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Thanksgiving Main Dish Ideas

We’ll be enjoying our traditional seitan roast on Thanksgiving, but it’s the vegetables that are the real stars in our house.  I love the way the vibrantly colored sweet potatoes, cranberries, squash, and green beans look like an autumn landscape on my holiday table.  Truth is, I’m happiest when I can make a meal out of what are commonly referred to as “side” dishes.

Still, a main dish “centerpiece” is a Thanksgiving tradition for most of us. If you’ve never make a seitan roast, it’s easier than you think.  If making a large roast is intimidating, you could opt for individual servings of seitan en croute, an especially good choice if you’re only feeding one or two people and you don’t like leftovers. Personally, I adore leftovers and the opportunities they present. (Stay tuned for some exciting post-Thanksgiving posts to see what I mean.)

There are lots of vegan roasts you can buy that are already prepared, such as the ones from Field Roast and Tofurky.  Another idea is to make a large stuffed squash (or several small individual stuffed squashes) that can be filled with grain or bread stuffing, depending on what you like.  Stuffed squash is a great choice because it’s colorful and delicious but can also be made gluten-free and soy-free.  For something different, consider making a Moroccan bisteeya (a pastry covered savory pie), a lentil shepherd’s pie (maybe topped with half mashed white potatoes and half mashed sweet potatoes), or even a nice pan of lasagna.

For an easy no-fuss one-dish meal, you could make my Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Crispy Kale Ribbons  — with or without the addition of the walnuts and dried cranberries — and to it, add some sauteed sliced sausage links (homemade or storebought such as Tofurky brand) for extra protein, or instead of sausage, add some cooked cannelini beans. You could also substitute diced butternut squash for the sweet potatoes, if you prefer. The colors and textures are wonderful together and if you season it with a little ground sage and thyme, it will taste like Thanksgiving. I especially like the crispy kale ribbons in this — it’s a fun way to employ the popular kale chip concept as part of the meal.  And if you’ve never had roasted sweet potatoes before, you’re in for a treat.

The countdown to Thanksgiving is getting down to the wire.  Still to come on my blog: a new take on cranberry sauce, an easy and delicious gravy, and another main dish idea. And for more ideas, check out my entire Thanksgiving menu (with recipes) on Vegan.com as well as the Thanksgiving and Christmas menus (and recipes) in my book, Party Vegan.

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Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole

The traditional green bean casserole found on many dinner tables on Thanksgiving takes a lot of ridicule.  And it’s no wonder, considering that the original recipe calls for canned mushroom soup, canned green beans (although there is a frozen green bean version), and canned fried onions. The resulting casserole, although it has a certain retro comfort food appeal, is not the healthiest, nor is it the tastiest, if what you want to taste are green beans as opposed to sodium.

I’ve created many healthier versions of the casserole, using fresh green beans and healthier sauces — one recipe even uses pureed white beans in the sauce.  But it still remained a casserole, and the green beans, while tasting much better, still didn’t shine as much as they deserved. That’s why this year, I’m deconstructing the venerable casserole.

I know a lot of people roll their eyes at the whole “deconstruction” thing, but it’s a perfect way to describe this dish.  Essentially, I’ve taken the elements of the casserole: the green beans, mushrooms, sauce, and onion rings (in this case, shallot rings) and let each element stand on its own, allowing you to combine at will.  For my own part, I’ve enjoyed sampling each flavor on its own, as well as taking various bites that included a little of all or most of the elements.

I’ve provided two ways to cook the green beans initially — the more traditional steamed method which brings out the wonderful natural flavor of the beans (just be sure to watch them carefully as they can go from too firm to too soft in a matter of seconds.)  I’ve also included the option of roasting the green beans before adding to the “casserole” — roasting give the beans a totally different character, both in terms of flavor and texture.
To give you an idea of how they look, the photo above in the casserole dish shows the steamed beans, while this is a photo of the roasted beans:

And this photo shows a portion of steamed beans served in a very frou-frou manner, flanked by its own little bowls of mushrooms sauce and crispy shallot rings — just in case there’s anyone who wants to serve their Thanksgiving dinner in separate courses (!).  Probably not the best way to serve a table full of hungry people. 😉  (and can you just imagine the pile of dirty dishes???)

