I'll call it "Lost Gravy and Stress."

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  5. Even if the food didn't turn out exactly like you wanted, it sure looks good. I think we're hyper-critical of vegan food we make for non-vegans because we want them to love it. It's hard when the recipients of our efforts are less than enthusiastic. I think I would have loved all the food you made. I made a similar pie last year (from Happy Herbivore) but this year made a more extravagant (fattening) one. Too bad about the gravy — I hope at least you didn't have to clean it up!

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    1. That is exactly true, Andrea. I want my food to be the BEST food, because I have something to prove with it. Maybe next year I'll go all out with the unhealthy and make, like, seitan en croute or something.

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  6. Seriously dude, seek out real dates! I always think saying "fresh" sounds weird because they never look fresh to me, but there's a huge difference between the soft, chewy Medjools in the produce section versus the dried-up date chunks in the baking section. If my tiny (and kinda crappy) city has 'em, I'm sure yours will! Boo about the gravy, that's just plain foul luck. So glad you had a mashed potato win! And yeah, the first vegan family Thanksgiving is always an adjustment, at least mine was. I was kinda like you in the past - I'd eat vegan, but if my family cooked with non-vegan margarine (or something) for thanksgiving I'd just eat it all anyway. And now my family is used to me and pretty much everything is vegan. :) Hope you had fun!

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    1. Wait, really? That means I've been using "fresh" dates all along! I mean, they're not completely dried out, they're quite moist and chewy. But I would say they've been dehydrated. However, the only place I've ever seen the dates kept in the produce section is at Costco, and I'm not gonna lie, that's where I usually buy them.

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    2. Most Medijools are semi-dried, it's just that they have a lot of fruit meat on them which makes them stay kinda squishy and chewy... the ones at Costco are definitely semi-dried. A fresh date is plump (no wrinkles), juicy, and not at all chewy. Difficult to find on this side of the country.

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    3. Julie! You came all the way from Facebook to explain things to me! Thank you. I seriously don't know what I'd do without your vast knowledge about varying subjects.

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    4. Haha, I actually came to comment on how tasty your apple pie was (and take a gander at the recipe) but then I got distracted by dates!

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  7. I tried all your food and I think most of the fam did too! There was just so much food at Thanksgiving, it seemed like nothing got eaten.

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    1. As you know, Ali, it was a lot of things. I tried to get Debbie to let me provide certain things instead of her, but she wouldn't even talk to me on the phone to discuss it. And then Dad telling me I needed to stay out of the kitchen on Thanksgiving, even though I did everything possible to stay out of her way. You know I'm sensitive.

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    2. I know you are sensitive. And I know you didn't like how the whole pre-prepaing was done. And the gravy fiasco just plain old sucked. I just wanted to address the specific part of your post where you said the fam did not try your food, which I don't think is truth and I think we all tried it but only a few bites of each dish was humanly possible. I look forward to trying more of your food once you are closer to me :)

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  8. Actually, I didn't try the apple pie, but I ate very little dessert so it wasn't because I didn't think it looked good!

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  9. Aww...bummer that some of your food didn't turn out as you'd hoped. That's always a bummer and especially on a holiday!!! I myself burned devastatingly burned a pumpkin cheesecake to the point where I had to throw it out.... Oh, I literally cried. I ended up having an emergency back-up chocolate pudding pie from the 'Vegan Pie in the Sky.' It's tasty in an everyday kind of way but not by any means special enough for a holiday. Last night I made another sort-of-flop: The Engine 2 Diet Lasagna. Not bad, just not enough flavor and I added way more than it called for! It's great with Sriracha on it but I shouldn't have to go there with lasagna. It is filling, healthful and has great texture. My husband says thAt it has loads of potential. I agree but for the amount of prep work required I'm not inclined to make it again. I will, however, take the idea and totally make it my own... Thanksgiving was so stressful for me, too this year. : ( ironically, the recipe that I was most pleased with was the Happy Herbivore's mushroom gravy....practically fat-free, fuss-free and so darned delicious. I vow that Xmas will be easier on me....
    ---Tara

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