It’s never “Happy Turkey Day”

TurkeysWe hear this expression used instead of Happy Thanksgiving often. The unfortunate turkey has been cast as the star of this annual feast of giving thanks, and gathering with friends and family.

Although I have only been eating a plant-based diet since March 2012, I have never made my own turkey, and now it looks like I never will. It always seemed like a scary thing involving frozen items thawing, innards, and long baking times. While it may seem impossible to imagine a holiday table without a big turkey carcass as the centerpiece, my favorite part of the meal has always been the side dishes, especially my mom’s stuffing that has nuts and dried fruit!

The main variety of turkey eaten in the US is a domesticated breed called the broad-breasted white. The average live weight of federally inspected turkeys has nearly doubled in the past 50 years, and the time it takes for a turkey to reach market weight has halved.

46 million birds will die just for Thanksgiving dinner. They are killed at only 18 weeks old, and are overly huge since the breast meat is preferred. In personality, turkeys are intelligent and sensitive animals that are highly social. They create lasting social bonds with each other and are very affectionate; rather similar to dogs.


Many of these animals suffer needlessly as a result of being super-sized by factory farming methods, as we buy excessively large animals to impress our guests. Americans throw away about 35 percent of edible turkey meat each year. So most people are buying turkeys 1/3 larger than they will even eat.

Considering this, you have several options besides just blindly following tradition.


1. My favorite: Make a true harvest dinner, like this delicious spread. Most of the traditional side dishes can be made without animal products, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth for example.

2. Buy a turkey substitute like a Tofurky or make your own!

3. Keep in mind the treatment of the animal by understanding labels. It is more expensive to worry about these things because the animal has been allowed to grow naturally, and it is cheaper to raise animals with unhealthy food and space.

For some reason, with turkeys, a single bird is eaten per family (rather than just sliced off portions of a whole animal), which makes it seem more personal. I vote for keeping guilt off the plate entirely.

Plan ahead for a happy and compassionate Thanksgiving for all!

Vegging out in California

Earlier this year, we won a raffle contest at my daughter’s school. It was so exciting to win a free trip. We had three choices of places to go, but the only one where our whole family could go, was the trip to California. It included airfare, hotel, a dinner at Medieval Times, Knotts Berry Farm tickets, and 2 day passes to Disneyland.

The kids and I had gone to Knotts and Disneyland 7 years ago with my mom. I remembered them riding Dumbo and all the little kid rides, this would be a very different experience with them so much older and tall enough to ride all the rides. My husband and I are not really into theme parks, and I have to admit, I just don’t understand the appeal. However, it was something we wanted to do for the kids to enjoy.


I had done a little research as to how we might be able to eat vegan, or even vegetarian at these places since I remembered people eating giant turkey legs last time we went. It appeared there would be some options. Since we were staying in a hotel and taking a shuttle bus to the park, we didn’t want to cart food around with us. But, after our experience, my advice to you is bring your own food.

I’m going to write about the veg aspect, and try to separate our experience from the fact that it was over 100 degrees in mid-October most of the time we were there! Record-breaking heat for them, and made everything a lot less enjoyable. Here is our best moment, cooling off at Splash Mountain. This photo makes me laugh every time at our reactions.



The best vegan experience we had was actually at the most surprising place- Medieval Times, a dinner show featuring knights jousting. It was surreal, especially as we had no idea what it would be like. You are given a paper crown to wear when you enter, and that is “your” knight for the evening. There were about a million ways to separate you from your money from the moment you enter this already expensive show—from a family photo with the king ($21), to a full gift shop. You are served your meal while watching the show and cheering your knight with optional $5 flags. I didn’t see anyone else order the vegetarian option, but it was quite good. It was comprised of a stew of potatoes, beans and rice served in a bucket; tomato soup; hummus, pita bread and vegetables. The apple pastry at the end was not vegan- it was supposed to come with a sorbet I think. As you can see in the photos, everyone is served a huge portion of chicken. The woman next to me ate practically none of it. It was depressing to see all those chicken legs, but I appreciated that they actually offer a delicious and much healthier substitute meal.


