For Thanksgiving Part 1

I've always loved sitting down to a good Thanksgiving dinner. Just because I'm vegan doesn't mean that I have to give up having a wonderful Thanksgiving day meal full of wonderful comfort food I had as a child. Most people, especially me, like this meal because of the side dishes like cranberry sauce, mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing. Vegan versions of these scrumptious sides are easy to make and so delicious you'll want to eat them again and again.

I am going to provide you with a full Thanksgiving menu and recipes that you can pick and choose from in hopes that you'll see that vegan food is not only delicious but familiar to what most Americans eat on that special Thursday during November. So, don't be afraid that you won't have any of your favorites on the Thanksgiving table if you are dining with a vegan. Part 1 will include Appetizers and Side Dishes and Part 2 will include Main Dishes and Desserts. Some of the recipes are my own, some I've had for ages and don't have references to and other's I'll site where they came from.

Here is another resource from the Vegetarian Resource Group called What Do You Do For Thanksgiving. There are great tips there for non-veg*n folks on how to adapt recipes as well as tips for families that have veg*ns and non-veg*ns...
"If the people you celebrate with are not vegetarian, propose alternating years so that every other year the feast is vegetarian/vegan. Promise to help with recipes and ideas."

Spinach and Artichoke Dip
Caramelized Onion and Tempeh Dip

Sides Dishes:

Apple Sausage Dressing
Cashew Creamy Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Roasted Brussels Sprouts or Roasted Fall Vegetables
Brown Thanksgiving Gravy
Caramelized Roasted Broccoli

Spinach and Artichoke Dip Recipe
1/2 Cup Vegan Cream Cheese like Toffuti
2 cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped (use artichokes in water not oil)
1/2 Cup frozen spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 tsp tabasco sauce
1/2 Cup Vegan Sour Cream like Follow Your Heart Vegenaise
1 Tbls garlic, chopped
1/4 tsp, pepper
1/4 tsp, salt
1/2 tsp, lemon juice

Put all ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth. Place in container and chill for 2 hours or longer. Serve with vegan crackers and/or cut vegetables.

Caramelized Onion and Tempeh Dip (adapted from The Complete Vegan Cookbook)
3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
3 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 package (8 ounces) tempeh (Light Life - 3 Grain Tempeh is my favorite but I bet the Fakin Bakin would be excellent in this recipe)
1/4 cup dry sherry
2 Tbls soy sauce
2 Tbls fresh rosemary, minced or 3 tsp dried

Heat the oil in a cast iron skillet or regular skillet over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and reduce the heat to medium low and saute until the onions have caramelized, about 20-30 minutes. Don't let them burn and stir them occasionally. Add the tempeh, sherry, soy sauce, and rosemary and turn the heat up to medium again. Cook for 8-10 minutes letting the tempeh brown, stirring occasionally so as not to let the mixture burn. Remove from heat and allow to cool. Place the mixture in a food processor and mix until it is a thick consistency. Place into container and chill for 2 hours or up to 3 days. Enjoy with crackers or veggies or a thick crunchy bread.

Apple Sausage Dressing (veganized from my Grandmother's recipe)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
1 large granny smith apple, chopped fine
2 stalks celery, chopped medium
1 lb. Vegan Sausage (homemade or Gimme Lean Sausage)
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1 box stuffing cubes (be sure to check ingredients for animal products)
1/4 - 1/2 vegetable broth
1/2 stick Earth Balance Butter

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. In a skillet saute the onion, celery, and vegan sausage about 8 minutes over medium heat. Pour into large bowl and add the apple, raisins, and walnuts. Add the stuffing cubes and stir. Add the broth a little at a time to achieve the texture that you want. This dressing is best when not very wet. Put the stuffing into a greased baking dish. Dot the stuffing with earth balance butter, cover with tin foil, and bake for about 1 hour. Stir occasionally. Remove the cover for the last 15 minutes to slightly brown the top.

Alternatives to add when mixing in the bowl
roasted chestnuts
pine nuts
fresh cranberries

Cashew Creamy Mashed Potatoes (adapted from Conscious Cook)
Cashew Cream (used in place of soy milk)
1 cup whole raw cashews (soaked in cold water 6-12 hours)
water, coconut milk, soy milk, or rice milk to cover by 1 inch

Drain the cashews and rinse with water. Place the cashews in a blender or food processor (Vita-mix works best) and cover the cashews with a liquid by an inch. Blend on high for several minutes until the mixture is very smooth.

Mashed Potatoes - you can figure this one out!
Boil your favorite potatoes (skin on or skin off) and drain. Mix with cashew cream and 2 Tbls Earth Balance Butter and some salt and pepper. I love to use my Potato Ricer when making mashed potatoes, it's simply the best at getting them smooth and fluffy!

