Countdown to Your Best Vegan Thanksgiving
Five Dishes Everyone at Your Table Will Be Thankful For

Thanksgiving is my favorite time of year to be vegan. Though I am thankful every day that I chose many years ago to live more compassionately, it is during this season that I celebrate my favorite tastes and textures…and share them with you.

The mouthwatering menu I have selected for you features two entrée-like dishes, both meals in themselves because of the balance of ingredients: greens, grains, veggies and more.  So delightfully pretty, filling, and creamy are these dishes that the only side dish I recommend is a fresh bright salad that sounds some special autumnal notes in the form of dried fruits and smoked nuts.  All that remains to round out this bountiful fall feast is my late mother’s Double Cornfingers which I recommend serving in place of stuffing.  For dessert, I offer a recipe I developed for Tofutti a few years back that is a perennial favorite.  These pumpkin cheesecake bars with their streusel topping are super quick and easy but doesn’t look like it, especially when sliced and served on frilly paper doilies.

Each item listed in the menu below is linked to its recipe, and following the menu are captioned photos that will help you envision how your beautiful table will look as everyone gathers around with gratitude.

Speaking of gratitude, I am so grateful for all of you who make my platter bloom throughout the year.  With nurturing wishes to you and yours during this holiday season and always.

~Betsy DiJulio

Blooming Platter Vegan Thanksgiving Menu 2017

Butternut Squash Lasagna (with Smokey Marinara Sauce and Kale Pesto)
Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Sallie’s Double Corn Fingers
3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
Vegan Butternut Squash Lasagna
Vegan Acorn Squash Stuffed with Creamy Rice and Greens Stovetop Casserole
Kale-Salad-with-Pomegranate-Balsamic-Marinated-Figs-and-Dates-Topped-with-Smoked-Almonds1
Vegan Kale Salad with Pomegranate Balsamic Marinated Figs and Dates Topped with Smoked Almonds
Vegan Double Corn Fingers
Vegan 3-Layer Oatmeal Pumpkin Streusel Bars
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Vegan Red Curry Popcorn with Cashews and Cabbage
(I know this sounds a bit odd,
but it is outrageously declicious)

Yield: 2 servings.

This recipe defies both description and categorization; hence, I didn’t know whether to tag it as a vegetable side dish, snack, slaw, or ???  I suppose it could even be a main dish.

But, no matter.  Whatever you call it or whenever you eat it–I was starved, so I invented it on the fly and devoured it for “brunch” today, as I am home on Spring Break with a bit more time to experiment–you will love it, odd as it sounds.

Be sure to serve it in a pretty Asian bowl with chopsticks to make a mouthwatering presentation that is as fun to eat as it is pretty.

1 tablespoon vegan butter

3 tablespoons vegan sour cream (you could use mayo or the thick part of coconut milk that separates in the can, but I wanted less calories)

1/4 teaspoon prepared Thai Red Curry Paste (feel free to add a bit more if you desire a more pronounced flavor and more heat)

1-2 tablesoon vegan fish sauce (sold as vegetarian in Asian markets), lime juice or half of each

6 cups popped kettle corn (slightly sweet and salty)

1/2 cup shredded purple cabbage (I buy it shredded in the bag; the type with some shredded carrot mixed in would be delicious too)

1/4 cup lightly roasted and salted cashew halves or peanuts + a couple for garnish

1 tablespoon pinched fresh cilantro leaves (feel free to chop but I was to impatient) + 2 sprigs for garnish

In a medium-large bowl, melt butter with sour cream in microwave for 30 seconds to a minute.whisk in curry paste and fish sauce.  Fold in remaining ingredients, except garnishes.  Pile into two small Asian-style bowls, garnish with cilantro sprigs and cashew halves, and serve immediately with chopsticks so that popcorn doesn’t become soggy.

