Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving 2008 Menu Update

Yesterday, while at the grocery store for the third time this week--picking up the Thanksgiving items I forgot during the second trip this week--I finally finalized our menu. I also locked myself out and forgot the shoyu, one of the main reasons I went to the store in the first place. When I finally got a hold of my roommates and they let me in, I started getting ready to make my pie crusts, only to find that my previous day's purchase of flour included some kind of insects. Rather than go back to the store again, which would mean either taking the bus or walking about 2 miles each way, and could take anywhere from 1 to 3 hours, I did what any sane person would do at this point in a bad day. I napped.

Later, JD graciously took me to the store and I was able to get some decent albeit pricey-as-all-get-out flour, and I made my pies and cornbread. I also made a mini test batch of the savory corn pudding, mulled the cider, washed the gluten, and made the cranberry and cherry sauce. With all that prep already done, and since I had made the vegetable stock a few days ago, I feel like I'm starting the day with a decent jump start.

If things go according to plan--which has never in my life happened, as the first paragraph indicates, but it's nice to be able to say you planned anyway--then we will be enjoying:

assorted green olives
Roasted Tomato Tart with Fresh Basil
Maple Macadamia Nuts
Sweet & Spicy Pecans

Homemade Mulled Cider
Blanc de Blancs Sparkling white wine

Main Event
Stuffed Seitan with Yuba Skin (basically like an Unturkey, but with different flavors)
Cranberry, Fig, Walnut, and Cornbread Dressing
Mashed Potatoes
Wild Mushroom Gravy
Cranberry and Dried Cherry Sauce
Caramelized & Spiced Butternut Squash
Wild Rice Pilaf
Raw Cranberry Relish with Orange, Apple and Ginger
Green Beans with Shallots
Savory Corn Pudding
Jelled Cranberry Mold
Garlic Sautéed Broccoli
Chocolate Pecan Bourbon Pie
Sweet Potato Pie

Oh yeah, and JD will be making a turkey. I made a Cranberry Sorbet, but I don't think we'll be eating it, with so many other cranberry dishes--seriously, I had to restrain myself with the cranberries and mushrooms, as there were two other cranberry dishes I was keen on, and I just always want to use tons of mushrooms. When I was little I didn't even like cranberries, now I eat them as much as possible when they're in season.

I hope you all have a great Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 21, 2008

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 3

Where Can a Vegan in Austin Go to Get Their Thanksgiving Grub On?

In Austin, there are many food-related events for vegans in the days leading up to, and including Thanksgiving Day.

Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts
Annual Very Best Thanksgiving Class and Luncheon
Great community-building event, where all dishes are vegan and gluten-free.
Class is 9:00am-noon, lunch is 12:15pm-1:45pm
Saturday, November 22
Class & lunch are $55 for the first person, $40 for the second, or attend lunch only for $25
1701 Toomey Road
Austin, TX 78704

Royal Co-op
Vegan Thanksgiving Potluck
Enjoy a sense of community and meet new people
Sunday, November 23
512 478-0880
1805 Pearl Street
Austin, TX 78701

Happy Vegan Baker
Eat Thanksgiving dinner in your own home without having to prepare a thing.
Complete 8-part meals prepared by Inge
Order by 5 pm on November 25, pick up or get it delivered(for a fee) on November 26.
Full meal is $28 per person, but dishes can be purchased separately.
Order via the website, phone 512-657-3934, or email

Casa de Luz
Austin's only totally vegan restaurant continues its tradition of offering lunch on Thanksgiving.
Thursday, November 27
$15 includes full meal and dessert
1701 Toomey Road
Austin, TX 78704

I know other cities are host to similar events, unfortunately, I don't have any info about them.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 2

What Do I Eat, Now That Turkey's Off The Menu?

