vegan stuffing

Weekend of thanks 2012

I know Thanksgiving was ages ago, but I’m only just getting around to uploading photos and such because my week/end was SO packed I couldn’t be bothered to worry about blogging in a timely manner. 

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Shorts and a tank top in late November…must be Southern California…

For the first time in as long as I can remember ever (!!) I got the holiday – PLUS it’s surrounding days – off of work. 

Kyle and I took full advantage, and drove down to his parents’ house in San Clemente on Wednesday afternoon, to stay through Sunday.  Mini vacay!

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He had a half day of work, so I took the opportunity to fill my morning with last minute errands and food prep.

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I made a pumpkin cheesecake (above) for my family’s Thanksgiving and roasted nuts (below) for a kale salad I was going to make for Kyle’s family’s Thanksgiving. 

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Recipes coming.

I had pumpkin butter & cream cheese oatmeal for breakfast, which was as brilliant and delish as it sounds.

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But since I went to such great lengths to use up every last (perishable) food before we headed out of town, our fridge was completely bare by Wednesday afternoon.  Which meant I had to go to Whole Foods for lunch.  Such a sacrifice.

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This is my new favorite thing. 

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Made to order sandwich with gluten free bread, field roast loaf, avocado, mustard, vegenaise, lettuce & tomato.

I ate it in the car while Kyle was trying to navigate through the most intense LA traffic ever and naturally spilled on my belly.  Twice.  Washed it all down with a gingerberry kombucha.

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For dessert I had a few tangerines.  I’m obsessed with citrus at the moment, and these are on sale at WF for cheap cheap cheap.  They’re almost easy enough to peel that your hands don’t get all sticky.  Almost.

It took us a rather miserable 2+ hours to get to San Clemente.  [A trip that should be an hour long. Max.]

After we decompressed a bit, Kyle’s dad fired up the BBQ and we threw together a quick dinner.  Nothing like a low key meal before the big day.

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I had two Field Roast sausages with all the toppings, but no bun.  I was saving my (wheat) FODMAPs for Thanksgiving the next day.

I never took a picture of dessert, but we had vanilla coconut ice cream.

The next day was the big day.  Evidently I didn’t photograph my breakfast either, but it was my preggo standard – two fried eggs with toast and a pound of Earth Balance.

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I made a lunch out of appetizers – with hummus & guac aplenty on corn chips and carrots (I still dodged the wheat).

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On the left: Kyle reading his mom the directions to make vegan gravy.  On the right: the full spread.

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I think 50% of my plate was kale salad.  The rest was vegan mashed potatoes with vegan gravy (yum!), vegan cassoulet, and cranberry jelly (from the can, obvs).  I had seconds of kale salad, but otherwise didn’t really stuff myself.  Even my normal portions make me so uncomfortable, it’s really miserable feeling packed to the gills while pregnant.  Pre-pregnancy I thought the holidays would be so awesome – eating heaps and heaps with the excuse that you’re “eating for two”.  What a load of crap.  I think I ate less this holiday season than any other.

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Anyway.  After dinner we played cards until it was time for dessert.  Kyle had apple pie a la mode, while I had a vegan carrot cake with cream cheese frosting (made by Whole Foods).

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I had to pick around the walnuts, but otherwise it was fantastic.

The next day was one of recovery.  I slothed it up in the morning, reading my book, watching football, and just being a lazy bum.  I had the eggs & toast (again) for breakfast.  And by noon I was ready for something more active, so Kyle and I went for a walk around the neighb.

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Lunch was, of course, leftovers.

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Including the green beans that I somehow missed the previous night.

Later on Kyle and I headed to Newport Beach to my G-ma’s house (where my family was spending the weekend). 

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How many people does it take to arrange a table for nine?

TACO NIGHT!!!!

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Even though this was supposed to be a mellow night (before Thanksgiving #2 on Saturday), it turned into quite the elaborate production. 

With both corn (fried and un-fried) and flour tortillas, black and refried beans, grilled peppers and grilled fish, regular cheddar and daiya, avocado, tomato, lettuce, and salsa.  And probably other stuff I’m forgetting.

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G-ma, Auntie Wendy, & mom.

We all sang happy birthday to Laura and then dug in.

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Yum.  I was way too ambitious with this plate and ended up saving half of my second taco for the car ride back to San Clemente. 

Kyle had coffee once we got back to his parents’ house, but I crashed almost right away.

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Another relaxing morning by the fire with eggs & toast.