Sweet Potato Biscuits (adapted from The Vegetarian's Mother's Cookbook)
1 1/2 cups white flour
1 Tbls baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
4 Tbls Earth Balance Butter
1 cup masshed sweet potato (1 sweet potato, peeled, chopped and boiled for 10 minutes or until soft)
1/4 nondairy milk (Rice, Soy, Coconut)

Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Put the flour, baking powder, and salt into a bowl and use a whisk to stir it around. Cut in the butter by using a knife and mixing or using your hands. I use my hands it's more fun. You are looking for the consistency of a course meal. Mix in the cold mashed sweet potato and nondairy milk and mix until combined. Again, you can use your hands. Flour some counter space and push the dough out and use a biscuit cutter to cut out your biscuits and place then on a pan. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts (adapted from Vegetarian Times Magazine)
2 pounds of brussels sprouts (small ones that are firm and closed if you can) cut in half and bottom trimmed off.
3 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 Tbls maple syrup
2 Tbls Earth Balance Butter

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. In a bowl combine the brussels sprouts with the olive oil and salt and pepper. Put onto a pan and bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes. When soft enough to pierce with a fork put back into the bowl and mix in the maple syrup and vegan butter. YUM!

Roasted Fall Vegetables
4 beets, peeled and chopped
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
10-12 garlic cloves (taken out of paper)
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3-4 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
2 Tbls Maple Sryup
Salt and Pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix everything in a bowl and then place on a baking sheet and bake for 35-45 minutes. The vegetables are finished when a fork can be easily pierced through it.

Brown Thanksgiving Gravy (the absolute best gravy in the world! Vegan Vittles)
1/2 cup flour (any flour will do and you can even use gluten free flour)
1/2 cup nutritional yeast
3 cups vegetable broth
4 Tbls soy sauce
1 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
3/4 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp pepper

In a 4 cup glass measuring cup mix vegetable broth, soy sauce, and olive oil together. In a large sauce pan whisk the flour and nutritional yeast over medium heat until toasted about 5 minutes. Take the pan off the stove and slowly add the liquid from the glass measuring cup. You have to whisk constantly and try to get the mixture smooth so there are no lumps. I usually have my husband hold the pan while I whisk but it can be done with just one person. When the gravy is very smooth then whisk in the onion powder and pepper and put back on the heat. Cook over medium high heat (while whisking constantly) until the gravy thickens and is smooth.

Caramelized Roasted Broccoli 
2 heads of broccoli, rinsed and cut (cut the broccoli so that you cut off each smaller head and then cut those into halves. It's good to try and have a little but of stem on those. Trim off the outside of the stalks and cut those into 1-2 inch pieces)
4 garlic cloves, minced
3-4 Tbls extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar

Preheat the oven to 500 degrees and make sure that there is a rack on the very bottom of the oven. Mix the olive oil, salt, sugar, and garlic together in a pan and then transfer to a roasting pan. Cook on the bottom rack for 12-15 minutes stirring occasionally. The broccoli should be caramelized and cooked through.


During Halloween Part 2

Halloween has just gotten better with the addition of Sweet & Sara's Ghost and Bat Marshmallow's which can be found at their website or at Cosmo's Vegan Shoppe which also has a selection of more natural candy here.


During Halloween?

Halloween is upon us and for many of us that means candy. Some candy during the Fall season is not vegan. It is made with animal ingredients. Here is a list of the most common animal ingredients in candy and snacks. Did you know that Gelatin is
The protein derived from the bones, cartilage, tendons, skin, and other tissue of steer, calves, or pigs. It shows up in many commonplace products, including marshmallows, nonfat yogurts, ice cream, some frosted commercial breakfast cereals, puddings, jelled desserts, frozen desserts, sour cream, some commercial sauces and dressings (including many sold at fast-food restaurants), wine, juice, roasted peanuts, pill capsules, and many hair and nail products. Gelatin labeled “kosher” is sometimes vegan but not always. Vegan gelatin is typically made from a natural sea vegetable called carrageen (also known as Irish moss) and locust bean gum (from the carob tree).

But, there is a lot of candy that is vegan. Just take a look at this extensive list from Peta Kids. And Whole Foods Market is now selling prepackaged candy for trick or treating. In our stores they are selling pretzels and Bunny Fruit snacks which we bought to hand out this year.

Despite it's spookiness and goriness Halloween can be a compassionate time of year if you buy and eat vegan candy.

p.s. and for those of you that are sick of candy (vegan or not) by the second or third day you can do what many of my friends do....have the Halloween Fairy come and take all the candy and leave a fun festive present in return.


