If you’re following a vegan or vegetarian diet, Thanksgiving can be an especially difficult holiday to spend around the table with omnivorous friends and family who cook with dairy, eggs, and meat. Besides hosting your own plant-based Thanksgiving dinner, another option is to offer to bring appetizers, sides, main courses, or desserts wherever you’ve been invited to dine.
We asked a few Holistic Holiday at Sea presenters for some of their favorite recipes to help you prepare foods that are not only tasty, but healthy and kind to animals. Now, isn’t that the perfect way to truly give thanks?
Tasty Plant-Based Side Dishes
Many traditional Thanksgiving ingredients are naturally vegan: green beans, sweet potatoes, brussels sprouts, mushrooms, carrots, cranberries, squash, and root vegetables. Matt Frazier, founder of No Meat Athlete, tells us, “For a plant-based Thanksgiving, my favorite approach is to make a lot of side dishes, which I’ve always considered the most interesting part of Thanksgiving dinner anyway. With enough good side dishes, you don’t even need to worry about replacing the turkey. This also works well if you’ll be a guest at a non-vegan table: bring along a few sides, and you’ll know that even if there’s nothing else for you to eat, at least you can load up your plate with the dishes you brought, while also being able to contribute something to the meal.”
The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts and the Rest of Your Life (2017), written by Matt and longtime health coach, yoga teacher, and nutrition writer Stepfanie Romine, contains 150 whole food, vegan recipes. Here is one of them!
Tahini Green Beans* from Matt Frazier
Serves: 2 to 4
Time: 15 minutes
This recipe quickly entered regular rotation for everyone who tested it; the tahini and sesame seeds make green beans incredibly enticing with very little effort. If you are a dipper, serve the sauce on the side and eat the green beans like fries. This technique also works with steamed or roasted broccoli, cauliflower, carrots, or beets.
1 pound (454 g) green beans, washed and trimmed
2 tablespoons gluten-free tahini
1 garlic clove, minced
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
Salt and black pepper
1 teaspoon toasted black or white sesame seeds, optional
- Steam the beans in a medium saucepan fitted with a steamer insert (or by adding 1⁄4 cup/60 ml water to a covered saucepan) over medium-high heat. Drain, reserving the cooking water.
- Mix the tahini, garlic, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Use the reserved cooking water to thin the sauce as desired.
- Toss the green beans with the sauce and serve warm or at room temperature. Garnish with the sesame seeds, if using.
From frozen: Use a pound of frozen French-style haricots verts. Run them under hot water until thawed, and drain well.
*Recipe from The No Meat Athlete Cookbook: Whole Food, Plant-Based Recipes to Fuel Your Workouts and the Rest of Your Life © Matt Frazier and Stepfanie Romine, 2017. Photographs copyright © Ken Carlson, Waterbury Publications Inc. Reprinted by permission of the publisher, The Experiment. Available wherever books are sold. theexperimentpublishing.com
Creamy Mushroom Bisque
Warm up on with a bowl of this delicious soup. This recipe by Bryanna Clark Grogan can be found in the book Dr. Neal Barnard’s Program for Reversing Diabetes: The Scientifically Proven System for Reversing Diabetes Without Drugs by Neal Barnard, M.D.
A food processor turns this soup into a rich, creamy treat with a delightful mushroom flavor. Take comfort in knowing that this is lower in fat than your conventional dairy-laden bisque.
1 small onion, finely chopped
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tablespoons dry sherry
2 teaspoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
salt, to taste
12 ounces mushrooms, sliced
2/3 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1 bay leaf
5 cups low-sodium mushroom broth
dairy-free (vegan) parmesan cheese substitute (optional)
- Steam-fry onion in a heavy nonstick skillet over medium heat until soft but not browned, adding very small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking and burning. (Or place in a microwavable dish, cover, and microwave on high for 3 minutes.)
- Place broth, bay leaf, thyme, and oats in a medium saucepan. Add onion and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes, or until oats are soft.
