Thursday, January 16, 2014

Thanksgiving 2013

Woah. It is already January and I haven't done my annual Thanksgiving post yet! IN MY DEFENSE, Thanksgiving was really late this year!

Sorry, lovers. It was a mighty busy end to the year but I have a little more flexibility time-wise for the next couple weeks so I will have a slew of posts comin' atcha!

This past Thanksgiving was my 5th Thanksgiving as a vegan. As per usual, it was full of delicious food, great company, and stellar wine. I feel incredibly fortunate to have such a wonderful network of family and friends who are, at the very least, open to veganism on Thanksgiving and who gladly accommodate my enthusiasm for cooking and preparing vegan meals.

The menu this year included (but was not limited to):

  • Quinoa stuffed baby bell peppers
  • Cashew Cheese Ball 
  • Brussel Sprouts with Sautéed Portobello Mushrooms
  • Cornbread and Kale Stuffing
  • Mojito-Lime Fruit Salad
  • Tabouli salad (made by a friend)
  • A slow-cooked Cashew and Roasted Vegetable Rice Dish (made by a friend)
  • Spiced Cranberries
  • Grilled Asparagus (made by a friend)
  • Mashed Potatoes
  • Soft Dinner Rolls
  • Tofurky w/ Roasted Root Vegetables (made by a friend)
  • 2 types of gravy: mushroom and a nutritional yeast 
  • Pumpkin-Caramel Cheesecake with a Caramel Drizzle 
Anyone who ever said it would be difficult to be vegan on Thanksgiving has clearly never met me. Thanksgiving is my FAVORITE holiday. Probably because eating is my favorite past-time and it is just such a wonderful time to show all the people in your life how much you appreciate them. Also, it is a great time to spread the word about the treatment of animals through food and love. 

Get outta here turkey, we don't need ya on our dinner plates!

In general, I tried to keep it super simple this year. I didn't use a whole lot of recipes (aside from the pumpkin caramel cheesecake which was totally new and turned out delightfully), rather I focused on techniques and flavors I was familiar with. Lots of onions and mirepoix, garlic, fresh and dried herbs, good healthy oils (mainly avocado), herb rubs and salt blends and flavorful, robust, seasonal vegetables that were roasted, sautéed, pureed, and cooked in an assortment of different ways.

For example, for the brussel sprouts, I simply drizzled a massive stalk of sprouts with a bunch of avocado oil, seasoned with good salt and herbs and roasted until the outer layers were crispy. I didn't even set a timer; I just let them roast and made minor adjustments until they tasted good to me:) Then, I sautéed up a bunch of baby portobello mushrooms with some soy sauce, avocado oil, salt and pepper and then tossed the brussel sprouts and mushrooms together as one dish. So simple yet so incredibly satisfying! The crispy outer layers of the sprouts contrasted beautifully with the soft, succulent mushrooms and the flavors complemented each other nicely.

Cornbread made night before for the cornbread stuffing
For the cornbread-kale stuffing, I made up a batch of the Trader Joe's boxed cornbread mix (this stuff is the BEST EVER - make it with a flax egg!) in my cast-iron pan the night before and left it out overnight to stale out a tiny bit. Then I basically just sautéed a onion and celery with a bunch of fresh herbs (see: parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme) w/a big ol' glob of Earth Balance in my le creuset pan. I added in the kale and let it wilt down slightly and then crumbled the cornbread straight into the pan, added a cup or so of bread crumbs and about a cup of good veggie broth. Then I popped it in the oven until the top was nicely browned. It was hands-down my favorite stuffing ever.

Quinoa-spinach stuffed baby bell peppers

Cashew "Cheese" ball

Brussel Sprouts + Mushrooms

Cashew, vegetable rice dish

Tabouli Salad

Mojito Fruit Salad

Cornbread kale stuffing

Roasted asparagus

Homemade cranberry sauce

Tofurky with roasted root vegetables

My Plate! (Well, the first one at least)

I made the pumpkin-caramel cheesecake with caramel drizzle the night before, as well. This thing was AMAZING and I would absolutely definitely for-sure make it again.

Pumpkin-Caramel Cheesecake

Adapted from Namely Marley

For the Cookie Crust
  • Most of a container of Trader Joe's cinnamon cat cookies
  • 2 cups walnuts, chopped
  • Pinch of Sea Salt
  • 1 tsp. dried ginger
  • 1 tsp. pumpkin pie spice
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 4 Tbsp. coconut oil, melter
Preheat oven to 350ᵒF. Spray springform pan w/cooking spray

Toast the walnuts to bring out their flavor by spreading walnuts in a single layer in a large skillet or sauté pan and toast briefly until just beginning to brown and fragrant.

Pulse cookies and walnuts until course. Add the spices and brown sugar and pulse again to combine. Add melted coconut oil and pulse until incorporated.

Spread into the bottom and up the sides of a springform pan and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.

For the Caramel Sauce
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup non-dairy milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbsp Coconut Oil
Combine sugars and milk in a small saucepan over medium heat. 

Cook for a minute or two until the sugars dissolve. Increase the heat slightly to allow the mixture to come to a boil. Continue to cook until the caramel thickens to a desired consistency.
Remove from heat, add the vanilla and coconut oil and stir until the oil is incorporated into the caramel. Set aside to cool.

For the Pumpkin-Cheesecake Filling
  • 1 tub vegan cream cheese (I used Daiya's new cream cheese and it is SO GOOD. The best I've had)
  • 1 package 14-15 oz extra firm tofu
  • 1 1/2 cups white Sugar
  • 1 can  Pumpkin Puree
  • 2 tsp. pumpkin pie seasoning
  • 2 Tbsp. corn starch
  • 1 Tbsp. ground flax seeds
Combine all filling ingredients in a food processor and pulse until smooth and fully combined (about a minute).

Assemble the Pumpkin Cheesecake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Remove crust from fridge. Spread dollops of the caramel sauce over the crust. Spread about half the filling evenly over the caramel sauce. Spread more dollops of caramel sauce (save some for the topping though!) Spread the second half of the cheesecake filling over that caramel layer! Top with remaining cheesecake filling, reserving some caramel sauce for topping.

Bake for an hour and 20 minutes or until the top looks slightly browned and the center of the cake looks relatively firm (a little jiggly is OK). Set the cheesecake on a rack to cool. Then top with topping ingredients (extra chopped walnuts, crushed cookies, caramel sauce). Refrigerate for AT LEAST 4 hours before serving. I put mine in the refrigerator all night and most of the next day and it was just perfect :)

So concludes my annual Thanksgiving post! If you have questions about any of the other recipes feel free to comment or contact me!

Live long and prosper. And cook tasty food for your loved ones during the holidays!