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Loaded Mashers and Thanksgiving Menu

Thanksgiving is just one week away, and I’m just a few recipes away from sharing this year’s entire Thanksgiving menu. Today, the subject is mashed potatoes, but before we get to the spuds, I wanted to post my finalized menu for next week’s feast. Here it is:

2011 Thanksgiving Menu
Stuffed Seitan en Croute with Chestnut-Porcini Gravy
Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale Ribbons
Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole
Loaded Mashed Potatoes with Cremini Bacon
Pan-Braised Cranberries with Lime
Pumpkin Tiramisu

So far this week, we covered the Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole, the Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale Ribbons (on OneGreenPlanet), and the Stuffed Seitan en Croute (on Vegan.com).  And we’ve also discussed pumpkin cheesecake at length, although I’ve been inspired to make something new this year:  pumpkin tiramisu (recipe coming soon).)  Now on to the potatoes!

For years I was conflicted about when to prepare the mashed potatoes for Thanksgiving.  There’s always so much going on, but I always thought they had to be made at the last minute and I have a thing about leaving dirty pots and pans around when I’m serving a special meal.  That’s why I’m glad I discovered that mashed potatoes will stay perfectly fluffy and wonderful when kept warm for a few hours in a slow cooker (on the Keep Warm setting).  That way you can make them and wash up the pot while they keep warm and ready to serve.

Mashed potatoes are extremely versatile and can be embellished in a number of ways, by adding garlic or fresh herbs, or even wasabi or chipotle. There’s also the colcannon-type addition of cooked greens such as kale or chard.  For Thanksgiving, I usually go for garlic mashers, but this year I’m trying something a little different.  It’s a spin on “loaded” baked potatoes — but with mashed potatoes.  I took the recipe for a test drive last weekend and it’s delicious.  You can use your favorite vegan bacon, whether storebought or homemade (I’ve included a recipe for one made with cremini mushrooms), or omit the bacon altogether.  I’ve also provided a “make ahead” option for the oven, although oven space can be a challenge on Thanksgiving, so you might want to consider keeping them warm in the slow cooker — or you could just do it the old fashioned way and make them at the last minute.  After all, what’s one more dirty pot?


Loaded Mashed Potatoes

2 1/2 pounds Yukon Gold or russet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
2 tablespoons Earth Balance
1/2 cup vegan sour cream, plus more for serving  
2 tablespoons minced fresh chives or 1 tablespoon dried
1/4 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk, heated (optional)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
3/4 cup chopped cooked vegan bacon or Cremini Bacon (recipe follows)
1/4 cup dried breadcrumbs (optional for baked version)
Cook the potatoes in enough boiling salted water to cover until tender when pierced with a fork.  Drain well and return to the pot.  Add the Earth Balance and the sour cream and mash the potatoes.  Add half of the chives, and as much of the warm milk as needed for the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste. 
Serving options:
To serve immediately: transfer to a serving bowl and top with an extra dollop of sour cream, the vegan bacon and remaining chives.
If not serving right away: transfer the potatoes to a greased Slow Cooker set on Warm where the potatoes will keep well for a few hours. When ready to serve, transfer to a serving bowl and top with an extra dollop of sour cream, the vegan bacon and remaining chives.
To make ahead and bake: Transfer the potato mixture to a greased baking dish, spreading evenly. Cover and refrigerate until needed.  When ready to bake, bring the casserole to room temperature.  Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  If using breadcrumbs, mix them in a small bowl with the vegan bacon. Cover with foil and bake for 30 minutes, then remove from the oven, remove the foil, sprinkle on the bacon (and bread crumbs if using) and return to the oven for 15 minutes or until hot and golden brown on top. If desired, serve with a small bowl of sour cream and chives on the side.
Serves 6
Cremini Bacon
You can leave the mushrooms in slices or chop them to look like bacon bits. They can be cooked on the stovetop or baked in the oven.

2 tablespoons soy sauce 

2 teaspoons maple syrup or brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ketchup
1/2 teaspoon prepared mustard
1 teaspoon liquid smoke
1 cup thinly sliced or chopped cremini mushrooms
In a bowl, combine the soy sauce, maple syrup, ketchup, mustard, and liquid smoke.  Stir to mix well.  Add the mushrooms and toss to coat. 
Stovetop: Transfer the mushrooms to a lightly oiled skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook, stirring, until cooked and nicely browned.

Oven: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the mushroom slices in a single layer in an oiled baking dish and bake until nicely browned, turning once, 20 to 30 minutes. 
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Vegan Thanksgiving Hotline

With Thanksgiving just over two weeks away, I’ve been trying to decide what kind of post would be most appreciated by everyone.  A quick check of my blog will reveal that I’m partial to pumpkin cheesecake — especially the version I made last year with the streusel topping — yum!  I’ve been making pumpkin cheesecakes every year for nearly three decades, so I have lots to say on the subject.

