Vegan Thanksgiving? Crownsville author says, yes you cran

Vegan and Thanksgiving are not two words that mix well.

Elspeth Feldman, a blogger from Crownsville known as The Speedy Vegan, has been pardoning the turkey at her Thanksgivings for the last six years. Born on a dairy farm in Zimbabwe, Feldman grew up loving and eating animals. When her teenage son became a vegetarian, Feldman said she became concerned about his health and began researching plant-based diets.

“I never made the connection between the animals I loved and the food I ate,” Feldman said. “Once my family went vegan and I had to host Thanksgiving for our friends, I thought, ‘Who’s going to come if we don’t serve turkey?’ ”

As it turns out, Feldman’s cooking made up for a turkey-less turkey day. She recently published an e-book, “Pardon My Turkey,” for those looking to do the same. Each recipe is free of sugar, oil and salt (minus the pumpkin gingersnap trifle). Feldman uses dates for sweetening and salt substitute. Her pumpkin pie recipe is also gluten-free.

While dates, salt substitute and some of the other ingredients Feldman uses may be foreign to budding vegan chefs, that shouldn’t discourage them. There are simple substitutes for the ingredients that make up Thanksgiving classics. Almond milk and vegan butter (or oil) can replace old fashioned milk and butter.

“With a little creativity you can veganize anything,” Feldman said.

Foreign ingredients also don’t make the recipes particularly difficult. If a relative shows up to your house suddenly announcing their veganism, you can still save the day.

“My cranberry relish takes 30 seconds in a food processor. It’s just raw cranberries, pineapple and dates. And people think that you’ve done something incredible because it’s so refreshing and tangy and sweet. It’s like a cheat,” Feldman said.

“Same with the gravy. As I heard my husband coming in the house last night, I thought, ‘Oh shoot, I need to make the gravy.’ I did it in five minutes and my daughter asked, ‘Mom, how did you do that so quick?’ ”

Feldman also emphasized that almost all the recipes can be made well in advance (though if you’re reading this now, you’re probably past that point).

Ten percent of proceeds from “Pardon My Turkey,” available on Amazon, will benefit Poplar Springs Animal Sanctuary in Poolesville.

Shepherd’s Pie with Creamy Dreamy Cauliflower Mashed Potatoes

Ingredients (serves 6):

For the filling:

  • 1 cup onion, diced
  • 1 cup carrots, diced
  • 1 cup celery, diced
  • 2 cups vegetable stock
  • 3 cups cooked lentils
  • ½ pound mushrooms, rough chopped
  • 1 teaspoon poultry spice
  • 1 teaspoon thyme
  • ½ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • Salt substitute, to taste
  • 2 big handfuls of baby spinach or Swiss chard

For the potatoes:

  • 3 pounds of organic Yukon gold potatoes (unpeeled)
  • 3 whole cloves of garlic

For the sauce:

  • ¾ pound cauliflower florets
  • ½ medium onion, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup raw cashew nuts
  • 1 teaspoons almond butter
  • ½ cup boiling water, or as needed
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • ½ cup nutritional yeast
  • 1 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • Salt substitute, to taste

Instructions:

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. Scrub the potatoes and cut in quarters and add to a large pot along with the garlic. Cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. When they are tender (approximately 20 minutes), drain and mash with a potato masher.
  3. While the potatoes are cooking, saute the onion, carrots and celery in a little vegetable stock until caramelized. Add the chopped mushrooms and lentils along with the herbs and seasoning and cook for 10 minutes more. Remove from the heat and add in the spinach or Swiss chard and let it wilt into the mixture.
  4. While the potatoes are boiling and the filling is cooking, you can cook the cauliflower and onions either by steaming or just boiling until fork tender.
  5. While the cauliflower is cooking, put the cashews in a high-speed blender and add half a cup of boiling water. When the cauliflower has softened, add it to the blender along with the rest of the ingredients. Blend it all together into a creamy sauce.
  6. Once the potatoes are mashed, add a generous cup and a half of the cauliflower cheese sauce to the potatoes and mash it all together. Season to taste.
  7. Divide the filling into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish or divide between six 8-ounce ramekins and top with the creamy potatoes.
  8. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until heated through and slightly browned on top.
  9. Serve with your favorite green vegetables and mango chutney if desired.

NOTE: This can be made in advance and stored in the refrigerator and heated right before serving.

Mushroom Gravy

Ingredients (makes 4 cups):

  • 1 pound mushrooms chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery, chopped
  • ½ large onion, chopped
  • 2 teaspoons salt substitute
  • 2 tablespoons coconut aminos
  • 2 tablespoons brown rice flour
  • 20 ounces vegetable broth, or as needed
  • 1 teaspoon fresh sage, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon thyme, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons cooking sherry (optional)

Instructions:

  1. Saute the mushrooms, garlic, carrots, celery and onions until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. In a small bowl, make a slurry with the rice flour and a cup of vegetable broth. Whisk it together with a fork for two minutes so it does not form lumps.
  3. Add the slurry to the sauteed vegetables and slowly stir in the rest of the vegetable stock five ounces at a time.
  4. Stir in the seasoning and fresh herbs and let it simmer for 5 minutes, stirring every minute or two.
  5. Turn off the stove and let the gravy cool.
  6. Pour some or all of the gravy into a high-speed blender and blend until smooth.
  7. Pour mixture back into the pot and add the sherry (if using). Heat for a few minutes before serving.

Chocolate Bourbon Pecan Tart

Ingredients (serves 8):

For the crust:

  • 10 ounces deglet noor dates, pitted
  • 2 cups pecans
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon filling

For the filling:

  • 1½ avocados
  • 6-ounces dates (soaked in hot water and drained)
  • 3 tablespoons raw cacao powder
  • 2 tablespoons bourbon

For the topping:

  • 1 cup pecan halves

Instructions:

For the crust:

  1. Put the dates, pecans and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse until it starts sticking together in a ball.
  2. Press the dough into a nonstick fluted tart pan and place it in the freezer while you prepare the filling.

For the filling:

  1. Place all the ingredients into a high-speed blender and blend until thick and creamy.
  2. Spread the mixture on the raw crust and decorate with the pecan halves.
  3. Store in the refrigerator until ready to serve. If you are making in advance, you can wrap it with plastic wrap and store in the freezer for several weeks. When ready to serve, remove from the freezer half an hour before you serve.
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