Hello, friends! I’ve been away from the blog world for a while since Thanksgiving and the break was much needed. My family’s Thanksgiving dinner came and went with much success. As you may have picked up, my family, despite not all members being vegan, celebrates all holidays with vegan food. Thus, since I’m the most enthusiastic of cooks in my family, it falls on me to plan the menu and make it. This year, thankfully, I had the help of my mother. Usually, I’m no fun to be around in the kitchen, but she stuck with me and proved to be a much needed skilled assistant and taste tester!
I like Thanksgiving dinner because it requires very little planning. I already know what I’m going to make: potatoes, stuffing, gravy, veggies, pies, and either a homemade turkey substitute (last year it was a meatless bean meatloaf) or a prepackaged one, if the option for a good one (like Gardein not Tofurky) exists. So, it’s not the planning that worries me (unlike Christmas) but the logistics of physically carrying out a huge meal by myself or with only one other person. Especially, when I cook this meal any place but my own kitchen.
This year, I was able to make my holiday pies, Pear and Apple Pie and the Pumpkin Pie with Gingersnap Apricot Crust, in advance and freeze the former over two nights and prepare the latter the night before. For the record, many a warm slice of pear apple pie was had with vegan coconut based vanilla ice cream! I arrived at my mom’s house at 11 AM and began prepping around noon. I didn’t leave the kitchen once until we ate, which was around 6 PM. So as you can see, there’s been good reason for my absence on here. I’ve spent enough time in the kitchen for the rest of the year! And yet, I was back at it a week later to bake cakes, quickbreads, and brownies (for fun!) for my coworkers and friends and a birthday cake for my lovely mom. The eating never ends around here.
I’m currently in the works of coming up with ideas for our Christmas menu. Last year I made pizzas for lunch, lasagna for dinner, cookies and cheesecake for dessert, and vegan eggnog. I’m looking to simplify my life this Christmas. But a vegan pecan pie has been requested and so complexity is in order, I take it.
Anyway, back to Thanksgiving. My family was very happy to be full. The highlight of this meal was the gratitude and happiness on my non-vegan brother’s face when he realized he was eating “real food” and the grace with which he went back for seconds and thirds and then took home leftovers. My other brother, who couldn’t join us for dinner, called me the next day to tell me how blown away he was by the meal and the pies and how they succeeded in “knocking him out on the couch” as a proper Thanksgiving meal should. The hours on my feet, the back pain that ensued…it was all worth it just to hear that.
I’ve included here the recipe for my homemade stuffing. I made a similar nut-less version last year, but I think the new changes take the cake! It was definitely the most popular item this year as was, oddly enough, the impromptu salad dressing I made. I will write up the gravy dressing as soon as I get a chance, but until then, please enjoy the stuffing!
(makes 12 cups)
30 slices of bread, toasted and cut into 1 inch squares
2 tbsp vegan butter
3 stalks of celery, finely chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh savory, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh sage, finely chopped
3 tbsp fresh thyme
3/4 cup chestnuts, roasted and coarsely chopped
3/4 cup walnuts, toasted and coarsely chopped
2 tbsp ground flax seeds
4 cups vegetable stock
2 tbsp canola oil
salt and pepper, to taste
Toast the bread one day in advance, or at least 4 hours before you intend to bake the stuffing. I did this by placing the slices in a single layer, on two un-greased baking sheets and putting them in a 325 F degree oven for 10-15 minutes. Then I flipped them and toasted the other side for 10-15 minutes. If you have two large cookie sheets and at least two racks in your oven, this won’t take too long. When all the bread is toasted, let it sit for a day or at least 3 hours to harden. Then, cut it into 1 inch squares.
When you’re ready to make the stuffing, preheat the oven to 450 F.
With a sharp knife, cut an X on the round side of each chestnut. Place the chestnuts on a small pan, in a single layer. Add 1/4 cup of water and bake for 10 minutes or until the shells begin to open. Remove from oven and shell and peel them while they’re still hot. Once they are all out of their shells, coarsely chop them and set them aside.
Bring the oven down to 325 F. Lightly grease a 9 x 13 inch baking dish. Set aside.
Put the bread pieces in a large bowl. Set aside.
In a large nonstick pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the fresh herbs and the toasted chestnuts and walnuts and cook them, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from heat and add the mixture to the bowl with the bread. Add the flax seeds, vegetable stock, and canola oil and combine and toss the mixture gently with your hands. Add salt and pepper to taste.
Press the mixture into the baking dish and bake at 325 F for 1 hour or until the top becomes lightly browned. Enjoy!