Thanksgiving, Hold the Turkey

Nothing about 2020 is normal, so why not skip tradition and prep a plant-based feast for Thanksgiving this year? Whether you’re hosting vegetarians, are concerned about your own meat consumption, or just want to try something new, a vegetarian celebration will be easier (and tastier) than you think.

I have been cooking vegetarian for 20+ years, but I am not usually tasked to do much in the kitchen for the multi-course meal my extended family puts on, in which a massive turkey features prominently. I bring pies and call it good.

But as we all know, this year is different. COVID-19 has separated my family and we have collectively decided not to meet as a large party of 20, but in small groups of four or five. It’s another casualty of the pandemic—celebrations—but at least we are healthy. Well, mostly we are healthy.

A few weeks ago, my mother fell and broke her wrist and cannot cook the Thanksgiving meal she usually prepares. The job, therefore, entirely falls on me and my husband, who is Spanish, and does not know a yam from a russet. Nevertheless, he is an enthusiastic sous chef, and together we will get the job done.

Since it’s a small gathering and I am in charge, Thanksgiving will be meatless. Here’s what I am planning. May you find some inspiration here for your own soiree.

 

Getting Started

I have a friend who is the Queen of Party Platters. When she has us over, she serves appetizers on massive wooden boards overflowing with colorful veggies, fruit, nuts, cheeses, dips, crackers, olives, and edible flowers. Each hefty tray is a work of art.

You too can impress your T-Day guests with a bountiful board, which are fun (and foolproof) to throw together. RealSimple offers some tips on how to create a winning board and Martha Stewart gives a few visual examples for achieving cheese platter perfection. Or try a vegan board like this one.

Stuffed Mushrooms are a traditional Thanksgiving hors d’oeuvre in my family, served sans bacon, and broiled creamy goodness. Here is one recipe to get the party started.

 

Side Hustle

If I’m honest, all I really care about are candied yams and pumpkin pie. The rest of the Thanksgiving meal is secondary. This year I’ll opt for Saveur’s Sweet Potato Casserole, an essential side dish on my festive menu. You can choose to keep or toss the mini marshmallows in this rich recipe featuring buttery rolled oats and chopped pecan topping.

I’m adding a new twist to my green beans and serving them with pistachios and orange zest. EatingWell offers a foolproof recipe with just six ingredients as well as a spicy version of mashed potatoes featuring red chilies. Or double down on traditional mashed potatoes with extra butter following this Bon Appetit recipe.

An autumn salad is important. Dark greens such as kale and arugula go well with pomegranate, stinky cheese, and pears. I’ll pick a salad from Catherine Walthers’ Raising the Salad Bar, a helpful cookbook to have on the shelf year-round.

 

Focal Point

Whatever you do, stay away from a Tofurky. I’ve tried them. They are heavily processed and not that tasty. Instead, go completely off-script and make mouthwatering butternut squash baked pasta. This Bon Appétit version highlights the best of autumn.

If you want something you can slice into that is not a turkey, then consider a savory veggie pie or galette. The options are endless, but I like a potato, leek, and goat cheese galette or a savory mushroom pie with seasonal wild mushrooms from the Northwest.

You can also not do a main course. You could just fill your table with so many fabulous “sides” that no one notices there isn’t a main dish. I’ve done this numerous times at many dinner parties, and no one ever complained.

 

Desserts (aka the Best Part)

You’re not counting calories today. Enjoy the meal and save room for dessert. Most traditional Thanksgiving desserts are vegetarian, but may not be vegan. If you have a guest who avoids eggs, milk, and butter, then try this cruelty-free pumpkin pie recipe from Epicurious. If baking a pie is too much for you to tackle, let an expert take over. Pre-order your vegan Thanksgiving pie and have it shipped from Karma Baker, or pick up a non-vegan pie from A La Mode if you’re in the Seattle area. It’s called giving yourself a break and you’ll be thankful to have one less thing to do.

Credit: SeventyFour

Regina Winkle-Bryan

Regina Winkle-Bryan is back home in the Northwest after a decade in Spain where she wrote mostly about food, travel, and design. Originally from Portland, she now calls Seattle home and spends her weekends exploring the endless beauty of the Puget Sound. Learn more about her at https://reginawinklebryan.contently.com/



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