We stayed at home for Thanksgiving this year, which was nice.
Technically, this was our second Thanksgiving in Fort Collins. Last year, we drove to Colorado in what was basically a panic, because I had to see this place one more time before I quit my job and we uprooted our lives to move here. But now this is really where we live, and when I think about how far we have come and how much everything has changed since that terrible, terrible time one year ago, I still kind of can’t believe it.
My parents had been hoping to come out and visit us, but they ended up unable to make the trip, so it was just the three of us. I tried to re-create the magical Thanksgiving dinner I made in St. Louis in 2012, though with much less success. Mom, Dad, don’t feel bad about not joining us this time; you didn’t miss my best culinary endeavor.
The whole thing started out when William and I made a pumpkin pie on Wednesday (he is still a difficult eater, but he does love to help bake). I used this recipe for crust and this recipe for the pie filling. I chose these recipes because of their simplicity: instead of tofu and soy cream cheese (the latter of which I always forget to buy), the pie filling took coconut milk and cornstarch, which I already had on hand. It all came together very easily.
On Thanksgiving morning, I got up early and ran at Horsetooth Mountain Open Space, something I sincerely hope becomes a tradition.
2.5 miles up this mountain (and back down again) was way, way better than choosing to do the local Turkey Trot.
Basically as soon as I got home and took a shower, I started cooking our Thanksgiving dinner. Simplicity was the theme, so I really didn’t think it was going take that long to put together, but as these things often do, it took much longer than I was expecting.
I had bought a real, actual Tofurky because that was the only vegan, holiday kind of thing Whole Foods had when I went shopping, and at the time I was not feeling creative enough to come up with a fancy Thanksgiving dish on my own. I figured it would be a lot like the “roast beast” we had 2 years ago when I did this in St. Louis, and that had been pretty good.
While the oven pre-heated, I sliced potatoes, purple sweet potatoes, carrots, and brussels sprouts to roast. The Tofurky was a lot rounder than the “roast beast” of 2012, so not as many vegetables fit in the roasting pan with it. I decided to roast the brussels sprouts separately.
Our internet randomly stopped working, so I couldn’t look up my blog to see how I had made the baste last time. Winging it, I mixed together some melted Earth Balance, garlic powder, and a dash of soy sauce. (**Note to self: for future reference, leave out the soy sauce. Add fresh sage**). I put the non-brussel sprout vegetables in with the (thawed) Tofurky and covered them with the baste so the whole thing could start cooking. Then I made some gravy—also winging it, with no internet to look up a recipe. I used vegetable broth, more garlic powder, nutritional yeast, and flour. I may have added some corn starch (and possibly a few other things) too, I’m not sure.
Then it was time to start the dinner rolls. I had found this recipe a few days earlier, but totally didn’t realize it took an egg. I usually use ground flax seeds as egg replacers; this works really well for things like brownies, but I did not know if it was the best option for dinner rolls. It was my only option at the time, though, so I decided to try it.
While the dinner rolls were (hopefully) rising, I put the brussels sprouts in the oven and then began the stuffing. The Tofurky actually had stuffing in the center, but I knew from 2012 that it wasn’t going to be very much, and Rob really likes stuffing, so I wanted to make sure we had enough to make this a celebration. I had bought some packaged stuffing at Whole Foods. It had the word “vegan” on the label and all you did was add water (and some oil) to it, so I figured how hard could it be.
The dinner rolls seemed to be rising quite fine, which was a relief considering 1) high altitude -and- 2) flax seed egg. I put them in the oven and wondered how long it would take everything to finish cooking 1) at high altitude -and- 2) with 3 different things in the oven all at once.
I sort of managed to get the kitchen cleaned up, and then it was showtime. Only about 45 minutes later than I’d estimated.
Deeply engrossed in some sort of train game, Rob and Will grudgingly came to the dinner table (mainly, it was Will who was grudging). Will took one glance at the motley assortment of Thanksgiving dishes and said, “That looks disgusting, I don’t want to eat it.”
Will eventually conceded to have a dinner roll and some raw broccoli, and I think I fixed him some apple slices too.
Rob and I sat down to the rest of the meal. It was… meh.
The Tofurky was kind of tough and dry, despite all the basting I’d done, and the stuffing had weird tiny hard bits in it that I didn’t care for. The vegetables were kind of bland, and I forgot, I still don’t like sweet potatoes (thanks, hyperemesis!) even if they’re purple. The dinner rolls were a bit too sweet for my liking, and the gravy tasted like it was missing something. The brussels sprouts were good though.
Rob said he liked the dinner, and he and Will were both big fans of the rolls, so maybe I will be making those again. We didn’t actually have as many leftovers as I’d been expecting, but the next day when I ate some of the roasted vegetables, I thought they tasted even better than they had for our Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe I had just been too tired from my jaunt up Horsetooth and the subsequent hours in the kitchen to enjoy it, although I'd have thought that would make me enjoy it more. I don’t know.
We waited several hours before eating the pumpkin pie later in the day. Will was actually pretty excited about this, I think because some of the kids at school had been talking about pumpkin pie and he got caught up in it. Also, once when he was 2 he ate pumpkin pie at daycare and I was told he really liked it.
The pumpkin pie was… okay. Rob and I are both not really “pie” people, but Rob bravely tried some and managed to get through a slice. I do have a greater pie tolerance than Rob, but this pie was not my favorite. It occurred to me as I took my first bite, that I do not really like coconut milk (the kind that comes in a can) and that was one of like 3 ingredients of the pie. I had thought that the pumpkin and the spice would cover up the coconut flavor, but… you could definitely still taste coconut. Which is great if you like coconut, I suppose.
On the bright side, Will did actually eat a piece of the pie. With his hands.
Pro-tip: I discovered later that the pie becomes amazingly fantastic if you warm it up (12 seconds in the microwave for a slice) and then put (vegan) chocolate chips on top. Chocolate makes everything better.
We finished out the weekend with some light bouldering...
… a few great sunrises...
… some movie watching...
… and a trip to get a Christmas tree at the unceremonious location of a Do-It Hardware store near our house.
The proximity of the store did, however, allow us to revive a Ragfield Family Tradition that we haven’t done since sometime before Will was born, when we lived in Urbana.
Will and I decorated the tree together while Rob went running that evening. It turned out pretty nice, I think. And Will was a great help.
Next year, I promise I’ll get the Tofurky figured out, so hopefully you can enjoy it with us, Mom and Dad.
Thanks for reading.
A white butterfly for you, Jackson. Love, Auntie M.