- Meanwhile, steam-fry mushrooms in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over high heat, adding a sprinkle of salt and very small amounts of water as needed to prevent sticking and burning. Cook until mushrooms release and reabsorb their liquid. Remove from heat and set aside.
- When oats are soft, remove bay leaf and puree the soup until creamy with a hand-held blender or in batches in a blender or food processor. (Remove the middle part of the blender or food processor’s lid so hot air can escape. Cover the hole loosely with a folded clean cloth while blending.)
- Return the soup to the pan and add mushrooms, soy sauce, sherry, if using, salt, black pepper, and vegan parmesan substitute, if using. Serve hot.
Game Day Twice Baked Potato Skins from Rip Esselstyn
Rip Esselstyn, founder of Engine 2 and author of The Engine 2 Diet (2009) and Plant-Strong: Discover the World’s Healthiest Diet (2015), shared with us this recipe from The Engine 2 Diet.
¼ cup red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
½ cup yellow onion, chopped
½ cup spinach, chopped
½ cup yellow corn
½ cup nutritional yeast
½ cup low sodium BBQ sauce
2 teaspoons smoked paprika
½ teaspoon black pepper
8 medium to large Russet potatoes
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
- Wash the potatoes and place in the oven on a baking sheet for 60 minutes, or until fork tender.
- In a small bowl, combine the bell pepper, onion, spinach and corn.
- When the potatoes are done baking, remove from the oven and allow to cool for several minutes for easier slicing.
- Slice the potatoes in half length-wise and scoop out the potato flesh, leaving the skin and some potato as your empty skin to load with filling.
- Place the scooped-out potato in a large bowl. Add the nutritional yeast, BBQ sauce, black pepper and one teaspoon of the smoked paprika.
- Use a potato masher or a large spoon to combine the spices and BBQ sauce with the potatoes to make a mash.
- Combine the vegetables in the small bowl with the potato mixture in the large bowl.
- Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
- Fill the empty potato skins with the vegetable and potato mixture.
- Sprinkle the remaining teaspoon of smoked paprika on the potatoes.
- Bake the filled potato skins for 30 minutes. Serve with BBQ sauce for dipping.
Save a Turkey
Commemorating a holiday with friends and family over a dead bird doesn’t really make much sense, does it? Farm Sanctuary’s Adopt a Turkey program, which began in 1986, has led to the rescue of more than 1,000 turkeys from brutal deaths. This program gives us the chance to sponsor a rescued turkey at one or more of the Farm Sanctuary shelters. We are so excited Farm Sanctuary co-founder Gene Baur will join us once again on the upcoming cruise.
In lieu of meat, amaze guests with the tofu turkey from Jessica Porter, author of The MILF Diet and The Hip Chick’s Guide to Macrobiotics, or Lynn’s Meatloaf brought to us by athlete, firefighter, and author Rip Esselstyn (both below).
Tofu Turkey with Mushroom Gravy from Jessica Porter
This recipe is an adaptation of one I got from Jane Quincannon Stanchich, one of my closest friends and a fantastic chef. She is a gem.
Handheld blender or food processor
A medium-sized colander
A baking sheet
A pastry brush
A large measuring cup
Knife, wooden spoons, and the other usual stuff
5 lbs extra firm tofu
Toasted sesame oil
Celery (a few stalks)
Seitan (if you like it)
Unyeasted, whole wheat sourdough bread, in cubes
Poultry seasoning (as much as you want)
Ingredients for Gravy
Brown rice vinegar (optional)
Instructions for the “Turkey”
The night before: Whiz the 5 lbs. of tofu in a really big bowl with a handheld blender. If you don’t have one, it’s a great time to go get one. They are cheap ($30?) and soooooooo useful. Or, If you don’t have one and aren’t going to get one, you can puree the tofu in a food processor, in batches, until it’s all smooth and creamy. There may be a few lumps, but nothing big. As you are blending, add about 2 tablespoons of shoyu to the tofu to give it a little extra taste. The more daring may add some herbs…
You now have a 5 lb blob of tofu. Congratulations! Take a colander (medium-sized or smallish are best—the bigger the colander, the flatter the “turkey” will be) and line it with a double layer of cheesecloth, with about six inches extra on each side. Place the colander on a big plate or baking sheet. Spoon your tofu blob into the cheesecloth-lined colander until it molds completely to the colander. A little tofu “milk” will start coming through the colander. That’s good. That’s why you’re doing this, to press all excess liquid out of the tofu, making it a sturdier turkey. Fold the extra cheese cloth over the top of the tofu and place a plate and a weight on top of that. Let sit overnight in the fridge.