I remember the panic of my first Thanksgiving. I had been a perfectly content vegetarian for about 4 months, and while I had experienced my share of food disasters, for the most part, I was having a lot of fun learning about nutrition and trying out new foods. Then, a few days before Thanksgiving, something occurred to me: for the first time in my life, I wouldn't be able to join in the family traditions. I wouldn't be eating the turkey, or the gravy, or the giblet stuffing, and I definitely wouldn't be making my family's annual Thanksgiving Jell-o. As I was only 14 at the time, this was a big moment for me, and I suddenly felt extremely alienated and isolated. Not because I wouldn't be eating turkey, but because I would be breaking one of the few traditions we observed, and I would be the only one doing so. I thought that I would be left out. As it turns out, my mother was great, and set aside stuffing for me without giblets, and the other dishes that couldn't be converted were things I didn't really care for anyway, so I was able to be part of the family and share most of the meal.

What did I eat instead of turkey for my first vegetarian Thanksgiving? I actually don't recall. I think it was some savory tofu dish that seemed daunting at the time, and ended up tasting okay but was generally underwhelming. The point is, the food itself didn't really matter, having my family make an effort on my part was enough to allow me to realize I could never not be a part of the family, and see how loved and accepted I was. I do know that for Christmas that year, and for the all of the Thanksgivings since that I've spent with them, my parents bought me a Tofurky. A whole Tofurky. Just for me. I've always appreciated the sentiment, even if I didn't really enjoy the entrée itself....I rag on it a bit, but it does make things easy, and I know many people who enjoy it immensely.

I actually was never a big fan of turkey on Thanksgiving because it usually came out kind of dry and wasn't particularly flavorful, which may account for why I don't miss turkey and don't care for Tofurky roasts. Give me a variety of delicious side dishes, or even just a plate of dressing and cranberry sauce, and I could be totally happy. I do enjoy the ritual of cooking for days, having a big production leading up to the main event, and then the delicious sedated afterglow, though. Plus, JD, my love, has a healthy appreciation for tradition, so we do a full spread, and we do it right.

I've been away from my family for 6 years now, so I've had some time to work on my Thanksgiving dishes, and I've done many different things for the vegan entrée at my Thanksgiving celebrations. For a few years, I made a simple harvest bake by mixing fall vegetables like celery, onions, sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots, and parsnips in a casserole dish with tempeh or seitan, seasoned it all with soy sauce, garlic, herbs, and wine if I wanted, and baked until everything was tender. I've also made yummy but not especially festive protein dishes like tempeh marsala. Last year I tried making a tofu and gluten mock turkey, but it was terrible. I generally enjoy foods more when they're not trying to mimic something exactly, so I should have known better.

I usually try to do something a little different each Thanksgiving. Here's a recap of last year's Thanksgiving feast. I haven't finalized this year's menu yet, and there are over 20 recipes in contention, including chocolate bourbon pie, cranberry sorbet, cranberry, currant and champagne relish, cranberry upside down cake --yes, I have lots of love for fresh cranberries--and yuba holiday "duck". I do know we'll definitely be making the Cranberry, Fig, and Walnut Cornbread Dressing and Spiced and Caramelized Butternut Squash from last year's menu as well as traditional favorites like mashed potatoes.

Many blogs have compiled great recipes and ideas, some of my favorites include:

Vegan Bits - The link will take you directly to a compilation of holiday recipes, but check out the more recent posts for more Thanksgiving info.

PETA's VegCooking - Tons of recipes, most of which look like they were tailor-made for home cooks with limited time.

Bryanna Clark Grogan
- The vegan food mogul and author offers up recipes for some of the most common holiday dishes. Great info, ideas, and recipes for soy-free vegans.

Karina's Kitchen - Anyone with gluten or wheat allergies will understand why Karina is a Gluten Free Goddess. While it's not a vegetarian or vegan blog, Karina does make sure her vegan readers have plenty of gorgeous recipes to try. In her pre-Thanksgiving post she includes tons of dishes that everyone can enjoy, just make sure click on any recipe that sounds inviting, as many of Karina's recipes have tips or variations for vegans.

