November 2011


There is nothing more comforting than Shepherd’s Pie during those cold Fall days. We thought the twist of sweet potato would add the extra autumn twist. With Thanksgiving just around the corner, this recipe works as a side dish or the main course for your meatless feast. The best part about this recipe is it’s gluten free! It is perfect for a main Thanksgiving dish to serve to your gluten-free guests!  It’s hard to please every palate at your holiday feast, but trust us, you can’t go wrong with this one!

Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Shepherd’s Pie

2 Med-Large Sweet Potatoes
1/2 lb of Lentils, cooked and drained
1/2 Cup Vegetable Broth
1/2 Cup Soy milk
1 Onion
1 Carrot
1 Stalk of Celery
1 Glove of Garlic
1/2 tsp Sage
1/2 tsp Oregano
Salt and Pepper to taste

Earth Balance to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Chop the potatoes, onion, carrots, and celery and set aside. In a pot boil the sweet potatoes until soft enough to mash. In another pot boil the carrots and celery for a few minutes until a little soft, about 6 minutes. Strain both and set aside. In a mixing bowl, combine the lentils, vegetable broth, boiled carrots and celery, garlic, and spices. Lay out this mixture in a casserole dish. In another mixing bowl, mash the sweet potatoes with soy milk, Earth Balance, salt and pepper. Layer the mashed sweet potatoes over the lentil mixture. Place in oven and bake for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are a little dry on top.

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So you are skipping the turkey this Thanksgiving. To most Americans this seems almost sacrilegious to serve Thanksgiving dinner without a turkey. Likening the bird to the first Thanksgiving, however, many people including vegetarians, vegans, health conscious folks, and just people looking for a change opt out of meat for the holiday. So if you are looking to lose the meat, try out a few of our suggestions below. If you want a rating of them, check out this comparison on Slate.  Have a happy meatless Thanksgiving!

Tofurkey: Aww the Tofurkey, it’s very name fills the air with the scent of Thanksgiving.  It has been a staple of vegetarian Thanksgivings for over a decade.  It is fairly inexpensive, around $9.99 and comes with stuffing and gravy. The brand does an excellent job of tasting turkey-esque and definitely completes your holiday meal. The Slate comparison gave it a 19 out of 25 rating.

Field Roast Celebration Roast: Although the Field Roast,  looks much more like a holiday ham, it definitely will fit in on the Thanksgiving table.  It’s texture and spices have a turkey taste, but the stuffing is a little more mushy than the Tofurkey. You can’t beat the sweet potatoes and apples in the stuffing. Slate gave this centerpiece a rating of 12 out of 25.

Gardein Stuffed Turk’y:  Gardein, although new on the market, has made a huge splash. They have come out with all sorts of delicious meatless options including crispy “chicken” and beefless tips. Their biggest contribution is their Stuffed Turk’y. Even though, these are a lot smaller than the above roasts, they win out in flavor. This is hands down one of your best options for fake meat. Slate gave it a winning 22 out of 25!

Homemade: Instead of buying your main dish this year, consider making your roast from scratch. We posted a great recipe last week on homemade gluten roast. It’s very easy and will make your whole feast a more homemade feel and taste. You can also try these recipes for ideas.

 

It’s almost Thanksgiving and as you are compiling your shopping list, why not skip the processed Tofurkey this year. We have a great recipe to create your own “turkey” roast in time for the holidays.  It will give your meal a real homemade feel, not that we don’t love Tofurkey, but making a roast from scratch is always so satisfying. This recipe is a tried and true friend’s family recipe that has been dished out at Vegan Thanksgiving for many years!

Homemade Vegan Roast

Gluten:
3 Cups Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Flour
3 Tbsp All Purpose Flour
1 3/4 Cup Water
1 Cup Soy Sauce or Bragg’s Amino Acids
1 tsp Garlic Powder
2 Carrots
3 Red Potatoes
1 Medium Onion

Breading:

1 Cup Bread Crumbs
1/3 Cup Nutritional Yeast
2 Tbsp Bragg’s Amino Acid
1 Tbsp Vegetable Oil
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1/2 tsp Cumin
1/2 tsp Oregano
1/4 tsp Black Pepper

In a mixing bowl combine all dry spices and ingredients for the breading and set aside. In a large saucepan, boil water, soy sauce, and garlic. While the water is boiling, combine Gluten flour and regular flour. Add in 1 3/4 cup water slowly, while kneading the dough. Slice dough into strips and drop each slice into the boiling water/soy sauce. After a minute each slice will float to the top. Let them float for a few minutes and then lift out of the water and set aside.

Cut the carrots, onion, and potato in large chunks. Boil these until soft and set aside. In a small sauce bowl add the Bragg’s Amino acid and a little vegetable oil. Warm up a skillet on medium high and add the rest of the vegetable oil. Dip each strip in the amino acid and roll in the dry breading boil. Fry each strip until crispy on both sides (about 5 minutes).

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees. In a casserole dish, cover the bottom with a little oil or margarine. Layer the strips similar to lasagna and surround them with the boiled veggies. For an added treat, separate gluten strips with stuffing. Cook for fifteen/twenty minutes. Serve with all the fixin’s: mashed potatoes, gravy, stuffing, and cranberry sauce.

Usually the only green thing about your Thanksgiving meal is the bean casserole, but this year there are several ways to make your dinner that much greener.  The holiday itself is a tad gluttonous and seems the opposite of anything eco-friendly. Buying too much food, tons of  plastics, and cooking all day. We have put together a short list of ways you can make your day of Thanks a tad more eco-friendly.

