A Healthy Thanksgiving Feast

Step 1: Tuesday, prep veggies.

Step 2: Wednesday, don apron. Make pie, chill in fridge overnight.

Step 4: Wednesday night, create adorable autumn-themed placeholders and centerpiece, Martha Stewart style.

Step 4: Wake up Thursday morning and don apron again. Bring your menu to life.

On our menu this year:

Baked Acorn Squash with Quinoa, Cranberry, and Apricot stuffing

Hearty Butternut Brussels Sprout Stuffing

Pomegranate Mint Cranberry Sauce

This Ain’t Grandma’s Sweet Potato Casserole

Vegan Pumpkin Pie with Pecan Nut Crust and Coconut Cream

Maple Pecan Pie

Step 5: Arrange your plate with warm colorful goodies and experience ultimate enjoyment. Be satisfied.

Step 6: Live on beautiful leftovers for the next week (pumpkin pie for breakfast, anyone?).

We made a lot of new vegan recipes this year, and everyone was highly impressed with how everything turned out (super delicious), including the omnivores in the family. Except that I baked the stuffed acorn squash a bit too long so the quinoa got dry and crispy on top… nothing a little homemade cranberry sauce couldn’t fix. Overall, I had a ball planning and executing this creative and cruelty-free menu with my mom, which was extra special since most of the vegetables came from her garden or we received as surplus from her neighbor’s produce stand.

I’m so excited, I am already in the midst of planning our Christmas menu… watch out!

Tea Time

Last weekend I made a lovely visit to Kansas City to see my dad, stepmom, brother, and grandmother. Saturday afternoon following an immensely satisfying Indian meal, all of us (minus my teenage brother; this was definitely not his cup of tea) met at a huge conference center for an event called 2012 Holiday Boutique: An Enchanted Shopping Experience. Upon entering, we were confronted with a ginormous array of booths with goods from hundreds of local boutiques and shops. I should have taken a picture. It was intense.

Having never been to such an event before, I was initially a bit overwhelmed at the sight of so much stuff. I don’t consider myself a big shopper and even the rare trip to the mall tends to give me a headache and a mild panic attack in which my only thought becomes get what you need and get the hell out. I believe similar thoughts overcame my dad and grandma; they bailed after an hour. We hadn’t even gotten through half the booths.

Then something happened. My stepmom and I entered a magical realm called Shop Or Die. Over the next three hours, we examined, we compared, we bought Christmas gifts for ourselves, each other, and others. We embraced the “enchanted shopping experience.” We didn’t buy very much, but what we did take home was selected with the greatest care and consideration, and our money went to support local small businesses. I like that. I came away with the perfect Christmas gifts for most of the women in my life, and it’s not even December. Bam.

Heather and I agreed that picking out your own presents might seriously be the way to go. This is how I ended up with early gifts for myself that included a travel tea press and loose leaf pomegranate green tea (thank you, Heather!), and a handpainted mug from Poland (thanks, me!), among other delightful goodies.I have a thing for really big mugs. This one is the size of a soup bowl.

The tea is calming with a mild fruity flavor. I made mine really strong, and no sweetener was needed.Loose leaf tea might be my new love. It’s the simple things, really.

Stacked

What can I say? I was in the mood for chocolate chip pancakes. And this is what happened. Mine turned into something more akin to chocolate chip cookies. Pancookies, if you will. Adapted from OSG.

Ingredients:

1/2 c whole wheat flour

1/2 t cinnamon

pinch sea salt

1 t baking powder

1/2 c milk of choice (I use Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla)

1 t vanilla

1/4 c chocolate chips

syrup and/or any other toppings you like

Directions: Mix all dry ingredients together while skillet is heating on medium. Stir in vanilla, milk, and chocolate chips. Spray skillet with nonstick oil and drop the batter onto skillet to make silver dollar sized pancakes. Flip pancakes when bubbles start to form on the top. When done, stack and layer with your favorite toppings. Drizzle maple syrup atop the delicious stack.

Makes about 6 small pancakes.

A tall stack of syrupy, chocolatey Sunday goodness. I did not share. You may if you want.

What’s your ideal Sunday brunch?

Perfect Pumpkin Pie Gingerbread Smoothie

What to do with an extra can of pumpkin in the pantry? Smoothie it, of course. I first made this on Halloween, perfected it the next day, and now I’m officially obsessed. Inspired by Angela’s Pumpkin Pie Monster.

Ingredients:

1/4 c canned pumpkin

1 c milk of choice (I use Almond Breeze unsweetened vanilla)

1.5 t pumpkin pie spice (or 1 t cinnamon, 1/4 t nutmeg, 1/4 t ginger)

1/2 t vanilla extract

1 t blackstrap molasses

1 small banana, frozen in chunks

Directions: Throw everything in the blender and blend away until smooth, starting with the lowest setting first.

I’m so glad this happened. It seriously tastes like pumpkin pie and gingerbread! Enjoy it outside while breathing crisp autumn air into your lungs.

To make that pretty little frothy bit at the top: After pouring the smoothie into a glass, just drop a couple tablespoons of almond milk back into the blender and blend for a few seconds. This gets some of the remaining smoothie out of the bottom of the blender, too. Then pour it on top and voila. Beauty.