Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Celebrating Thanksgiving 2013...

The Holiday Table

I hope everyone had a wonderful and lovely Thanksgiving yesterday. Thanksgiving has always been my absolute favorite holiday, I look so forward to it each and every year. I love the big elaborate dinner, and the time spent with family and friends. This year it was a little different though, my husband and I chose to celebrate Thanksgiving quietly, just the two of us, because my family has suffered a poor turn of events this past week. Last Monday my Oma was hospitalized, and Sunday the 13th - the day before Thanksgiving - she passed away. It was an unexpected string of events that brought us to this point, and we’re all taking it rather hard. We’re all in a state of surreal sadness and shock I think. My Oma was a great lover of holidays - any excuse for an occasion or a party, something to dress up for and a reason to eat heartily. So because I had all the fixings for the Thanksgiving dinner I had planned to make I went ahead and made the dinner for just the two of us. I couldn’t handle company, but I know my Oma would not want us to give up all of our plans - especially if they included food! - just on her account. So my husband and I had a peaceful muted Thanksgiving. We ate, and drank beer - her favorite drink despite us not particularly liking it. - and we reminisced about good times and told fun stories. It felt appropriate. I only wish I didn’t live 2000 miles away from my family, because I would have liked to spend the day with my mother.

The Roast after being removed from the slow cooker and the foil
Not perfect, but not to shabby for a first try.

So, what did we all eat? You’re wondering. Well, we ate far more then we should have, and I cooked far more then was necessary for 2 people, but C’est la vie, and now I don’t have to cook the rest of the week. Now, the first thing any proper Thanksgiving Celebration needs is a good centerpiece, some main dish that the table can revolve around. Last year for American Thanksgiving I made a home-made Tofurkey. For Canadian Thanksgiving last year the centerpiece was a Butternut Squash Lasagna. This year I decided to go the home-made roast route again. I wanted something that felt traditional and so I went with the Stuffed and Rolled Seitan Roast from Carla Kelly’s book “Quick and Easy Vegan Slow Cooking” I have never made a seitan roast in the crock-pot before and I really liked the idea of it because that freed up my oven for other baking needs. Initially I thought making a seitan roast - particularly a stuffed one - was going to be hard. As it turns out, despite the initial work you have to put into it, it’s rather easy. I did have some trouble rolling my roast as it wanted to keep busting apart. Though I think this happened for 1 of 2 reasons. Either I had too much stuffing, or I rolled the dough out too thin in the first place. An easy fix for next time. The good thing is even if your roast threatens to bust and some stuffing pokes out, as long as you wrap the dough really tight in the foil and kind of mold it back together it really does fix itself in the steaming process. In my finished roast you could see a few pieces of apple or apricot poking through the surface of the roast but my roast had a huge crack down the center of it originally and by the time it was done steaming that crack had sealed itself completely.

The Roast after it had been put back into the slow-cooker and
basted for an additional 45 minutes.
Isn't it a beauty?

So not too hard, but how about the flavor? I think it was outstanding. Really, one of the best seitan roasts I’ve ever eaten. I think the slow-cooker method for seitan roast is my new favorite! The texture was also impeccable, it got really firm, but still remained moist and chewy. Loved it, and the flavor was spot on, it wasn’t too gluteny - thanks I’m sure to the addition of tofu in the dough.  I only made one change to this recipe, instead of using vegetable stock I used store-bought mushroom stock. I did this because I had a carton on hand that I haven’t used for anything and I wanted to use it. Though I also thought it would provide a nice depth of flavor for the roast. Mushrooms are earthy, and remind me of meat. They have that subtle slightly ‘off-putting’ flavor that is really hard to describe, and I think using the mushroom stock both in the roast itself and as the basting liquid really worked wonderfully. I highly, highly recommend trying this recipe out sometime!

Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes

Now, once the roast was all settled on we needed some vegetable side dishes. All the traditional players came to mind originally and I had a strong debate about whether to go with regular mashed potatoes or mashed sweet potatoes. Since I couldn’t decide I let my husband pick and he chose sweet potatoes. So I made the Maple Pecan Sweet Potatoes from Nava Atlas’s book “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” I think that these potatoes are actually suppose to be roasted and glazed as chunks not a mash, but my brain was a little preoccupied and so I over-roasted them and they became a sort of mash. I didn’t actually use a masher but when I started scooping them from the casserole dish into a serving bowl they just sort of mashed themselves and well, that was perfectly alright with me. Maple and sweet potatoes go together perfectly, and I loved the crunchy addition of pecans. However I forgot to add the pecans while the potatoes were roasting, but I had plenty of leftover caramelized pecans from the salad I’d made and so I just topped my sweets with them and I think it was a brilliant idea.

Agave Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts 
Aren't they beautiful! and so delicious!

We also had Agave and Mustard Glazed Brussels Sprouts from “Vegan Holiday Kitchen”. Sprouts for me were never a traditional part of Thanksgiving. I mean sure they appeared on the table from time to time but I never ate them. It wasn’t until I went vegan that I started making them a part of my Thanksgiving dinner. Each year I try a new preparation method and I think this is one of my favorites. I mean, all the sprout recipes I make are good but these were just perfection. I love agave-mustard concoctions anyway, and I really liked that this recipe used yellow mustard instead of Dijon. Nice to switch it up from time to time.

Orange-Ginger Glazed Carrots 

We also had carrots because Thanksgiving isn’t Thanksgiving without a side of carrots. I made the Orange-Ginger Glazed Carrots from “Vegan for the Holidays” by Zel Allen and they were pretty good. I think I still prefer the traditional Earth Balance, salt, pepper, and parsley mixture but I liked the subtle sweetness of this dish, the thickness of the glaze and the kick from the ginger.

Mixed Baby Greens with Pears and Glazed Pecans

Of course you can’t have a well balanced meal without a salad and so I made the Mixed Baby Greens with Pears and Glazed Pecans Salad from “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” This was a really great salad. It’s super simple, greens, pears, pecans, lemon, olive oil, and carrots, but I added some leftover minced parsley, and some sliced red onion along with cracked black pepper and it was really a to-die-for salad. The perfect healthy dish to make you feel good about all the other not so healthy holiday treats.

Yorkshire Pudding

You also can’t have a holiday without some kind of bread and on my dad’s side of the family that means Yorkshire Pudding. I made these last Canadian Thanksgiving as well and they were such a hit I decided to make them again. Not a single holiday dinner has ever passed at my Grandma’s house without a Yorkshire pudding, and that was one thing I missed after going vegan. So when I discovered Mark Reinfeld’s recipe in “The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe” I knew I would have to make it again and again. They come out a bit more dense then my grandma’s because he uses spelt flour instead of white, but they’re still delicious.

Chipotle Scallion Double Cornbread

And even though we already had bread covered I decided to go crazy and include one of the ‘three sisters’ by making a cornbread. Although don’t think for a second that this is just any old cornbread, it’s the Chipotle Scallion Double Cornbread recipe from Julie Hasson’s book “Vegan Diner.” Have y’all made this? If you haven’t you NEED to make this because oh my goddess it’s probably one of the best cornbread recipes I’ve ever made. I did make one crucial substitution though. Instead of simply using chipotle powder I used 2 small whole chipotles that I seeded and minced. I highly recommend this, it was so good. I also used 2 cups of corn rather then 1 and a half cups. The finished bread came out really moist which is how I likes my cornbread.

Cranberry Chutney 

There was also the obligatory Cranberry Sauce - which I nearly forgot which is why you don’t see it in the photo of the spread on the table. - Typically I make a more traditional cranberry sauce, or cranberry relish as some call it, but this year I wanted to branch out. I used Nava Atlas’s recipe for Cranberry Chutney in “Vegan Holiday Kitchen” which I quite liked. I used the suggested pineapple Juice, and enjoyed the use of dried apricots as well as fresh apple. Red Pepper Flakes are also used - just a pinch - to give the chutney some heat and I think the only thing I’d do differently next time is add a bit more sweetener. Again this might have been simply because my cranberries were overly tart, who knows.


Lastly you can’t have a dinner with a roast and Yorkshire pudding without having gravy. This was a super simple gravy that I made by using the basting liquid from the roast, adding in flour, seasonings, and almond milk to taste, as suggested in the recipe footnote by Carla Kelly.

My overstuffed Plate. I couldn't eat both slices of roast so my
husband had to help out. I did sneak a few extra sprouts though

And now we come to dessert. Thanksgiving just isn’t Thanksgiving without pumpkin pie. It is my absolute must-have at any Thanksgiving celebration, and it is literally my favorite thing about the holiday. So this year I chose to make Robin Robertson’s Pecan Pumpkin Pie from “Party Vegan” I had not tried this recipe yet. I really loved the sweet crunchy pecans and the crust was wonderful but overall I’d have to say - much to my regret - that this was not my favorite pumpkin pie ever. It was good, but Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Isa Chandra Moskowitz are still tied in my heart for best pumpkin pie!

Pecan Pumpkin Pie

Since my husband doesn’t like pumpkin pie I have to make more then one dessert. Which is naturally A-Okay with me, because I’ll take any excuse to bake, and I don’t mind going overboard. As luck would have it just over a week ago I bought Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Easy as Vegan Pie” and so I was eager to give it a spin. Pie incase I haven’t mentioned this before is my upmost favorite dessert ever. Some people are cake people, some people are cupcake people, some people are brownie people but I will honestly take a slice of pie over any other dessert out there any day of the week. I’m a pie girl, there is nothing better! Since her book is filled with so many amazing looking pies I had a really hard time choosing which one to make, and in the end I went with two - for an overall total of three pies!

Trio of Pie
Top - Apple Burgundy Betty.
Bottom Left - Pecan Pumpkin Pie. Right - Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie

I made the Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie which is a mixture of cranberries, cherries, and almonds. I liked this because there wasn’t a traditional pie-crust involved. You know I hate working with dough and the cool thing about this pie is that you make a batter, poor it on top of the fruit and during the baking process the berries float to the top and you get an all around crust. Pretty cleaver. I liked this pie, though personally I thought it could use a bit more sugar, maybe my cranberries were just extra tart? My husband wasn’t a fan of the almond taste so next time I would make this sans almonds and using vanilla extract instead.

Cran-Cherry Impossible Pie 

Finally - because it’s hard to have Thanksgiving without apple pie I decided to make the Apple Burgundy Betty Pie. Which is a brown betty mixed with a pie and kicked up to new heights with the addition of burgundy wine. I think out of all three desserts this was my favorite. The breadcrumb topping was a little strange at first but the overall flavor is just so good, especially when you top the pie with Vanilla Almond Milk Ice Cream, and Vegan Soy Whip. Yum!

Apple Burgundy Betty Pie 

So there you have it folks. Though we were very sad, there is nothing better for grief then food, and in my opinion cooking. Cooking and baking always takes my mind off my troubles and in the end I think we had a Thanksgiving celebration that was fitting for our mood, and I think it was one that my Oma would have really enjoyed.
The Apple Burgundy Betty

The Pecan Pumpkin Pie topped with Soy Whip
Vanilla Almond Milk Ice Cream topping the Apple pie behind.


  1. Wow! That looks like an awesome spread!

  2. lovely dinner! Think your Oma would have been happy you had a beer for her! Your post made me cry....thanks...your Mom would have liked it if you could be with her too! Maybe next year will be better & easier! S.T.

  3. Roast looks super awesome! Well done.

  4. Thank you Carla! I couldn't have done it without your superb recipe!