I agree with the turkeys!

After years of eating “veganized” side dishes, I have decided that this year I am making a vegan entree that has nothing to do with traditional Thanksgiving fare. It’s a pasta dish that has become a family favorite. (recipe below!) Will this dish be passed down as a new Thanksgiving tradition? If it means less turkeys will lose their lives, I am all for it!

Thanksgiving = TRADITION. President Lincoln declared Thanksgiving a National Holiday in 1863 and since colonists hunted wild turkeys, this became the meal of choice. This tradition has been ingrained into each and every one of us – over our entire lives.

I have never been a “traditionalist” but I have done my best to conform, though. I went through the motions because that’s what I was supposed to do, right? We are told that “this is the way things are done” and “we’ve always done it this way” and we usually don’t question it, either. We just go into auto-pilot mode. And that is exactly what I did until 4 years ago.

It was then that I educated myself and began a plant-based lifestyle. I learned about all of the wonderful health benefits…and then I learned about what the meat and dairy industry does not want us to know. I began to question EVERYTHING.

So I slowly pulled back the blinders I had been wearing, and saw what happens in the factory farming industry. This was a huge eye opener for me, because for many years I chose to ignore it. I knew it was bad, but I did a good job compartmentalizing it. But since acknowledging it, I admit, it has been VERY difficult to come to terms with it. I am still unable to watch certain videos. It is absolutely heartbreaking what certain animals must endure so that we can fill our meat obsession. FACT: Did you know every year, more than 46 million turkeys lose their lives for Thanksgiving in the name of tradition1. It’s an ugly business, and doesn’t give the turkey population much to be thankful for.

Being vegan can be difficult, but more so if you are part of a traditional family where turkey is the time-honored centerpiece for Thanksgiving dinner. I am thankful to have family members whom have educated themselves and are trying to eat mostly or all plant-based. Over the last 4 years I have made many “veganized” Thanksgiving classics – like dairy-free mashed potatoes, stuffing and pies. I just googled vegan recipes…and found many to choose from. Family was open to trying these vegan versions. The only thing left to substitute was the bird. Enter this year… I am not comfortable with a Tofurky roast (although it is gaining popularity and has sold its 50 millionth roast this year!). That is why I chose to go rogue and make something completely different. Most of my family is actually okay with it (I think – wink) and this has me super excited!

I like to remember that a meal is a time to enjoy my family, not to dissect what we eat. We enjoy each other’s company, which is the real tradition to be appreciated, not what we’re putting into our mouths. Then, at each meal, I remind myself of why I’m doing this…for my healthfor the animals – for the Earth… and nothing seems like a loss, but instead like liberation and an abundance of choice.

What are you serving for Thanksgiving dinner? Please comment below!

Jacqui

[Artist: Leo Cullum]

 

 

R E C I P E

Vegan Stuffed Shells Florentine

(altered from ConnoisseurusVEG.com)

Rich and creamy cashew-tofu ricotta is blended with fresh spinach, stuffed into tender little pasta pockets and smothered in a quick garlicky tomato sauce to make these vegan stuffed shells.

Servings: 6 (serving size 3 shells)

Ingredients

  • 6 ounces dried jumbo pasta shells (about 20 shells)
For the Quick Tomato Sauce
  • Splash of veggie broth 
  • 1/2 large onion, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 (28 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 (14 ounce) can tomato sauce
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn and lightly packed
  • 1/2 tablespoon organic granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
For the Vegan Ricotta Florentine
  • 1/2 large onion, coarsely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 cup raw cashews soaked in water 4-8 hours and drained
  • 1/2 cup unflavored and unsweetened soy or almond milk
  • 1/4 cup lemon juice
  • 1 (14 ounce) package extra firm tofu, drained and broken into 5-6 large chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 2 cups fresh spinach leaves, coarsely chopped and lightly packed

Instructions

  1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta shells and cook according to package directions. Drain the pasta into a colander, then return it to the pot and toss with a few dashes of olive oil. Set aside.
Make the Quick Tomato Sauce
  1. Add the onion to a medium sauce pan and sauté in veggie broth until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté 1 minute more.
  2. Add the crushed tomatoes, sauce, sugar, oregano, salt and pepper. Stir a few times to incorporate. Bring the mixture to a simmer and lower the heat. Allow it to simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Stir in the basil and remove the sauce from the heat. Taste test and season with additional salt and pepper if you like.
Make the Vegan Ricotta Florentine
  1. Place the onion, garlic, cashews, milk and lemon juice into bowl of food processor. Blend until smooth, stopping to scrape down sides of bowl as needed. Add the tofu, salt and pepper. Pulse until a thick and slightly chunky, ricotta-like texture is achieved, again, stopping to scrape down the sides of bowl as needed. If some space remains in food processor bowl, add the spinach and pulse until finely chopped and well blended. Otherwise, transfer mixture to a bowl and stir the spinach in by hand. Taste-test and season the mixture with additional salt and pepper to taste.
Make the Stuffed Shells Florentine
  1. Preheat the oven to 375º. Coat the bottom of a 9 inch by 9 inch baking dish or 10 inch round oven-safe skillet with about half of sauce.
  2. Stuff the shells with the ricotta mixture and arrange them in a single layer in the baking dish or skillet. Top with the remaining sauce.
  3. Cover and bake for 45 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly. Remove the shells from the oven and allow them to sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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