In the past several months I've had more people ask me for suggestions for vegetarian cookbooks and recipes than in my prior 14 years of vegetarianism. Is it because I've been cooking and telling, or is it because we're more aware, as a whole, of the benefits of less meat and more vegetables? Whatever the reason, people all around me are hosting vegetarians at their Thanksgiving table, and are looking for something easy and filling for the herbivores in their lives.
I thought I'd post a couple inspiring ideas for fall feasts that would be incredibly exciting for me to sit down to. First off, the idea of a stuffed pumpkin cauldron is not one that would cater to my taste buds (pardon the pun). Don't get me wrong, I love roasted squash, and would be exuberant scooping out the seeds, saving a few for next gardening season and roasting the rest to top a loaf of home baked whole grain bread. I think it's the appearance--a little too 70s health food nut, although it seems most people who make suggestions for veggie friendly Thanksgivings think it's cute or creative. It might just be that many pumpkins are too tough and the flavor has been hybridized out of them.
Let's set some ground rules: Since the idea of Thanksgiving originated from a celebration of harvest and survival why not make the meal a local, in-season one? No better, easier, and probably more affordable way to do that than to hit up the farmer's markets.
I also don't see any reason to buy a whole bunch of ingredients you won't use again until next year (and let's face it, by then it won't be good anymore anyway, right?). Think of things that can play double duty: take, for instance, the parsley called for in most recipes. Carrots and parsley are cousins, and though the flavor is not spot on, carrot greens make for a suitable parsley substitute.
There are plenty of pre-packaged vegetarian and vegan options in the freezer of your local health food store (and now in many regular grocery stores) so feeding a vegetarian doesn't mean cooking a whole separate meal. If cooking for a vegetarian is too daunting, pick of a ToFurkey or marinated tofu for an easy solution. And remember, just because turkey broth is "just the juice" doesn't make it vegetarian-friendly, so if you want to make one stuffing for everyone, use vegetarian broth. Rapunzel No Salt Bouillon is very good.
In preparation for this post, I tried 3 new-to-me recipes last night: Thanksgiving Seitan Turkey (I'd bought the ingredients for homemade seitan recently, anyway, so I figured I'd go ahead and dive right in), Pear Chestnut Stuffing, and Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes. The Pear Chestnut Stuffing came in a brief moment of inspiration from the few pears sitting around. I was afraid they'd go bad before I would eat them as a snack. We have a chestnut tree in the yard, so there was a plentiful stock of roasted chestnuts in the freezer, just waiting for their turn to be the super-star of a meal. Despite their prickly exterior, raw chestnuts are like a bland carrot that magically turns into a sweet, creamy flavored nut when roasted. As for sweet potatoes, I really like sweet potatoes and had some local ones that were ready for appreciation. My Mr. does not like them, though, so anything to add a little extra variety in his omnivore diet is good.
While the recipes are not necessarily vegan (with the stuffing and sweet potatoes I did use butter, but that was simply because it was what we had on hand) the butter could just as easily be dairy-free with an appropriate plant based substitute like Earth Balance.
I have to admit I'm terrible at cooking by the rules and following recipes is not my strong point. For the galette I used a different crust recipe, and different cheeses in the filling. For the seitan, I failed to thoroughly read the recipe before buying ingredients, so I did end up using silken tofu (which worked out fine). I also decided to change the temperature and cooking time, because by the time it was ready to go in the oven, I'd been in the kitchen for 3 hours and an additional 3 hour cooking time seemed like madness (not the band, that would've been fun). I would recommend, instead, following Mac & Cheese's cooking suggestions, which are very similar to what I did.