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Vegan Maple-Mustard Roasted Tri-Color Roasted Carrots
with Lemon

Yield: 8 servings

This Christmas, one of new traditions, I didn’t make a single recipe for Christmas Dinner that I had ever made before.  All turned out to be new favorites, and none prettier than this delightful dish of roasted tri-color carrots (photographed pre-roasting).  Everyone knows that maple and mustard is a winning combination, but I think the secret ingredient is the sliced lemon that gets roasted right along with the carrots.

2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 large garlic cloves, minced
2 teaspoons cumin seeds
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 1/2 pounds rainbow carrots, scrubbed, halved lengthwise, and then cut into two-inch pieces
1 lemon, thinly sliced, seeds removed

Preheat oven to 450° and lightly oil a large roasting pan. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together olive oil, maple syrup, garlic, cumin seeds, salt and pepper.  Place carrots and lemon in prepared pan, drizzle with oil mixture, and toss to coat.  Roast, gently stirring occasionally, until carrots are tender and lemons are caramelized, about 35 to 40 minutes.  You may roast the carrots several hours ahead, let them cool, cover and chill them.  About a half hour before serving time, bring them to room temperature and reheat for a few minutes in a 350 degree oven or in microwave.

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Vegan “Old School” Creamy Green Bean, Lima Bean,
and Green Pea Casserole

Yield: 4 servings (easily doubles)

This is a bit more old school than my typical fare.  But, this Christmas, I was joyfully cooking for Bob’s family, some of whom–including him–have less adventurous palates than I do.

And, I have to admit that I enjoy this kind of “comfort food” from my childhood.  What I wanted to prepare was a dish that my late mother made whenever she and my father grilled flank steak–eek!–but my sister couldn’t find the recipe in her recipe files

The dish contained all of these vegetables, but no mayonnaise or cheese.  I can’t recall whether her recipe called for onion, nor whether there might have been a hint of Worcestershire or soy sauce in the dish; I might be remembering those ingredients from the marinade.  Regardless, this is a delicious and creamy–if not terribly low calorie–trip down Nostalgia Lane.  And everyone loved it as the perfect green element on our pretty dinner plates.

1-10 ounce package frozen green beans

1-10 ounce package frozen lima beans

1-10 ounce package frozen green peas

1 to 2 teaspoons olive oil

1/2 cup diced yellow onion

1/2 cup vegan sour cream

1/2 cup vegan mayonnaise

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1/2 cup grated vegan parmesan cheese (in a bag, not a can)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Cook frozen vegetables according to package directions and drain.  I like to use the microwave.  Drain vegetables. Meanwhile, saute onion in olive oil over medium-highheat  until tender. Stir in sour cream, mayonnaise, salt, pepper, and drained vegetables.  Transfer to the prepared casserole dish.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until heated through.

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Day 18: Indian Cauliflower with Black Mustard Seeds AND Orange Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Indian Cauliflower(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

Today I decided to tackle two recipes. In the interest of full disclosure, my reason for this was that I had doubts about both dishes so I figured if I didn’t like the one then hopefully I would like the other.

So the first one is Indian Cauliflower with Black Mustard Seeds. Because I have put in my time at the grocery store spice displays, I had most of the spices needed…except for the elusive black mustard seed. I went to my usual stores and even went to Kroger which is out of my way, but I did it and got nothing. I even tried Target! I jokingly said that I could turn my own dang mustard seeds black – I’m a pro at burning things! So I ended up with regular mustard seeds. I followed along with the directions and while I am stirring the beautiful and now orange cauliflower (thanks to the turmeric), I was also stirring the “yellow” mustard seeds over high heat in the butter and oil.

I was feeling like a pretty accomplished cook stirring two pots at once and all of a sudden the mustard seeds started popping like popcorn – all over my arm and then all over the stove and counter tops! Who knew mustard seeds could do this?? There should have been a warning label! But seriously who tries popping mustard seeds? I quickly took it off the heat and looked in the pot and the remaining mustard seeds were, in fact, black. Well mission accomplished! There they are – black mustard seeds!

