Recipes

My 2020 Vegan Thanksgiving Feast Menu: 8 Dishes Omnivores will Love too

My big vegan Thanksgiving feast last year was SUCH a hit with my vegan and omnivore family members alike, that I just have to share the dishes I made with you all! I posted my menu from 2 years ago here, but I’ve updated and swapped out some recipes to make it even better.

Usually my goal with my Thanksgiving cooking is to impress omnivores, so I make decadent, food-coma-inducing dishes rather than healthy ones.. which has worked, at least based on the fact that omnivores were fighting over the leftovers!

But this year it’ll just be my vegan husband and I, so I might do healthier versions of some dishes (but I’m including the classic recipes below)! So for this post I’m also including healthy swap options for some of the more decadent dishes.

1. Sweet Potato Casserole

This is my first time sharing this recipe–I’ve made a lot of different vegan sweet potato casseroles, and this one is the most authentic tasting. This recipe was actually passed down from my husband’s mom, and I just had to veganize it because it’s his favorite Thanksgiving dish ever.

For a healthy version, reduce the sugar or take it out of the casserole part altogether (just putting it in the topping). I actually find this recipe to be sweeter than I’d prefer it, but people who eat sugar more often than I do thought it was perfect!

Casserole ingredients:

  • 3 1/2 cups mashed sweet potato
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup nondairy milk
  • 2 vegan eggs (we’ve had success with Follow your heart’s and Just egg)
  • 1/2 cup vegan butter
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1/2 tsp salt

Pecan topping ingredients:

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/3 cup flour
  • 1/2-2/3 cup vegan butter (less for healthier, more for impressing omnivores)
  • 1 cup brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mix together the casserole ingredients and put in a casserole dish. Stir together pecan topping and sprinkle evenly on top of the casserole. Bake for 30 mins, until the topping is golden brown and beginning to crisp up.

2. Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes

I have my two potato recipes first, because, well, everyone knows potatoes are the best! (And I’m Irish 😉 ) These cheesy scalloped potatoes have, for three years in a row, been the most universally coveted dish on the table. It’s truly a sad day in the house when the leftovers run out.

For a healthy swap, try using my favorite cashew-potato cheese sauce on the potatoes instead of the vegan cheese and cream sauce.

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup vegan butter (we use Miyoko’s)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegan half & half
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan cheese shreds, we used a mix with cheddar & white cheese
  • Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F
  2. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they’re starting to get tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Now make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the flour, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Stir in half & half and cook until thickened, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds–I recommend using a mandolin to get the slices even. Place 1/3 of the potatoes overlapping in a single layer in the baking dish, seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/3 of the cheese sauce on top of the potatoes.
  5. Repeat for two more layers. Pour all of the remaining cheese sauce over the top layer of potatoes. Spread to ensure all of the potatoes are covered.
  6. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheese and a dash of paprika for color.
  7. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.
My plate of leftovers!

3. Roast

And now for a quick intermission from recipes: we usually go with a store-bought roast (rather than lentil loaf, etc) for a meatier vibe, and so I can focus on the other dishes. In past years we’ve loved Trader Joe’s vegan roasts, but since we moved to northwest Arkansas, we no longer have a TJs near us! This year we’re planning on going with the new Whole Foods roast I’ve been hearing rave reviews about (if we can get it). Otherwise, we’re thinking of doing Gardein turkey cutlets for a more classic feel.

We also like the Field Roast roasts–I especially like the hazelnut cranberry. We do NOT like Tofurkey’s roast unfortunately.

Whole Foods Launches its Own Vegan Holiday Roast

4. Stuffing

Simple vegan stuffing recipe by the Minimalist Baker

This is always a nice healthy counterpart to the rest of my feast. It’s refreshing to load up on lentils, veggies and starches in between digging into the rich scalloped potatoes and roast. You can also do prep for this the day before by chopping up all the veggies. Or, you could even make the whole thing the day before–it was great leftover!

