Thanksgiving

Jizo 9[Today is halfway through National Novel Writing Month! So hopefully I’m near or have surpassed the 25,000-word mark at this point on my novel. As I’ve explained before, I’ve prewritten my blogs during November so as to focus on my writing.]

Thanksgiving is just around the corner so I wanted to tell how we approach the holiday.  I didn’t used to care for Thanksgiving that much; the holiday always felt over-stuffed with food, people, and television – more excess than enjoyment. Our efforts to have a more relaxed holiday have become a lot easier since we started hosting the Thanksgiving feast ourselves, with a much lower-key festivity focused just on our own family. Our morning typically starts out with the children going outside to find the perfect Thanksgiving branch. We set this upright in a vase weighted with stones and marbles and then settle in to watch the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade, with construction paper, scissors, and thread at hand.

Each of us cuts leaf shapes out of the construction paper and writes on each leaf things for which we are grateful: each other, the food we will share, the house we live in, the love and peace we know, our good health. We use thread and tape to attach the leaves to the Thanksgiving branch. Casually, we begin preparing our food; since we have a completely vegetarian feast and separate out the bulk of the desserts for the following day, there is no need to rise early for frantic cooking.

We decorate our table with the Thanksgiving branch as the centerpiece and enjoy our food. Afterwards, the table is cleared and we take a walk in the brisk clear air. We watch a family movie in the afternoon. The next afternoon or the afternoon after that, we get together with extended family for the highly anticipated Pie Day, when we savor pieces of several different pies, able to truly enjoy their flavor due to not being stuffed with the heavy Thanksgiving meal immediately beforehand. It’s a gentle set of activities that has transformed the holiday into one I enjoy and anticipate.

I’m not going to give specific Thanksgiving-oriented recipe recommendations because you’ve probably already got your favorites and by now have likely chosen your menu. However I do want to recommend four cookbooks by Isa Chandra Moskowitz. Isa is my go-to cookbook author for really delicious contributions to Pie Day and for a lot more food besides.

Isa is a vegan, which is definitely more committed than we are. Her recipes also assume a well-stocked kitchen, or at least ready access to a good health food store or online retailers like the highly recommended My Spice Sage, where I order most of my spices from. My advice is to take the plunge because the food that results from her recipes is so worth it. This is vegetarian eating like I used to dream about and now can create myself! The four cookbooks that I want to recommend (it difficult to restrain myself to just these) are:

Vegan Pie in the Sky: 75 Out-of-This-World Recipes for Pies, Tarts, Cobblers, and More by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. This book will make you a Pie Day star. I particularly recommend the Pucker Up Raspberry Pie and Appleberry Pie.

Appetite for Reduction: 125 Fast and Filling Low-Fat Vegan Recipes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Matthew Ruscigno. My favorites from this book so far are Bhutanese Pineapple Rice, Butternut Coconut Rice, Pineapple Collards, and Tortilla Soup

Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World: 75 Dairy-Free Recipes for Cupcakes that Rule by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, Terry Hope Romero and Sara Quin. There are too many spectacular cupcakes to list them all but oh, the Chocolate Cherry Creme Cupcakes and the Pineapple Right-Side-Up Cupcakes, and the Banana Split Cupcakes (especially the pineapple variation)! These are truly company cupcakes.

Vegan with a Vengeance : Over 150 Delicious, Cheap, Animal-Free Recipes That Rock by Isa Chandra Moskowitz – this is the original vegan cookbook-with-attitude, straight out of the Post-Punk Kitchen. The Raspberry Blackout Cake with Ganache-y Frosting is my favorite cake of all time; the Fauxstess Cupcakes are labor-intensive but so worth it, and the seitan recipe is sure-fire good.

I said I was only going to recommend four, but I can’t resist also mentioning my latest indulgence is Vegan Brunch: Homestyle Recipes Worth Waking Up For–From Asparagus Omelets to Pumpkin Pancakes by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, from which I’ve gotten the banana flapjack recipe that I now make most weekends – for dessert! Here is the recipe, just to give you a taste of what deliciousness Isa has to offer:

Banana flapjacks [I highly recommend you double the recipe; it is so very good.]

2 very ripe medium bananas
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/2 cup almond milk [I like to substitute with Silk coconut milk, found in the dairy aisle near the soy milk]
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 and 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (optional) [you want it!]
Pinch ground allspice (optional) [you want that too!]

Mash the bananas with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Add oil, milk, water, vinegar, and maple syrup and mix well. Add flour, baking powder, salt, and spices. Mix until very few clumps left, but don’t overmix. Preheat large heavy-bottomed nonstick skillet (cast iron preferred) over medium heat for at least 3 minutes. Use oil or cooking spray to very lightly coat the pan. Pour pancakes one at a time in 1/2 cup measurements and cook until top looks somewhat dry (about 3 minutes). Flip over and cook for another minute. [Isa says to cover the flapjacks in aluminum foil while you’re cooking the rest, but usually I can’t stop myself from eating at least one hot off the skillet right as my husband makes it!]

For lots more (free!) recipes, check out Isa’s website at http://www.theppk.com/. And whatever you choose to eat for Thanksgiving, I hope you have a wonderful gratitude-filled holiday.

Whoever would live well,
Long lasting, bringing bliss –
Let him be generous, be calm
And cultivate the doing of good.
By practicing these three . . .
The wise one lives without regret
His world infused with happiness.

– the Buddha, quoted in The Chocolate Cake Sutra

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