Buy Local & Organic: Instead of going to the supermarket for all your veggies, bread, and jams, try your farmer’s market.  You can find almost every thing you need at your weekly farmer’s market or your local grocery store. Be sure to look for organic certified products.  You can also purchase your breads, jams, and other goodies from local vendors. If you must purchase any dairy, definitely look for a local organic option.

Skip the Turkey: Stick to your veggies this year, and skip the turkey. There are plenty of great main vegan or vegetarian dishes to serve rather than turkey. Check our lovely vegan recipe blog for ideas.  You can even take it one step further and Adopt-A-Turkey from Farm Sanctuary. You can also purchase or make meat substitutes for dinner such as Tofurkey or Field Roast.

Organic Spirits: Serve up all your spirits organic! You can find great organic wines, organic beers, and even liquors. From organic vodka to rum, you can find organic versions of your favorite night-cap. Also, be sure to get your mixers organic as well, including cranberry juice, soda, and apple ciders.

Natural Decorations: This year use what nature gave you to decorate rather than buying new fall themed decor. You can use local straw, pumpkins, and squash. Or you may find some great items lying around your own backyard, such as apples and fall leaves. Another great resource is pine cones and tree branches. You can place them around the house or use a glue gun to make wreathes or other decor for your house.

Leftovers: Try to limit your food purchases to what you need, but if you find you still have leftovers be sure to do the green thing. If you compost, be sure to compost them to nurture your garden. Another option is to donate your leftovers to a local homeless shelter, food bank, or Food Not Bombs. Try searching this nationwide database of Food Pantries for a local place near you.

Since I am still working and volunteering deep in the Gulf of Mexico, this we are featuring a vegan Gumbo recipe. Gumbo is a traditional dish that has French and Louisiana routes. You can find it anywhere you go and every local has a different  secret ingredient or method to share. They also really love the spice down here! We’ve figured out it is either spicy or sweet down here, nothing is bland. So enjoy some good ol’ fashioned Cajun Gumbo from bayou country!

Vegan Cajun Gumbo 

3 Quarts of Vegetable Stock
1 Cup Cooked Rice
3 Cups Cubed Firm Tofu
1 Cup Chopped Tomatoes
1 Cup Olive Oil
1 Cup Organic Flour
1 Cup Chopped Onions
1 Cup Chopped Celery
1 Cup Chopped Red Bell Pepper
1/4 Cup Chopped Garlic
3 Cups Cooked Red Kidney Beans
2 Cups Sliced Okra
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Thyme
1 tsp Chopped Fresh Basil
Salt and black pepper to taste

Louisiana Hot Sauce

Cook rice and set aside. In a 5 quart Dutch oven, heat oil over medium heat and add flour to make the rue. Using a wire whisk, stir constantly until dark brown. Do not overcook, as it will turn black. Add olive oil onions, celery, bell pepper, okra, and tofu. Saute until the vegetables are a little wilted and the tofu is golden brown.  Ladle in vegetable stock, one scop at a tim. Add the beans and boil for 30 minutes. Add tomatoes, thyme, basil, salt, pepper, and hot sauce. Add rice and serve with hot sauce.

It is quiet as can be and all I can hear are the sounds of bugs chirping. To be honest I am not entirely certain what type of insects they are. Maybe that pegs me as a “City Girl,” but I don’t mind the title this week because I am definitely out of my element. I am lucky enough to be working down deep in the Gulf Coast re-planting wetlands and cleaning up the oil spill. I am volunteering with a wonderful non-profit called Restore the Earth. Just as the name implies, Restore the Earth, works to re-generate the environment. They are a dedicated team who has worked tirelessly to re-plant wetlands that are disappearing at an alarming rate.

So here is the situation: I am down here for one week with 30 other volunteers from around the country. We are all staying in cabins at the “End of the world” as locals say, but I like to say we are at the end of Louisiana’s boot. Actually we are in a region called Pass a Loutre, a part of Plaquemines Parish. During our time here we are planting over 4,000 mangroves and native grasses directly where the Gulf of Mexico has come into the Mississippi channels. On top of re-planting the wetlands, which are disappearing at an alarming rate, the soil in the mangroves and grasses contains oil eating microbes. This is to combat the damage still ravaging the land and water here in Louisiana due to the Deepwater Horizon spill which occurred last year.

Restoring the wetlands is vital to Louisiana, New Orleans, and the entire country. The wetlands are a natural habitat for the state bird, the brown pelican, as well as many other native species. They also act as a natural barrier or shall we say levy to protect the city of New Orleans and much of the Gulf Coast. In addition, the locals, which include Houma Indians and Cajun French, live off the water via fishing. In fact 30% of seafood sold in the US comes from this area. However, the wetlands are disappearing fast and have been drastically doing so since the 1930’s. In fact, we have already surpassed the 2050 predictions for the amount of wetland degradation. Experts say every year, wetlands the size of Manhattan disappear!

Hurricane Katrina was a tough lesson about the necessity of wetlands (they drop storm surges down by miles). And the recent oil spill just adds salt to old wounds. On top of degradation, now the remaining wetlands have to deal with contamination. This hurts more than plants including fish, birds, alligators, and humans alike. Restore the Earth and others like them are looking to reverse the damage through their Gulf Saver initiative.

In the week I am here, I will be re-planting an entire stretch of wetlands with my fellow volunteers. Please be on the lookout for other blogs detailing my adventure. There is a deep connection between water, land, plants, animals, and humans here and we aim to balance it. Please join us on our journey.

Gina Williams

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