101 Cookbooks - Heidi's compiled and organized all of her vegan Thanksgiving recipes, so you don't have to search. She's even separated all of the vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes on another page so everything is simple and easy for her readers. I love Heidi's style because it's simple, elegant, beautiful, and everything starts with quality ingredients.

- Do you remember Now and Zen's UnTurkey? So do the vegans who created this site. They've opensourced the recipe, so you can recreate it in your home.

Finally, there's Field Roast - many people serve the Celebration Roast version, but I'm partial to the Hazelnut Herb Cutlet. The official website also offers recipes.

Up next: Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 3 - Where Can a Vegan in Austin Go to Get Their Thanksgiving Grub On?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 1

How to Have a Thanksgiving with Less Stress and More Quality Time

Thanksgiving is almost upon us. For most people, this is a day of family, food, and hopefully, love and community--but for some vegans and vegetarians, especially new vegans or vegetarians and their families, Thanksgiving can be especially stressful. Here are some things I've picked up over the years:

If you're around all of your family for the first time since making a huge lifestyle change, your family is bound to be curious. Some people handle their curiosity better than others, but be prepared to play 20 questions with each and every one of your relatives. I've experienced everything from family members who sneakily fed me dip loaded with bacon grease, to cousins who went out of their way to make sure I had something I would eat, to my immediate family who have always been supportive. I've had people try to serve me butter and eggs, or ask if chicken and fish are okay. I've even had family members assume my veganism was a result of my (Catholic) high school brainwashing me. Remember that when your family voices concerns, they do so because they love you. Gently inform them your beliefs, and, if they persist, agree to disagree. Remember, you're not going to change everyone's mind all at once, and getting in someone's face, being beligerent, etc. only gives vegans a bad name while doing nothing to further the cause, and ultimately, Thanksgiving is a day for family, friends, and gratitude.

Nothing makes people understand veganism like amazing vegan food, so, if possible, take an amazing vegan dessert to share with everyone. If you can, help prepare the whole dinner. Not only is this great bonding time, but you can try to convert some of the dishes and make them vegan. This can be especially helpful for your hosts who want to accommodate you, but are unsure of what exactly is and isn't in your diet. Some dishes can be easily converted with no loss of flavor, using everyday ingredients available at most stores. For example,you can make vegan dressing/stuffing (use vegetable stock and bake in a dish instead of stuffing the turkey), or vegan mashed potatoes (use Earth Balance or olive oil instead of butter, and soy milk instead of milk). Make sure to pay special attention to the presentation of anything vegan you serve, because your food will be judged. I used to find it helpful to wait until after people had started eating and enjoying a dish before mentioning that it was vegan--although now everyone I know is well aware that I'm vegan.

If you know nothing will be vegan, or are unsure if there will be anything for you to eat, eat ahead of time and/or take a dish you love, to share with others. This is a good general tip for vegans at any event, and it makes any food you find that's accidentally vegan, a happy surprise!

Instead of obsessing about food, relax and enjoy the company. This a good general tip for everyone in any situation. In my experience, it does the most to promote veganism because it shows that vegans can be well-adjusted and social, and that veganism can be easy and fun. In college, both of my roommates became vegetarians after living with me, and they each said something along the lines of, "You showed me it didn't have to be hard (to give up meat)".

On the flip side, don't act like a vegan martyr. By that, I mean the modern common usage of martyr, i.e. someone who is constantly suffering. Being a vegan is a choice made freely, and it's something to be happy about. If you feel deprived or angry about it, you're doing it wrong. Additionally, no one wants to hang out with someone who is down about everything. A few years ago, one of my best (omni) friends, J, met a cute vegan girl and wanted to take her out, but they couldn't get their schedules to align until one night when J was going out to a steakhouse with his friends for a birthday party. The girl repeatedly said she didn't mind going to the steakhouse, and they wanted to hang out with each other sooner rather than later, so the plans were set. As soon as they stepped inside of the steakhouse, the girl loudly declared, "It smells like death in here," and proceeded to make snide comments all evening. Did anyone have a good time that night? Of course not. I'm not saying you should stay mum if you're uncomfortable, but I know I would like to eat without having to defend my choices, and I'm sure my dining companions feel the same way. Since we respect each other, even if we disagree, we can enjoy spending time together.

Up next: Guide to a Vegan Vanguard Thanksgiving, Part 2 - What Do I Eat, Now That Turkey's Off The Menu?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

November Updates

Okay, okay, okay. I fail Vegan MoFo to a ridiculous degree. I'm sorry. It's not for lack of news, food, or inspiration.

In October, I was in Colorado with my family. My 8 year old nephew, N, was scheduled to have some intense surgery. Basically, he has cerebral palsy, and his hamstrings are extremely tight. He's already undergone a few procedures to help him walk better, including botox and casting, and tendon lengthening. Up until now, he's used a wheel chair, a walker, AFOs, and molded-plastic and velco braces to get around, and he's done well for himself, but he has the bad habit of W sitting. W sitting is basically sitting on his knees with his feet and calves splayed out to either side of his body--which above, looks like a W. Sitting in this position has turned his hips out, and his knees in, so his doctors decided that this needed to be corrected immediately. When I first heard about the surgery, I was told he would undergo three separate procedures at once, his hips would be broken, they would realign his knees, and they would take the muscle from the back of one of his calves and move it to the front. Yikes! It all sounded like too much, and I know my mother, N's legal guardian, was overwhelmed. As luck would have it, I wasn't scheduled to teach in October, and so I would be able to spend nearly the whole month with my family, be there for the surgery, and also for Halloween and my father's birthday, while still making it back to Austin for the presidential election. Unfortunately, I did not really have the time, energy, or means to blog most of the time I was in Colorado, but I think this is a pretty damn good excuse.

The hospital stay was intense, but overall, the trip was great, and I feel so fortunate that I could take it. N ended up only requiring one surgery for the time being, but that--breaking his hips--necessitated an almost-full body cast, starting below his pecs and going all the way down to his ankles. His recovery time was also increased, although his hospital stay was cut down by a few days. N is still in his cast, but we be getting out of it just before Thanksgiving. He's uncomfortable, and grumpy to be so immobile, but as rascally as ever.

While in Denver, I managed to make it to my favorite restaurant a few times, as well as try some vegan ice creams that aren't available in Austin, and I'll review those in a later post. I also got a chance to hang out with H, and see her new house, and to catch up with a former roommate.

Just before my trip, I had been in contact with Addie Broyles, the food editor for our local newspaper. I ended up winning a small contest by talking about my favorite Thanksgiving side dishes, and she mentioned that she'd be interested in posting the recipe. Last week, she held a photo shoot for the food and the chefs, and I got to meet the creative and sweet Diann, who is also having a recipe published. I was ecstatic when I realized that Addie had picked two vegans for the feature, especially when I returned to Austin and found out she had interviewed my friends, students and coworkers at NE/ Casa de Luz for a feature about macrobiotics. I feel so grateful to live in a city where the major paper acknowledges vegans, and doesn't compartmentalize us. If you're an Austinite, pick up a copy of the Austin American Statesman on Monday, November 24 to see all the Thanksgiving side dishes. Also, if you're on Twitter, you can follow Addie, or join the Austin Food Bloggers group on Facebook (assuming you're in Austina and a blogger).

Last week I also notice that someone had scraped my entire blog and was using the posts for their gaming site to try and sell illegal WoW gold. They had also scraped a severely right wing racist blog, and I think the most offensive aspect of all was having my name (my posts were stolen word for word, with my name intact on the recipes) associated with that kind of vitriol. Thankfully, JD notified the fake blog's admin that they had violated copyright, and within minutes, all of my content was down.

It's been a crazy month, and things probably aren't going to slow down until after the new year.