Thanksgiving dinner review and taste test!

Thanksgiving was a success!

It was also very tiring.

I cooked, with a bit of help with prep work and clean up, for about six and a half hours, we ate for about 30 minutes, and then we cleaned up for an hour or so. A long day but a good day! None of the new recipes I tried were too difficult but doing them all for one meal was a lot. We have continued to enjoy them, in various combinations and versions, for the past few days so it was worth it.

Here's my review of the recipes:

Appetizer- Cranberry Walnut Cheeze Ball

I have never been a big fan of the various cashew cheeze recipes I have tried so I did not have high hopes for this one. It surprised me though, because although everyone thought it look quiet weird they all really liked it. It did not taste like cheeze at all but it did have good flavor and the cashew and cranberry combination worked really well. We enjoyed it with crackers but I did not put any in my salad. It was extremely easy to put together, maybe took 10 minutes to make, not counting the waiting for the soaking of the cashews and the setting up of the cheeze. None of the leftovers have been eaten as of Sunday night.

7/10

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Dinner- Stuffing

This one was the big winner! It was savory and a bit sweet and really delicious! Great combination of flavors. My husband said he would love for this to be made again. It probably required 30 minutes of chopping and sautéing and then and hour total to bake the veggies and then the entire dish. The leftovers are 3/4 of the way gone.

9.5/10

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Mashed potatoes and gravy

The mashed potatoes were good but just your regular mashed potatoes. I did not add tons of spices or vegan cheezes just basic but tasty. I had a rollercoaster relationship with the gravy. I did find he dried wild mushrooms but they smell really smoky and not in a good way, kind of like dog food. There is a point in the recipe were you have all your seasoning and veggies sautéing and then you need to add the mushrooms and I serious had to think for a minute about other adding them would ruin the recipe. I ended up adding less of the reserved mushroom liquid and more red wine and it came out surprisingly good. It was a very intense gravy but the flavors were good. We ended up with a lot of the gravy and we have used some of the leftovers. It was pretty easy to make, probably an hour in total. I did blend the gravy to make it smooth. I do not think I would have enjoyed it chunky.

8/10

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Green Beans

I kept the green beans super simple but they were really good. I bought fresh green beans and baked them with olive oil, vegan butter, minced fresh garlic, dried garlic, salt, and pepper. My husband and his mom like their vegetables well done, and then they were kind of forgotten in all the other cooking, so they were really well done and maybe over done (or burnt, oops) for some but we really enjoyed them. I thought I bought a lot but we only had enough for each person to have one serving. Very easy to make, 10 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook.

8.5/10 (9/10 if I had not burnt them)

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Harvest Salad

This was a version of a salad from my e-book, Refresh: a 14 day Food & Mood Makeover, but honestly this version was better. I used field greens and topped them with celery, granny smith apples, pecans, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and pumpkin seeds. I ate the leftovers a couple days later and added fresh orange segments and that was really good too! The dressing was homemade and simply olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh orange juice, fresh sage, salt, and pepper. It only took 10 minutes to throw together and was really tasty!

10/10

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Garden Herb Biscuits

These were the first thing I made because we had them for breakfast too. This was the first time I have ever made biscuits from scratch and I still have a lot to learn. They were good but a very dense biscuit. They had really good flavor but not the soft flaky pillowy texture you love about biscuits. Maybe that was how they were supposed to be, I don't know. I've eaten several more over the last few days and they have gotten better with time. Being closed in a tuberware container they have become softer, still dense but softer. I microwave them for 20 seconds, add some vegan butter and cranberry sauce (mixed with some cherry glaze and fresh OJ) and they are really good! With my husband and I working together it took us probably 30 minutes to prep and then they baked in about 20-25 minutes.  