Orange Salad with Cumin VinaigretteThe recipe then said to “drizzle” the mustard seed mixture over the cauliflower – mine sorted of plopped over it in chunks but I spread them out to look like it was drizzled. While this one cooled a little I started on my next recipe – the Orange Salad with Cumin Vinaigrette. I gathered all the ingredients and discovered that the olives I had purchased especially for this from the olive bar at the grocery store were half gone. My husband admitted he just couldn’t help himself. Ok so now I am cutting the recipe in half – not a problem! (I knew they wouldn’t eat it anyway).

This recipe came together with no mishaps in about five minutes. It could not have been easier. The presentation was really pretty with the orange and green together. Now for the taste test. The cauliflower was good but it lacked the pizzazz of the other recipes according to my family. This was totally my fault for not using the correct mustard seeds and then only half the amount seeing as how the other half of the seeds were spread around my kitchen. The orange salad was really good but very intense so I decided I would add spinach leaves and make it more of a traditional salad. My guys would have nothing to do with this one (fruits have no place in their salads) so you’ll just have to take my word on it.

And…if I ever see black mustard seeds I am buying them and trying this again- as long as they are not the price of cardamon or saffron that is.

~Kim Hastings

Kim Hastings

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Day 6: Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini–“Cooking ‘The Blooming Platter Cookbook’ Julie & Julia Style”

Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini(A sequential installment from Kim Hastings, my photographer friend and, along with her vet husband, owner of Independence Veterinary Hospital, who decided on her own to cook her way through The Blooming Platter Cookbook: A Harvest of Seasonal Vegan Recipes Julie & Julia Style for her omnivorous family as a strategy for more healthy eating.)

It’s leftover night at our house which is the night we clear out the fridge and put it all out on the counter as a self service buffet. There was a serious lack of anything green so I quickly decided to do a recipe that caught my eye a few days ago: Panko Topped Cheesy Zucchini. I read through the recipe while hiding out in the living room so I could impress my family by whipping up something new and tasty in less than 10 minutes and without them knowing it was from the vegan cookbook.

I grated up the zucchini on a box grater and started sautéing it. My husband was grazing at the counter and watching the preparation so now I can’t refer back to the book. Just great! I remember it said something about the zucchini releasing moisture. What the heck does that mean? So we watched expectantly and suddenly there it happened! Liquid started forming. Since he was standing there, I had described the process I now vaguely remember. Next I know it said something about evaporation. This is turning into a science project. So we watched until we decided the liquid had disappeared sufficiently. That’s when I threw in a handful of real Parmesan cheese – yes I cheated…again. Sorry.
Earlier I had dumped some Panko into another small pan and started toasting it. Unfortunately I burnt them a little when I ran to sneak a look at the cookbook about how much cheese. But no matter, I put the zucchini on a serving plate and topped it with the Panko. Done!! So easy!!

We each took a bite and literally couldn’t stop. We ended up eating almost all of it while standing at the counter. We only stopped out of guilt for not leaving any for our son (who loved it too).

This recipe is definitely going to be repeated over and over in our home. Oh and as part of my dedication to this challenge, I will be trying the “cheese” that is supposed to be used in this dish – I promise!

~~Kim Howard Hastings

Kim Hastings

 

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Vegan Middle Eastern Roasted Tri-Color Carrots and Fennel with Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots with Yogurt, Chickpea, Cucumber ToppingYield: 6 servings

On Saturday, I found myself bringing home produce before I had even prepared produce from a Whole Foods run a couple of weeks ago.  Afraid that something would go bad before I could get to it, I just combined the beautiful tri-color carrots from the earlier trip with today’s fennel bulb.  I also roasted golden beets, but in a foil pouch and I’m not yet sure what I’m going to do with those little beauties.