Then there’s my favorite Thanksgiving main dish: stuffed seitan.  Over the years, I’ve made it with and without a pastry crust, I’ve used a variety of different stuffings and sauces, and I’ve made it into individual servings like this:

I could give you a recipe for sweet potatoes, mashed potatoes, or cranberry sauce — but you may already have your own favorite.  Maybe you’d like some ideas for a Thanksgiving menu — my Party Vegan cookbook contains two of them — complete with recipes for each course.

Rather than deciding on my own, I think the best ones to ask about what to post for Thanksgiving are the people who read my blog.  So, tell me, what would you most like to see in a pre-Thanksgiving blog post?  The suggestion that turns up in the comments the most will be the topic of my next post.

At the same time, I’ll do my best to answer any Thanksgiving food questions you might have — so let’s call this the “Vegan Thanksgiving Hotline”!

Let’s hear your questions, comments, and suggestions about Thanksgiving.  The lines are open….

Post-Thanksgiving Post


I had planned to take photos of my Thanksgiving dinner, but only managed to remember in time for dessert. So here is a photo of my Pumpkin Cheesecake. I was originally going to dust the top perimeter with crystallized ginger, but at the last minute decided on chopped pecans instead. It was very yummy, although there was so much food for dinner, we didn’t even want to think of dessert until several hours later.

For dinner, I basically made the menu as posted on Vegan.com (you can see a photo of the food there — and all the recipes, too). The seitan roulade has been the centerpiece of our Thanksgiving dinner for over 20 years. I sometimes make a different stuffing for it — this year it was a veganized version of my mother’s chestnut stuffing. It was so good. The roasted sweet potato sticks were a big hit — I sprinkled them with cranberries and some of the chopped pecans I had left from garnishing the cheesecake.

I hope everyone had a very happy vegan Thanksgiving!

Simply Stuffed — Squash


Am I the only one who can’t believe Thanksgiving is nearly here? If you’ve seen my Thanksgiving recipes on Vegan.com, you know my menu is pretty well set. I always make that seitan roulade, although I do change up the stuffing from year to year. My alternate main dish on the menu is a stuffed squash, which I guess is pretty much everyone’s go-to holiday meal main dish, especially for those who aren’t into seitan.

But I don’t need a holiday to stuff a squash. I do it all the time. I usually use buttercups or kabochas (when I can find them) because they have a terrific rich flavor and their shape and size are perfect for stuffing. I adore butternut squash, but there’s not much room for stuffing in their small cavity. And even though acorn squash are cute, they usually don’t have much flavor. So buttercup it is.

So that we don’t end up having “the same old stuffed squash”, I like to keep it interesting with different stuffing combinations. Sometimes I’ll make a traditional bread stuffing with celery and onion spiced with thyme, sage, and parsley. More often, I make a grain-based stuffing, usually with rice, but sometimes with millet, quinoa, or couscous. When I have some already cooked rice or another grain in the refrigerator, the stuffing comes together quickly.

To prevent the stuffing from drying out, I roast the squash first until it’s fairly soft (400 degrees F. for 45 minutes to an hour, depending on the size of the squash). Then I stuff it and put it back in the oven for about fifteen minutes, longer if the stuffing is cold.

The stuffing in the photo was super easy and quick. In a skillet, I combined sautéed onion, chopped fresh spinach, cooked brown basmati rice, toasted almonds, and dried cranberries. I seasoned it with some sage and salt and pepper.

Since the oven was on anyway, I roasted lots of sliced carrots and a few potatoes and dinner was served. Everything was so moist and flavorful, no sauce or gravy was needed.

My Thanksgiving Dinner – on Vegan.com

When Erik Marcus invited me to share my Thanksgiving menu and recipes on Vegan.com, I thought it was a great idea. I’ve been making vegan Thanksgiving dinners for more than twenty years and have come up with a perfect vegan feast that is filled with traditional flavors from cranberries to pumpkins.

Some years we have guests at our Thanksgiving table, but more often it’s just the two of us. I always make a huge spread with all the trimmings anyway. Of course, we always end up enjoying the leftovers for days, but each year we say “wouldn’t it be nice to share this wonderful meal with more people?” And now I can, thanks to Erik’s terrific idea.

Follow this link to Vegan.com and check out my menu and recipes. Even if you have your own traditions, you may just find a new dish or two to try. I especially hope new vegans will find it helpful, as it can take the guesswork out of preparing your first vegan Thanksgiving dinner.

I’ve even served this menu to omni relatives who discovered what vegans already know: Yes, you can have a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey on the table. In fact, one of them said (while going back for seconds): “it’s so good — it tastes like Thanksgiving!”

What’s on your Thanksgiving menu this year?