Practicing Grace During the Holidays

One holiday down and one to go. This Thanksgiving was a little different for my husband and me. Rather than cooking our vegan Thanksgiving dinner, my husband suggested ordering two Thanksgiving dinners in advance from a vegan restaurant in town to take to my sister’s house. I have always cooked our holiday meals.

At the time it sounded like a good idea. As much as I enjoy cooking, the idea of not cooking a holiday meal sounded appealing, so I ordered two dinners. The dinners included a tofurky-like roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, dressing, green bean casserole, steamed kale, cranberry sauce, a home-made biscuit, and carrot cake for dessert. Done! But the next day I had second thoughts about the dinner – it really wasn’t WFPB enough for my liking, and since I have a gluten sensitivity, the dinner had more gluten in it than I could comfortably tolerate (I knew this ahead of time, but was lured by the simplicity of ordering a holiday meal).

I was to bring a salad and vegetable, and whatever else my husband and I wanted to eat to our Thanksgiving family gathering.  I don’t make a large quantity of the dishes we bring to share. My great-nephews and great-nieces along with my niece are picky eaters, and it is doubtful they will try what we bring. My sister and her husband will take a serving of what we bring out of politeness.  Sometimes they enjoy what we bring and will have more, other times, not so much.  I’m ok with that.  We brought a white bean dip, coleslaw (not exactly a Thanksgiving salad but thought it might appeal to my great-nephews and great-nieces), whipped sweet potatoes, and spiced glazed carrots.  Everyone enjoyed the white bean dip, and the sweet potatoes were a hit. I added a little orange juice for sweetness and a few dashes of cinnamon to the whipped sweet potatoes after a client shared with me that is how she prepares sweet potatoes for Thanksgiving. The carrots were seasoned with a drizzle of maple syrup, a little garam masala spice, and chopped cilantro and then roasted. Another winner. The coleslaw did not win over my niece, nor my great-nephews and great-nieces, but others liked it. 

My husband enjoyed his dinner from the vegan restaurant and I made a lentil loaf with mushroom gravy for myself.  My sister made the mashed potatoes vegan.  She always makes a mushroom turnover hors d’oeuvre that has a filling of sautéed mushrooms and onions folded in sour cream and wrapped in a pastry made of white flour, margarine, and cream cheese and are then baked.  This time she made them vegan using vegan sour cream, butter, and cream cheese. I generally don’t have any, but my sister changed the recipe just for us, and they were delicious. Although they were not WFPB, we appreciated the effort she took to make  make the turnovers vegan.  She also ordered a vegan and gluten-free Dutch apple pie from a local bakery.  Dutch apple pies differ from a regular apple pie in that it has a crumble topping made of brown sugar, flour, and butter rather than a pastry top crust.  Again, not what we would normally eat, but it too was good. 

During the holidays, let’s show grace regarding people’s attitudes about the choices of what we eat, and we can do the same.  Although we ate some dishes that had ingredients we would not normally eat, the idea that someone took the time to make dishes that were vegan, my husband and I did not let that go unnoticed. My sister “veganized” a couple of her traditionally made dishes, and ordered a vegan gluten-free pie just to accommodate my husband and me.  I brought vegan dishes that I hoped everyone would enjoy.  No questioning, no strange looks at what is on anyone’s plate, no judgement.  What is remembered is the time we spent together over a delicious meal. 

The next holiday our family will celebrate is Christmas. We learned not to order the vegan dinner from our local vegan restaurant if they offer it again at Christmas.  I will most likely bring the shepherd’s pie my husband loves to have both at Thanksgiving and Christmas. Once again my husband and I will show grace with what we eat. What my family prepares vegan may not be totally WFPB. If my sister makes a vegan dish that includes some vegan butter and sugar, so be it. 

The holidays are a special time for everyone.  For us, we choose to focus on the celebration and time spent with loved ones.

Below is the Hearty Lentil Loaf I made at Thanksgiving.  It is a Chef AJ recipe found in the cookbook, A Plant-Based Life – Your Complete Guide to Great Food, Radiant Health, Boundless Energy, and a Better Body by Micaela Cook Karlsen.

3 cups cooked lentils
1 16 oz bag frozen carrots, defrosted and drained
1 large red onion
1/2 cup Italian parsley, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled
2 cups raw walnuts, chopped
2 cups uncooked oats (not instant)
2 tablespoon sun-dried tomato powder

Preheat the oven to 350º. Combine lentils, carrots, onion, parsley, 1 cup walnuts, and 1 cup oats in a food processor fitted with an S blade.

Process ingredients until smooth and almost paste-like. Transfer mixture to a bowl, and then, by hand, stir in the second cup of oats and the second cup of chopped walnuts.  Stir in the sun-dried tomato powder.

Pour mixture into a standard size silicone loaf pan and bake, uncovered, for 50-55 minutes until golden brown. Remove from the oven and let sit at least 10 minutes. Invert pan, position loaf on a serving dish and let cool another 5 minutes, and then slice. (This lentil loaf also freezes well).  Enjoy!

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