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Then we headed back to Newport Beach for Thanksgiving with my mom’s side of the family.

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This time the pita chips lured me in.  🙂

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Finn discovered Kyle’s inability to say no and exploited it the rest of the day requesting him as a play buddy.

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Ivy was more easily entertained.  With tupperware, pots and pans.  My cousin’s kids are too cute for words.

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We took a lot of family photos, but this is really the only one worth showing.  I mean, it says it all, doesn’t it?  Holy crap, we’re going to be parents?!?!?

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On the left: Murphy Goode merlot mocking me.  On the right: dad carving the turkey.

In total, I think there were about 20 people to serve.  So we had a TON of food.

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[Cool] Kids table on the right.  🙂

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The food…where oh where to begin…

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Cranberry jelly. Rolls.

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Vegan mashed potatoes (there were reg ones too).  Spinach salad.

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Jello.  Vegetarian (turkey-less) stuffing.

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Roasted veggies.  Green bean & pea cheese casserole.

And so much more.  I’m even finding things in these photos that I somehow missed on Saturday!?! 

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My mom and Aunt were responsible for cooking almost everything.  Seriously.

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So much to be thankful for this year.

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Can you believe it – this measly plate left me feeling stuffed to the brim.

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I didn’t even have room for dessert (including my own pumpkin cheesecake).

After helping clean up (while getting heaps of leftovers “forced” upon us [gladly accepted]), Kyle and I headed back to San Clemente.

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I managed to find room for dessert after all.  :)  Kyle and I watched Home Alone with his parents and enjoyed some of his dad’s home-made coconut ice cream. 

For some reason I took a photo of my breakfast the next morning.

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This is probably because I tweaked my routine (ever so slightly) by switching out toast for waffles.  And not just any waffles.  These are Vans vegan and gluten free blueberry waffles.  Two thumbs up, by the way.

After breakfast Kyle and I hit the road (yet again).

This time we were headed down to San Diego for the Chargers vs. Ravens game.  Being a huge football fan, it may seem surprising that I’ve never been to an NFL game, but this was my first, and to say I was excited would be a huge understatement. 

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I did some research on Qualcomm stadium and since you’re allowed to bring in your own food, we decided to stop at the Escondido Whole Foods on the way.

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Because I never turn down the chance to explore a new Whole Foods. 🙂

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Does this look familiar?  I wasn’t joking when I said this is my new favorite.

The traffic getting off the freeway and into the stadium was obnooooooxious.  And by the time we made it to our seats we were both ready to dig into our lunches.

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I took my last bite just in time for kickoff.

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Kyle got us tickets as my 30th birthday present and it was such an exciting game.  It went into OT and was basically the most fun I’ve had in a long time.

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And now I can cross it off my fake thirty by thirty list. 

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Even though I snacked on dark chocolate covered almonds throughout the game, I was still ravenous by the time we left.  And thanks to the horrendous traffic and disorganized exit situation, we weren’t actually on the road until nearly 6 pm. 

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So we went back to WF again.  Underneath the baked tofu and roasted butternut squash is emerald kale salad and vegan mashed potatoes (which I topped with nooch).  I think it’s safe to say I got enough Thanksgiving food this weekend!

After a quick pit-stop at Kyle’s parents’ house, where we packed everything back into the car, we were back on the road, heading home to Santa Monica.

What a holiday!

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And somehow I wound up with enough leftovers from all the Thursday through Sunday meals that our previously empty fridge is now packed.

Time to get ready for Christmas…

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PS It’s hard to believe, but I’m a couple days shy of 30 weeks! 

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Stuffing in Spring

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I rarely care about special holiday meals on day’s I work (usually I just reschedule holiday celebrations* as it suits my hospital schedule), but for some reason I was dead set on an Easter Dinner that didn’t involve reheating leftovers. 

However, as I already shared, I was at the hospital all weekend.  Which meant Kyle ditched Santa Monica to spend the holiday with his parents.  Which meant I was in charge of providing whatever “special something” I wanted for myself.  Cooking a real meal (without the microwave) after 12+ hours of nursing is ludicrous.  Enter crock pot.

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Slow-cooker Potato Stuffing

[vegan, gluten free option]

Ingredients:

  • 1 potato, cut into large chunks
  • 3 slices (old) bread, coarsely chopped (use non-gluten bread for GF option)
  • 3 large carrots, sliced into rounds
    1 vegan sausage link, sliced into small half moons (I used Tofurky brand this time, but Field Roast is also a favorite – both contain gluten so sub in tempeh for GF option)
  • 1 cup frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 cups vegetable broth

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Directions:

Add olive oil to crock pot and spin it around to get the entire bottom coated.
Chop all ingredients and add to pot.