8/10

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Dessert- Cherry Pie a la mode

This was my first time making a complete pie from scratch. It was really good. Surprisingly my favorite part was the crust, which is crazy because it was a really simple recipe. The only change I made was doing half butter and half refined coconut oil instead of all butter. The pie was pretty simple to make, maybe 30 minutes to prep (mostly that was making and rolling out the dough- cutting the butter and coconut oil into the flour takes some time) and about 50 minutes to bake. We baked it while we ate dinner. I added some Ben and Jerry's vegan Cherry Garcia ice cream to it and it was quite good. One change I would make in the future was I did not add the liquid from the cherry, sugar, corn starch combination because I thought it might make it soggy but I think I should have added it. I think it would have made the pie gooier in a good way. Instead, I took the liquid, reduced it over low heat, and added it as a glaze to the pie. That was a great addition. Some of the leftovers have been eaten but we do still have a few slices left.

8.5/10

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So all in all we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. While it was a lot of work I was glad to share it with my family who joined. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! To leave you with a smile here is my brother, Tyler's, taste test of all the food. Enjoy!

~Laura Elisabeth







Thanksgiving dinner review and taste test!

Thanksgiving was a success!

It was also very tiring.

I cooked, with a bit of help with prep work and clean up, for about six and a half hours, we ate for about 30 minutes, and then we cleaned up for an hour or so. A long day but a good day! None of the new recipes I tried were too difficult but doing them all for one meal was a lot. We have continued to enjoy them, in various combinations and versions, for the past few days so it was worth it.

Here's my review of the recipes:

Appetizer- Cranberry Walnut Cheeze Ball

I have never been a big fan of the various cashew cheeze recipes I have tried so I did not have high hopes for this one. It surprised me though, because although everyone thought it look quiet weird they all really liked it. It did not taste like cheeze at all but it did have good flavor and the cashew and cranberry combination worked really well. We enjoyed it with crackers but I did not put any in my salad. It was extremely easy to put together, maybe took 10 minutes to make, not counting the waiting for the soaking of the cashews and the setting up of the cheeze. None of the leftovers have been eaten as of Sunday night.

7/10

IMG_4187_copy1

Dinner- Stuffing

This one was the big winner! It was savory and a bit sweet and really delicious! Great combination of flavors. My husband said he would love for this to be made again. It probably required 30 minutes of chopping and sautéing and then and hour total to bake the veggies and then the entire dish. The leftovers are 3/4 of the way gone.

9.5/10

IMG_4199

Mashed potatoes and gravy

The mashed potatoes were good but just your regular mashed potatoes. I did not add tons of spices or vegan cheezes just basic but tasty. I had a rollercoaster relationship with the gravy. I did find he dried wild mushrooms but they smell really smoky and not in a good way, kind of like dog food. There is a point in the recipe were you have all your seasoning and veggies sautéing and then you need to add the mushrooms and I serious had to think for a minute about other adding them would ruin the recipe. I ended up adding less of the reserved mushroom liquid and more red wine and it came out surprisingly good. It was a very intense gravy but the flavors were good. We ended up with a lot of the gravy and we have used some of the leftovers. It was pretty easy to make, probably an hour in total. I did blend the gravy to make it smooth. I do not think I would have enjoyed it chunky.

8/10

IMG_4191

Green Beans

I kept the green beans super simple but they were really good. I bought fresh green beans and baked them with olive oil, vegan butter, minced fresh garlic, dried garlic, salt, and pepper. My husband and his mom like their vegetables well done, and then they were kind of forgotten in all the other cooking, so they were really well done and maybe over done (or burnt, oops) for some but we really enjoyed them. I thought I bought a lot but we only had enough for each person to have one serving. Very easy to make, 10 minutes to prep and 20 minutes to cook.

8.5/10 (9/10 if I had not burnt them)

IMG_4205

Harvest Salad

This was a version of a salad from my e-book, Refresh: a 14 day Food & Mood Makeover, but honestly this version was better. I used field greens and topped them with celery, granny smith apples, pecans, dried cranberries, dried cherries, and pumpkin seeds. I ate the leftovers a couple days later and added fresh orange segments and that was really good too! The dressing was homemade and simply olive oil, balsamic vinegar, fresh orange juice, fresh sage, salt, and pepper. It only took 10 minutes to throw together and was really tasty!

