Ahh, lovely November. It’s the month of Thanksgiving, which, being centered around cooking and family, is clearly one of my favorites! I love dreaming up new holiday recipes, trying them out on my willing hubby, and then making them in advance to take to the feast.
Within the past few years, my own family dynamics have changed through divorce, marriage, death and birth. With all the changes, my family has started a new Thanksgiving tradition. Instead of letting the burden fall on a few family members to make all the meal preparations, we now ask that everyone provide a dish, throwing a unique potluck instead. It’s become quite fun to demand that a favorite dish come back the next year, or wait expectantly to see what new concoction an especially adventurous cook in our family brings to the table.
Most of us prepare our dishes in advance, allowing for more quality time together and less hustle and bustle in the kitchen. In fact, Thanksgiving for my family has become a weekend event with everyone coming from out of town and gathering for more than just one meal. We also all stay at one centrally located house to cut down on transportation expenses.
The following is my version of a vegan family meal, or great vegan sides for the big day. No one else in my family is vegan, nor understands it, but they all show good cheer in giving it a try and I notice that more than a few of them always go for seconds!
Having a vegan meal on the second or third day of our holiday weekend also feels “lighter” since by then we’re all stuffed and don’t need more food laden down with meat, cheese, eggs or other dairy. After Thanksgiving, this feels nice for everyone. And I find that kids like these recipes, too, even though they contain a lot of those “yucky” veggies. The chocolate beet cake is particularly good in this regard…or sneaky rather. Root veggies in a cake? What will they think of next?
So let’s give it a whirl:
Stuffing filled Portobello Mushrooms Topped with Carrot Coulis
Four portobello mushrooms
½ loaf of bread, cut into eights and left to dry out overnight
Two stalks Celery
Sal, Pepper, and oil
Sheet pan, recycled foil, stock pot, mixing bowl, food processor, one-inch deep saute pan, medium size pot, strainer
Horseradish Mashed Potatoes
Five potatoes, more if using red
Fresh grated horseradish
Salt and pepper
Large pot for boiling potatoes, strainer, hand potato masher
Two pounds fresh radishes with stems
Salt and pepper
One inch deep sautee pan
Chocolate Beet Cake
½ cup of vegetable oil, plus enough to coat bundt pan
1 ½ cups sugar
2 cups beets, prepared just like the roasted beets in my October recipe and then pureed
½ cup non-dairy chocolate chips
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour or soy, plus enough to dust bundt pan
2 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp salt
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting
Mixing bowl with beaters, measuring cups and spoons, one bundt cake pan, trivet or baking rack for cooling, one extra metal mixing bowl and one pan to place under the metal bowl to melt chocolate, fine mesh strainer
Just a quick note about baking sweet vs. savory. Baking is a fairly precise procedure—to avoid the flavors melding together you shouldn’t bake sweet and savory dishes at the same time in the same oven. So, this recipe should be followed solo with time allotted for the entire process. It is also very important to allow the cake to cool completely before inverting. It only took me one crumbly cake to get this lesson.
How it’s all done
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Thoroughly melt the chocolate in a metal bowl over a sauce pan with a ½ inch of water over low heat. While the chocolate melts, prepare your bundt pan. Either using oil or vegan margarine, spread evenly over interior surface of bundt pan using a paper towel. Then dust the pan with flour, shaking out any excess. Make sure the entire interior is coated. In the mixing bowl, cream the sugar and oil. Then add the pureed beets, melted chocolate and vanilla. Mix until blended, stopping to scrape down the sides as needed. Next, add the flour, baking powder and salt. Mix until thoroughly blended. Pour evenly into the prepared bundt pan and bake for approximately 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean when inserted. Allow to cool on a baking rack until cool to the touch. While your cake is cooling, start on the savory dishes.
Get the stock going first. Dice the celery, one carrot and one onion for the stuffing. Cut the remaining carrots and onion to the same size for the coulis. Take all the skins and tops and bottoms, cover with water, bring to a boil and turn down to a simmer for the stock. Next, cut your potatoes in equal sizes and cover with water. Bring to a boil and turn to low to simmer. Put the carrots and onion for the coulis in the medium pot. Add oil, salt and pepper and saute until just starting to become tender. Add enough water to just cover and cook until tender.
Stuffing mushrooms is easier than you think
Lay a piece of foil on your sheet pan. This will help to keep your pan from scorching and allow for easy clean up. De-core out the portobellos and place core side up on sheet pan. Sprinkle the mushrooms with salt and pepper and place in the 375-degree oven. Saute the stuffing vegetables in oil, salt and pepper until tender. Once tender, add to your bowl of day old bread. STOP and check on your mushrooms. Cook until they start to produce moisture. Mushrooms should ultimately be cooked until the moisture is gone, but in this case they will be returned to the oven once they are stuffed for the rest of the cooking. Set them aside for stuffing. Check on your potatoes. If they are tender, turn them off and let them sit, staying warm.
Time to finish the stuffing and coulis. Strain your stock. Chop up some sage and thyme and add to your stuffing mix. Slowly add stock, a little at a time until the stuffing is to your desired consistency. Fill the portobellos. In the food processor, start adding the coulis vegetables and the liquid they were cooked in. Once processed, return to the pot and turn to low to keep warm for serving.
Next let’s braise the radishes. Cut the tops and bottoms off, saving the stems and put in a saute pan. Using your leftover stock, add to the pan until ¾ of the way up the radishes. Cook until tender. Strain, toss with salt, pepper and vegan spread. Thinly cut the radish stems and toss with the radishes for some extra color.
Place the stuffed mushrooms back into the oven until heated through, cooking the mushrooms fully (no moisture). Top with carrot coulis to serve.
Strain the potatoes and place back in the pot they were cooked in. Add some margarine, salt and pepper and mash until desired consistency. Add soy milk for a looser mash. Add horseradish to taste; more if you like spicy food.
When cooled, invert your cake onto a cake plate and dust with confectioner’s sugar through the fine-mesh strainer.
All of the above can be cooked the day before and warmed before serving. It was a ground-breaking revelation to my grandmother that you could cook the mashed potatoes the day before, add some more milk or margarine and reheat in the oven. The meal can be served family style or plated.
An attitude of gratitude
One more tradition my family shares at Thanksgiving: before we eat, everyone takes turns saying one thing they are thankful for in the past year, even the little things. We have found it is a good way to keep perspective on the many blessing in life and a way to keep us close through the upcoming year. Happy Thanksgiving to you all!