There may have been veg options at Knotts Berry, but we didn’t look past the chicken dinner restaurant and another place that only offered grilled cheese, instead opting to go to TGIF nearby. We got their black bean burger for $13.49, and I believe it was the only adult veg entrée available. It was the same Chipotle Bean Burger that we get from Costco for at most $1.50 each, which is a good burger but quite a big mark up!

For Disneyland, we found a portobello sandwich (that was delicious) in Tomorrowland. It had a full mushroom, large grilled red pepper and onions. It was not vegan, and it was already prepared with mayo (I think) and 1 slice of cheese. We ate that twice.

We tried to find other places, like Ariel’s Grotto, which was supposed to have a tofu scramble. Unfortunately, you have to make advance reservations to eat there. One night we ended up at Flo’s V8 diner in California land seeking out the veggie tater bake. After waiting in line for 20 minutes, we found out that they were sold out! As you can see all the other entrées were mostly meat. One could argue that you could eat a salad without the meat, but after being in the sun and walking all day, we were hungry! And our kids don’t eat salad, and how difficult is it really to offer veggie options? Especially if they sell out of them. Do I sound bitter? Here is a photo of our dinner comprised of sides. And no, not vegan.


One night we went to visit friends in the area, and stopped at a grocery store for some BBQ items, where I got to finally try the Beast Burger. They had delicious salad and fresh fruit, it was the best meal of our whole trip.

The last morning of our trip we went to Jamba Juice in Disney Town, and we all got large smoothies. I got to try their new Almond Milk smoothie with pumpkin, banana and cinnamon. It was delicious! Kudos to Jamba Juice for offering these new dairy free options.

So, while it is possible to eat veggie in Disneyland, it is much harder to eat vegan. And I don’t want to hear about frozen lemonade, french fries or an ear of corn as options. I want a real meal, just like everyone else.

Experiencing how difficult it is to eat vegan, and how predominant the meat culture is in America really shook me up a bit. I know I live in a bubble normally – Portland is one of the most veg-friendly cities in the world. I usually eat at home, or can easily choose where to eat. Until you stop eating meat (and especially eggs and dairy), you don’t realize how little choice that consumers have. We need to have those options so that people can choose them.

Sept 27: Turtle Cookies

Ever since my first batch of cookies were gobbled up last week, I thought about trying a different recipe. The first batch was so easy, and this new recipe was a bit more complicated and expensive. But, so good… like toffee cookies. And you will want to eat the raw dough before baking, and you can.


They were extremely sweet, and I did not make them gluten-free. Kids loved them even though there were a lot of nuts. I think on this kind of recipe, smaller chocolate chips are better than large chunks so it sticks together even better.

Another Oh She Glows recipe, Turtle Oatmeal cookies.


September 26: Enchiladas with Cilantro Avocado cream sauce

Last night we had friends over for dinner… a very rare occasion lately. I knew from past experience that A was a really good cook, and that is always a bit intimidating.

I decided to go a really easy route since we had 4 kids to please, and do a Mexican dinner- plant-based style.

This sweet potato enchilada recipe on Oh She Glows sounded really good… even though we have had a lot of sweet potato lately. The cilantro avocado cream on top really made this dish in my opinion. The enchilada part was good, but not the ultimate… but with the topping it took it to another level.

Served it with Mexican rice and vegetarian refried beans. A brought a delicious avocado salad and we were all set.

Check out the recipe here.

Sept 25: Tofu salad sandwich

This is the quick, go-to sandwich when you are our of everything. I have made it different ways- with pickle relish makes it like an egg salad.

This is a pretty typical recipe, although I usually don’t use onion. I wanted to highlight this website because I really like the illustrations, and the name.

Tofu salad recipe from the Vegan Stoner

Sept 24: Cauliflower

For the Meal Mentor plan, I made Cauliflower Molé. This was a bit strange… I don’t think it was super family friendly. Or at least my kids weren’t interested.
Roasted diced red pepper and cauliflower. I am not a fan of cauliflower (especially if it is raw). In fact, the only way I have enjoyed it is as a creamy alfredo recipe. So, basically disguised beyond recognition.

Cauliflower Molé

The molé sauce helped a lot, I may have mad it too thick. In any case, I wouldn’t add this recipe.

