A Meat-Free Thanksgiving? This Year Is The Perfect Time to Skip The Roast Beast...

meat-free thanksgiving
Jordan, one of several adoptable turkeys from Farm Sanctuary, online at www.adoptaturkey.org. © Farm Sanctuary

This Thanksgiving, show your appreciation for animals and the environment by serving a vegan meal. Not only will it make cooking easier, but it’s beneficial to your health and the environment.

Health advocate John Robbins, author of Diet for a New America, says that reducing our meat consumption is the single most important thing we can do to help counteract climate change. That’s because the meat industry is such a major player in worldwide greenhouse gas emissions—from clearing forest land for corn grown for cattle, to the tons of methane generated from animal belches, to the waste created and water used. According to the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization, livestock are responsible for 18% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

And there are other reasons to be concerned about eating too much meat. Much food contamination and food-borne illness comes from it. As recently as November 2009, E. coli-tainted meat forced the recall of 546,000 pounds of beef from Fairbank Farms that left two dead and sent 16 to hospitals. And turkey is not immune from food-borne-illness worries. Turkey, too, has been recalled for carrying bacteria and can cause illness when not cooked or handled properly.

New Flavors to Savor

Discovering new vegetables and flavors can take this Thanksgiving into more adventurous taste directions, too. This Thanksgiving, veteran vegans share their favorite tips and recipes to get you started.

Priscilla Feral, president of Friends of Animals, a nonprofit, international animal organization advocating for the rights of animals, gave us her advice for making the switch this holiday season and beyond.

Feral adopted the vegan lifestyle after meeting her partner Bob. Her secret? The couple supports one another and they enjoy cooking vegan meals together. She recommends attending a few cooking classes and buying vegan cookbooks. “You won’t know how to question what’s been put into a restaurant’s risotto without knowing how this selection is prepared and what ingredients are typically found in dishes,” Feral says. Friends of Animals offers a free Vegan Starter Guide for aspiring vegans as well.

This Thanksgiving, Feral recommends preparing the food on your own. That way, you”ll know what is in the meal and have control of the ingredients. Here is what she serves in her traditional vegan Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Carrot Pate with rice crackers and celery sticks)
  • Perfect Chestnut Soup or Butternut Squash Soup)
  • Tempeh London Broil
  • Mashed Yukon Potatoes with Celery Root
  • Pumpkin Bread with Dates and Pecans or Cranberry Nut Bread)
  • Spicy Pumpkin Cheesecake or Chocolate Marble Cheesecake)
  • Ginger Cookies

The restaurants Candle Café & Candle 79 in New York City are both all-organic with plenty of vegan options. Mark Doskow, head of business, explains that what started as a friend’s suggestion to do a vegan “cleanse” became a lifestyle commitment. “When the cleanse was finished,” Doskow says, “the bits of dairy and animal protein I ate would make me feel awful and make my body shut down. After feeling the effects of that last bite of pepper jack cheese, I went vegan and haven’t looked back since.”

Doskow also suggests reading about the impacts of animal production and consumption on the planet and individual health to help with transitioning. Other reading material he suggests is Jonathan Safran Foer’s Eating Animals and T. Colin Campbell’s The China Study which he describes as “life-changers.”

When asked about what goes into planning his vegan Thanksgiving, Doskow says: “Truthfully, I don’t think about the fact that I am preparing food for vegans or non-vegans. I am just out to make the best meal I can with the seasonal and traditional holiday items on hand.”

Here’s Candle Café recipe that is sure to make your transition to a vegan Thanksgiving a delicious one!

Candle Café/Candle 79’s Pumpkin Soup with Balsamic Caramelized Pears :

4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium pumpkin, large-diced
1 large leek, trimmed and chopped
2 cups peeled chestnuts, fresh or frozen
1” piece fresh ginger, chopped
2 cardamom pods
1 cinnamon stick
1 whole nutmeg, cut in half
1 stalk lemongrass, chopped
1 dried chipotle pepper
2 Tbsp. fresh sage
2-3 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. salt, more to taste if necessary
4-5 quarts filtered water
1 small piece cheesecloth

2-3 pears, diced
1 Tbsp. grape seed oil
1 Tbsp. pure maple syrup
1 tsp. cinnamon powder
2-3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar

1. In a large stockpot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add leeks and sauté until soft. While leeks are sautéing, place cinnamon stick, nutmeg, lemongrass, cardamom, ginger and chipotle in cheesecloth. Knot securely and set aside.

2. Add pumpkin, chestnuts, cheesecloth pouch, sage and water to pot. Water should cover squash by about 1-2 inches. Bring to a simmer and reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes or until pumpkin is very tender and falls apart. Remove soup from heat.

3. While soup is cooling, heat grape seed oil in a sauté pan over high heat. Add pears and sauté for 5 minutes. Lower heat to medium and add maple syrup, cinnamon powder and balsamic vinegar. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes until pears are soft and vinegar has become syrupy and coats the pears. Set aside to cool.

4. Remove cheesecloth pouch from soup. Add maple syrup and 1 tsp. salt. With immersion or regular blender, puree soup until creamy. If soup appears too thick, add water to achieve desired consistency. Reheat and add additional salt to taste. Garnish with caramelized pears.