Stir everything up.

Add vegetable broth.  The amount varies depending on your bread (fresh vs. stale, dense vs. light, etc.).  I used nearly 2 cups because I had VERY old and VERY dense bread. 

Stir everything once more so bread is broth-ified.  The liquid level of the broth should be 1/2 of the way (or slightly more) to the top of the ingredients, so they are partially submerged, but there’s still enough to get crunchy and bake on top.  You don’t want mush, but you do want the bread to absorb the broth (think moist maker).

And that’s it!

Cook in crock-pot on low setting for 6 hours.

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Scoop and serve.

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Top with a pat of Earth Balance if you want (I did).  The stuffing will melt in your mouth either way.

A few details about the ingredients…

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Remember this failed loaf?  Home-made gluten free baking trials lead to a LOT of misses.  Sorghum flour is not my friend (yet).

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Well.  Anyway.

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Stuffing is the perfect way to use old bread.  I don’t often have stale bread on hand (because I love carbs), but I do have my fair share of bread disasters.  The gross tasting ones go in the trash, but the ones that taste good but didn’t work for whatever other reason (too dense of a consistency, not holding together, no rise whatsoever, etc.) don’t deserve to be tossed.  In my frugal eyes, at least.

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Another frugal move on my part – I used only one link of sausage.  I really do think it’s enough to impart plenty of flavor.  By slicing them in thin half moons they still make their way into each bite and the flavors infuse throughout the rest of the dish while it cooks.

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Kyle and I prefer the Field Roast Grain Meat to Tofurky, but we generally go with whatever is on sale when we are shopping.  We don’t buy them on every trip though because I prefer real foods to processed mock meat.  However, Kyle is a new vegetarian and still in the weaning phase, so having a faux meat option on hand is really helpful when those hearty cravings strike. 

Like I mentioned in the ingredients list, this Beer Brat flavor does contain gluten (it is made with TVP, vital wheat gluten, & barley beer), but using tempeh instead is an easy swap to make the dish celiac friendly.

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Imagine also makes a low sodium broth (140 mg per cup as opposed to 550) which would be better in this case since the sausage adds 620 mg of salt too.

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Fresh chopped spinach will work also.  Or you could sub frozen chard or kale.  This is a pretty flexible recipe. 

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I love the way the bread soaks up the broth creating soft spongy stuffing…

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Mmmm… 

The top layer gets a nice crunchy, toasty texture to contrast the bottom.  It’s seriously wonderful.

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Having 6 hours to stew lets all the flavors just meld together.  It’s so easy and yet, it turns out as well as a dish that’s been slaved over all day.

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Kyle and I both had seconds so unlike most holiday feasts, this one had zero leftovers.

 

*See Thanksgiving 2008, Christmas 2008, Thanksgiving 2009, and Christmas 2009 for the NY holidays that I worked and never celebrated in any special way.  At least my delayed Christmas 2008 and New Years 2009 got the proper (albeit after-the-fact) attention they deserved back to CA.

In 2010 I celebrated Thanksgiving three times, although none of them were on the actual holiday (which I, again, worked).  The same year, my family faked an early Christmas since I was working the 24th and 25th.

There’s also my real Thanksgiving 2011 vs. my belated Thanksgiving celebration and my work Christmas 2011 vs. my fake Christmas.

As you can see, holidays at the hospital are hard to avoid when you’re lacking in seniority. 

Easter weekend

I survived!  This past weekend was my first string of shifts back at the hospital after two weeks on my death bed

I’m still on antibiotics and my ear and head are still congested (and requiring their own med cocktail), but my cough is loose and minimal and I can breath, stand upright and walk.  I’m like a human again!  Hooray.  Still no exercise though.  Which meant Kyle ran the Hollywood Half by himself.

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Since I was at work, Ethel and her sister took over official cheerleading duties.  How cute is their poster?!?

So let’s start with Saturday.

Kyle woke up earlier than I did to head to the race.  I slept in til 5:30.

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Saturday’s work eats: details here.

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Saturday’s dinner: creamed spinach & quinoa, bread & Earth Balance.

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Saturday’s dessert: biscuit cinnamon roll (half eaten before photo).

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Sunday’s work eats: oatmeal, banana bread, salad, ginger, banana, carrots.

