Thanksgiving dinner is my favorite meal of the year. I love stuffing and gravy, all those winter root veggies, and the coziness of a festive dinner served late on a dark November afternoon. I don’t miss turkey one bit; it was never my favorite part of the meal, anyway. I’m convinced that, as long as the Thanksgiving table holds lots of yummy traditional dishes, others don’t miss the bird that much either.

With the help of a couple of friends, I’m having Thanksgiving dinner at my house this year. We’ll be mostly vegetarians, a few vegans, and a few meat eaters. The menu is a combination of traditional dishes along with a few gourmet twists on tradition. (My mom always served turnips for Thanksgiving, but she never thought to flavor them with ginger!) I am dispensing with the standard vegetarian traditions, though; there will be no stuffed squash or Tofurky.

I do like having something a little “meaty,” even if it just a side dish, and I’ve finally settled on White Wave’s Vegetarian Stir Fry Strips, a vegan product made from wheat protein. Lately, this has been one of my favorite meat substitutes. I find it at my food coop; neither of our grocery stores carries it.

I also want something I can serve on my mom’s gorgeous turkey platter, a wonderful Royal Staffordshire transferware piece designed by Clarice Cliff. I never see it without thinking of all the wonderful holidays in my parents’ home. I’m going to pile it high with a pyramid of big stuffed mushrooms. Not portobellos, but those oversized white mushrooms.

So here is what will be on the table for Thanksgiving this year:

  • Stuffed mushrooms
  • Veggie strips sautéed with onions
  • Mashed potatoes and veggie gravy
  • Baked stuffing with walnuts and dried cranberries
  • Two cranberry sauces: A traditional cooked cranberry sauce (the recipe on the back of the cranberry package) and Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Sauce with horseradish and sour cream (I’ll use “Sour Supreme”)
  • Brussels sprouts, onions, and parsnips roasted with garlic and rosemary
  • Gingered turnips
  • Sweet potato salad
  • Wild Rice with mushrooms (my friend Kate is making this; she’s from Minnesota and wild rice is her Thanksgiving tradition).
  • To drink we’ll have red and white wine, beer, apple cider

    For dessert: Homemade apple pie and Pumpkin cheesecake, coffee, tea, and cranberry cordial from a local winery.

    These recipes call for a few of my favorite dairy and egg substitutes. Many vegan “dairy foods” are not that great, but there are a few that are outstanding. Look for Tofutti brand Better Than Cream Cheese and Sour Supreme—excellent substitutes for cream cheese and sour cream. I also use Veganaise eggless mayonnaise. It tastes like old-fashioned homemade mayo and is better than any traditional mayonnaise on the market.

    Here are some recipes from my vegan Thanksgiving Feast

    Mama Stamberg’s Cranberry Sauce

    This is the recipe made famous by NPR’s Susan Stamberg. The recipe came from her mother-in-law Marjorie Stamberg. It’s easy to veganize it with a sour cream substitute.

    2 cups raw cranberries
    1 small onion
    1/2 cup sugar
    3/4 cup Sour Supreme sour cream substitute
    2 tablespoons horseradish

    Chop the cranberries and onions in a food processor (don’t puree; just chop coarsely). Remove to bowl and stir in rest of ingredients by hand. Put in plastic container and freeze. Move to the fridge on Thanksgiving morning. It should be thawed in time for dinner but it’s nice to have some ice crystals in it. Makes 1 1/2 pints.

    Stuffed Mushrooms

    A variation on my mom’s recipe.

    1 pound large-ish mushrooms
    1/4 cup olive oil
    1 tablespoon minced onion
    1/3 cup dry bread crumbs
    1/2 tsp salt
    1/4 tsp paprika
    1/8 tsp pepper

    Remove stems from mushrooms and chop finely. Sauté the chopped mushrooms and onion in the olive oil until soft, about 5 minutes. Add the rest of ingredients (except the mushroom caps). Stir together. Put the caps in a baking dish, fill with the mixture, bake at 400 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

    Stuffing With Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

    Prepare any commercial stuffing mix according to the package directions, using veggie broth and a combination of melted margarine and olive oil.

    Then, pour boiling water over 1/2 cup or so of dried cranberries and let sit for a few minutes. Sauté some onions and celery in olive oil. Add the veggies and the drained cranberries to the stuffing and stir in some chopped walnuts. Just adjust the ingredients to suit your taste. You can’t really do anything wrong to this!

