Ideas (and some WFPB recipes) for Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is three weeks from today (or sooner, depending on when you're reading this). I have one friend who has told me that she likes to fast on Thanksgiving. It makes her thankful for her food the other 364 days of the year. I think there's a lot to be said for that. And it certainly gets the whole foods, plant-based person past the issue of figuring out what to eat with the rest of the family.

Although I don't plan to fast this year, since I will be with family, I kind of like the idea of fasting on Thanksgiving day. All my life, Thanksgiving has been a day of excess. And I'm not sure that's what it should be about. It seems odd to think about giving thanks and gorging myself at the same time. And yet, isn't that what we do?

Beyond fasting, the person on a WFPB diet might consider working in a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving or at another charitable event providing dinner to those in need or those who are lonely. Not only is doing so an act of gratitude and thanksgiving, but it takes the focus off of what we're eating and instead it puts the focus on serving others. The only thing is, doing so is not an occasion to preach our way of eating or to cajole people into not having what they consider to be an enjoyable Thanksgiving meal. Instead, it's a time for us to reflect on how fortunate we are to have the knowledge and the wherewithal to follow a WFPB lifestyle.

But if you're like most of us, you'll be planning to visit family for Thanksgiving. That's what I am doing. And that presents the dilemma. What do we eat?

If this is your first year doing a whole foods, plant-based diet, then you are probably particularly apprehensive about the holidays coming up. If you're like I was last year, after just starting down the WFPB path in October, then you're really not sure how you will fare this holiday season. I went back and forth several times about whether or not I should make an exception for the Thanksgiving meal. In the end, I did not, and I felt all that much stronger afterwards as a result.

Last year I bought Lindsey Nixon's 7-day meal plan for the week of Thanksgiving, and it saved me. Her meal plan, along with Thanksgiving meal ideas suggested by the McDougall Newsletter, gave me some great recipes to try for Thanksgiving. This year, there's a new cookbook out as well called Happy Herbivore Holidays and Gatherings. It has a couple of recipes that I'm planning to make for Thanksgiving this year.

I will be a visitor this year for Thanksgiving. As such, I've agreed with my hosts to bring my own main course, of which there will be enough to share, as well as a vegan dessert that can be shared. Between those two items and the veggies, fruits and nuts that will be available, I should be well satisfied. The nice thing about doing this diet is that I know that I will be satisfied but not overly stuffed when I push away from the table.

Finally, you could decide to make an exception for Thanksgiving dinner. I'm not going to say that one meal won't kill you (it could), but at least if you decide beforehand to do that, then you won't be kicking yourself on Friday morning over how you lost control the day before. And we all know what happens when you fall off a diet when you didn't intend to. That becomes an excuse for staying off of the diet. So, make the decision beforehand and know that on Friday, you'll be right back to eating veggies, fruit, nuts, legumes and whole grains, without oil.

That's four options for this Thanksgiving -- fasting, serving others, following WFPB recipes or making an exception for the day. Hopefully, that will help you in your planning. But if you're like me, and most of the rest of us, you'll be eating on Thanksgiving day.

Here's a few of my favorite holiday recipes, which I published earlier this month in SunSations magazine:

Stuffed Acorn Squash (this is a main course dish)
Adapted from a recipe by The Happy Herbivore
Ingredients (for 2 servings)
1 acorn squash
½ cup quinoa (uncooked)
1 ¼ cup vegetable broth
¼ tsp mild curry powder
¼ cup raisins
1 cup finely chopped spinach
Preheat oven to 400F. Cut acorn squash in half, place cut side down on a cookie sheet and bake for 30 to 35 minutes.
While the squash is cooking, combine quinoa, vegetable broth, curry powder and a dash of cinnamon and raisins in a pot that you then bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat and cook for 15 minutes until liquid evaporates. Quinoa should be fluffy. If not, add more vegetable broth and continue to cook. Then stir in the spinach, add another dash or two of cinnamon, cover and set aside.
Once acorn squash is done, flip it over and scoop out the insides (seedy matter). Then cut the point off each base so that the acorn bowls sit upright. Spoon quinoa mixture into the squash and serve warm.
Farro, Apple and Pecan Salad
Adapted from a recipe by Whole Foods Market
Ingredients (per serving)
¼ cup uncooked farro
Vegetable broth
¼ red onion
1 large cored and chopped apple
½ to 1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 tbsp apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp chopped pecans (raw or toasted)
Soak farro in cold water for 20 minutes and drain. In a medium pot, bring 2 cups of water to a boil, add the farro and simmer uncovered until tender, about 30 to 35 minutes. Drain and transfer to a large bowl, cover and refrigerate.
Line a skillet with a thin layer of broth. Add onion and saute over high heat for 3 to 5 minutes. Then add apples and more broth if needed. Stir and continue to cook for about 3 minutes. Transfer this mixture to the chilled farro and stir to combine with thyme, vinegar and pecans. Can be served immediately.
Vegan Chocolate Cake
The original source for this recipe is unknown to me.
1 ½ cups of whole wheat flour
3 tbsps unsweetened cocoa powder
1 tsp baking soda
2/3 cup pure maple syrup
6 tbsp unsweetened applesauce
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup cold water
1 package of vegan chocolate chips
Mix everything together, except for the chocolate chips and then pour into a 9” diameter nonstick, cake baking pan. Bake at 350F for 25 to 30 minutes.

Once baking is completed, place vegan chips on top of cooked hot cake and when melted, spread them around to cover the cake. Allow cake to cool and then serve. Delicious!