And there it is….I looked down at my phone that is vibrating and dancing all over my desk. I am afraid to look as it goes off again. Finally I pick it up to see that it is and just as I thought, it is a group text message to our family from my sister who asks the same question each year. Halloween is over and most of the candy is eaten, most of the stores are clearing shelves for make room for Christmas, and local bakeries are putting signs out to order your pies now. So, I knew right away what the text was about. I looked down and yes I was right….an announcement on who wants to cook Thanksgiving dinner this year? Thanksgiving is when everyone gathers to celebrate thanks and be grateful, to see relatives and friends that we don’t see every day, to eat good food, drink wine and eggnog, laugh and joke. The house is warm and filled with scents of apple pie, vegetables roasting in the oven and all around are the sounds of dishes banging, corks popping and kids playing. So what are some challenges a vegan faces with all this celebrating and happiness on Thanksgiving?
Thanksgiving at most homes (well at least mine anyway) usually starts with a table full of appetizers to pick on until dinner. There are different cheeses, pepperoni, and crackers laid out in neat little rows on holiday decorated platers, chips and always a baked spinach and artichoke dip, stuffed mushrooms hot out of the oven, bruschetta’s, some little pastry puff creations and deviled eggs among other goodies. Aunts, uncles, cousins, kids, and grandparents are enjoying some eggnog, a glass of wine or a beer in one hand and the other is grabbing some of the appetizers while talking and laughing.
When dinner is ready every one finds a place at the table that is beautifully decorated with place settings, fine utensils that are only used on holidays, crystal wine glasses, cloth napkins folded so delicately with fancy rings placed perfectly on each dinner plate, candles lit, and array of foods ready to be served. Once the turkey has been carved, people are passing around and reaching for bowls and platters grabbing, pouring, and scooping food filling up their plates with enough food to last a week. Everyone has sliced turkey, sides and fixings including the meat stuffing, veggies baked with butter, mashed potatoes cooked with milk and butters, dinner rolls, casseroles, and gravies made from turkey drippings smothered on top and dripping off the plate.
Now that bellies are full and stuffed, the room is quiet and the table is full of empty bowls and platters with only a few turkey scrapes, half the bean casserole, and plates with a couple bites of potato and a few peas, and maybe a half-eaten dinner roll. Cloth napkins rolled up in a ball on top of plates, dirty utensils are scattered about, and spills and splatters stain the once white table cloth. The beautiful Norman Rockwell picture perfect table now looks like a tornado had ripped through the dining room with only a few signs of food that was once there. As people digest, some are snoring in the other room in recliners with the football game on, the kids are running around outside kicking leaves and others are putting left overs in containers for people to take home.
Then, as all of this food was not enough the pumpkin cheese cake, apple pies, chocolate chip cookies, walnut brownies and other delicious deserts present themselves on the table. As I help clean up the mess and set up clean plates for desert my stomach begins to growl, how is that possible after such a huge dinner?
This was one of my first experiences at Thanksgiving as a vegan 8 years ago. Sense then the dinners has not changed much but, the way I handle the holidays have. This time of year can be really challenging for vegans especially new vegans and very often they “cheat” on this day to avoid being hungry or hearing the countless jokes and remarks. I have heard them all over the years; many family members and friends simply cannot understand why on earth you would give up eating turkey, cheese, or any other animal product on Thanksgiving or any other day. However, there are some families and friends who truly want to understand how they can accommodate their vegan family member. I have friends who come up to me and ask, “I have this relative that is coming over that is vegan what can I make for this person, what do vegans eat?” I have gone to friend’s dinners who are concerned that there will not be anything there for me to eat and want to know what they can do to accommodate. Some really do want to provide dishes that vegans will enjoy but, simple don’t know where to begin. This all can be overwhelming and challenging not only for the vegan but, families as well, so what’s a vegan to do. Here are a few ideas that I have learned over the years that have helped me during the holidays that may help you:
(also, as a hint, when someone says, what do you eat or what can we make you, keep in mind that ANY dish that is served on Thanksgiving can be made a vegan version)
So, finally with this list of options, you will be prepared to enjoy some delicious food, drink, family and friends and have a wonderful Thanksgiving. This recipe is just one of the many I have made over the years for Thanksgiving. This one I happen to make for a friends Thanksgiving get together where we all brought a little something. A little hesitant on my vegan stuffed mushrooms and not knowing what to expect and how they would taste, were a big hit and everyone enjoyed them. I only had a few left to take home to snack on for later. I will probably make another batch for our family dinner among a few other things.
Thanksgiving Stuffed Mushrooms
Yield: approximately 20 mushrooms depending how big they are
Time: prep about 40 min cook: 30 min
3 16 oz. cremini or white button mushrooms
1 tbsp. olive oil
1 sm. head garlic roasted ahead of time
¼ sweet onion chopped
2 tbsp. soy sauce
½ cup vegan mozzarella cheese
3-4 cups frozen chopped spinach
1 container vegan cream cheese (I used Tofutti)
2 tbsp. nutritional yeast
½ red pepper chopped
3 vegan sausage links chopped (I used Tofurkey Italian)
¼ cup earth balance butter
¼ cup fresh parsley
½ of the mushroom ends chopped
½ cup panko bread crumbs
¼ tsp cayenne (optional)
Salt pepper to taste
Below are also some additional tips: