Giving Thanks For All

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A Basket of Chanterelles

Sharing Food Joyfully

In this age of instant media alerts about so much that’s awful in this weary world, I am enjoying an increasing sense of gratitude for all that’s better. In part, it’s because my lovely iphone is having issues, so I’m not using it very much. Instead of checking in many times a day, discovering a zillion things to be shocked or horrified or distressed about, I’m severely limiting media access. Some days, I’m not checking in at all. When I do, I’m making a point of looking for good news about advances in public health, public education, human rights, women in politics, strengthened ecological protections, archaeological and astronomical discoveries, fascinating new research and inventions, amazing young people who are changing their worlds and mine.

Balancing the picture helps me remember that in historic terms, the people of this world have never been as well informed, as interconnected, as aware of better possibilities. This is far from the best of times in many ways, yet it’s also valid to say that for more people than ever, this IS the best of times so far in human history. As we sit down to an enormous and indulgent meal, it’s good to remember those who aren’t so fortunate. Thoughts and good wishes are nice, but we can also make a point of supporting local, regional, national and international feeding programs, not just in the winter holidays but all through the year. It’s also good to remind ourselves of just how very fortunate we are by taking turns talking about the things and people and ideas and events that we ourselves are most grateful for this year.

Eating With Joyful Pleasure

Let me be clear; I am not knocking the Thanksgiving feast, especially when we mostly use local and organically raised ingredients. I love the traditional meal; roast turkey and bread stuffing; mashed potatoes and homemade gravy; cranberry orange sauce and pumpkin pie with whipped cream. I always begged to have it on my birthday (also International Toilet Day, no comment), which falls so close to Thanksgiving that my mom refused to indulge me. Personally, I eat turkey quite often, as organically raised, free range turkey and other poultry is locally available. Indeed, one memorable year, I was picking up a bespoke turkey from a neighbor who sheepishly admitted that the smallest of her happy birds weighed around 75 pounds.

That was one expensive turkey and it barely fit in my large oven. It also took a really, really long time to cook, which threw off the timing of everything else. It was gorgeous but took two people to carry it to the table, where it provoked slightly nervous comments about Hansel and Gretel but fed several dozen diners generously with lots left over. Leftovers are one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving dinner, especially now when our family patterns have changed dramatically. Vegans and vegetarians, the gluten- or dairy- intolerant, and other sensitivities must be accommodated if all are to partake freely and joyfully. Thus I offer you my takes and tweaks on that traditional meal as it has evolved over the years.

Tweaks And Takes

Everyone has a favorite way of treating The Bird, so I’ll just note that rosemary, garlic, and lemon peel can all be tucked under poultry skin or tucked into little breast pockets made with a sharp paring knife. You probably have a favorite way to caramelize onions as well, so I’ll skip right to the next most important items: mashed potatoes and gravy. I am not just bragging when I say that the following recipes are just as popular with dairy eaters as with vegans and the dairy intolerant and it’s wise to make a much bigger batch than you think you’ll need. If there are extras, make potato cakes or top a casserole of layered leftovers with mashed potatoes and some crispy fried onions. The secret ingredient is avocado oil, which has a surprisingly buttery flavor. Garlic is optional of course, but most folks appreciate the extra richness of flavor.

Dairy Free Mashed Potatoes

6 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes
3-4 cloves garlic, chopped (optional)
2 teaspoons kosher or sea salt
1/4-1/3 cup avocado oil
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Peel and chop potatoes, cover with cold water, set aside. Bring a soup pot of water to a boil, add drained potatoes, garlic (if using), and half the salt and cook until barely fork tender (12-15 minutes). Drain, reserving the last few cups of cooking liquid (the murky part), and mash or put potatoes through a ricer for a fluffier texture. Thin potatoes as desired with avocado oil and reserved potato cooking water and season to taste with salt and pepper. Makes about 12 cups.

Satisfying Vegan Gravy

Vegetarian gravies can be thin, pathetic things, but this one is bolstered by buttery avocado oil and flaked nutritional yeast, which adds significant protein and offers a salty (though salt-free), nut-like flavor as well. Sliced mushrooms make the gravy bold and savory, adding the deep, umami quality that usually comes from meat. Use your favorite mushrooms or a blend of several kinds, from Portobellos or porcini to apricot-scented chanterelles.