The next day: Take the turkey out of the fridge. Pour off any extra tofu liquid that seeped out overnight from the baking sheet or whatever you had the colander sitting on. Remove the weight, the plate, and pull back the extra cheese cloth to reveal the bottom of the “dome” that will be your turkey. Now here’s the tricky part: You must now dig into the upside-down dome, with your hand, creating a space in the middle that you will put the stuffing into. Try to dig so that you leave about 1/2 to 1 inch of tofu between you and the colander—in other words, so the dome maintains a decent thickness all round. If you find that you dig too far, you can repair it with tofu, but do your best to dig a nice ditch in the tofu, leaving the walls of the dome thick enough to protect the stuffing. Does that make sense?
Now you have a pile of tofu and an upside-down dome of tofu. Your parents must be very proud!
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees and start working on the stuffing:
Instructions for Stuffing:
In a skillet, heat the oil, and saute the onions and a pinch of salt for about 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and another pinch of salt. Add celery, seitan, poultry seasoning and bread. Sprinkle with shoyu to taste. You know what you like in a stuffing. Do whatever you want to achieve that. Make way more than you need because extra stuffing is one of life’s great benefits. When the stuffing makes you all happy and say “ooooo,” then place it in the dome of tofu, packing it down well. Take the rest of your dug-out tofu (leaving aside about 1/2 cup) and place it on top of the stuffing (and on top of the dome edges), making a bottom for the dome. Pack it down well.
Tricky part number two: Now, take a baking sheet and place it over the colander. Make sure it covers it completely. Hold them together tightly. In a graceful and quick maneuver, flip the whole colander upside-down, so that your dome now sits on the baking sheet. Remove the colander. Remove the cheesecloth, and voila! That’s your un-cooked “turkey.” If there are any cracks in the turkey, do your best to repair them with your leftover tofu. If they are really bad, just chalk it up to experience–you’ll do much better next year (or try again at Christmas!) and this will still taste great.
Make a mixture of 2 parts sesame oil to 1 part shoyu and, using a pastry brush, baste the turkey with it. Be generous with the basting. Cover the turkey with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour. Uncover, baste again and cook for 15 more minutes, uncovered. Baste one more time and cook for 15 minutes more. Let sit for 1 hour before cutting, while you make your gravy!!
Instructions for Gravy
Dice a bunch of onions and mushrooms. Saute onions first, with a pinch of salt, until translucent and yummy, then add mushrooms, another pinch of salt, and saute until softened and wilty.
Apparently, I just made up that word: Wilty. I know that because my computer has put a red line beneath it. Oh well.
Anyway, pour some water in a large measuring cup and add water to this saute, equalling the amount of gravy you want. You have the measuring cup so that you know how much liquid you’re using—you will need to know this for when you add the kuzu later. So make a mental note of it.
Then add shoyu, carefully, to taste (you might want to start with 1 teaspoon per cup of liquid, and add from there if desired). I haven’t given strict measurements here because a) I’m lazy and b) you are the arbiter of your gravy’s strength and saltiness. You can also add mirin (about 1/3 the amount of shoyu you put in) and a dash of brown rice vinegar, if you like. I find that the combo of the shoyu, mirin and just a touch of brown rice vinegar makes for a nice meaty flavor in the gravy.
Let it all come to a boil and then simmer for at least 10 minutes.
