Thanksgiving: What We Ate

Thanksgiving centerpiece.  A gift from my beloved.

One of the most often asked questions is “what are you going to eat on Thanksgiving?!”.  It’s said with a tone of horror as no one could possibly understand a Thanksgiving without eating a turkey.

Maybe it’s just me but the turkey has never been the center of my foodie dreams even when I was an omnivore.  It’s the sides!  The wonderful, herb filled, savory and sweet sides!

I carefully planned out the menu and asked family members to bring some items as well.  Mom brought cranberry orange relish, brussels sprouts and a vegan apple pie and my sister and brother-in-law brought roasted root vegetables and a vegan blueberry pie.

Pretty pie made by yours truly.

I had many things prepared ahead of time such as the pumpkin pie, stuffing with chestnuts, apples, pecans and raisins and the candied yams with ginger.  Preparing these items ahead of time turned out to be a godsend as I will explain later.

We had mulled wine and appetizers before the meal.  The appetizers consisted of guacamole, hummus and various crackers and chips.  I was originally going to make stuffed mushrooms but ran out of time.  My only regret is that I didn’t have enough time to visit with my sweet granddaughter and my son, daughter and son-in-law.  Such is the plight of the chef!

My son a.k.a. Batdan

I put my mom on KP duty and had her peeling potatoes for mashed potatoes.  I had cooked up some caramelized onions the day before to add to the potatoes which turned out to be a delicious decision.

Right as I started to make the mushroom gravy I had a bit of a setback when my oven tripped a circuit breaker.  This has happened before but I was always able to reset it.  Not this time.

Thanks to the ingenuity of my family and Dr. D., we pulled it off using my crockpot, electric skillet (had to blow the cobwebs off that puppy) and the toaster oven.

The rolls went in the toaster oven, the sweet potatoes were heated up in the electric skillet after the gravy was done and the stuffing went into the crockpot.

Through some sort of Thanksgiving miracle, everything was finished right on time and everyone loved it!

Now I’m looking for volunteers to do dishes.  

Foodie Friday! Field Roast Grain Meat

This Friday’s food post doesn’t feature a recipe.  Instead, it’s a chance to call to your attention an amazing product.  Field Roast Grain Meat has a variety of plant-based meats that will knock your socks off!

The first one I tried was the Apple Sage Sausage I used in my Sausage n’ Kraut Skillet recipe.  I will remind you that this is the recipe that, after tasting it compelled Sprout, my straight female office mate to propose marriage to me twice.

Next was the Italian Sausage variety which I again taste tested on Sprout who told me it made her very confused.  

“This is not meat?” 

“It’s meat but it’s plant based.”

The Italian Sausage has the same spiciness and mouth feel of the sausage I remember when I was an omnivore.  I can’t wait to try it on a pizza!

Thursday morning, I sliced into the Celebration Loaf and sauteed it in a pan with a little olive oil which I will NOT do next time as it dried out when I warmed it up later.  If I’m making it to eat right away, I think it’d be a great way to cook it but otherwise I will rely on my microwave to heat individual slices.  

Celebration Roast with delicata squash on the side!
Voila!  Lunch!

I’m looking forward to trying their other products!  

The Benediction

At the end of Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s speech on Friday night, she closed with what I referred to in my previous post as a benediction.  It truly brought me to tears.  I was mad at myself for not having the foresight to record it but was thrilled to find out that it’s the dedication in her book, The Vegan Table.  

If we could only have the qualities of these animals, the world would be a better place.  I hope these words mean as much to you as they do to me.

My hope is that we can all navigate through this world with the grace and integrity of those who most need our protection.

May we have the sense of humor and liveliness of the goats, the maternal instincts of the hens, and the sassiness of the roosters.

May we have the faithfulness and commitment to family of geese and the adaptability and affability of the ducks.  May we have the intelligence, loyalty and affection of the pigs and the inquisitiveness, sensitivity and playfulness of the turkeys.

May we have the gentleness and strength of the cattle, the wisdom, serenity and humility of the donkeys. May we appreciate the need for community as do the sheep and choose our companions as carefully as do the rabbits.

May we learn from the animals what we need to become better people.  ~Colleen Patrick-Goudreau

Field Trip! Albany Vegfest!

Dr. D. and I took a field trip this weekend to the Albany Vegfest.  After I found out Colleen Patrick-Goudreau was speaking, I knew I couldn’t miss it. For those of you who read my blog post Why I Love Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, you know she’s my hero and how much I admire and respect her work.  When I mentioned to Dr. D. that she would be at the Speaker Recognition Dinner the night before the Vegfest, he talked me into leaving a day early and staying over.

The dinner took place at the Century House in Latham and around 70 people attended.  The food was phenomenal!  All of it was vegan and all of it was delicious and creative.  Our friends, Sherry and Mike were there with their adorable girls who held me to my promise to kiss the chef if I saw him.

Picture taken by Meena Colbdorf

We sat with some very interesting people who provided us with great dinner discussions. I also got to meet Liz Rotundo whom I had “friended” on Facebook a couple of weeks earlier.  She was a very busy woman all weekend as one of the organizers of Vegfest and I was so impressed with how she pulled it all off.