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In the breakfast mix:

  • brown rice
  • quick cooking oats
  • dried cranberries
  • fresh strawberries
  • coconut sugar

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In the salad mix:

  • spinach
  • pickled cucumber and sesame seeds
  • quinoa
  • plain tofu
  • avocado
  • tamari

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The last banana-nut bread 🙁

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Sunday’s dinner: crock-pot stuffing.

OMG, you are definitely going to want the recipe for this one.  I had no recipe in mind whatsoever, I was just throwing this in the pot that I thought sounded good together.  The fact that it was out of this world delicious is further proof that you can’t mess anything up in a slow cooker.

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I prepped it before I left to go to work, set the crock-pot on low for 6 hours and when I came home…holy aroma!

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Kyle was licking his chops in anticipation of my arrival. 

Sunday’s dessert: [another] biscuit cinnamon roll

Thanksgiving one of three

As I mentioned before, Saturday was spent with my mom’s side of the family in So Cal.  It was a really fun day with good food, good company, and of course, the adorable Finn.

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I was in charge of bringing a vegan dish, so I thought why not test out a recipe that’s been on the back burner for a while now.

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Thanks to the Foodbuzz foodie gift exchange, all the goods for this meal were provided by Danica…although I did go astray a bit.  Here’s the OG recipe with my alterations.

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Harvest Grain Salad with Sun-Dried Tomatoes & Artichokes

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend (I used 8 oz of the bag and added in brown rice)
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 3 cups vegetable broth
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil (I omitted this and instead used the oil from the marinated artichokes)
  • 12 oz. jar of marinated artichokes (I only used 1/2 the jar)
  • 8.5 oz sun dried tomatoes, finely chopped (I only used ~2 tbsp)
  • 1/2 cup white balsamic vinegar (I only used 1/4 cup)
  • Trader Joe’s 21 Spice Salute (no amount was specified, but I used 1 tbsp)
  • salt & pepper to taste

Directions:

Cook Harvest Grain Blend with vegetable broth as per the package instructions.  Once the grains are tender, stir in chopped artichokes, sun dried tomatoes, oil, balsamic vinegar, and TJ’s seasoning.  Enjoy hot or cold.

And now some photos of the cooking process…

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The next morning I transported it from the pot to the serving bowl.

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Having the night to sit allowed all the flavors to meld together.  Yummy!

It was all soft like risotto and the flavors were stellar.  I’m typically not a sun dried tomato person, but with all the other flavors it was mellow enough for me to enjoy.  My favorite part was how many different grains were in the blend, though.  Orzo, baby chickpeas, Israeli couscous, red quinoa…so many different textures for my tongue to enjoy.  And the TJ’s 21 Season Salute makes seasoning so simple, even a caveman kitchen novice could do it.  Thanks Danica for making this a no brainer meal.  After all, Saturday was only my first Thanksgiving…Sunday’s round two meant my day of cooking was only half way done.  You can expect another recipe coming your way soon.

The rest of Saturday’s dishes were just as delicious and I was pleasantly surprised at the number of vegan offerings.  Veganism is becoming mainstream, yo! 

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There were veggies and dip, dried fruit and nuts, and a layered guacamole dip to start…but I only had one handful after seeing Finn take double dipping to the next level.  Half-eaten slobbery cherry tomato anyone?

While I caught up with my cousins, g-ma, and other family members, my uncle was “hard at work” in the kitchen.

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Or something like that?  This is definitely hall of shame candidate number one 🙂

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How cute are my aunt and uncle’s new tattoos?  I guess after 30+ years it’s safe to make your wedding band a permanent part of your body. 

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And now the food…

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My cousin made this cranberry jelly, and it’s probably the best home-made version I’ve ever tasted.  Don’t think I’m ghetto, but I’m partial to the Ocean Spray kind complete with ribbed can marks.  But this recipe from the LA Times certainly made me rethink my stance on home-made sauces.  The cinnamon and orange zest were surprising twists that added a yummy zing.

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Brussels.

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Salad.  Green bean casserole.

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Setting the mood (this photo is for you g-ma).

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Above: non vegan stuffing.  Below: vegan stuffing

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This. Was. Delicious. 

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The gracious host stirring away. 

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My first plate was loaded with salad, Harvest Grains, vegan mashed potatoes (made with Earth Balance & soymilk courtesy of my other cousin), vegan stuffing, and cranberry sauce

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Not amazing lighting, but you get the idea.  Not an opening on the plate.  That’s the goal at Thanksgiving, right?

