Nov 21, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving!

This year I am not hosting Thanksgiving at my own house, but rather my husband and I are packing up the pugglet, Moose, and we are heading north to my parents.  I enjoy these family traditions, sitting around the table either at my house or theirs talking about all sorts of things.  This year I find myself blessed a hundred times over and for that I am eternally grateful.

A few short years ago, we almost did not have my mother around for Thanksgiving.  I thank God ever da that she made it through and is still alive to celebrate the blessings we are giving in our lives. True, some years we may ask more questions of "why us?" than blindly saying thanks, but every yer at this time I remember to take a step back and be grateful that we have the problems that we do, because some day we may not.  What that rough year, as every rough year,  has taught me it so show gratitude for each day of life we are given, because life is too short to live with regrets or to wish that we could have said more, done more, lived more.   

While the forthcoming year is going to be a little different from other years and holds a lot of uncertainty for us professionally, I am still counting my blessings every single day.

  • We have parents and siblings, aunts, uncles, and cousins who are healthy and able bodied
  • We have a roof over our heads, one that we are in no danger of loosing.
  • We have food in the refrigerator, in the pantry, in the freezer, in the oven and on our table. 
  • We have reliable modes of transportation.
  • We have amazing families that ignite us and inspire us, that guide us and that take our lead.
  • We have no shortage of love for each other and our families.

We have a lot to be thankful for.  I am mostly thankful for my health and the abundance of unconditional love that I receive from my husband Mike.


Since we are making the trek to "gamma-ganpa's" house as we say to Moose, I decided to make some vegan dishes to bring for everyone to try.  While I love me some side dishes... most are not vegan and this girl cannot sustain herself on salad and pumpkin pie alone.  Well, yes I can but really should not.  

Since going vegetarian and now as a vegan, I always try to bring a dish to pass to every dinner that I am invited to as a way to relieve any pressure my hosts feel to accommodate my lifestyle, and as a way to give back to them.   I bring enough to share with everyone, and am ready to give the recipe for the dish, if I am asked for it.  I have never not been asked for the recipe, by the way. 
 
For today, I decided to go against the traditional vegan Thanksgiving Day fare of lentil loafs and made a Northern Greek Mushroom and Sweet Onion phyllo pie.  It is light and flakey, and the filling is just outstanding.  I used vidallia onions and portabella mushrooms, cooked them down in paprika (with no oil, I just let the onion and mushrooms sweat out and caramelize), then finished off the mixture with some freshly chopped mint and parsley before placing in my baking dish lined with phyllo dough, topping it off with more phylo dough and then baking until crispy and golden brown on top.  So so so good and ridiculously easy.  

For some sides I made white wine and shallot Brussels sprouts and then braised fennel bulbs with vegetable broth and maple syrup.  For dessert I am bringing a vegan pumpkin pie (recipe follows).  I baked a full pie the other night to pass, and made three ramekins of the left over pie filling to sample at home.  Holy cow it is amazing. 


People associate health with bland texture-less and flavorless dishes; carboard. I refuse to use fake foods in my recipes (meat substitutes) to try to make the healthier versions taste just like the original version.  If I am going to healthy it up, then I am going to make it whole and amazing, and reinvent the dish in it's own right.

I am a foodie, and I am here to tell you that healthy foods can be just as decadent and sinfully good tasting.
  • Instead of cream and dairy in mashed potatoes, use creamer or golden yukon potatoes and add dill, some leeks, and some veggies (or other) stock.  Creamer potatoes are super creamy, as the name implies, and do not require any dairy to add to the creaminess.  Trust me, these potatoes stand alone!
  •  Instead of high-sodium soup mix in green bean casserole, try steaming the green beans, then mixing in sauteed mushrooms and onions, topped with almond slivers. 
  •  Roasting veggies is a great way to bring out the natural sweetness.  Try roasted sweet potatoes and yams instead of candied.  I would toss some walnuts in maple syrup and roast along side the potatoes, tossing all together afterwards. 
  • Bake your pumpkin pies without crusts.  This removes some calories and keeps all the best part of the pie, the filling!