    If I have time, I love to use an ice cream scoop to make little stuffing balls on a cookie sheet and bake it that way. It produces the perfect ratio of crisp-to-soft. But they do tend to fall apart en route from cookie sheet to platter. So it’s easier to bake in a casserole.

    Roasted Winter Vegetables

    Again—no real recipe for this. Depending upon what else is being served, I love some combination of tiny potatoes, sweet potato wedges, turnips, Brussels sprouts, parsnip chunks, sweet onion, and rutabaga. Toss everything with olive oil, chopped garlic, and fresh rosemary. Sprinkle with salt. Roast at 375 degrees until everything is tender.

    Sweet Potato Salad

    From my friend Phyllis, who is an inspired cook.

    4 sweet potatoes
    1/4 cup Veganaise mayonnaise
    2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
    3 stalks celery, cut in 1/4-inch slices
    1 small red bell pepper, cut in 1/4-inch dice
    1 cup diced pineapple
    2 scallions, chopped
    Salt and pepper to taste
    1/2 cup chopped pecans, toasted in the frying pan for a few minutes

    Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap sweet potatoes individually in foil and bake for 45 minutes. Don’t let them get too soft. Cool, peel, and cut into 3/4-inch chunks. Mix together the mayo and mustard. Add all other ingredients except pecans. Chill at least one hour and fold in the pecans before serving.

    Veggie Gravy

    Basic gravy is just fat, flour and some type of stock. Use 2 tablespoons of margarine and 2 tablespoons of white flour for every 1 cup of gravy. Melt the margarine and stir in the flour. Cook the paste, stirring constantly, for a minute. Slowly stir in whatever stock you are using. It can be plain old veggie broth, or broth from cooking mushrooms, or even from cooking beans. I often use a combination of liquid from canned chickpeas and veggie broth, which sounds a little strange, but makes a good savory broth.

    Gingered Turnips

    From my friend Kate, also an inspired cook.

    Turnips with Ginger and Orange
    Chef David Kinch of Manresa in Los Gatos, CA
    (The original recipe calls for butter. I’ve substituted margarine, or you could also use a vegetable oil.)

    4 large turnips, about 2 pounds
    4 tablespoons unsalted vegan margarine
    3 cups orange juice
    1 teaspoon maple syrup
    1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger
    Finely grated zest of 1/2 lemon
    1 teaspoon chopped mint
    1/2 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

    Peel the turnips and slice them into pieces that are 1/2 inch thick.
    If desired, use a ring mold or other round cutter to form them into
    uniformly round shapes. [or NOT!!]

    Melt margarine in a a large skillet, at least 12 inches, over medium-
    high heat. Working in batches, cook the turnips until they begin to
    turn golden, about 3 minutes on each side. Remove cooked turnip
    slices to a plate and repeat until all of t
    he turnip slices have been

    With all of the slices on the plate, turn the heat to high, add the
    orange juice and maple syrup, scraping the bottom of the skillet to dislodge any
    caramelized bits. Return slices to skillet and simmer over med-high
    heat until the turnips are softened and the juice has reduced to a
    glaze, about 25 minutes, spooning the juices over the turnips as they

    Just before serving, add the ginger, lemon zest, mint and rosemary.
    Stir to coat and serve.

    Pumpkin Cheesecake

    You can use any pumpkin cheesecake recipe you like, replacing the cream cheese and sour cream with vegan substitutes. Here is one idea. (And if it’s too fussy, you can always get a friend to make it. That’s what I’m doing!)

    12 ounces Tofutti brand Better Than Cream Cheese
    2 1/2 tablespoons Sour Crème Supreme
    1 1/4 cup sugar
    1 15-ounce can pumpkin
    2 1/2 tablespoons EnerG brand egg replacer dissolved in 1 cup water
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground clove
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

    1/2 cup graham cracker crust mix from your favorite recipe.

    Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Press 1/2 cup of graham cracker crust into an 8-inch pan lined with parchment paper. Place the 8-inch pan inside a 10-inch pan which will serve as a water bath.

    Mix the spices. Combine the cream cheese, sour cream and sugar. Beat until light and creamy. Add the egg replacer dissolved in the water and pumpkin beating well after each addition. Add spice mixture and blend well. Pour into 8-inch pan. Add hot water to the 10-inch pan so that half the 8-inch pan is submerged in water. Bake for about an hour until cake rises slightly and starts pulling away from sides. Cool in the pan on a wire rack. Then refrigerate for at least 10 hours before unmolding from the pan. When ready to unmold, put a plate on top, carefully flip the pan over and unmold onto the plate. Peel off the parchment paper. This cheesecake can be frozen for up to one month.