10/10

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Garden Herb Biscuits

These were the first thing I made because we had them for breakfast too. This was the first time I have ever made biscuits from scratch and I still have a lot to learn. They were good but a very dense biscuit. They had really good flavor but not the soft flaky pillowy texture you love about biscuits. Maybe that was how they were supposed to be, I don't know. I've eaten several more over the last few days and they have gotten better with time. Being closed in a tuberware container they have become softer, still dense but softer. I microwave them for 20 seconds, add some vegan butter and cranberry sauce (mixed with some cherry glaze and fresh OJ) and they are really good! With my husband and I working together it took us probably 30 minutes to prep and then they baked in about 20-25 minutes.  

8/10

IMG_4194_copy1

Dessert- Cherry Pie a la mode

This was my first time making a complete pie from scratch. It was really good. Surprisingly my favorite part was the crust, which is crazy because it was a really simple recipe. The only change I made was doing half butter and half refined coconut oil instead of all butter. The pie was pretty simple to make, maybe 30 minutes to prep (mostly that was making and rolling out the dough- cutting the butter and coconut oil into the flour takes some time) and about 50 minutes to bake. We baked it while we ate dinner. I added some Ben and Jerry's vegan Cherry Garcia ice cream to it and it was quite good. One change I would make in the future was I did not add the liquid from the cherry, sugar, corn starch combination because I thought it might make it soggy but I think I should have added it. I think it would have made the pie gooier in a good way. Instead, I took the liquid, reduced it over low heat, and added it as a glaze to the pie. That was a great addition. Some of the leftovers have been eaten but we do still have a few slices left.

8.5/10

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So all in all we had a very delicious Thanksgiving. While it was a lot of work I was glad to share it with my family who joined. Hope you all had a great Thanksgiving! To leave you with a smile here is my brother, Tyler's, taste test of all the food. Enjoy!

~Laura Elisabeth







Thanksgiving!

The last time we had Thanksgiving at my house was in 2011.

While the meal was delicious it was far from the way I cook and eat now. Since the spring of 2010 I have been on a journey to discovering what best nourishes me- body and mind- and that has lead me to being vegetarian with heavy vegan preferences and tendencies. I love the creativeness of cooking vegan, taking some of my favorite childhood meals and making them better for my health, the animals, and the environment.

So here we are, three days before Thanksgiving and my mission is to create a delicious Thanksgiving feast without the beast, hehehe...

Below are the tasty recipes, from fellow foodies, that I will use in this mission. I have never made any of them so this should be fun. Some may fail but lets hope for my Thanksgiving day guests that most are successful. We will all find out in a few days. Stay tuned for a Thanksgiving day taste test!

If you are looking for some vegan options this post is for you and even if you are having some beast this Thanksgiving I hope these recipes inspire you to add a few more delicious veggies to your meal this Thursday. Enjoy!

Appetizer- Cranberry Walnut Cheeze Ball
I am not a huge homemade cashew cheese fan but I have found one store bought version that is good so we will give this another try. Wish me luck!
cheeseball


Dinner- Stuffing
I've heard it's only stuffing if it is stuffed inside a bird to cook but I ate Stovetop Stuffing my whole childhood so I am more a call it stuffing person than dressing. Just my two cents. Anyway, regardless of what you call it this looks delicious! I have high hopes!
Stuffing

Mashed potatoes and gravy
I will make my own mashed potatoes by combining boiled potatoes with unsweetened almond milk, vegan butter, salt, pepper, and garlic power but will top it with this tasty looking mushroom gravy. I am not sure if I will be able to find the dried mushrooms so I may just use fresh mushrooms and I will use an immersion blender to make the gravy nice and smooth.
gravy

Green Beans
I will use a super simple recipe for garlicky green beans that is pretty much just that- green beans, fresh garlic, vegan butter/coconut oil, olive oil, garlic powder, salt, and pepper. In order to get a pretty picture though I did look up a recipe so you can follow along with the one above. 
greenbeans