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Good gravy!  (Sorry, I just couldn’t resist such a perfectly cheesy joke)

I went back for seconds after discovering there was a vegan green bean casserole that I didn’t see on the first round.

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Sorry about the less-than-stellar photo, but the dish was mostly eaten when I dug in for my own serving.

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If my fellow vegan chefs are reading this, please email me with the recipe, it was tasty!  The mushrooms were a nice little surprise. 

We left a bit early to drive down to San Clemente for Thanksgiving number two, but it was wonderful to spend the day with my family.  I love them so much. 

*Don’t forget to enter my vegan ice cream giveaway – both US and Canadian winners will score two pints of Coconut Bliss.

my REAL christmas

Thanks to the time zone changes, my circadian rhythm was totally messed up, so I was up early, while everyone else slept in…well, not everyone. My mom was in the kitchen already starting the cooking/baking/prep and one set of Aunt and Uncle were off for their AM walk. I sat in the kitchen with my mom and made myself a big mug of coffee.

My parents have the same froth machine as I do, so I made a nice perfectly foamy (and lactose free) coffee.

Then I got ready for company (since people were coming over before noon I figured pajamas weren’t quite fancy enough). Naturally, the second after I was dressed I was sent to the store for last minute groceries, followed by lots of chores in the kitchen. Check out the massive trays of root vegetables, including rutabaga, turnips, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, and carrots.

My parents are hippies, so all leftover scraps (and I mean ALL leftover scraps) go into the compost bin, which sits prominently on the kitchen counter top. Literally every shaving of the rutabaga skin to banana peel to coffee grounds goes into the thing, so it was DEF due to be emptied after all the chopping and slicing and dicing for our x-mas meal.

Here’s one of the 2 bins that’s in the kitchen (it smells great).

Here’s my mom dumping it into the huge compost bin in the backyard. Yes, that swing set in the background is STILL there from when we were young! Churn it up a bit with the hand help hoe, and voila, you have your own “fresh” home-made fertilizer! Yes, green takes on a whole new meaning at our house…

Environmentally friendly. LOVE it!!

Some family shots:


Youngest sister, g-ma, me.


Bart and Uncle Matt.


Appetizer #1 (carrots, ginger snaps, and Trader Joe’s hummus). Sabra is still my fave hummus, but TJ’s is a close runner up.


Appetizer #2 (crackers and brie) – I didn’t have any of this one, although I did borrow a few of those whole wheat sesame seed crackers to dip in hummus.


Murphy Goode “Liar’s Dice” zin was the drink of choice for the night. Wine-o fam that we are, of course we had to have a zin with our own grapes 🙂
Middle sister pouring water for the grown up table.

The kids table.

Mom and youngest sister getting the potatoes out of the cauldron.

Middle sister pondering the most efficient way to fill the water pitcher.

The whole spread.

Stuffing! My portion was set aside separately, since it was made with veggie broth, rather than stuffed in the bird.


It did have walnuts 🙁 but I managed to avoid most of them.
Mashed potatoes made with veggie broth and without any cream or butter. Yep, my family was on board with the vegan cooking (and my sisters are both lactose intolerant, too).

Btw, peels left on = way better taste AND quicker prep. Two thumbs up for no more potato peeling!


From top to bottom, bowl of weird flavored croutons for a salad I didn’t try, then wild rice with butternut squash, and finally the root vegetables (my FAVE).

Here’s my plate…mostly root veggies, a bit of cranberry jelly, mashed potatoes, wild rice/butternut squash, and vegan stuffing.


The wild rice with butternut squash was a new recipe, and I really really liked it. I never would have thought to use butternut squash like that, but it was so good. The cranberry sauce was as amazing as ever. I only like the Ocean Spray canned kind, ridges and all…nothing else compares, I don’t care how fake and sugary it tastes, it’s the best. The stuffing was good, but I was caught off guard with the walnuts. Everyone else loves them, though, so that’s a battle I’ll never win. Hands down, the best of the meal were the root vegetables. OMG, I just love ’em. Sweet potatoes, turnips, and brussels, oh my! All they had on them was EVOO, salt and minced sage. Easy peasy!
Later we opened presents, had some coffee and busted out the desserts. There were no lactose free options really, so I went for round 2 of the root veggies.

On the late night I snacked on some Medjools.

These were GOOOEY

Of course family time, movies, and games kept me occupied the rest of the night. I can’t wait to play with my new toys tomorrow!