For fitness this Holiday season, my Weapons of No Self-Destruction are physical activity (as mentioned in my prior post I am doing the RW Run Streak challenge running at least 1 mile each day from now until New Year's Day) keeping whole real foods as the focus to my meals, and allowing myself a treat.  Allowing treats is the key in keeping things from escalating from bad to really bad, really quickly.   

Holidays mean plenty of opportunities for some weight gain.  We can either accept that, move on and then tighten it up come New Years, or we can work on mitigating the damage now by making small but meaningful changes every day. We should however never beat ourselves up over it.  At some point, we need to break that cycle of self-destruction and negative self-talk.  We can do this by owning the choices that we make and be good with them.


Even if you are not a vegetarian or vegan, you can incorporate plant strong items into your Holiday meals, offering healthy and delicious alternatives to the typical trappings of this buffet-of-food time of year!



I will leave you with the 4-ingredient Pumpkin Pie recipe, as even non-vegans will love it.  So creamy and smooth... mmmm.  Fall in every bite!  I recommend making this in individual ramekins without a crust for an even easier pie with fewer calories.  

Four Ingredient Vegan Pumpkin Pie from Happy Healthy Life Blog
http://kblog.lunchboxbunch.com/2011/10/four-ingredient-vegan-pumpkin-pie.html

vegan, makes one pie
  • 1 1/4 cups raw soaked cashews
  • 1 cup maple syrup
  • 1 can organic pumpkin puree (16 ounces) (or use fresh puree)
  • 2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
  • Vegan pie crust (one without dairy and eggs) or you can make your own.
  • optional: 1/2 tsp salt to taste (depends how much salt you soaked your cashews in)
ingredients notes from HHB:  using high quality spice is helpful. Also, I prefer grade B maple syrup for its rich amber tones and caramelized flavor - but grade A works too. (I used Grade A and it turned out really well. - JLK)

To Make:
1. Soak about one cup of raw cashews in about 2 1/2 cups of water in a large bowl. Add about 1/2 - 1 tsp of salt to the bowl - mix to dissolve. The salt allows the water to absorb more efficiently into the cashews and also adds some salt for your recipe.

2. Soak this cashew bowl overnight in the fridge. You want well-soaked cashews so that your pie mix blends up perfectly creamy. I soaked my cashews for about 18 hours. At least 8 is optimal. Don't soak for more than two days or the cashews can get grimy in my opinion.

3. The day of your actual pie making allow at least 3 hours from the time you start to the time you wish to serve the pie. I like a cool time of at least 2 hours.

4. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees.

5. Drain the water from your cashews. They should be very soft to bite and a slight purplish dark hue. This is normal. Add 1 1/4 cups of cashews to your food processor - or even better, a Vitamix or high speed blender (this is what I used - JLK)


6. Add pumpkin to blender. Next, add in the maple syrup and pumpkin pie spice. Blend on low -> high for about 3-5 minutes until the mixture is completely creamy. If your mixture is a bit thick for some reason - you can add in a few teaspoons of either water, maple syrup or even non-dairy milk. After blending, do a taste test and add a 1/2 teaspoon of salt if needed. I added in about 1/3 tsp extra salt. But taste before adding.

7. Pour your mix into a par-baked vegan pie shell

8. Bake pie at 400 degrees for 15 minutes. Then reduce to 350 degrees and bake for an additional 30-40 minutes - or until the edges look fluffy and a darker caramel orange tone. Use a toothpick in center if unsure. The tooth-picked filling should come out slightly wet - but very thick and dark. It is important to remember that your pie will firm up significantly upon cooling and chilling in the fridge.

9. Remove pie from oven. Cool on counter for at least 30 minutes. Then place in fridge until ready to serve. At least 2 hours cooling and/or chilling time is my preference. A warm pie will be tasty, but still a bit "wet" to slice.

The author tops this pie with homemade whipped coconut cream.   Looks amazing! 






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