Harvest Salad
This is a version of a salad from my e-book, Refresh: a 14 day Food & Mood Makeover, and will be a combination of mixed greens, thinly sliced Granny Smith or Fuji apples, celery, cranberries, walnuts, maybe some pumpkin seeds, and either a homemade dressing or most likely Health Starts Here no-oil balsamic dressing. I may even add a bit of the cheeze ball from above, oooh la la!
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Garden Herb Biscuits
These would be great with dinner or as a light breakfast (add some fresh fruit) before the main event! Not that we need it in this meal but they are also a way to add in some extra veggies, yum!
biscuit

Dessert- Cherry Pie a la mode
Although I know I should make a pie crust from scratch, like in the recipe, I am pretty sure I will swing by Publix and buy their accidentally vegan pie crust. Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream to your pie and you have perfection!
cherry pie

I Hope you enjoy these delicious and a bit more nutritious recipes! If you are someone who needs a main course there are plenty of vegan vegetable loaf recipes that look tasty but I am trying to limit my cook time and know I will be completely filled with these savory sides and sweet desserts! Let me know if you have any favorite Thanksgiving recipes!

~Laura Elisabeth






















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Food for Thought


"Destructively obedient, a slave to my habits, a cold shoulder to my consciousness."



This is a bit darker than I usually post but it is true.

At the end of this post there is a video and in that video a man whose words made me sit with thoughts for a couple of hours this morning and write this post. This man, Damien Mander, has an interesting story and shares a conviction that I've been working through for the past couple of years. The fact that an animal is an animal and there's no difference between a cow or an elephant or a puppy. It is not truth but a social construct that we label some as dinner while others as friends. While people are outraged and the offenders go to jail for the abuse of some, we lick our chops and try to forget and minimize the abuse of millions.

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"There comes a time when one must take a position that is neither safe, nor politic, nor popular, but he must take it because his conscience tells him it is right."
Martin Luther King Jr.


I'm not trying to shame people into being vegetarians and vegans but I do believe that people should know and understand the processes necessary to have a hamburger on their plate. To try to shut out the truth or pretend that it does not exist is not right. Educate yourself- don't be a slave to your habits or the social norms. Maybe you'll never become vegan but it will change some of the types of foods you buy or if your budget is not one that can buy "organic, grass-fed, local, etc" then it won't change your buying habits but maybe you will better appreciate the sacrifices made for you. But even that sentence sounds weird to me – that you will better appreciate the sacrifices made, which are the inhumane treatment, torture, fear, and murder of animals because you want a hamburger instead of the black bean burger. It just doesn't really make sense. But that conviction is one that I am working through and maybe you're not there yet and that's okay. 

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Just as I ask people to have compassion for animals, we must too have compassion for humans, for each other. For some breaking away from the social norms, being different, allowing time for your tastes and preferences to change, or having to think a little bit more about what you order at a restaurant is hard. It is going against what you have known and done for the 15 or 65 years of your life as well as thousands of years of evolution where we have domesticated and raised animals as livestock and been taught that they are food. 

What started as a helpful way of life- a small farmer raising a couple of cows, waking up early, doing chores, taking care of them, and then eventually having them butchered to provide and feed his family is not what our factory farming system has become. I have a coworker who hunts deer. She wakes up early, sits in the cold, and waits for her shot. If she has good aim then she experiences the deer's death, she sees it die, she guts it, she takes it to be butchered, and she uses the one or two deer she gets every season to feed her family. She knows what goes into taking the life of an animal and in order to feed her family she chooses to do it. That and the farmer from long-ago is so vastly different than factory farming. Due to the increase in our population and the increase in demand these animals are no longer animals but a commodity. They are not treated as if they have a life but only as an end product and whatever is necessary to get that product to market is done, regardless of the welfare of the animal. We get spared from all of the horror, we are sheltered from it and only see the packages of beef in the grocery store. We are not a part of the process, we do not see the process, we don't even get to know the exact process and those that try to expose the process can be criminally charged. If we knew even just an inkling of what is being done behind closed doors I think we would all think very differently about the food on our plate and possibly make different choices. 

