Friday, November 23, 2007

Thanksgiving Adventure!

Happy Day After Thanksgiving Everyone!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday yesterday. After my grandmother's death just 2 weeks ago, we had an especially poignant holiday. We were all thinking of her, missing her of course, and just resonating with the love that we have for her. For some people the holidays are an especially painful time, but I didn't feel that way yesterday. Almost nothing makes me feel happier or more at peace than just being together with my family.

Thanksgiving has always been a special holiday for us, we love the time together, and the absence of a commercial focus. Even so, we were all so busy thinking about my grandmother and putting together her memorial service, that we didn't have much of a running start on Thanksgiving this year.

After some last minute searching, blog-reading and cookbook browsing, I came up with a plan:
Mexicali Tamales with Seitan Picadillo - Voluptuous Vegan
Black Beans with Epazote - Volupt. Vegan
Everyday Chipotle Veg Stuffed Tamales - Veganomicon
Pear Cranberry Tart - VwaV
Pumpkin Pie - Volupt. Vegan

Naturally enough, I started with the pies! I made two of each. I read on Isa's blog that the Voluptuous Vegan Pumpkin Pie was her favorite P.pie recipe, so even though I hadn't ever made it before, I knew it would be good. It turned out amazing!! My dad (formerly a big time vegan pumpkin pie hater) voluntarily raved about how delicious it was. I love that!

I made these Pear-Craberry tarts from VwaV last year and they were a huge hit. I love that they are so light and flavorful and relatively low-fat (on a scale of holiday desserts). My family is pretty health-conscious, so they appreciate that. Plus, this tart is mega-delicious!!!! (otherwise, it wouldn't be worth it!) Actually, it's cool to think how much healthier the vegan pumpkin pie is than the traditional one, which is full of cream or something like that.

So, then on Thanksgiving morning, I woke up and taught a special yoga class that was a benefit for our local Second Harvest Food Bank. It was a great turnout, and we raised $360 for the food bank. I've been doing this Thanksgiving morning class for about 3-4 years now, and I really love doing it. It's such a nice way to start the holiday. This year, I was thinking a lot about my grandmother... and how so often it's hard to be grateful for the difficult moments in life... but also that we never know what might actually come from life's twists and turns. Even after my grandmother's death, I have felt such a softness in my spirit, a deeper sense of empathy for the losses others have experienced, and a heightened love for those who are still with us - all of which I am so grateful for.

Well, I was grateful for having all those words in my head a mere hour later! I was happily back in the kitchen, excited to try my hand at tamales for the first time ever... chopping this and chopping that, chopping the tip off my left index finger! OUCH! I had specially sharpened my knife that morning for extra cutting prowess.

Off we ran to the emergency room! Bloody paper towel clutched to hand! Then we got pulled over for speeding! UGH. I was freaking out. I get all woozy with blood, and was concentrating very hard at not passing out. In the end, the cop followed us to the emergency room, sent me in to do my own check-in and gave Musty a ticket. Honestly.

We were there for about two hours, and I (finally) came home with 5 stitches on my left index finger, and big bandage. Even though Musty wants me to show you the actual wound, I will spare you. That's just not appropriate fora food blog! :) I'm very grateful that my sister in law works at the emergency room, it was nice to see a loving and friendly face in my freakout time. She also let me use her cell phone, so I could call my aunt Laura. Laura was already planning on coming over to help out, but ended up doing almost all of the work. I would call every twenty minutes and tell her waht to chop, where to find things, which dishes to get started on. When I finally got home, we were able to get going! Big huge Thanksgiving Thanks to Laura!! I was very glad to know that I already had the desserts done, but we were having EIGHT vegetarians at dinner, and I was in charge of feeding them. I didn't want to let anybody down! And thanks to Laura, we didn't.

In the end, the tamales turned out AMAZING. And cute! I was very grateful for having the two recipes. The recipe from Voluptuous Vegan required buying dry hominy, soaking it overnight, boiling for 1.5 hours, and then making the masa from scratch. The 'Nomicon recipe for the dought just used a masa harina mixture. I have to say, the 'Nomicon batter was so clearly less yummy, and we had trouble getting it to be a "dense fluffy batter that pulls away from the edges of the bowl." I did make a few with that batter, and they turned out fine, but I will definitely stick with the extra effort of making my own masa using the Voluptuous Vegan recipe. It's 100% worth it.