Rich Mushroom Gravy

1/4 cup avocado oil
2 large brown or yellow onions, thinly sliced
1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 pound mushrooms, thinly sliced
1/3 cup flour (any kind that will thicken a sauce)
1/2 cup red wine
4 cups fresh vegetable broth
2-3 teaspoons flaked nutritional yeast
1/8 teaspoon smoked paprika (hot or sweet)

In a wide, shallow pan, combine oil, onions, and half the salt over medium high heat and cook until soft (10-15 minutes). Add mushrooms, cover pan, reduce heat to low and cook until wilted (10-15 minutes). Stir in flour and cook, stirring often, for 2 minutes. Add wine and broth a little at a time, stirring to prevent lumps, then simmer until mushrooms are very tender (20-30 minutes). Serve as is or puree with an immersion blender to desired consistency and serve hot. Makes about 5 cups.

Palate Refreshing Salad

This sparkling, briskly flavorful salad provides a pleasing counterpoint to any heavy, rich meal. Vary it as you please, but

Beautiful Winter Salad

1 bulb Florence fennel, finely sliced
1 Cara Cara orange, peeled and chopped
1 Jazz or Opal apple, chopped
4 cups Savoy cabbage, finely chopped
4 cups Napa cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup pomegranate seeds
1/2 cup stemmed cilantro
2 tablespoons chopped roasted hazelnuts
1 lime, juiced
1-2 teaspoons maple syrup
pinch of kosher or sea salt

In a serving bowl, combine first eight ingredients and season with fresh lime juice, maple syrup and salt to taste. Serves 8-10.

Roasted Cauliflower & Cranberries

1 large head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 medium sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
2-3 tablespoons avocado or high temperature oil
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
2 cups raw cranberries, washed and picked over

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Toss cauliflower and sweet potato with oil and spread in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet (or two). Sprinkle with salt and roast for 30 minutes. Stir with a spatula, add cranberries and roast until well caramelized (10-12 minutes). Serves 8-10.

Dairy Free Pumpkin Pie

1 unbaked pie crust (gluten free or any)
3/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, coriander and ginger
2 large eggs
2 cups (15-ounce can) cooked pumpkin pulp
12 ounces coconut milk (1 can)
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut curls (Bob’s Red Mill or any)
1/2 cup walnut halves

Line a pie dish with crust, crimp edge, set aside. In a bowl, combine dry ingredients and stir well. Add eggs and stir until foamy. Stir in pumpkin pulp completely, then coconut milk. Spoon into crust, sprinkle with coconut curls and walnuts. Bake at 425 degrees F. for 15 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake until set (40-50 minutes). Let stand for an hour or more before serving.

Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Light and aromatic, this vegan version is more like a cream pie than baked custard and tastes better than you might think.

Creamy Vegan Pumpkin Pie

1/4 cup maple syrup
1/4 cup dark molasses
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon each cinnamon, coriander and ginger
12 ounces silken tofu
1-1/2 cups cooked pumpkin pulp
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 pre-baked nut crust (see below)

In a food processor, combine all but crust and puree. Spoon into baked nut crust and chill for at least an hour before serving.

Nut Crust

2 cups almonds or walnuts (or a blend of favorites)
2 tablespoons coconut oil
pinch of kosher or sea salt

In a food processor, grind nuts coarsely. Add remaining ingredients and process briefly to blend well. Pat into a pie dish. Bake at 350 degrees F until golden (20-25 minutes), and cool before filling.


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2 Responses to Giving Thanks For All

  1. Diane Hooper says:

    What a feast Ann!
    I just printed the roasted cauliflower and cranberries, sounds yummy.
    Enjoyed reading the recipes, can savor them all!
    Like it, you looking only for good news! Keep up the good work.
    Happy Thanksgiving to you too Ann.

  2. Janet Lewinsohn says:

    Giving Thanks to you Ann for providing such marvelous healthy recipes to enhance our lives…..(and stomachs) Kudos… Jan L.

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