When Everyone Else is Eating Cows Milk Cheese

Well, we eat cheese, vegan cheese that is! Daiya is our favorite store bought vegan cheese. It is amazing and doesn't taste super sweet like many of the other vegan cheese's out there. You can find it in many grocery stores and this link helps you figure out where to buy it. It truly does melt and stretch. 

There are of course many vegan cheeses on the market, some are easier to find than others and some are worth the effort and some simply are not. I'll let you choose.

Vegan Gourmet makes many different blocks of vegan cheese and this is one of the brands that is found most readily in grocery stores. 

Sheese - I actually love this vegan cheese alternative but it's harder to find. They have a blue cheese that is great. 

Tofuti - they also have a cream cheese that I love. My local bagel shop, Bagel Time, sells this along with some of the best bagels around. 

Road's End Organics - They make packets of a dry cheese mix. My favorite though is the macaroni and cheese from Road's End. We eat it when we are low on time. I mix cut up broccoli pieces into the pasta as it is cooking. I've used soy and rice milk when making it but I have a friend that uses just water. I also use Earth Balance to make it like I did when I was a kid. 

Wayfare Foods: We Can't Say It's Cheese these are dips and I've been lucky that a grocery store near my local Whole Foods carries it. I love the hickory-smoked cheddar style because it reminds me of my days as a girl eating cheddar cheese balls covered in nuts that we used to get from Hickory Farms. 

Of course there are numerous recipes for making your own vegan cheese. Our favorites are nacho cheese sauces from Shmooed Foods the author of Vegan Lunch Box 

I made a spicy one (from the original recipe) and a non-spicy one for my boys that can't handle the heat! Here is a recipe for Macadamia Nut Cheese from Awesome to be Rawesome. Raw cashews and nutritional yeast are two ingredients that are integral to making a thick creamy vegan cheese sauce. Cashews when blended with a liquid and heated actually thicken up. Nutritional yeast is full of B vitamins and chock full of protein and it has a cheese like flavor. White beans can also offer a creamy base for cheese like flavors. Following is a montage of ways that I have used vegan cheese.


Quesadillas before they are cooked.

Macaroni and vegan cheese

Vegan Reuben

Gluten free cheese pizza


For A Nut Butter Snack

I grew up in grocery stores. Both of my grandparent's owned grocery stores and I have fond memories of "helping" out when I was younger, licking stamps, running errands, and of course eating the donuts! 

This could be why I love grocery stores today. I can (and have been known to) spend hours in a any type of grocery store in any city. This guilty pleasure served me well yesterday. 

My son loves to snack on Justin's Maple Almond Butter Squeeze Pack. These are great because they are small and slim and can go anywhere. I usually give them to him after I pick him up from preschool. Because they have a no nut policy I don't pack them in his lunch. He sure loves eating it though when we are on our way home. I buy these at Whole Foods but I have seen them at regular mainstream grocery stores. 

Not too long ago I was wishing that Sunbutter would make a squeeze pack so that I could pack it in my son's lunch box for next year. Last night when I ran into a Stop and Shop to get something I spent a little but of time in their natural foods section and viola - 

Here is what they look like individually.

There are other nut butters out there besides peanut butter as well as other "butters" like Sunbutter that are completely nut free. I would highly suggest you try them because they are delicious and provide variety to your diet. Following is a list (I may be missing some important ones so feel free to comment and add your own) of Nut Butters.

Nut Butters
Coconut Butter - if you ever get to a store that sells this buy it then go into the aisle where they sell agave nectar and cacao nibs. Go home mix them together and pour into ice trays and freeze them. These are the most delicious summer treats! 

Non-Nut Butters (of which many of them are gluten free)
Soy Nut Butter - just a quick word about these products. If you have a sweet tooth you have got to try the chocolate soy nut butter, it is so good!
Pea Butter - that's right folks, pea butter made from the wonderful golden brown pea! 

Next time you go to make that all comforting peanut butter and jelly sandwich, remember that you now have more options than you could ever have imagined! These products are also good to have on hand in case you make a new friend that has a severe peanut allergy or if you simply want to provide your child with a nut free snack at school!


At the Campground Part 3

Our last full day in Maine and for lunch I had a gorgeous salad with avocado and sauerkraut. Steve and Keller had Sunbutter sandwiches made with gluten free bread by Ener-G. Sunbutter is a fabulous nut butter substitute and can be found at almost any grocery store these days. Go look for it and if you can't find it head on over to your local natural food store. I know that I once found Sunbutter at a Target. It's creamy and delicious and can be taken to schools that have nut free policies. 

These Greek Gigantic beans are one of the best foods that I have ever eaten. Of course when I can get the Greek beans I make them at home and the whole family gobbles them up. But, most stores do not carry these beans and you have to either order them online or go to a Greek Grocery store or if you are lucky like me ask a family member that has brought them back from Greece if you can take some. 

