Is it safe to say that it’s ~almost~ Thanksgiving? Are we allowed to start talking about The Holidays yet? And yes I’ve capitalized The Holidays because they are definitely a big enough thing to warrant that. Once Halloween is over, the floodgates are open. Although, my mom and I are known to play Christmas music wayyy ahead of the curve (think June). But we’ll just agree that Halloween is the ~*socially acceptable*~ time to start The Holiday Season, okay?!
So, Thanksgiving. An interesting holiday for vegans/vegetarians. By now my family has become accustomed to my dietary choices, and the holidays usually pass smoothly for me in that regard. But I know for a lot of people, holiday dinners can be a source of huge discomfort. There’s nothing like Old Auntie Mabel taking offense that you won’t eat her special turkey casserole. And then, of course, there’s that vegan stereotype that isn’t always unwarranted.
But between you and me, I find that the older generations have a harder time understanding why people wouldn’t want to eat meat or animal products. I’m not saying that every single person older than you is like that. But I know in my own family particularly, my Granny grew up in the Post-Depression era where “Waste Not, Want Not” ruled the day, and you ate whatever was put in front of you on the table. And I’m not saying that vegans are wasteful or ungrateful – on the contrary, veganism is the most green and most compassionate diet out there. But to my Granny, it just seems like I’m being picky with my food. I don’t agree with her, but I get where she’s coming from.
But I’m going to tell you something that I desperately wish someone had told me years and years ago – YOU control what goes in your body. If someone offers you something, and you decline it kindly and respectfully, there is no reason you should feel guilty. It took me so long to understand this because I have an inherent guilt complex, but ultimately YOU will be the one affected by what you put in your body, and not anyone else. If someone else takes offense to that, honestly it’s their problem, and you should not let it affect you and your happiness.
If you’ve already come to this realization, then I applaud you. For years I felt like a brat by refusing the food my aunt would make. My Granny would pinch my arm and tell me how skinny I was, and my aunt would make backhanded comments about how she spent sooooo long on this certain dish. “No thank you, I eat vegetarian,” I would say with a smile, trying to ignore the guilt trip.
PSA – you may have well-meaning but slightly crazy aunts and grannies and family members, but DO NOT let them guilt you about your dietary choices! Be strong! And if any of them give you flack, just smile and “No, thank you!”
This Thanksgiving, my mom and I are actually planning the menu together for the first time! I’ve been slowly winning her over to my plant-based creations, hehehe. I gave her The China Study as a gift recently, plus another vegan cookbook that I knew she’d love, and I think having these books as resources has helped her realize that veganism isn’t just this weirdo, fringe, tofu diet. You can actually eat ~*real food*~ as a vegan…. like this stuffing.
Now I know stuffing is traditionally supposed to be, um, stuffed into a turkey butt and then cooked (ew), but this version is healthy, cooked in a pot, and then stuffed into a pumpkin. Because stuffing has to be stuffed IN something, right? But maybe we can acheive that without… you know…stuffing it in…well, you get what I’m trying to say.
And this stuffing is so good on its own that it doesn’t really need anything else to buffer it. The base is millet, one of my favorite grains, but you can easily sub quinoa or even cousous. It’s cooked in vegetable stock to add salt and flavor, then mixed with a sauté of earthy mushrooms, garlic, and onions. Finally, fresh herbs are added, which round out the whole thing nicely. Adding in the roasted pumpkin seeds is optional but totally worth it. This stuffing is sure to be a crowd-pleaser!
- 1 Cup Millet, uncooked (should make ~3½ cups cooked)
- 2 Cups Vegetable Stock
- 2 Cups Crimini Mushrooms, roughly chopped
- 10 Cloves Garlic, finely minced
- 2 Medium White Onions, diced
- ½ Tbs Dried Parsley
- 1 Tsp Dried Oregano
- ½ Tsp Dried Thyme
- ½ Cup Finely Chopped Fresh Parlsey, packed
- 1 Tbs Finely Chopped Fresh Rosemary
- Salt + Pepper to taste
- 1 Medium-small Pumpkin, yielding about 1 cup seeds
- 1 Tbs Extra Virgin Olive Oil
- ¼ Tsp Salt
- ¼ Tsp Garlic Powder
- ¼ Tsp Onion Powder
- ½ Tsp Dried Oregano
- Pinch Cayenne (optional)
- Start by cooking your millet. Bring a large pot to medium heat. Add your millet, dry, and toast for about 3-5 minutes, or until millet becomes fragrant. Be careful not to let it burn!
- Once the millet is done toasting, add the two cups of vegetable stock to the pot. Bring stock and millet to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring only once or twice if needed, until stock is absorbed. (Be careful not to over-stir - this will cause millet to become mushy).
- After 15 minutes, remove millet from heat and keep covered for about 10 minutes. This allows the millet to absorb all of the liquid.
- Finally, fluff millet with a fork and set aside for later.
- Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
- While millet is cooking, carve out your pumpkin. This can also be done beforehand if you like!
- Cut off the top of the pumpkin and scoop out all of the seeds and gooey stuff, being sure to scrape the sides of the pumpkin.
- Remove seeds from the pumpkin innards, and rinse off with water. Dry seeds as much as possible.
- In a bowl, mix seeds, olive oil, and spices, mixing fully.
- On a baking sheet lined with parchment paper, bake pumpkin seeds for about 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. BE VERY CAREFUL because pumpkin seeds can burn very very easily!!
- Bring a sauté pan to medium heat with a little olive oil. Start by adding your mushrooms and onions, cooking for about 5-7 minutes or until onions are slightly caramelized.
- Then, add in minced garlic and dried herbs, and sauté for a few more minutes so the ingredients can fully combine. Remove from heat and set aside.
- Combine millet, sautéed vegetables, and roasted pumpkin seeds in a large bowl. Mix in a half cup of chopped fresh parsley, and about a tablespoon of minced fresh rosemary. Salt and season to taste.
- Serve stuffing in the pumpkin. Enjoy!
Song of the Day:
10,000 Weight in Gold – The Head and The Heart