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My coworker eats venison but she knows what goes into getting that deer from forest to plate. I do not believe I could shoot a deer and the small town farmer is pretty much where I started my journey to eating less meat. My grandpa is a farmer and it was during summers spent on the farm, when we would be sitting down to dinner enjoying a pizza topped with hamburger and I could hear the cows mooing a few hundred feet away in the barn, that I really made the connection that the meat on my plate was once the living creature I was petting hours earlier. For the next 15 years I made it okay for my conscience by not eating meat on the bone because for me that helped to separate the fact that the meat was once an animal. It was not until my mid-20s that I started learning more and my journey developed to what I am now, which I guess is pretty much a vegetarian with vegan preferences and tendencies. Now I know what goes into getting the animals from the farms on to my plate and I choose not to participate, not to eat meat. Both my coworker and I are educated and we make different decisions and that okay. It is the fact that we both have our eyes open and understand where our food comes from that is the most important part. 

If you are someone who has worked through several different dietary lifestyle's and you believe that your body thrives and does it best with a bit of meat in your diet then eat it. You must be compassionate and care for yourself. However, really learning your body and what works best for it is different than just wanting to eat meat because you like the taste of barbecue. I don't think the majority of us have given a more plant-based lifestyle a chance. Most believe a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle is just for hippies and tree huggers. It's not. So I know this may sound like I'm running around in circles saying don't eat meat, eat meat, killing animals is needed, killing animals is bad but that's because this is a confusing topic and it is not black-and-white. We are all different and we are going to make different decisions but before we make those decisions we should be informed and we should not allow our world to shut out the reality of what happens in our food systems.

As we have continued to evolve we are now at a place where there are so many other options than animal products. These options are not only better for our health and for the animals, but also for our environment and our planet. We are destroying our home and although there is not just one cause and there are of course multiple ways you could help to reduce your negative impact, eating less meat is definitely one of them. Now not everyone can be vegan (due to the area of the world they live in, socioeconomics, or availability of food) and I understand that. However, if you are reading this post on your iPhone then you are probably not a part of any of the above groups. 

So the take-home message: educating yourself is the beginning of your journey and each step, even if it's a baby step, is still a step forward. So maybe you still eat meat but maybe you eat less meat or maybe you buy less fur, leather, and ivory. Educate yourself, don't trust me, do your own work. Know that there are going to be extremists on either side just like with any topic but educate yourself, do your research, know where your food, your leather couch, and your mascara come from. Let that education guide you on your journey don't be afraid to be different.

Click here to view the Ted Talk that got me thinking and inspired this post.

Thanks for reading and sharing my journey,
Laura



Lemons- the real Mr. Clean

It's that time of year again- Spring cleaning. For the past few weekends my husband and I have been working on some part of the inside or outside of our home. One area that always needs a little extra love is the kitchen. That sink magically fills with dirty dishes and not the best smells way too fast. So I present to you Lemons- the real Mr. Clean! Not only do lemons smell great but their low pH and high citric acid content cause them to have antibacterial and antimicrobial properties, making them a great cleaner. Here are my top 5 uses of lemons in the kitchen!

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5) Cutting board- cut a lemon in half and rub the cut side on the cutting board. The juice not only cleans stains but also helps to kill germs. For extra scrub-ability add some salt (coarse if you have it).


4) Countertops and cupboard doors- dilute the juice of half of a lemon in two cups of warm water. Using a washcloth wipe down countertops and cupboard doors.


3) Air freshener- boil lemon peels and water on stove to freshen your whole house.


2) Garbage disposal- run lemon scraps through disposal to clean and deodorize it. This is one of my favorite things to do after the dishes because it leaves the sink with a fresh and clean smell. However, make sure not to leave lemon scraps in the disposal without running it because they will rot and cause the opposite and quite unpleasant scent.


And my top use for lemons:


1) Microwave- Place the juice of half of a lemon in two cups of water and microwave on high for 5-10 minutes. The steam from the mixture will help to cut through the grime and gunk. Using a washcloth wipe down the inside of microwave and enjoy the sparkle and shine!

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