Now, measure out the equivalent of 1 level tablespoon of kuzu per cup of gravy liquid. If it’s not perfect, don’t worry–if the gravy ends up being not thick enough, you can add more kuzu, and if it’s too thick, you can add more water and shoyu. I think gravy should be a pleasurable, sort of intuitive dish, so don’t get too hung up on it.
What you need to get hung up on, though, is that kuzu needs to be diluted in cold water and be lump-free before being added to the gravy. If you add chunks of undiluted kuzu, they will become unbreakable lumps in the gravy. So when your kuzu is nice and diluted (you can break it up with your fingers in the cold water—I recommend that), add it slowly to the gravy as you stir it vigorously. The gravy will become glossy and thicken. Let it come to a boil, then reduce flame to a simmer. If the gravy is not thick enough for you, add more kuzu. If it’s too thick, add more liquid. Once you’ve gotten the thickness right, let it simmer for about 10 minutes before serving on slices of tofu turkey.
Cranberry Sauce from Jessica Porter
1 bag cranberries – usually 12 ounces
grated zest and juice of 2 oranges
3/4 cup maple syrup or more if you want it sweeter
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or one cinnamon stick)
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
3/4 cup of water
If cooking in a saucepan: heat your cranberries, orange zest and juice, maple syrup and spices over medium to high heat. After 7 to 10 minutes add the water and stir for another five. Serve chilled.
Lynn’s Meatloaf from Rip Esselstyn
This is a great “meat” loaf recipe from one of the Engine 2 Pilot Study participants, Lynn Jocelyn. Lynn brought this to the Engine 2 pot-luck awards banquet and it disappeared before everyone could get a bite. She graciously brought two loaves over for Jill and me one week after Kole was born.
2 stalks celery, chopped
½ onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
10 ounces firm tofu, drained
¼ cup walnuts, finely ground
1 ½ cups cooked brown lentils
1 ¼ cups quick-cooking oats
3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons ketchup
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons dried parsley
½ teaspoon each thyme, sage and rosemary
Ketchup, to taste (for topping)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Sauté celery, onion and garlic on high heat in skillet with a little water or low sodium vegetable broth for 5 minutes or until tender. Remove from heat and cool.
- Mash tofu in a large bowl.
- Stir in cooked mixture and remaining ingredients, combining well.
- Spoon mixture into a loaf pan. Top with a layer of ketchup. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
Melissa Karpel, Philanthropic Specialist with the PETA Foundation, is loving these Vegan Rose desserts by Elephantastic Vegan: “Making delicious meals is easy anytime of the year, including Thanksgiving! Impress any guests, vegan or not, with these easy vegan rose desserts. I just made these the other day and they are really beautiful. I added a mixture of chopped walnuts, Earth Balance margarine, and cinnamon.” So good and so vegan!”
Here’s Melissa’s version of the recipe by Elephantastic Vegan.
1 package vegan puff pastry dough
1 Red Delicious apple
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon Earth Balance (optional)
1 lemon slice
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Take the vegan puff pastry dough out of the fridge to thaw for 30 minutes.
- Slice the apple into very thin slices. Boil in a mixture of water with lemon juice (to prevent browning) for a few minutes until soft.
- When the puff pastry dough is thawed, roll it out into a thin sheet and cut into horizontal strips no wider than 2 inches.
- Lay the apples along the edge of the dough strips from one end to the other, with the rounded side of the apple at the top. Place the apple slices on the pastry dough strips.
- Roll each strip from left to right onto itself. It turns into little roses!
- Place each one in a greased muffin tin.
- (Optional) Combined a mixture of small walnut pieces, melted vegan margarine, and cinnamon into a bowl and sprinkle on top or place inside.
- Bake for about 35 minutes. If the apples burn, move to a lower shelf in the oven.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving!
From our Holistic Holiday at Sea family to yours, we wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving. There is so much we are grateful for—including you! Enjoy trying out these recipes and spending time with those you love. See you onboard in February!