5. Balsamic Roasted Veggies

In the past we’ve done bacon brussels sprouts, but this year I’m doing an old classic side I love: winter veggies tossed in balsamic vinegar and roasted. It’s healthy and so simple to make, and like the stuffing, it’s nice to have something light in between the other dishes. I don’t ever measure amounts, but here’s what I go off of:

  • Equal parts carrots, red onion or pearl onions, and brussels sprouts
  • Splash of balsamic
  • Olive oil, if desired

Chop your veggies, add them to a bowl, and toss with a big splash of balsamic (and oil if desired) until they’re all lightly coated. Roast in a 400 degree oven until they’re fork tender, 20-30 mins.

6. Healthy Pumpkin Soup with Pepita Cream

This is actually a new one I’m adding in this year–I plan to make it on Tuesday or Wednesday and have it around to tide us over if we start getting hungry before the feast is ready. (Anyone else struggle to juggle getting a bunch of dishes out right on time?) It’s hearty and high protein because it’s actually sneakily based on chickpeas, so if you’re trying to avoid overeating this Thanksgiving, it’s a great dish to start with because it’s very satiating.

Get the recipe in my full post on it here.

7. Dutch Apple Pie

Move over, pumpkin desserts. This ridiculously addictive dutch apple pie is our new dessert centerpiece. I have a full post devoted to the recipe, so check that out to see how to make it.

Warning: if you don’t make enough, it could cause drama over who gets the last slice. It’s that good.

8. Pecan Pie Bars

If you want a decoy dessert to prevent apple-pie-induced family feuds, these pecan pie bars are a nice classic option. These were my go-to dish to bring to nonvegan Friendsgiving potlucks in the past, and they ALWAYS disappear really quickly.

For the crust:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter version)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and coconut oil) and stir until they combine into a dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is slightly firm to the touch.
  3. Now for the filling: stir the coconut oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a sauce pan until combined, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add in the coconut cream and the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread it evenly.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling and set (no longer runny), 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

9. Bonus: Healthy Pumpkin Risotto

I’m calling this a bonus recipe because I don’t think I’ll actually make it this year–we had it for the last few days and LOVE it, but now we’re up for some variety. But if you’re looking for something a little different to include in your Thanksgiving spread that’s healthy, oil-free, and yet decadent-tasting, this is a great option. See the full post on it for the recipe.

I hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, either virtually or safely spent with the ones you love. ❤

 

Recipes

Healthy Vegan Pumpkin Risotto (Oil-free + Instant Pot Friendly)

I’ve used the same 7-dish Thanksgiving menu for the last two years (because it has gone over SO WELL with vegans and omnivores alike), but this year I decided I wanted to come up with something new and unique to add.

Enter this healthy pumpkin risotto: it’s savory, it’s slightly sweet, it’s simple to make, it’s creamy. It’s a nice healthy contrast to some of the more oil-laden Thanksgiving classics, but still goes over well with more classic palates. And as a bonus, it’s easy to have it cooking in the background while you make the more complicated dishes, since it doesn’t need more than ~15 mins of really active prep time.

And as a bonus bonus, it’s Instant Pot friendly too. (That’ll help free up my limited supply of pots.)

If you want to make it completely whole-food-plant-based friendly, you can also try subbing brown rice in for the arborio. You will want to add more water and cook longer to achieve a risotto-y texture, though. You can also easily sub in other types of squash instead of pumpkin!

Serves 4 as a full meal; serves 8 as a side

Ingredients:

Blender:

  • 3 – 15oz cans pure pumpkin puree (NOT pumpkin pie mix)
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 2 apples, quartered
  • 2 tsp yellow or white miso paste
  • 3 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tsp dried sage
  • Dash red pepper flakes
  • 1 cup cashews
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth

Saute:

  • 1 onion, chopped fine
  • 3.5 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 cups arborio rice*
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine

Directions:

  1. Put all the “Blender” section ingredients into a blender or food processer, and blend until pureed. Set aside until step 5-6.
  2. Add the chopped onions to a pot over medium heat–or your IP’s saute function–adding splashes of broth (from your 3.5c of broth) as needed to saute them until translucent.
  3. Add the rice, and saute for 3-4 minutes. Then add the white wine, and saute another 2 minutes.
  4. Add in the remaining broth, and push all the onion and rice grains down the sides of the pot so they are submerged.
  5. If using a pressure cooker: cook on low pressure for 6 mins, and release pressure immediately after. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, and turn on the saute setting. Saute, stirring frequently, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
  6. If using a pot on the stove: cover pot and bring to a boil, then simmer covered for 15 mins. Add the blended pumpkin mixture, then simmer uncovered, stirring regularly, until the rice is tender and the risotto is creamy but not runny.
  7. Add salt and pepper to taste. Serve topped with more sage or fried sage leaves and cashew cream, if desired.