The two tamale fillings we made were quite different. The VV one had seitan, olives, raisins, capers, tomatoes... very tasty and unusual. The Nomicon filling was full of beans and veggies and chipotle chilis. It was much more moist and I preferred it over the other. We mostly just used the VV dough, and made half with one filling & half with the other. From now on, I will use the VV dough and the Nomicon filling.

Let me tell you, the tamales were a HUGE HIT!! Everyone loved them. Even my brother and his family, who's taste in food is often quite different from mine, each had one & loved them! YEAH! My goal, over many years, is to always make enough vegan food for everyone, and to always make it supremely delicious, in the hopes that maybe one day our thanksgiving and/or Christmas feasts might be meat-free. I really don't complain though, because other than the turkey and the gravy, every single thing on the table is vegan, and no one ever complains or makes any snide remarks. I feel very lucky.

Here's the appetizer table: a huge platter of bell peppers, orange cauliflower, chips, cucumbers, guacamole, and some great little fruit kabobs. Our friend Gemma brought these along, they had raisins, dates, pineapple, and acorn squash - and a special fruity dipping sauce. Very nice!

Here was my plate. We had 20 people squeezed into my parent's dining room and 8 of us were vegetarians (6 vegans!) - and you can see that we were not starving! I had one of each tamale flavors, roasted brussel sprouts, roasted butternut squash, mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, vegan stuffing, and black beans. MMMMMM! Freak out! It was an awesome meal! Laura and I also made the stuffing post-emergency room. It's so easy and yummy. I mostly just work from the Joy of Cooking Recipe, but I also like to add some walnuts and a peeled, diced apple.
Finally, here's my aunt Sara cutting into the pies. We had many happy bellies!

Hope you had a nice holiday, whether you did something big or small. If you've made it to the end of this long post, you deserve a prize! I'm going to rest my hand now... it's hard to type without my left index finger!


  1. Oh my gosh, your poor finger!! I'm glad that you were well enough to continue to cook- and eat!

    Cool Mexican-themed meal ideas!

    Oh, and I know exactly what you mean about vegan pumpkin pies- I never used to like pumpkin pies- or pecan pies, for that matter- before going vegan! They always tasted like rich, sweet, scrambled eggs to me! Gross. Now, I love both, because they taste like what they're supposed to: pumpkin and pecans.

    And, I say AMEN SISTER to your comment about healthy desserts. I am always on the lookout for healthy food, and love making substitutions where necessary to achieve that end, but if the end result doesn't taste good, it is not worth it! What is the point of food if it is tasteless? I will never "healthify" just for the sake of healthifying.

    Ok, I've gone on long enough. Thanks for sharing another lovely meal with us, as always!

  2. Your spread looks amazing! I really want to try to make tamales. And that pumpkin pie.

    I hope your finger gets better soon! I can't believe you still got a ticket. That bites. What a meany.

  3. Anonymous7:15 PM

    man, does that look good! sorry about the finger... and the ticket. ugh.

  4. Anonymous10:11 AM

    Oh wow... how weird is that... You may have read that I just had 5 stitches in my pinky finger from a kitchen chopping accident on Halloween night. No fun at all :-( And you one-upped that with a speeding ticket too... that's one un-sympathetic cop. Well I hope your finger heals up well. Unfortunately I'm still having some nerve problems with mine - I cut the tip of it but part of the back of it is a little numb. The doc told me maybe it'll get better and maybe it'll just stay like that. They seemed a little perplexed by the whole thing so probably that means it's not a common problem and you'll be just fine ;-)

  5. Anonymous10:32 AM

    im sorry for your finger. the food looks awesome!

  6. Wow, you really had a spread! Sorry about your hand...
    BTW, you're pretty lucky that you can all get together and have no one make snide comments about what you eat. I'm unfortunately still stuck with a couple of in-laws that like to pick. It makes things tense around the holidays, let me tell you!

