If it seems like there has been a two week delay in my delivering a Thanksgiving (or as I prefer, Thanksliving) followup, it’s because there certainly has been.
Let me explain. Immediately upon arriving home for Thanksgiving, Andrew and I were both hit hard with the sinus infections we had been fighting for days. It’s as if our bodies were saying, “Hey, we know we carried you through an art show and half marathon, but now, it’s time to slow down, rest and repair.”
Naturally, the combination of being home and being sick meant that every plan I thought I had for our trip fell through. Beyond that, it turned into a life lesson (our plans always fail us). It also meant extended family time, with both of our families. Above all, it left me with several valuable reminders:
- Being able to taste and enjoy food is truly such a blessing that should never be taken for granted.
- Snotty tissues are disgusting, but dogs still love to rip them up and chew on them.
- No matter how bad I feel, being at home and curling up on my mom’s couch watching HGTV makes me feel leaps and bounds better.
- Sometimes my body demands a level of rest and recovery that doesn’t include running.
- My flesh is impermanent, but my spirit is everlasting.
Ultimately, it reminded me—”We have food on the table and we are together. That’s really all that matters.”
Speaking of food, despite the circumstances, we were able to have two feasts—one with Andrew’s family on Thursday, and one with my mom on Friday. Here is a look at Friday’s Thanksliving feast showcasing the plant-based creations Andrew and I prepared.
Before departing from St. Augustine, I stopped by the produce stand to pick up all the veggies we would need for our menu, including sweet potatoes, onions, green beans, broccoli, and yellow squash. As a bonus, the produce man gave me an acorn squash I decided to turn into a hummus-filled appetizer.
To prepare, I boiled the squash for about 15 minutes to cook and soften, then sliced it in half, scooped out the gooey portion of the innards with a spoon, added a little vegan buttery spread to the rims, and placed it face down on a pan in the oven to bake for just a few minutes. The only thing that would have made this appetizer better was if I’d made my own hummus. In this case, my mom had some Sabra Spinach and Artichoke hummus on hand. Each bite of hummus was paired with warm, sweet buttery squash.
As for the the main features of our Thanksliving feast, I present to you our vegan spread.
While some were pre-made quick fixes, others were created entirely from scratch.
- Gardein Holiday Roast: This was the first year I opted to try a different Turkey alternative. Although the box told me to keep frozen until ready to serve, I didn’t read it and popped it in the fridge as soon as I got to my mom’s. This simply meant it cooked in half the time and was ready to go at the same time as the other dishes. The texture was spot on, much like Gardein’s other products.
- Stuffing: While at Whole Foods, I purchased 365 Everyday Value® Organic Vegan Stuffing Mix. Since there was a two for one deal, I grabbed another bag I’ll be mixing up when home for Christmas. This stuffing only demands you mix it with boiling water and is ready in just a few minutes.
- Cranberry: Picking up a can at Whole Foods meant I ended up with a variety absent of High Fructose Corn Syrup and it actually tasted tart just as cranberry should.
- His—Sweet Potato Something Awesome: Perhaps if Andrew makes this again at Christmas, I’ll have a recipe for you. For now, let me just say, he worked his sweet potato magic using a combination of sliced sweet spuds, vegan buttery spread, and a mixture of spices. The outcome was a baked sweet potato treat that was a huge hit at the table, and a welcomed alternative to a sugary casserole.
- Hers—Mimi’s Mega Veggie Casserole: Meanwhile, I made a veggie casserole. Rather than preparing individual squash, broccoli and bean casseroles, I ended up with one Mega Veggie Casserole. For this casserole, I referenced three individual recipes handwritten by my grandmother years ago, hence the name Mimi’s Mega Veggie Casserole. I like to think that my Irish Mimi is looking down on me always, but especially as I recreate her recipes in my own vegan way.
Although I wish I could take credit for how glorious the table looked, that was all my mom’s doing. She is the best at making the table look oh so festive for any occasion and arranging flowers to match.
Mimi’s Mega Veggie Casserole (Recipe)
- 1 basket of green beans
- 1 head of broccoli
- 3 yellow summer squash
- 1 onion
- 1 handful of mushrooms
- ½ bag Daiya Cheddar Cheese Shreds
- ½ cup Just Mayo
- ½ cup nutritional yeast flakes
- ½ – 1 package of Ritz Crackers
- 1 splash of Imagine Portobello Mushroom Soup (optional)
1. Rinse, Cut & Steam: First, I simply rinsed and chopped up a basket of green beans, a few yellow squash, an onion, and a head of broccoli. I then placed them in water in a pan on the stovetop to steam. After adding in garlic, pepper and salt to taste, I let the veggies steam for 10-15 minutes, then added a handful of sliced mushrooms. I removed from heat when the vegetables were softened and steamed to my liking.
2. Mix, Bake & Top: After draining off the residual water, I transferred the steamed veggies to a large mixing bowl. I combined the veggies with Just Mayo, nutritional yeast flakes and a splash of soup. (I later decided this soup splash was unnecessary. If you feel like the casserole is too dry, you could add a splash of almond milk). I then added bits of Ritz crackers, as well as Daiya cheese shreds. Once mixed, I poured into a glass baking dish (that I had previously coated lightly with melted vegan buttery spread). I popped the dish in the oven and baked at 325-350 degrees for 20 minutes to bring the flavors together. (I adjusted the temperature a couple of times for the sake of the Holiday Roast that was already heating). I then added more Daiya cheese shreds to the top and let it cook 10 more minutes. For the last couple of minutes, I added some Crispy Onions I’d snagged at Whole Foods.
3. Serve & Save: Not only did we serve ourselves sizable portions to feast on, we ate this casserole for the entirety of our time home, and enjoyed every bite. I am confident I’ll be remaking it in a couple of weeks for Christmas since it’s simple, easy and packed with delicious veggies.
O Christmas Tree!
Confession: I don’t particularly care for fake trees, and I don’t like trees being cut down and then thrown by the curb or ignited in flames post-holiday. Growing up, my family always had a potted tree inside of our house during the holidays and this is something that hasn’t changed. Each year my mom and I go to a nearby tree farm to pick out a Leeland Cyprus tree to live inside the house through the holidays. Come late January, the tree is planted in the backyard to live happily ever after. This tree pictured is about seven or eight years old. While our feast was baking, Andrew surprised my mom by putting new lights on the tree.
Not pictured on the other side of the yard are the rest of the trees from recent years. It’s true, my mom is inching her way closer and closer to having her own tree farm.
While outside admiring the illuminated tree, we couldn’t resist a cheesy photo opportunity with Sammy boy. Despite my dark hair mane, I’m noticing in recent photographs that the closer I inch toward 30 (still have a couple of years), the more I resemble my mother. And I’m not complaining.
This Month on VOTR
Since returning to St. Augustine, Andrew and I have had a lot of things cooking (literally and figuratively). Stay tuned for more posts coming your way this month, including my “Dine-In December” quest (plus the spontaneous road trip exception I’ve already made), thoughts on staying well this season and giving your body the rest it needs (even if it means time off running), products I actually consider worthwhile purchases (not just during Christmas), and Vega-licious reviews.
For recipes, run-spirations and other bits and pieces of interest in between blog posts, I invite you to connect with me via the following Social Media channels.