A vegan Thanksgiving

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A vegan Thanksgiving

The pie shop Livin' the Pie Life, where my family purchased the vegan apple and cherry pies.

The pie shop Livin' the Pie Life, where my family purchased the vegan apple and cherry pies.

The pie shop Livin' the Pie Life, where my family purchased the vegan apple and cherry pies.

The pie shop Livin' the Pie Life, where my family purchased the vegan apple and cherry pies.

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Every year when the holidays approach, I find myself dreading meals with friends and family. Being a vegetarian who’s making an honest attempt to become fully vegan, I try to pass up animal products as much as possible. When everyone around you still eats meat, eggs and dairy, things can get a little tricky. While other people able to indulge in golden turkey legs, buttery mashed potatoes and decadent apple pie, I’m stuck tackling the task of sticking to a vegan diet.

There have been countless times where I’ve given into the pressure of eating like those around me. The judgemental stares from my peers and family members, not to mention the tempting fumes wafting in from the kitchen, lead me straight to the foods I’ve been trying so hard to avoid. Thanksgiving is the perfect example of this. Many classic American Thanksgiving recipes are centered around meat, the star of the show being a whole Turkey. Many traditional Thanksgiving sides also include a hefty serving of milk and eggs. When the only vegan friendly option is a measly side of steamed peas, which, for the record, are absolutely disgusting, of course I consider breaking my veganism.

The thing is, vegan food can be just as good as any other kind of food, if not better when prepared properly. This year, my family decided to host a vegan Thanksgiving so that I could have a more wholesome holiday meal instead of just sides of vegetables. Being the only vegan in my household this was a pretty big sacrifice for them to make, because although well made vegan dishes are quite delicious, a vegan dish can also go south extremely fast.

This year, as this was my first vegan Thanksgiving, I wanted to rate the dishes I would be consuming. I rated each of the dishes based on looks, taste, and similarity to its traditional non-vegan counterpart. Lastly, I considered if I would eat it again. All of the number ratings used a one to 10 scaling system with one being the worst and 10 being the best.

The vegan dishes I reviewed were Gardein seven grain crispy tenders, mashed potatoes, and an apple and cherry pie from Livin’ The Pie Life.

 

Review #1– Gardein seven grain crispy tenders: These faux chicken tenders served as a turkey substitute. Although Gardein does offer a vegan holiday roast, the stuffing inside of it thwarted me from giving it a try. To make things worse, I was unable to find a turkeyless turkey substitute sans stuffing at any of my local grocery stores and I hate stuffing. I don’t understand the appeal of semi-soggy bread being packed into anything, especially when celery is involved. The crispy tenders were still a bird knock-off, so they would have to do.

Looks: 6. Although they looked extremely similar to actual chicken tenders inside and out, the fact they they didn’t give me that classic whole turkey on a platter feel was a little disheartening.

Taste: 8. The tenders were deliciously juicy, crispy and tender just as the name implies. They were even better once drenched in cranberry sauce, which made them taste especially festive.

Similarity to an actual turkey: 2. Again, despite their deliciousness, because they weren’t anything like a traditional Thanksgiving turkey, I was forced to give them a low rating.

Would I eat them again: Yes. Maybe next year I could make more of an effort to hunt for a more traditional vegan turkey without stuffing, but overall the crispy tenders were very tasty and I will definitely be eating them again.

 

Review #2 – Homemade mashed potatoes: I followed the classic recipe, but instead of using regular milk and butter, I substituted the two with almond milk and Earth Balance vegan butter. I also added some green onions as a garnish.

Looks: 9. They looked identical to regular mashed potatoes and the green onion garnish made them look even more appetizing.

Taste: 7. Although they tasted pretty good overall, since almond milk is not as thick as traditional milk or heavy cream, the potatoes were not as creamy as I had hoped for.

Similarity to actual mashed potatoes: 9. Despite the too-thin almond milk debacle, they were spot on mashed potatoes and I bet most people would not be able to tell the difference. Most non-dairy milks and butters are so similar to the real thing that they hardly ever make a noticeable difference when being swapped in for recipes.

Would I eat them again: Yes. The only change I would make for the future is finding a way to make the potatoes creamier, which could probably be fixed with a thicker milk substitute or a milk substitute and flour mixture.

 

Review #3 – Livin’ The Pie Life cherry and apple pies: These two pies were purchased from a local pie shop off of Glebe Road. I had tried their other pies before going vegan so I was excited to see they offered vegan options as well. We ordered the pies well in advance, anticipating the annual rush for these to-die-for pies, picking them up the day before Thanksgiving.

Looks: 10. They were stunning. The detail on the crust was beautiful and the cherry pie even had little pastry star cutouts. The fruit was vibrant and there was no doubt in my mind that the ingredients were fresh.

Taste: 7.5  The apple pie was delicious. There was an insane amount of filling which did make it hard to eat but it was delectable nonetheless. It had a subtle spicy undertone which gave it a unique flavor. The cherry filling was a bit too tart for me, but that’s just a personal preference considering cherry pies are generally more on the sour side. Although, as a pie crust enthusiast, I could have used a bit more crust since there was so much filling.

Similarity to actual pies: 9. I noticed almost no differences between the two vegan pies and normal pies. The only real difference, which was hardly noticeable at all, was that the crust was a little more crumbly than normal pie crust. However, this was easily overlooked considering it tasted so good.

Would I eat them again: Yes. I would eat both the pies again, although if I had to choose, I would prefer to just get the apple pie next Thanksgiving as I liked that one better.

 

Overall Thanksgiving was a success. The vegan feast showed me that although these plant-based foods are not exact replicas of a traditional thanksgiving dinner, they came pretty close and left me satisfied. I am thankful for the chance to eat a Thanksgiving dinner with my family that everyone could participate in this year.

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