In the meantime, enjoy this lovely dish with it’s mellow Middle Eastern flavor notes in either–or both–of two ways.  There are lots of tried and true carrot marriages, e.g. dill, mustard, orange, and maple.  But I wanted something a little different.  So, while I did include mustard and dried orange peel, I substituted tamarind syrup for maple and added several of my favorite Middle Eastern spices.  If you aren’t able to find tamarind or pomegranate syrup, maple will be tasty; and fresh lemon zest–say 1/2 teaspoon– is a fine substitution for sumac, just not quite as earthy.

As you can see below, the carrots are a beautiful side dish and I hope you’ll trust me on the taste.  However, yesterday, home form school for President’s Day, I wanted a lunch of the carrots, but with some protein.  Remembering that I had purchased a cucumber on Saturday and had some chickpeas and vegan sour cream on hand (here, no one sells unsweetened vegan yogurt), it occured to me that, combined, they would make a luscious and fresh-tasting protein-packed sauce for the carrots.  And they were.  Enjoy these beautiful roots as a side or a main dish and you’ll be blissfully content either way.

Middle Eastern Roasted Carrots

1 fennel bulb with stalks

1 pound tri-color carrots (or any carrots, really), trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias

1 tablespoon olive oil

Sea Salt

Freshly ground black peopper

1 tablespoon tamarind or pomegranate molasses

1 tablespoon whole grain mustard

1 teaspoon dried coriander

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon dried orange peel

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 teaspoon sumac

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/4 teaspoon turmeric

4 cloves garlic, halved

Optional Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce (recipe follows)

Optional Garnish: reserved fennel fronds, whole or chopped pistachios, and smoked paprika (note, if you serve the carrots with the sauce, stir the fennel fronds into it and garnish with the pistachios and smoked paprika)

Preheat oven to 450 degrees.  Remove fennel fronds from stalks, finely chop, and store, covered, in the refrigerator.  Trim stalks from fennel bulb and cut into 1-inch pieces on the bias.  Cut bulb in half and then slice each half into 6 to 8 wedges, about 3/4-inch thick at the widest part. Drizzle 1 tablespoon olive oil into a large roasting pan.  Add fennel stalks and bulb wedges, carrots, and about 1/2 teaspoon sea salt adn 1/4 teaspoon black pepper.  Stir well to coat vegetables with oil.  Roast for 30 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes.  Whisk together molasses, mustard, corander, cumin, orange peel, smoked paprika, garlic powder and turmeric.  Drizzle over vegetables, add garlic, and stir to coat.  Roast another 10 to 20 minutes, stirring after 10, or until desired degree of caramelization is achieved.  (I like a lot of caramelization, so I roast them another 20, but be aware that the sugar content in the syrup means that too they will scorch more easily after it is added.)  Check for seasoning and stir in more salt and pepper if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature garnished, if desired, with the reserved fennel fronds,  pistachios, and smoked paprika, or topped with the Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce and garnished as desired.

Cucumber-Chickpea “Yogurt” Sauce

1/2 cup vegan unsweetened yogurt or sour cream

1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

1-7 to 8-inch cucumber, diced

Reserved finely chopped fennel fronds

1/8th teaspoon garlic powder

Pinch sea salt and freshly ground pepper

In a medium bowl, fold together all ingredients until well combined and chill in the refrigerator, covered, until serving time.

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Vegan Zucchini and Yellow Squash Torta (with simple Tomato-Cucumber Salad)

Zucchini and Yellow Squash Torta 2Yield: 4 main dish servings (2 slices each, as they are so light) or 8 side dish servings

Last Tuesday, realizing that I was leaving town in a couple of days (for my annual summer day hiking trip with my cousin Earl) and that I had a big beautiful zucchini and yellow squash from the farmer’s market in the fridge, I realized I needed to create something that would showcase them for lunch for the next couple of days.

Whatever it was, I wanted it to be light with a chilled component.  With just about a cup of tofu in the fridge, the idea of a salad-topped torta struck and I set about seeing what I could come up with.

The result was a well-behaved  one-dish meal that is as addicting as it is nutritious and low calorie.  In fact, this dish is so light, who cares if you wipe out the whole torta in one setting?  Okay, well maybe half.  I confess to devouring three slices for lunch both days.

