Monday, November 23, 2009

On a Day Nicknamed Turkey Day, What's a Vegan to Do?

So, this Thursday being Thanksgiving and all, I started thinking this past weekend about what I would serve. We'll be a small party of Pilgrims and Indians: me, Dyl, Ry, and our friend Megan, so a turkey seemed a bit much anyway.

When I became a vegan, I thought I would probably make exceptions for holidays. Then, I made the colossal mistake of reading Jonathan Safran Foer's Eating Animals. Oops. Honestly, it's a great book but full of lots of terrifying, disgusting, and depressing facts about factory farming and its widespread deleterious effects on not only the animals, but our health, and the environment. After I read the portion on poultry slaughterhouses, I knew I could never eat Thanksgiving turkey (two words: fecal soup...that's all I'm going to say...).

However, being a reasonable person who can look both ways down the animal product street, I knew Dylan and Megan (our friend Megan, not confusing!) might not be as keen on Tofurkey as I am, so I told Dylan he was in charge of the meat dish. He chose Cornish game hens instead of turkey, since there are only 2 1/2 meat eaters attending our little shindig. I also ordered a small pumpkin cheesecake for the dairy consumers. The rest of the feast will be vegan.

It turned out to be surprisingly easy to transform traditional Thanksgiving dishes into vegan Thanksgiving dishes. Our menu will include: mashed potatoes, mushroom gravy, sweet potato casserole, brussels sprouts, mushroom stuffing, and a vegan pumpkin cheesecake in addition to the Cornish game hens and Tofurkey and traditional pumpkin cheesecake.

I already shared with you the recipe for vegan mashed potatoes - just a simple substitute of non-dairy spread for butter and unsweetened soymilk for milk. The sweet potato casserole recipe hardly has to be changed at all. There are 2 T. of butter in it and it's an easy fix to switch that to non-dairy spread. The brussels sprouts just need to be tossed in olive oil, salt, and pepper and oven-roasted, which is exactly as I would have made them if I wasn't a vegan. The original stuffing recipe calls for sausage. I'm substituting shiitake mushrooms drizzled with soy sauce for that umami flavor.

Turns out it's pretty easy to create a vegan Thanksgiving. I worried at first that I would miss the bird, but then I realized that celebrating this way is my way of giving thanks. I am thankful that I live in a country where following an alternative diet is a possibility. I don't have to eat whatever I can find or grow or face starvation. I have the luxury of making food choices based on health, personal convictions, and even something as frivolous as personal taste, and I am very thankful for that.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

New Layout

This is for you, Jaime, for admitting publicly (okay semi-publicly) your love (okay enforced knowledge of) Star Trek: TNG. Hopefully it's kinder to your eyes ;).

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Mole-asses is Dee-licious

Hello faithful readers. I apologize for my absence. Life is nuts in my house, and we have been guilty of subsisting on foods that are completely un-blogworthy these past couple of weeks.

This weekend, I got the itch I get every fall, no not the fall cleaning itch (wish I got that one, my cleaning gene is missing, thanks parentals). I got the incurable, rolling-in-the-grass-type (this may not be an apt comparison for many of you... I only realized once I reached adulthood that not all children get covered in red, itchy bumps when they roll in the grass, but I'm sticking out my tongue at you and using it anyway) itch for molasses.

Mmmmm...molasses...every fall when the air starts to get crisp and the leaves start to turn colors (they actually do that here in Tennessee!), I get the urge to break out that bottle of viscous, black goo and make something chewy and delicious. I have a similar fall reaction to pumpkin, but that one kicked in earlier this year and I seem to be mostly over it already.

This weekend the molasses urge fell upon me without warning and I immediately baked molasses chewies and an Apple Spice Upside-down Coffeecake. While the molasses chewies recipe definitely needs some tweaking (they morphed into one thin pancake that was so chewy it could probably remove loose teeth...I have the recipe if any of you have the type of weeny kid who won't pull out his/her own loose teeth and leave them hanging there by a disgusting thread of bloody gum tissue), and the upside-down coffeecake was not nearly apple-y enough owing to major apple shrinkage, the itch has been definitely and satisfyingly scratched.

For those of you who don't know, there are 3 grades of molasses: mild, dark, and blackstrap. I'm a blackstrap girl myself. Apart from the fact that peering down into the bottle gives me a rush of tingly adrenaline as I imagine the black goo morphing into the tarry monster that killed Tasha Yar (if you don't know, go watch all seasons of Star Trek Next Generation now: we can't be friends until you're finished), it has a deeper, richer flavor, and is a great source of calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron! Who knew sweeteners could have actual nutritional value? One caveat: the sweetness is mild and the flavor is STUH-RONG, so I would not use it as the sole sweetener in a recipe; a little bit goes a long way. Apart from its use in baking, it's yummy drizzled onto pancakes (extra points if they're cornmeal pancakes), or swirled into hot cereal. Plus, I mean, does it get any cooler than "blackstrap"? What a bad-ass name!

So, go out and buy some molasses. Heck, if you decide the taste is not for you (wuss!), you can always use it to remove rust, as a component of mortar or animal feed, to treat burns, as a soil additive in your garden to promote healthy microbial growth, as an iron supplement if the traditional kind, well, stops you up, or you can stick it in your pipe and smoke it (literally, molasses is often mixed with hookah tobacco).

Three cheers for mole-asses (and yes spelling it that way tickles my juvenile funny-bone).