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Intuitive Eating, Weight loss advice

5 Tips to Avoid Gaining Weight on Thanksgiving (or any Holiday)

The holiday season is a mostly wonderful time… but between the fun of getting together with loved ones, having more free time, and being surrounded by holiday decor, there lurks the fear of seemingly inevitable weight gain.

I spent years and years being so afraid of weight gain, and so desperately planning my post-holiday diet, that it was hard to enjoy the holidays at all. Especially Thanksgiving, because the whole day is so focused on food. But now that I’ve learned how to escape that cycle, I want to share some tips to help you stop worrying about your weight this holiday season too, so you can focus on what’s important instead 🙂

1. Eat more (of some things).

Sounds counterintuitive, I know.

But the science is clear: some foods are more satiating than others. Studies have found that if you eat 250 calories of potatoes, for example, you’ll feel more than twice as full as you would from eating 250 calories of cheese1. And as a result, you also eat much less after eating potatoes than after eating cheese.

And you can take advantage of this fact to help you pace yourself during your holiday meals.

If you’re mindful about having a good helping of those satiating foods (think starches & veggies), it’ll balance out the high calorie density, low satiety foods (think meat, cheese, & desserts), and help prevent you from overeating.

So what exactly does that look like? Try having a dish as close as possible to a plant based whole food–maybe mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, a veggie side, or even stuffing–that you eat first or that you serve yourself extra of, to give you that baseline of satiation before going for seconds (or thirds) on everything else.

Another strategy is to have some snacks or appetizers before the big meal. This can help by making sure you don’t go into dinner feeling ravenous and overstuffing yourself before your brain can catch up.

2. Don’t plan to diet beforehand or afterwards.

This is a big one. Almost everyone who has ever dieted plans to diet before and/or after the holidays. But it’s exactly that mindset that leads to overeating and weight gain in the first place.

In fact, studies show that people who are most successful at losing weight in general are the ones who gain the most weight during the holidays2.

Sounds crazy, right?

A few years ago I would have thought so too, but now it makes perfect sense.

First, we know that dieting leads to yo-yo weight gain and loss in the long term. So dieting before the holidays is the perfect way to set yourself up to go into binge mode during the holidays and gain all that weight back… and then some3.

Second, when you go into the holiday season expecting to gain weight, that’s exactly what happens. It’s a very easy self-fulfilling prophecy, because the expectations are all in your mind, and it’s your mind that causes you to overeat. (Your body never asks for that!) When you start eating, you probably have negative emotions about how much weight you’re going to gain. And we know that for people who diet, negative emotions lead to more overeating.

It’s a vicious cycle that leaves you miserable during the holidays, and heavier (and still miserable) afterwards.

So what should you do instead? Ditch the diets, and start eating intuitively instead. (Check out my guide for how to get started.) Your mind and waistline (and probably your loved ones too) will thank you.

My plate of leftovers last Thanksgiving!

3. Plan to make yourself more holiday foods afterwards.

Part of what makes us overeat at holiday meals is that the food is scarce. Maybe it’s even “forbidden” the rest of the year.

If you don’t eat that pecan pie today, you might not get to eat it again until next year.

But the reality is that the only reason holiday food is scarce or forbidden is if YOU decide that you aren’t allowed to have it at other times. And that makes it so much more alluring. After all, there’s a reason they say that the forbidden fruit is sweetest.

And, science shows that people who avoid eating certain foods for dieting purposes end up overeating them later3.

If you don’t allow yourself to have certain foods most of the year, you end up overeating them even more during the holiday season because you know you’ll be deprived of those foods again soon.

This is not your last chance for pecan pie, so you don’t need to eat it like it’s your last time having pecan pie.