1 tablespoon olive oil

1-8 inch zucchini (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

1-8 inch yellow squash (about 2″ in diameter at widest section), very thinly sliced

Sea salt

Freshly ground black pepper

2 large cloves garlic, minced

7 to 8 ounces extra firm regular tofu (half of a 14 to 16 ounce box, however your favorite brand is sold)

1 cup milk

2 tablespoons flour

1 tablespoon cornstarch

1 tablespoon nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon Liquid Aminos or soy sauce

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg (nothing beats freshly ground!)

8 to 12 fresh basil leaves

Tomato Cucumber Salad (recipe follows)

Garnish: sprigs of fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  In a large cast iron skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and yellow squash slices and a pinch of sea salt and pepper.  Saute, stirring frequently, for 2 to 3 minutes or until squash begins to soften.  Add 1 clove of minced garlic and saute, stirring frequently, for another 2 to 3 minutes or until squash is perfectly tender and most of moisture is absorbed/evaporated.  Remove from heat and lightly smooth the top to create a flat surface.  In a food processor, blend all remaining ingredients, except basil, including remaining clove of garlic, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt, and 1/8 teaspoon black pepper.  Add basil leaves and pulse just to chop and distribute.  Pour mixture over cooked squashes, sealing to edges.  Bake in center of oven for about 35 minutes or until set and lightly browned on top.  Cool about 15 minutes or until just warm for best flavor, texture, and easy removal from the pan.  Serve topped with Tomato Cucumber Salad and garnished with fresh basil sprigs.

Tomato Cucumber Salad

1 cup diced cucumber

1 cup quartered cherry or grape tomatoes

2 teaspoons mild vinegar like cider or malt

Pinch Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a small bowl, gently combine all ingredients.  Check for seasoning and adjust to taste.

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Vegan Mashed Beets with “Butter” and “Sour Cream”–Win Over Beet Haters!

Mashed Beets with Butter and Sour CreamYield: 4 servings

Saturday night, Joe and I and two other couples celebrated not only the almost-Summer Solstice, but the inaugural dinner of our Starlight Supper Club (named after the Stardust Supper Club in the small town where I grew up).

The first dinner was hosted by Becky Bump and Reese Lusk, two inspired cooks and highly creative individuals:  Reese is an artist and designer and Becky owns a public relations firm.  I have been fantasizing about the appetizer–and the pie!–ever since and, in fact, we had not been home from the party a full 12 hours before I was roasting beets to make my version of their Beet Bruschetta–genius!  Stay tuned for this recipe on Saturday, June 27.

But I had a lot of beets and remembered that Reese had said that the only way he enjoys beets is in my Beet Muhummara which is, if I so stay so, a spectacular spread.  But I started wondering why beets couldn’t be prepared like mashed potatoes, complete with butter, sour cream, cream, salt and pepper.  And they can:  wow!

Mashed beets are beautiful and delicious and, while they still taste like the best of beets, the other ingredients mask that beet-y “whang” that some folks don’t care for.

8 “woman’s fist size” beets, trimmed, but  not peeled (the beets will shrink as they roast)

olive oil

sea salt

4 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons vegan butter

4 tablespoons vegan sour cream

2 tablespoons plain soy creamer (unsweetened if you can find it)

1/4 teaspoon onion powder

Sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Optional garnish: fresh thyme sprigs

Prheat oven to 375 degrees.  Place beets on a sheet of foil on a baking sheet (to catch any overflow juices), rub with a little olive oil, and sprinkle with just a bit of sea salt.  Wrap and roast for about an hour (check for tenderness at 45 minutes).  Unwrap, allow to cool for about 10 minutes or until comfortable to handle, peel, and cut into quarters.  Put through a food ricer or puree in a food processor with remaining ingredients.  Serve warm, topped with a tiny pad butter (about 1/2 teaspoon) and a sprig of thyme if desired.

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