Luckily, I found that Trader Joe's sells them by the jar. They are the perfect food to take camping because they can be eaten right out of the jar or heated up in a pan. 

Please don't think that we have forgotten our veggies. Steve cut up this beautiful zucchini that we steamed. We also had cucumbers and carrots and lettuce. 

Another easy thing to bring along would be applesauce. If you are packing for a camping trip and eat vegan or want to eat more of your meals as vegan than head on over to your produce section and grab lots of fruits and vegetables. Remember also that there is a vegan substitute for almost any meat and dairy based products out there you just have to know where to look. I hope that this site will offer ideas and knowledge about where to go and what to look for. 

We don't just eat lunch and dinner. I never took a picture of our breakfast because, well, I think they never lasted long enough to snap a photo. Every morning we headed into town and got a fresh fruit smoothie and then we topped that off with more fruit and more fruit and more fruit. 

I look forward to our next camping trip and I may just forget the stove again, on purpose this time. 


At The Campground Part 2

After dinner we enjoyed some special S'mores, Just because you are vegan doesn't mean that you can't partake in childhood delights like cooking marshmallows over a camp fire. Our son even found a great stick to use. Our son chose the Endangered Species Dark Chocolate with Mint to go in the S'mores.

It takes a little bit more prep if you have to order the Dandies on line - mine came in 2 days thankfully, because I wasn't so good at remembering that I needed to order them. I ordered them through the website  Vegan Essentials. It's a good reliable site and it has a great selection.

Of course I couldn't not get Sweet and Sara's Peanut Butter Smores. When we lived in Denver there was a great vegan grocery store in Boulder called Three Little Figs and whenever we made the trip north I walked out of the store with one of these in my bag, okay, maybe two or sometimes even three! They are that good and well it was a long ride. 

Here we are giving our approval of the vegan S'mores! You can't get better then this and what's more relaxing than knowing that you aren't eating connective tissue and pig skin with your gourmet chocolate!

At The Campground Part 1

Camping is such a fun and relaxing way to spend time together as a family. There are many ways you can enjoy vegan food at the campground. You can set up your tent, go for a hike, and then drive into town and eat at a restaurant. You can make all your food ahead and bring it in a cooler. Or, you can find a great natural foods grocery store like A&B Naturals in Bar Harbor, Maine and load up on delicious and easy vegan food to enjoy at your camp site. We've done all of these things but my favorite is when we buy the food, support a local business, and eat simply but abundantly.

On our first night at the campground we were just starting to talk about dinner when my partner said "where's the camping stove?" We looked around and realized it was sitting at home snuggled against the bookshelf. I have to admit that normally I would have freaked out, 1. because I don't like forgetting things and 2. it meant that we now had to schlep into town and find a restaurant where we could all eat (little side note, my husband is eating gluten and soy free these days due to a ulcerative colitis and Crohn's diagnosis).

But what came out of my mouth shocked me- I laughed, a big hearty laugh and I simply didn't care. We needed this vacation more than you could believe and I was in my favorite place, Acadia National Park so a camping stove just wasn't going to bring me down. We didn't need a stove it turned out to cook our food, we cooked everything over the fire pit. A brilliant plan devised by my 5 year old son.

Here is what vegan's can eat on a camping trip.

This wonderful raw sauerkraut was locally made by Thirty Acre Farm and it was delicious. I ate it on top of Morningstar Farms Chikn' patties, by itself on a fork, and the next day on salad greens. 

This Morningstar Farms Chik'n Patty was very good and our son loved it too, he ate two before running off and playing a game. 

Spinach and artichoke hummus with soy free rice crackers is a wonderful way to get nutrients like protein and iron. 

Avocados are the ideal food and they taste great on their own, slathered over your vegan burger, sliced onto a cracker or cut up with blueberries and cucumber in a delicious salad. 

Traders Joe's sells some good vegan things. I wanted to pick up something special for our son and I thought chocolate soymilk would be fun for him. 

My husband enjoyed cooked gluten free pasta and a light tomato sauce. The water didn't take long to boil over the campfire although we did find bits of char hanging out with the pasta- but that's something you over look when out in wilderness. 

What Do Vegan's Eat

After living in the same city for 7 years I had gotten a bit complacent about informing people about eating a vegan diet. Our friends (many of whom are vegan or vegetarian) and people we knew were well past the point of asking what we ate. But, eight months ago we moved states and we've had to make new friends none of whom are vegan or vegetarian so the questions about what we eat are numerous.

I don't mind them in the least but I do feel out of practice with my answers. So, the other day I took some dip to a party and it was a hit, everyone wanted the recipe. I remembered that the best way to inform people about what we eat is to actually feed them. It takes a little more work since you end up bringing food everywhere but I find that people are less likely to say they couldn't do a vegan diet if they are actually eating the food in question!