Colleen was wonderful as expected and got laughs from the audience when she admitted how much she loved that her hair smelled like goat after spending all day at the Woodstock Animal Sanctuary.  Her words were engaging and motivating and her closing which was more like a benediction, brought me to tears.  I really wish I had recorded it.

When she was finished, I approached her to tell her what an influence she has been on me as a new vegan.  She held my hand for a long time before giving me a huge hug.  She is one of the most genuinely kind and friendly people I’ve ever met.

Me and my hero

One of the highlights of my weekend!

The next day we did a little shopping before heading to the Polish Community Center where the Vegfest was being held.  Our tablemates from the night before had highly recommended Honest Weight Food Co-Op so that was our first stop.

It reminded me of Greenstar in Ithaca but bigger and with higher prices.  I was thrilled, however to find the pre-made vegan pie crusts I’d been looking for.  I also found this selection of goodies, many gluten-free and many vegan:

And this book:  

Because nothing turns a vegan on like kale!

We don’t have a Trader Joe’s within 100 miles of Binghamton so a pilgrimage there was on my list.  My heart fluttered a little bit when Dr. D. announced it was his “new favorite store”.  I just love this man!

My goal for this visit was to pick up some of their K-cups for myself as well as for a female soldier serving in Afghanistan.  It was on her wish list for herself and her fellow soldiers.  Trader Joe’s K-cups are around 10 cents less per cup than any other brand and I think the coffee is superior to any others I’ve tried.  The Trader Joe’s brand of vegan mozzarella was recommended to me by one of their crew members so I picked up some of that as well.  And mushrooms.  Lots of mushrooms.

Trunk full of goodies, we left for the Vegfest.  There was a line out the door when we got there and both of us remarked about how thankful we were for the unseasonably warm weather.  

Our first stop was the heated tent where Sherry F. Colb would be doing her presentation.  Sherry is the author of Mind If I Order the Cheeseburger? and a brilliant and charming speaker. I’m also honored to call her my friend. We thoroughly enjoyed her talk on how to answer the most common questions vegans are asked.  She collected questions from audience members which made the presentation interactive and entertaining.

After Sherry’s speech, we were urged (okay, begged is a better word) by her young daughters to visit the table selling the amazing vegan desserts.  These desserts were outstanding by any standards and to know they were free of animal products made me feel like a kid at Christmas!

Dr. D. and I shared a tiramisu (far right).
Gorgeous, right?

We walked around scoping out the place and I was thrilled to have so many choices for lunch.  Despite all those options we decided on pizza.  I hadn’t had pizza in three months!  We both got a slice and I thought I’d died and gone to cheesy, saucy, doughy heaven!  It was amazing!  In fact, it was so amazing we both got second pieces.

We stopped by our friend Amie Hamlin’s table to say good morning.  Amie is the Executive Director for the New York Coalition for Healthy School Food which is something important to me as I still have two children in school.  Her table buzzed with activity for most of the day so it’s obvious it’s an important topic for many.  

The vendors were varied and ranged from animal rights groups to a soy candle vendor to booksellers where Dr. D. picked up a copy of Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease by Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn, MD.  Dr. D. had a mild heart attack a few years ago that resulted in two stents being placed.  His health has vastly improved since then but he is very curious about the good effects of a plant-based diet.  We walked around several times before heading back over to the tent to hear Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s presentation.

Colleen had this picture up during her presentation
and told the story of the rescue of Linus.

Colleen was brilliant as usual and Dr. D. listened intently. I watched him and wondered what was going through his head.  Was he regretting coming with me to the event?  Did he think all of this information was too radical and extreme?  I would get my answers later that day.

After Colleen’s talk, we headed back inside to pick up a copy of her book, The Vegan Table and get it signed.  I now officially own all her books except for one.  I have instituted a new policy for myself; for every vegan cookbook I buy, I give away one of my non-vegan ones.  I’m one book away from an intervention from my loved ones.  However, this new book is the most special of all because of the inscription its author penned. 

Colleen signing books

Satisfied both in my heart and my belly, we hit the road back to Binghamton.  It was early so we decided to stop in Greene for a drink and to check out the menu at the newly renovated (and beautiful!) Sherwood Hotel.  We sat down with our cocktails and the menu.  I found a portabello entree I felt could be made vegan and told Dr. D. we could eat there if he wanted to as the entrees for him were plentiful.  

The next thing he said blew me away.

I’ve made the decision to eat vegan whenever we eat together. I can see how important this is to you and want to support you.

Colleen’s message was very powerful and I think the health benefits alone are worth me making this change.

I left out quotation marks on purpose as I cannot remember exactly what he said but the message was clear and I am so happy he’s made this decision.  It’s a step toward better health and a step forward in this journey we’re taking together.

Lots more pictures can be seen here.  Make plans to attend next year and I’ll see you there!

Foodie Friday! Mushroom Stroganoff!