Then came Pear Chestnut Stuffing. Stuffing is a food that only makes it's way through my mouth twice a year: Thanksgiving and Christmas. I have to be honest when I say I don't really get it. Especially at meals where the starches are more bountiful than any other food-type on the table, right? Mashed potatoes, rolls, cornbread, and stuffing, not to mention the bready cakes for dessert. But this past year every time we've had bread on the cusp of making its way to the compost, I've diced it up and stuck it in a bag in the freezer, so there were plentiful bread crumbs, and it seemed like as good a time as any to use them up. Basically the stuffing was mostly improv, slightly based around Martha Stewart's recipe. In a nutshell, here's how it went down: 1 large onion thinly sliced, 2 carrots thinly sliced (leaves from top chopped and included), and 1/2 cup chopped roasted chestnuts sauteed until onion slices were transparent. Seasoned with basil, a little salt and pepper, added the bread crumbs (2 cups, I'd say) and 3/4 cup veggie broth. The stuffing was then sandwiched between the seitan turkey and baked for 20 minutes.
For the sides: Maple Glazed Sweet Potatoes: I baked the sweet potato cubes, then added the maple syrup, 1 tablespoon melted butter, and chopped pecans when the potatoes were done. This was plenty sweet and didn't require any additional sugar. Top it with whip cream (or even vegan whip cream) and it would be a phenomenal dessert!
Cranberry Sauce from fresh cranberries, tinged with orange juice is so easy to make. It's a far cry from the canned stuff that comes out in a congealed cylinder. Cranberries are so tart they do require some sugar, but I usually cook them down in a sweet but neutral flavored fruit juice first (white grape or apple) that cuts the tart and then requires a lot less cane sugar.
A seven bean salad is a staple at holiday meals for my family. I use edamame instead of one of the more typical beans, it adds a variety to the color, as well as a nice flavor and buttery texture. Introduced this way to meat eaters, soy beans quickly lose their stigma.
Rosemary Beer Bread: Charlie, the master of all things beer around our house, makes a superb beer bread with 3 cups sifted (sifted is muy importante) self-rising flour (due to the rising agents, the brand we use is salty enough to not need in-the-past-several-months-ive-had-more-people-ask-me-for-suggestions-for-vegetarian-cookbooks-and-recipes-than-in-my-prior-1an additional pinch of salt) and 12 ounces of beer (homebrew, of course!). Season it with crushed garlic and a tablespoon of chopped, fresh rosemary, mix it up, pour it in a loaf pan greased with olive oil and cook it in a preheated oven on 375 for about 45 minutes. His method is derived from a long-evolving experiment beginning with the Farmgirl Fare recipe. It cooks up light and fluffy, with a soft yeasty flavor.
Sometimes all it takes is a little liquid smoke flavoring to make a side dish extra special. I add it to collards and they turn out just as good as grandma used to make, without keeping a can of fat back by the stove at all times.
If you have any thoughts, ideas, recipes, questions, or suggestions, please feel free to comment below! And since it is close to Thanksgiving, here, I'd like to thank you, friendly readers, for joining me here on Modish on Fridays, as I preach the eco-gospel. I cherish all of the comments I receive, and have loved meeting a few of you in person! But enough with the thanks, now for the giving. As a token of my appreciation, here's a free PDF download of some recipe cards I drew. I hope you like them!
But how about you? What are you thankful for?
Still hungry for more veggie options? Here are a few of my favorite vegetarian books:
Becoming Vegetarian (there is also a becoming vegan, which I haven't read) is a great book on the basics of a healthy vegetarian diet--quick and easy to read, great resource. Not a cook book though.
I use 1000 Vegetarian Recipes more than any other cookbook. There's a 7 bean salad recipe in it that has become tradition at our family feasts. It's. so. good.
The Voluptuous Vegan is also good, though again, a lot of ingredients, so not great for everyday, but full of inspired and wonderful recipes. Just know it's not a whip up in a hurry kind of cookbook
The Moosewood Cookbooks get great reviews from some people, but generally are complex recipes with odd ingredients and a little too "healthy" tasting for the masses. That's just my 2 cents, so take it for what it's worth!
Renee Garner has a passion to make things grow, although her brownish thumb wants her to believe otherwise. When mud pies aren't on the menu, you can find her doodling the days away at Wolfie and the Sneak.