Instead, I want to recommend you make the alfredo sauce with fettucine! See picture on recipe page.

Cauliflower Alfredo sauce recipe from Oh She Glows.


Sept 23: Best Vegan Chocolate Chip recipe

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Tonight the kids were begging me to make cookies. The chocolate chips I bought had been opened and were almost half gone, so it was just a matter of hours before there would not be enough left in the bag to make cookies. Are we the only ones with this problem?

I googled best vegan chocolate chip cookies, and voilà! This recipe only took about 10 minutes to put together, and I had all the ingredients on hand. Best of all, when you make vegan cookies you can eat the batter without worrying about salmonella! I have to say, not sure why the egg is needed. There was nothing to replace it, no extra oil or anything.

Somehow I always end up modifying the recipe, usually because I don’t have something. This time, I used one stick of earth balance shortening that I had on hand instead of the coconut oil it asked for. My coconut oil was hard as a rock from being in the fridge. After I made the batter, it seemed good, but I like a little more texture to my cookies so I added 1/2 cup oatmeal, and about 1/4 cup coconut flakes to add some flavor. I feel like you could make this recipe your own by adding nuts, dried fruit or whatever you like.

Result: Everyone loved them! Started with 3 dozen, and ended up with only a dozen since the warm cookies were so enticing. No one would guess they were vegan for sure.

Check out the recipe here, and I look forward to seeing their other recipes!

Sept 22: Chimichurri Soba noodles

Tonight’s Meal Mentor dinner was judged a success by all. I blended up a chimichurri sauce in the Vitamix using garlic, parsley, cumin, coriander, lemon, paprika, and some veg broth. It was supposed to have 2 cups of fresh cilantro in it, but mine had gone bad, so I just added more parsley and some dried cilantro.

Next, boiled up some noodles- and since I didn’t have soba noodles, I used somen. Those were much thinner, like angel hair. At the end of the boiling you add a bunch of kale and cherry tomatoes. Lastly, add the chickpeas.

Since I had to make so many changes, I want to try this again using soba and cilantro. My sauce ended up being less of a paste than the recipe described.

Everyone liked it, so in the end that is all that matters. Very flavorful with absolutely no oil.


Sept 21: Thai Sloppy Joes (and bulging binders)!

So, I am still cooking vegan dinners daily. This one was another Meal Mentor with onion, garlic, green pepper and lentils sautéed together with coconut milk and red curry paste.

It came together quickly as we were heading to our son’s middle school open house night. It gave me the strength to go to all his classrooms and realize how different school is now, and how he is not organized enough to manage all these websites and planners (and neither am I). Thanks to the new way math is taught, I don’t even understand how to help him. Not to mention that he takes Japanese (immersion since age 4) and… no.

Rant/whining aside. This one was not a winner for me, although not terrible. Hopefully, this veganmofo month has gotten me into the habit of blogging daily, and I will be able to share some recipes that I absolutely love soon!


Sept 20: Bahn Mi Lettuce Cups

I made this recipe from my Happy Herbivore Meal Mentor plan. We are starting week two, and I am really excited about the exotic choices this week.

My first meal I made was the bahn mi lettuce cups which were not difficult but had a lot of steps.


Sauté the portobello mushrooms in a delicious broth, pickle carrots and cucumbers in rice vinegar, cook some brown rice, and whip up easy siracha mayo.


By the time I had done all these steps, and washed the romaine lettuce leaves, it was time to go to the NW Veg potluck. It was very well-attended, and there were so many delicious dishes to try there!

I set up all my bowls and created a couple of sample cups, but you can guess what happened. Some people took the sample cups and many didn’t know how to assemble them.


Probably not the best choice for a large potluck, but I definitely will make them again for a small gathering where I take the time to assemble them myself or can explain it! The only changes I will make are to use the smaller cucumbers (found in Vietnamese grocery stores) sliced even thinner, and look for smaller lettuce leaves as cups.

I’m very proud that this time I took some photos!

You’ll have to sign up for meal mentor to get this particular recipe, but I found a great website with 20 different wrap ideas, and you may find a recipe that appeals to you even more from Nori wraps to Southwest tortilla-style!