I have been on one heckuva mushroom kick lately!  First it was the Country Mushroom Soup featured in last week’s Foodie Friday post and now it’s Mushroom Stroganoff.

I’m really nuts about this dish and must make it once the craving hits.  To keep it vegan, I serve it over bowtie pasta as even No Yolks Egg Noodles still contain egg whites.  

Photo courtesy of Google Images

Mushroom Stroganoff
1 and 1/2 pounds mushrooms, any type, cut into 1/4″ slices
2 Tbs. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. beef flavored Better Than Bouillon (optional)
1 C. vegetable broth
2 (or more) Tbs. cognac
1 C. vegan sour cream
1 pound pasta of choice

In a 4-quart pot, bring 2 quarts of water to a boil. 

In a large saute pan over medium-high heat, cook mushrooms in small batches in a few teaspoons of olive oil.  Let mushrooms slightly brown and remove from pan; cook next batch adding oil a teaspoon at a time when needed.  Set aside. 

Add onions and salt to the pan and cook until translucent and beginning to turn golden, about 5 minutes. Use another teaspoon of oil if the pan is too dry.  Cook the mushrooms for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Put pasta in boiling water.  Cook for time indicated on package. 

Add the vegetable broth, Better Than Bouillon (if using)  and cognac to the mushrooms.  Cook for 10 – 15 minutes until liquid has reduced and has thickened.   

Lower the heat on the mushroom mixture and stir in the sour cream.  Bring just to a simmer, stirring to heat through.

I’m a turkey mama!

It’s official!

Thanksgiving is a tough holiday for me this year.  It’s my third Thanksgiving not eating turkey but my first as a full-fledged vegan.  Now some may say I’m a bad vegan because I am doing the unthinkable.

As hostess of our Thanksgiving dinner this year, I made the decision to have a dead bird on my table.

The thought of it makes me a little ill and I’m thankful Dr. D. has agreed to cook the bird as I can’t bear the thought of touching it.  However, I decided to go ahead with a traditional Thanksgiving for one reason.


I know most of my family would not attend my Thanksgiving feast unless a turkey is served.  This left me with two choices: not serve turkey and have my family go elsewhere (where a bird will lose its life anyway) or suck it up and serve a turkey so my family can enjoy each others’ company.  Having my family in my home for the holiday will also ensure that the side dishes are all vegan; this would not happen if we went elsewhere.

There is no argument, it was a tough decision to make and not a very popular one with the vegan members of my family but I know in my heart it’s the right thing to do.

I have already planned out the rest of the meal.  Many of the traditional Thanksgiving side dishes are naturally vegan and making those which are not naturally vegan into plant-based dishes will be fairly easy to pull off such as using Earth Balance in recipes calling for butter and making stuffing in a pan.  There are so many wonderful vegan side dishes that no one will feel they are sacrificing and I may even surprise some people at how amazing vegan food is!

Do I feel guilty?  You bet!  To alleviate some of my guilt, I adopted a turkey through Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey project.  I had a choice of turkeys to adopt and settled on this handsome fella I met when we visited Farm Sanctuary in Watkins Glen earlier this fall.

Turpentine Turkey

Isn’t he sweet?  He’s even “Facebook Famous” as my kids like to say.

For $30 I was able to make a donation to this outstanding organization and help them in their cause to rescue farm animals and care for them at one of their three locations.  I acknowledge it doesn’t do anything to help the turkey who will be served in my home that day but it can help lots of others.  

So Turpentine will be part of our Thanksgiving this year but he won’t be covered in gravy (or have bread shoved up his butt).  He’ll be there in spirit to remind all of us that a turkey is someone and not something.  I know I’ll be doing right by my family and doing my best for the animals.

As one of my favorite authors, Colleen Patrick-Goudreau says:

“Being vegan is about doing the best we can in this imperfect world. It’s not about being perfect or pure. If we lose sight of that, if we treat veganism as the end rather than the means, then we’ll not only drive ourselves crazy, we’ll also forget what being vegan is all about.”

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Blog of the Week: Little Green Kettle

Kim Soju and her friend

I came across Kim Soju’s blog, Little Green Kettle by accident this week while looking for an image of a vegan pizza.  It was a happy accident for sure as this blog is full of great recipes, ideas and thoughts.  She named Colleen Patrick-Goudreau as Rock Star #2 (Rock Star #1 was Alicia Silverstone) of her awesome vegan superstars series so I was thrilled to see we share the same love and admiration for Colleen.

Kim’s voice comes through in her writing and the passion and energy she gives her topics appeals to all kinds of readers.

One of my favorite things about her blog are the tabs at the top which direct you to different categories.  Click the I Feel Like Reading tab and get book and resource recommendations.  Click the I Feel Like Watching tab to see what videos and movies are of interest to vegans or those curious about a vegan lifestyle.  Click the I Feel Like Smiling tab to get a whole buncha fun links to videos and pictures to make you laugh or just brighten your day.

You can find her Facebook page here.  Check her out and leave a little love in the comments section.  Tell her the Born Again Vegan sent you.