We stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, and for the first time in my life, I made a complete Vegan Thanksgiving dinner on my own.
The whole thing started when I got off work a little bit early on Wednesday afternoon. I began cooking after I picked up William and he was (supposed to be) taking a nap. First order of business was to make cornbread. William eats exactly 5 foods, and "Mr. Mike's Cornbread" (Mr. Mike being the cook at daycare) is one of them. I don't know how Mr. Mike makes his cornbread, but it surely involves eggs and probably butter and milk. The cornbread I made did not, but it was both amazing and easy. It involved ground up flax seed as egg replacer (my favorite form of egg substitute), flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt, agave, soy milk, and canola oil. Put it in a square baking dish and bake for 20 minutes. Beauty.
Next, I made pumpkin pie. Many, many years ago, I used to have this vegan pumpkin pie recipe that I got off a tofu box or something, and I have since lost. I tried to recreate it from memory, using canned pureed pumpkin, half a tub of Tofutti cream cheese, half a block of silken tofu, some amount of soy milk, maybe 1/2 cup of brown sugar, a drizzle of molasses, and a good tablespoon of pumpkin pie spice. Whirl that in the blender until it is well mixed. Then pour it in to a graham cracker crust (surprisingly, the Keebler brand appears to be vegan).
The quantity of pumpkin filling I had mixed up way exceeded the capacity of the graham cracker crust. I had also bought some little bitty, individual serving graham crusts, thinking that William might be intrigued by the smallness and cuteness of them, and so I filled 3 of these with the pie filling as well.
Then it occurred to me that I had just made an entire pumpkin pie and 3 additional tiny pumpkin pies, and Rob probably wasn't going to eat it because he doesn't' like pie, and William probably wasn't going to eat it because pie is not on his list of 5 Approved Foods. So I had a lot of pie going on, and in all probability, I was the only person who was going to eat it. To make matters worse, there was still more filling. I thought about putting it in a tupperware and freezing it, or maybe even throwing it out, but instead I took the I Love Lucy route and simply ate it. Divine.
I baked the tiny pies for about 20 minutes and the big pie for about an hour, then I let them cool and put them in the fridge overnight.
My last order of business for Thanksgiving Eve was to make a cranberry relish. Also a food that probably no one in my house cared about or would want to eat. But I felt compelled to make it anyway. I saw a couple of recipes here and there and decided to combine them into one of my own. What I did was take 1/2 package of fresh cranberries, 3 stalks of celery, 1 apple, 1 orange, some orange zest, about 1/4 cup sugar, and a smack of cinnamon. Then I put that in the food processor and 10 seconds later: cranberry relish.
Thanksgiving morning involved going to the parade downtown via the MetroLink, or as Will likes to call it, The Train. Will was more interested in climbing up and down the many staircases at Kiener Park, but I was in my element watching the parade.
After the parade, we went back home and while Will was taking a nap, I got the rest of the meal ready. This involved a Trader Joe's Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast. I have never before eaten something like this, and I hadn't even been planning on buying it last weekend when I was shopping at Trader Joe's. But as I saw it in the store and stood there examining the package, another shopper saw my confusion and assured me, "I've had that before. It's really good." And so I thought, why not. I'd been planning on making some kind of marinated tofu concoction and making my own stuffing and gravy. But this Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast contained it all. A texturized soy protein thing that was stuffed with stuffing and included a packet of gravy. All vegan. It seemed like a win-win situation.
To cook the Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast, I took some celery stalks, quartered small potatoes, turnips, carrots, and garlic and layered that in the bottom of the roasting pan. I put the Turkey-Less Stuffed Roast on top of that and basted it with a sauce made of Earth Balance (they claim to responsibly source their palm oil, which I hope is true), garlic powder, and fresh sage (that I had bought for some other purpose but since forgotten why) and a smack of liquid smoke. I covered the the whole thing with foil and cooked it for about an hour and a half.
I also made peas, which involved taking a bag of frozen peas out of the freezer and microwaving them. And I made gravy, which involved opening the container of gravy that came with the Roast and microwaving it. At the last minute, I juiced some apples and cranberries to make fresh cran-apple juice. Festive.
When Will woke up from his nap, he was in rare form-- in a good way. He had been thrilled to ride on the train earlier in the day and run around at the park while (sort of) watching the parade. We had also been talking up Thanksgiving, and I could tell that the didn't know exactly what that meant, but it intrigued him. He was on his best behavior. When I told him that we were having cornbread with dinner, he squealed and jumped for joy (literally) and then went to his chair to sit and wait for the meal.
So here it is, our Vegan Thanksgiving Spread:
And here's a close-up of the Trader Joe's Turkey-less Stuffed Roast, or as I now like to call it, The Roast Beast
Okay, so it looks really weird, but honestly, it was pretty good. The vegetables were the most amazing part of the whole meal, though. Roasting them in the Earth Balance/Garlic powder baste and then drizzling them with gravy made them out-of-this-world sublime.
Will ate some peas and cornbread of his own volition. He declined the cranberry relish (so did Rob) and he told me he didn't want any of the vegetables or "Roast Beast." With an extreme amount of coaxing, but less frustration than a normal meal (it generally takes about 10 years off of my life just to get him to eat 100 calories worth of food), I did manage to get him to eat one roasted carrot and a slice of Roast Beast. Victory.
True to my prediction, I was the only person who ate any pumpkin pie. And wine.
Above all, I was really thankful to get to stay at home and have a very nice, very relaxing Vegan Thanksgiving with Rob and Will. Rob and I are both under immense pressure from up-coming deadlines, and the stress around this household has been all but palpable for the past several weeks. Adding in a multi-state traveling odyssey to this mix felt like it would have pushed us over the edge. We did not get to see our families, but at least this way, we got to have real, actual, vegan food and do everything on our own schedules. Which is to say, Will's schedule. We needed this. We had such a great time together, the three of us, and there were very few moments when anyone threw himself on the ground screaming and crying. It was an all-out stellar day.
Cooking the meal wasn't really that hard, and I think it turned out pretty darn good. I'd do it again, and again. I'll do it for Christmas, and next year too. You're all invited.
Thanks for reading.