What Vegetarians Eat: Thanksgiving Edition

A lot of times when people find out you’re vegetarian, you get questions like, “So, um, what do you eat?” “Well do you at least eat chicken? Fish?” as well as the always funny jokes about only eating lettuce. And when it comes to the holidays, it can be tricky navigating the buffet table when the main focus of holiday get togethers is food, and often times, they’re meat-based.

Last year I made it easy on myself (read: I was lazy) since it was my first Thanksgiving as an official vegetarian, and I opted to only eat the side dishes. This was easy, because like many, the side dishes are my favorite part. I had stuffing (made with veggie sausage), green bean casserole, mashed potatoes, maple glazed Brussels sprouts, corn and peas, mashed turnips, creamed pearl onions, and cranberry sauce. That’s obviously a lot of food, and I was more than satisfied without having a “main” on my plate. This will likely continue to be my approach for holiday events at a friend or family member’s house, but I’ve decided to get a little more creative this year.

No turkey here! I certainly don't miss cleaning & stuffing it...
No turkey here! I certainly don’t miss cleaning & stuffing it…

When dreaming up my Thanksgiving menu, I decided it was time to try a turkey alternative. No, I’m not talking about a tofurkey – I wanted to make something homemade! While I’ve opted to have a “main dish” this year, that doesn’t mean I plan to skimp on the sides; they are my favorite part! And since meal planning is something I really enjoy doing, I figured I would share with you all what I plan on serving for my Vegetarian Thanksgiving! That way, if you’re scrounging around for a last minute side dish idea maybe one of these will spark your interest, or, you can always save them for next year.

2013 Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu
Seitan Roast – recipe found here

Brussels Sprout Mac ‘n Cheese – recipe found here
Veggie Stuffing – my recipe found here
Peas & Corn
Mashed Potatoes
Apple & Cranberry Crumble

I’m going to be so full, and I’ll have leftovers for days. It’s going to rule.

What’s your favorite side dish? 

Bang for your buck

It’s no secret that I’m a planner. Not only do I religiously keep my Google Calendar up to date, I also tote around a physical planner with me, just in case. Naturally this trait of mine has spilled over into the food realm, making me a big meal planner as well. As you can see below, this is just a snip-it of last week and next two weeks in terms of our planned meals, my runs, homework assignments, and any other noteworthy events (the green is dinner and there are some holes that need to be filled):

Now that I’m student teaching, even though I’m home earlier, those hours are spent doing homework for my seminar course, studying for the Praxis II, and a fun little thing called lesson planning. Last week was my first week and there wasn’t any lesson planning, but that changed this past weekend. It’s a good thing it snowed Saturday – I had no excuse. So, I’ve been trying to find meals that I can make on Sunday and then use in different ways throughout the week.

This week, I made Bon Appétite’s Cannellini Beans with Kale, that I decided to serve over brown rice on Monday evening. At first I wasn’t sure if there would be enough flavor, but I was pleasantly surprised. The recipe is actually intended to be used for a spin on bruschetta, but it was just as delicious served over rice.

On Wednesday, I took the cooking liquid from the original recipe and 3 1/2 cups of the cannellini beans and kale, and turned into a soup using this recipe. Being able to take something so simple and use it in two completely different ways was not only a time, but also a money saver. Since the weather has actually felt like winter the past few days, this hearty soup was perfect.

I’m definitely on the hunt for more recipes like this, where I can buy a bunch of ingredients and re-use them in multiple ways.

Planning for spice

When planning out our meals for the week, I ususally consult three sources; the internet, my pile of cookbooks, and the scariest of them all, my brain. Once I get my creative dinner juices flowing, I then have to consult our ever important calendar to see what we’ve got going on throughout the week. A lot of times, this then requires me to go back to the drawing board, since I tend to dream up elaborate dinners that just won’t be done before 9pm, causing me to probably gnaw off my arm before then.

It might seem a bit silly to plan my meals in advance, especially when it’s just myself and my fiancé. However, I’m obsessed with planning, which would explain why I have an extremely detailed Google Calendar, personal planner, and am always looking to schedule things in advance and confirm them. My meals seem to be no different; I like to know ahead of time what I’m going to be making when based on my schedule, and more importantly, pick up the necessary ingredients while at the grocery store. I think one of the worst feelings in the world is getting home after having your heart set on a certain food/meal, only to find out you don’t have some of the ingredients. For me, that’s close to heartbreak. So I try to avoid it at all costs by planning!

I snagged a copy of Vegan Fire & Spice by Robin Robertson a few months ago, and just got around to actually making something from the book. While I’m not a vegan, the simple words fire and spice grabbed my attention. This particular book not only offers recipes with varying levels of heat (marked as one to three chiles), but they’re recipes from all over the world! I love that within one cookbook alone I can find a recipe from Thailand, Mexico, Africa, Morocco, and more, and they’re all spicy!

I had paged through the book marking off things I was interested to try first, so I decided to make the Red Hot White Bean Chili as my first dish. It was easy, spicy, and filling – what more could a girl ask for? Of course I went and completely de-veganized it by throwing regular cheese on top, but other than that and omitting carrots (I didn’t have any) I stayed true to the recipe. I’m really looking forward to making other things from the book – I like fire in my belly!

Red Hot White Bean Chili via Vegan Fire & Spice
– Serves 4-6 –

1 Tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
1 red bell pepper, chopped
2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 fresh jalapeno or serrano chiles, seeded and minced (I used a jalapeno and habanero)
3 Tbsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/4 tsp ground oregano
1/4 tsp cayenne
1/8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1 (28 oz.) can crushed tomatoes
1 cup water
4 1/2 cups cooked or 3 (15.5oz) cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 scallions, minced
optional – vegan cheese for garnish 

1. Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add onion, carrot, bell pepper, garlic, and chiles. Cover and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
2. Blend in the chili powder, salt, cumin, oregano, cayenne, and pepper, and stir for 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and water and bring to a boil.
3. Reduce the heat to low, stir in the beans, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, stirring occasionally, 45 to 50 minutes. Garnish with minced scallions.