So this tip is an easy one: just allow yourself to have your favorite foods. (This is a good anti-weight-gain tip in general, not just for the holidays!) Either make some of your holiday favorites before the season starts to test out some recipes, or schedule a day after the holidays to make or buy those holiday foods you always crave. (And, of course, save leftovers from the holiday meal itself!)

Or best of all, go all out with intuitive eating and just eat what you want when you want it. No scheduling necessary. That’s how I’ve lost weight and maintained it–it just works.

With this tip, you’ll go into your holiday meals knowing that the pecan pie really isn’t that rare–and if you know there’s more where that came from, you’ll feel much less of an urge to overeat it.

(Can you guess that I really love pecan pie? 😉 )

4. Treat it like any other meal.

Try changing your expectations going into your holiday meals. If you don’t treat them like a big daunting event where you’re expected to overeat, you’ll be less likely to overeat.

Like the last tip, this is also about reducing the scarcity of the food: the goal is to get rid of that feeling that the Thanksgiving food (or other holiday food) is a limited resource. Don’t treat the food like it’s the special part of the day. That’s not what makes a holiday a holiday.

It’s the loved ones, the focus on what you’re thankful for, or even just a day off from work that makes it a holiday.

If you want to create something special and rewarding in your day, in place of focusing on the meal, you could also try treating yourself to some self care: is there a book you’ve been wanting to read, a videogame you’ve been dying to play, or some bubble bath you’ve been wanting to try? Treat yourself or set aside some time for yourself during the day to make it feel special.

5. Shift your focus.

Changing your mindset is so powerful. Mindset makes us overeat in the first place, and mindset can be the reason we stop.

This holiday season, try shifting your focus. Instead of thinking about how food will affect you and your body, focus on who you’re sharing that food with. Focus on why you’re there eating a holiday meal in the first place.

And, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, try replacing guilt, shame, and fear with gratitude. Gratitude that you have food to eat, loved ones to eat it with, and a body that allows you to enjoy the holidays. Maybe your body doesn’t look exactly how you want it to (yet), but try to appreciate it for what it allows you to do.

After all, practicing gratitude has been shown again and again to make people happier4, and even to improve their body image5.


And with that, I wish you all a very happy holiday season. I hope that these tips can help you enjoy it even more. ❤

References

  1. https://www.researchgate.net/profile/Peter_Petocz/publication/15701207_A_Satiety_Index_of_common_foods/links/00b495189da413c16d000000/A-Satiety-Index-of-common-foods.pdf
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4137466/
  3. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/16261600
  4. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0272735810000450
  5. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S1740144517302991
Recipes

My Vegan Thanksgiving Feast Menu: 7 Dishes Omnivores will Love too

Last year, I had my first fully vegan Thanksgiving. Of course, I’ve eaten vegan at every Thanksgiving since I went vegan 5 years ago, but I’m used to having at most 1-3 things to eat at potluck friendsgivings… but this time, ALL of the food around me was vegan!

I had so much fun getting to make this giant feast for my fiancé and I, and it turned out amazingly. And I’ll be doing it again this year for him and my lovely (nonvegan) soon-to-be in-laws! So, I’m sharing the dishes I made, and plan to make again this year, to give you some Thanksgiving inspiration!

1. Cheesy scalloped potatoes

Everything was amazing, but these were the star of the show. Here’s the thing with most vegan scalloped potato recipes: they’re wonderfully healthy, full of nooch and cashews and whatnot, and take a bit of time to prep. Usually I’m all about that. But for this, we wanted something 1) easy and 2) super decadent and stuffed with storebought vegan cheese… because, y’know, Thanksgiving. So here’s a sneak preview of my recipe before I do a whole post on it:

  • 2 pounds Yukon gold potatoes
  • ¼ cup vegan butter (we use Miyoko’s)
  • ¼ cup all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups vegan half & half
  • Salt & pepper
  • 2 1/2 cups vegan cheese shreds, we used a mix with cheddar & white cheese
  • Paprika
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degree F
  2. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they’re starting to get tender, about 15 minutes.
  3. Now make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and add the flour, whisking constantly for about 2 minutes, or until the flour turns golden brown. Stir in half & half and cook until thickened, stirring often, for about 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in 2 cups of shredded cheese. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Slice the potatoes into 1/8 inch rounds–I recommend using a mandolin to get the slices even. Place 1/3 of the potatoes overlapping in a single layer in the baking dish, seasoning with salt and pepper. Spoon about 1/3 of the cheese sauce on top of the potatoes.
  5. Repeat for two more layers. Pour all of the remaining cheese sauce over the top layer of potatoes. Spread to ensure all of the potatoes are covered.
  6. Sprinkle with 1/2 cup shredded cheese and a dash of paprika for color.
  7. Bake in the 350 degree oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the sauce is bubbly.
Bottom: stuffing; left: roast surrounded by the bacon brussels sprouts; right: sweet potato casserole; middle: cheesy scalloped potatoes; top: pumpkin pie blondies

2. Stuffing

Simple vegan stuffing recipe by the Minimalist Baker

This was a nice healthy counterpart to the rest of the feast. It was refreshing to load up on lentils, veggies and starches in between digging into the rich scalloped potatoes and roast. You can also do prep for this the day before by chopping up all the veggies. Or, you could even make the whole thing the day before–it was great leftover!

3. Sweet potato casserole

Classic sweet potato casserole recipe by My Darling Vegan

I ended up making my own version of this and will be posting my recipe before long–but you can’t go wrong with any recipe involving sweet potatoes topped with toasted, buttery pecans! You can make the sweet potatoes and topping the day before, then wait to combine them til the day of: just add the topping and pop it in the oven once you’re nearing dinner time!

4. Roast

You could make your own roast, but for the time to taste trade off, I would recommend going store bought for this. Our favorites are the Trader Joe’s vegan roast, and the Field Roast line of roasts. (Tip: we’ve tried all the roasts we’ve seen in stores, and really did not like Tofurkey’s roast unfortunately)

Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast With Gravy - product in packaging

Image result for field roast roast

5. Brussels sprouts with bacon

This one’s an optional side–any of your favorite veggie sides would work. You could also roast these in the oven if you have space, but a major plus of this version is you can leave the oven free for the roast, stuffing, scalloped potatoes, & sweet potatoes!

  • 6 strips vegan bacon (I recommend Upton’s naturals for this recipe)
  • 2 tablespoons vegan butter
  • 1 pound Brussels sprouts, halved
  • 1/2 large onion, chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Cook the bacon in a pan until it’s your desired level of crispiness/chewiness.
  2. Remove the bacon, and chop it once cool.
  3. Melt the butter in the pan, then add the onions and brussels sprouts, stirring occasionally, until the sprouts turn golden brown.
  4. Add the bacon back into the pan with the sprouts, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
We wanted to consolidate the plates so we surrounded the roast (Field Roast celebration roast) with the brussels sprouts!

6. Pumpkin Pie Blondies

Pumpkin pie blondie recipe from Allrecipes

In addition to being a fun but easy fall-themed dessert, these were great for breakfast on Thanksgiving morning, too! (I made them the day before because they keep great.)

7. Bonus dessert: Pecan pie bars

If you’re a big pecan lover like me, you might prefer this simplified version of a more classic dessert: pecan pie! I know there are already pecans on the sweet potato casserole, but I believe there’s no such thing as too many pecans on Thanksgiving. 😉 I didn’t make them last year but I’m planning to this year–they’re always a big hit at potlucks.

For the crust:

  • 1.5 cups all purpose flour
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup coconut oil

For the filling:

  • 6 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 1/3 cup maple syrup
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup coconut cream (or coconut milk for a lighter version)
  • 2 cups chopped pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350, and line a 9″ pan with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the crust ingredients (flour, sugar, salt, and coconut oil) and stir until they combine into a dough. Press into the bottom of the pan and bake for 15 minutes or until the crust is slightly firm to the touch.
  3. Now for the filling: stir the coconut oil, maple syrup, and sugar in a sauce pan until combined, then boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add in the coconut cream and the pecans.
  4. Pour the filling onto the crust and spread it evenly.
  5. Bake until the filling is bubbling and set (no longer runny), 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool completely before cutting.

I hope you have a very happy Thanksgiving, surrounded by those you love ❤