  7. I love the Mexican themed Thanksgiving! Tamale stuffing is very popular here, although I've never had it. I've also never taken the time to make tamales so I'm impressed that yours were such a hit.

    So sorry you cut your finger! I cut myself LOTS after having my knives sharpened.

  8. I can't believe the cop still gave you guys a ticket!
    Your food looks awesome!
    Thanks for not showing us your finger. My sister;'s partner did the same thing and the stitches made his finger look like a crown of thorns so he made his finger into Jesus Finger. Maybe you could do something similar to make it funny. Or just enjoy all that great food you made!

  9. Seriously, I cannot believe the cop still gave you a ticket. Someone must have been having a bitter little Thanksgiving. Bah!

    Well, at least you still managed to have a lot of fun and food. I love your menu--I tried to instigate a little variety in Thanksgiving by doing a Moroccan themed dinner but was alternately threatened with violence and tears and my sanity was called into question for evening thinking about not having mashed potatoes. Oh well.

  10. Uhh ya, I am w/ Emilie.. can't believe the cop gave ya a ticket!
    food looks good and you are wayyyy ahead of me posting! throbbing finger and all!

  11. that sucks about yr finger!
    i am so very impressed by all yr food!

  12. I'm so glad to hear that your family was able to gather together and reminisce about the good times that everyone had with your grandmother - there's nothing more important than family; ESPECIALLY during the holiday season.

    mmm, the pumpkin pie (that's terrific that your dad raved about it!), pear-cranberry tarts, tamales (no surprise they were a huge hit! they look fabulous!), appetizers, and your ENTIRE dinner plate look so mouth-watering and delectable!! and how lovely that there were 8 vegetarians/6 vegans in attendance!! way to represent!! :0D

    that's absolutely wonderful to hear how successful your special yoga class was, at raising money for the Second Harvest Food Bank! Definitely something to feel proud about, knowing how many you were able to help out!

    oh my goodness gracious I do hope that your finger heals soon!! yikes!! Chopping can definitely be dangerous - I've sliced myself before while trying to chop an onion or something - not fun :0(

    Happy belated Thanksgiving!! Now go rest your left-hand so it can heal!! :0)

  13. Oh my! I'm glad you're OK despite the fingertip issue; eep!

    Your feast sounds & looks lovely! I adore tamales. I've made them once & would love to do so again!

  14. Wow... what an awesome feast. I'm so jealous! My cousin and I are the only non-meat eaters in my family, so we have to deal with all the stupid jokes.

    That's scary about your finger, but it's awesome that you had a 'show-must-go-on' attitude. I'm the same way! I'd make sure the dinner went on, even if I had to be brought in on a stretcher! haha

    I can totally empathize with you on dealing with the holidays without a loved one and I agree that it doesn't have to be painful and depressing. My mother passed away this past April and this was the first holiday we spent without her. I must admit, I was so heartbroken the night before and the morning of Thanksgiving. That's usually the time I would spend with her, but now I was all by myself. However, when all my family arrived, everything felt okay again. My Thanksgiving turned out to be a good and happy one after all.

    So I'm happy that you have a tight, loving family and you're all trying to process your grandmother's passing in a healthy way. I'm sure she'd be so proud of all of you. =)

  15. It must be the season to slice finger tips. I did the same thing a couple weeks ago. I have to say it is almost healed and at least I can type pretty much ok. It was rough and I am so sorry you had to have it happen. How awesome to have other veggie's at your Thanksgiving table. I am happy that you had your Aunt to help you. I love everything! I made Bryanna's pumpkin pie this year and we enjoyed it. I will have to try yours as well. I wish you happy, speedy, healing.

  16. Oh my gosh! Your poor finger!!! And poor Musty for getting a ticket!

    I appreciate you comments on loss. We are experiencing the same "deeper sense of empathy for the losses others have experienced, and a heightened love for those who are still with us". I know a dog is not the same as a gramma, but I am sure you understand. :)

  17. your poor finger!!! knives are evil, but impossible to make-do without. and they know it...

  18. Wow, what a crazy Thanksgiving! Sounds like at the end of the day it all turned out well. Those tamales look awesome!
    And what's up with the cop giving Musty a ticket? That sucks...


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