Here’s the recipe:

Deconstructed Green Bean Casserole
Note: Instructions are provided for either roasting or steaming the green beans.
1 1/2 pounds fresh green beans, trimmed
3 medium shallots, cut into thin rings
1 tablespoon olive oil
6 ounces mushrooms (cremini or shiitake are good), sliced
1/2 cup minced onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 teaspoon dried marjoram
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour (or gluten-free flour)
1 cup mushroom broth (use a porcini or other mushroom bouillon cube)
1 cup plain unsweetened nondairy milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 425°F. 
1. To steam the green beans: Place the green beans in a steamer pan over boiling water. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook until the green beans are just tender. Remove from the steamer and set aside.
To roast the green beans: Spread the green beans in a single layer on an oiled rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with a little olive oil and roast until tender, about 30 minutes, turning once about halfway through. Set aside.
2. Arrange the shallots on an oiled baking pan and roast until golden brown, about 20 minutes, turning once about halfway through.
3. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the mushrooms and saute until softened and slighted browned.  Remove the mushrooms from the skillet and set aside.  In the same skillet, over medium heat, add the onion, cover, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the garlic, marjoram, and thyme.  Stir in about half of the reserved mushrooms and sprinkle with the flour. Stir in the broth, stirring to thicken.  Stir in the nondairy milk and simmer, stirring, until thick, about 5 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper and transfer to a casserole dish. 
4. Arrange the reserved mushrooms on top of the sauce, then arrange the green beans on top of the mushrooms, with the roasted shallot rings on top.  Serve hot.  If making ahead, the casserole can be refrigerated and then covered and reheated in the microwave or the oven until hot.   
Serves 4 to 6
There’s lots more coming up in the next week to help you make a delicious and cruelty-free Thanksgiving meal that everyone will enjoy.  For another amazing side dish, check out my recipe on OneGreenPlanet for Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Kale Ribbons, complete with a holiday variation. (Please “Like” this recipe on OneGreenPlanet, and share it with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.
SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT: I will be participating in the VegNews Twitter Chat tomorrow night at 6pm PT/9pm ET. Join Julie Hasson (@everydaydish), Annie Shannon (@AJShannon), and me (@GlobalVegan). Let’s chat turkey (free)!

What’s Cooking for Thanksgiving?

Is it just me, or is this year really flying by at record speed? I can’t believe Thanksgiving is only three weeks away. If you’re not sure what to make for Thanksgiving dinner, I’ve got some ideas to tell you about.

I already know what I’m making, and you can read all about it (and see a photo) at Vegan.com where I share my menu and recipes for the entire meal. Many of the recipes this year are from 1,000 Vegan Recipes, including Seitan en Croute with Madeira Sauce and Rum-Spiked Sweet Potatoes with Pomegranate Pecans).

For even more holiday dinner options, consider ordering a copy of A Bountiful Vegan Thanksgiving, an e-book compiled by Nava Atlas. It’s filled with holiday recipes contributed by several cookbook authors and bloggers. It includes my recipe for Thyme-Scented Sweet Potatoes with Black Olives and Garlic. Nava is donating profits from this e-book to charities concerned with global women’s issues and world hunger.

Wait, there’s more… The editors at VegNews Magazine have just published their Holiday Cookie Collection. This little e-book is filled with all the flavors of the holiday season, from gingerbread and Chocolate-Orange Macaroons, to Pecan Pie Truffles and Candy Cane Whoopie Pies. (The e-book also includes my recipe for White Chocolate Oatmeal Spice Cookies.)

With all these options available, there’s no excuse for not making a great vegan Thanksgiving feast at your house and goodies throughout the holiday season.

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?