Veggin’ out

Vegan-friendly Thanksgiving add-ons

Thanksgiving dinner already can be a huge undertaking, especially if you have a large family to feed. But throw in a vegetarian or a vegan, and many people might throw their hands up not knowing how to accommodate them.

Honestly, most vegetarians and vegans are used to having limited meal options when it comes to gatherings like Thanksgiving. I know I always would bring a dish or two that I made myself, to make sure not only I would have something to eat, but also so the other members of my family who didn’t eat meat had a few more things to choose from.

But how nice would it be to have something already made for the vegetarian or vegan coming to your dinner? Here are a few “add-on” ideas to prepare for the “veggie” at the dinner table.

First, when making your mashed potatoes, set a bit aside for the vegan. A vegetarian, most times, won’t have any problems with the mashed potatoes, unless you’re adding something like bacon to them. But a vegan can’t have any milk or butter, which many people add to their mashed potatoes. So, pull out some already cooked potatoes, put them in their own bowl and mix them with some almond or soy milk and non-dairy butter. That’s it! Easy! And my first recipe for vegan gravy will accompany the vegan mashed potatoes nicely.

Vegan gravy

(Adapted from allrecipes.com)

1/2 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup chopped onion

5 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

4 teaspoons nutritional yeast

2 cups vegetable broth

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Saute onion and garlic until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Stir in flour, nutritional yeast form a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the broth. Season with salt and pepper. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, stirring constantly, for 8-10 minutes, or until thickened.

This next recipe includes a nice protein with lentils. I love lentils, but I never thought of adding them to stuffing until I saw this recipe. Delicious! You also can top with the vegan gravy you just made.

Vegan stuffing

(Adapted from minimalistbaker.com)

1 loaf of bread or 2 small baguettes, cubed and set out to dry overnight (about 9 cups loosely packed)

3/4 cup uncooked lentils

3 tablespoons olive oil, vegan butter or a mix of both

1/2 cup white onions, diced

3/4 cup celery, diced

Salt and pepper

3 to 3 1/2 cups vegetable broth (plus more for cooking lentils)

1 flax egg

3/4 teaspoon dried sage, or 1 1/4 teaspoons fresh, chopped

The night before, cube your bread and set in a bowl to dry out a bit.

Prepare the flax egg by combining 1 tablespoon flaxseed meal and 2 tablespoons water. Place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to thicken.

You can cook your lentils ahead of time, too, if you’d like to, but it’s not necessary. Thoroughly rinse lentils in cold water, then add to a saucepan with 1 1/2 cups vegetable broth. You can cook them in water, but I like to cook them in vegetable broth to give them more flavor.

Cook over medium-high heat until a low boil, then lower to a simmer and cook uncovered for 20-30 minutes. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F and line a 9-by-13-inch pan with foil or spray with nonstick spray.

Saute onion and celery in the olive oil or vegan butter and season with salt and pepper. Cook about 5 minutes. Set aside.

Pour most of the broth into the bowl with the bread, then add sage, cooked veggies, flax egg and lentils and mix well to the consistency of a meatloaf. If it’s too dry, add more broth and mix again. If too wet, add more bread.

Transfer to the prepared pan and cover with foil. Bake for 45 minutes. Then remove the foil, increase heat to 400 F and bake for another 10-15 minutes or until the top is well browned and crisp.

Remove from oven and let cool slightly before serving.

Stellfox is a Sun-Gazette correspondent who enjoys vegetarian and vegan food and cooking.

Her award-winning column is published on the fourth Sunday of every month in the Lifestyle section.

She can be reached at the Lifestyle Department email at life@sungazette.com.

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