After many years of huge family gatherings for Thanksgiving, this year we found ourselves in totally new territory: just 4 family members! My dad is over in China doing some astronomy work, my brother and his gal went up to Portland, neither of my aunts are in town... and it was just me, Mr. VE&T, my mom, and my nephew! As long as it's not what it once was, why not embrace something completely new?
So, this year, our mini family gang combined Gratitude Forces with my super special friends Sophia & Kendra and a couple of their friends for a wonderful feast and evening together! I've had several fancy vegan Thanksgiving dishes that I've been wanting to make for a few years now... but with no one besides me to eat them, it hardly seemed like a good use of my time and energy. This year we had 2 vegans and 2 more vegetarians, and pretty much everyone else was a vegan food enthusiast! I seized the moment!
a giant baking sheet covered with marinated & roasted Brussels Sprouts
Brussels Sprouts Sliders (recipe from NY Times)
I've had this recipe for Brussels Sprouts Sliders bookmarked since last year - it was a bit time consuming, but not at all difficult. The Brussels and tempeh are marinated in a pretty spicy marinade, however the end result isn't spicy at all - just well spiced. These are like cute little burgers with buns made of roasted brussels, and with super delicious caramelized onions and marinated & roasted tempeh. I read the comments and most people suggested doubling the marinade, which I did - and I was glad.
Two of our beloved friend guests are gluten-free - and it was only after I finished roasting the tempeh that I realized that Trader Joes' tempeh has barley in it and isn't gluten-free! Damn! So, I made a quick batch of soy curls, using the same seasoning as the recipe called for. You can tell which sliders are made with gf soy curls because they have the rainbow flag toothpicks!
Spinach Florentine Casserole, from Vegan Casseroles
I just love Julie Hasson's cookbook Vegan Casseroles, and I really love this recipe for Spinach Florentine Casserole. It's like a super great sophisticated spin on vegan mac n cheese: rich and creamy, with a dash of sherry and a touch of nutmeg. I haven't had this dish for a while, but I remembered why I love it so much. Wintertime is the perfect time to cook more casseroles!
I love the palette-cleansing quality of a good green salad, in the midst of a rich and hearty Thanksgiving meal - so I made a ginormous salad full of super fresh goodies from the farmers market. Of course I called my mom and asked if she would make the salad dressing though, because my mom makes the world's best salad dressing. As I was taking this picture, trying to capture the last rays of daylight, little Yummers Potatoes got pretty excited about "his" giant bowl of veggies - I had to hurry up and take that picture! ha ha. Little veggie lover!
My Pride and Joy!
Here's my piece de resistance ~ The Vegetables Wellington from SeriousEats.com. My friend Gabrielle told me about this recipe a couple of years ago, and I've been wanting to tackle it ever since. This is a super fun Big Project that takes a long time to make, is pretty complicated, and has lots of steps. I read through all the comments, which was pretty helpful -- even though many different opinions are expressed! ha ha. I got started a couple days before thanksgiving and made all the components ahead of time. On Thanksgiving Day, I just had to assemble it and bake it! Honestly, I think you could definitely simplify the recipe in many ways, and still end up with something pretty fantastic.
very pleased with myself!
Here are the parts:
*An inside roll of cashew-roasted white bean mixture with mushrooms and sunflower seeds
*Wrapped in phyllo, and then rolled inside a layer Mushroom Duxelles with roasted carrots
*Wrapped in phyllo, and rolled in a layer again of the cashew-bean mixture
*Whole thing wrapped in phyllo!
A second mini-loaf, gluten free!
In this whole recipe, chock full of umami and nuts and millions of mushrooms - there were only two elements that weren't gluten-free: panko bread crumbs, and the phyllo dough. I wanted to figure out a way to make this special fancy dish gluten-free for my gluten-freebie friends... so, I thought of yuba! I made some yuba sheets (used the recipe from The Homemade Vegan Pantry) - and made a mini wellington using the yuba. The panko was easy to replace with gf panko.
an inside shot of my yuba wellington
One thing about this recipe is that it makes a metric ton of food. The end result was just huge. For my mini gluten-free loaf, I made a 1/4 recipe and this wasn't hard to do. If you're just feeding a couple people - I think halving or quartering the recipe is the way to go!
For the yuba Wellington, I oiled and roasted each "layer" briefly in the toaster oven, to help each inner layer have a good crispy crackle. I was so happy with how it turned out - and so was my GF pal!
The whole creation was positively huge - which I am all for! This way, we had plenty for leftovers. Woot! I love how beautiful it looks when you slice into it! It was super delicious, full of excellent textures, rich but not over-bearing, and felt special and festive. I'm so glad I finally had a chance to tackle such a special kitchen project!
A festive feast!
I forgot to take nice pictures of the dishes everyone else brought (what a cad!) - but they're captured here: a lovely lentil loaf, green salad, the Wellington, green beans with lemon and slivered almonds, stuffing (one of my favorite foods of all time!), perfect mashed potatoes and gravy, and the pasta casserole. I ate *almost* all of this! Ha ha ha.
The food was all so good - my friend Sophia is some kind of gravy genius! Plus, my mom made her amazing cranberry sauce - it wouldn't be Thanksgiving without it!
look at those cracks!
We are all committed Dessert Enthusiasts, so we had three desserts! I was in charge of pumpkin pie - and I made a full sized pie with traditional crust and a half sized pie with a gf crust. I always use the recipe from Voluptuous Vegan (it's the same recipe that Isa has on her website here). I bought this half-sized pie dish almost 2 years ago, and I think this was my first time finally using it! I think half-pies are cute and kinda perfect-sized.
My GF crust turned out really well. I used the recipe for a GF crust from Pies & Tarts with Heart, and I used a homemade GF flour mix, based on the ingredients in Bob's Red Mill 1 to 1. Even though I enjoy eating gluten, I also really enjoy baking gluten free treats for my GF friends.
I love the texture and flavor of this recipe so much, but I got such big cracks in my pie! Does anyone know why that happened, or if there's a way to avoid it next time? Overall, I don't suppose it matters - but it would look prettier without the cracks!
plate of delicious desserts
Yum zone! Max made an apple pie, which Mr VE&T and I both agreed was possibly the best apple pie we'd ever had! It was so full of apples and his crust was amazing! I was feeling pretty pleased with my crust on the pumpkin pie, until I tried his crust! I will have to learn at the feet of his crust mastery. Sophia made a big batch of the Pecan Pie Truffles - one of my favorite recipes ever! She's quite clever though, and she figured out that she could make them in bar form instead of dealing with rolling them in balls and all that. And of course they're just as yummy this way!
It was so fun and amazing to have such a huge VEGAN spread of holiday fare! My mom did actually make "the dish which shall not be named" (her words! ha ha!) - but it was relocated out into the kitchen and wasn't the centerpiece of the evening. After 29 years of celebrating Thanksgiving as a vegetarian/vegan, this was my first time having that experience.
There's definitely a big part of my heart that misses the huge family gatherings of yesteryear, but it was fun and refreshing to embrace a whole new experience and menu!