Thanksgiving Finds at Whole Foods

City Investors, INC- Vulcan- 2200 Westlake

I can’t get enough of this holiday season and the amazing food options available in the grocery stores. If you’ve been like me lately, you’ve been checking out your local grocery store to see what festive foods are available this year. And for vegans, we are always on the hunt for new vegan creations or discovering old favorites that have been made vegan. So far, I have not been disappointed in what I’ve found in Trader Joe’s and Safeway. But this past weekend, I went to Whole Foods and found some of the best vegan food for the upcoming holidays. So, here are some amazing festive food to add to your table this Thanksgiving and/or Christmas dinner.

gardein_holidayroast

My first suggestion is from one of my go-to vegan brands Gardein. They have this wonderful Stuffed Turk’y that is stuffed with veggie stuffing and comes with a delicious gravy. It serves two roasts in a bag, one per person. But they also have a larger roast they can serve a larger family.

TofurkyHam

One of my favorite finds this year, is this holiday ham by Tofurky. I’m curious to try this but I know that I already love their regular Tofurky sandwich “meat.” So, I imagine this will taste just as tasty. I love how it even comes with a beer glaze just to make it extra special.

If you want to see which sides to add with these dishes, make sure to check my last post Vegan Thanksgiving Made Easy to see which foods are readily available in a local grocery store near you and/or available on online services such as Amazon. There are many great finds that might surprise you to discover they are vegan.

pumpkin-spice-cheezecake.jpg

But, if you’re like me and you want to skip straight to dessert then let me introduce you to this festive and seasonal dessert. Daiya has introduced a Pumpkin Spice Cheezecake. Nothing says more fall and winter than pumpkin spice, and this dessert is in the form of a cheesecake. Whether you’re vegan or not, I’d recommend this dessert.

raspberry-turnover.jpg

However, if pumpkin spice or cheesecake isn’t your thing, then you need to try Pepperidge Farm’s Raspberry Turnovers. Bet you didn’t know that these goodies were accidentally vegan. Not only are they vegan, they are amazingly delicious and they make an easy dessert to pop into the oven and serve.

Try some of these vegan finds at Thanksgiving and/or Christmas this holiday season and share veganism at the dinner table.

Vegan Thanksgiving Made Easy

vegan thanksgiving made easy

Thanksgiving is a favorite holiday in my family since it’s one of the few times during the year where we can all get together and share delicious food, stories, and memories. And this year, I hope to share veganism with my non-vegan family members. A couple years ago on my first vegan thanksgiving I was surprised to see how easy it is to create a vegan version of the traditional thanksgiving food on the table. And this year, I am even more surprised to see many food options that are pre-made and readily available as vegan. So, without further ado, let’s look at what traditional vegan thanksgiving feast options are available in your local grocery store (and even available online, for those who don’t have too much free time to make a trip to the grocery store).

The first thing you think of when you think of Thanksgiving is the main roast, which in most households is a huge turkey and maybe even a ham. But for those of us who are vegan or vegetarian, it’s hard to find a good replacement for this. Luckily, there are good replacements out there.turkey-less-stuffed-roast-gravy-label

I’ve tried Trader Joe’s Breaded Turkey-less Stuffed Roast with Gravy. This delicious roast is made of a soy-based tofu and stuffed with a cranberry stuffing mix and covered in crumbly breadcrumbs. This serves two people generously, or four people conservatively.

tofurky-holiday-roast-gravy-packageBut if you want a larger roast then I recommend Tofurky’s Holiday Vegetarian Roast and Gravy. I found this at my local Safeway for $12, but you can also find it online in case none of the stores near you carry this.

Another classic thanksgiving dish is stuffing. And if you don’t have a lot of time on your hands to make this from scratch then here are a few options that are happily accidentally vegan.

pepperidge farm herb seasoned stuffingPepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing contains no animal products, but be careful because a lot of their other flavors do contain chicken and/or chicken broth. And the Cornbread Stuffing Mix at Trader Joe’s is also vegan.

trader-joes-stuffing

The directions on both these boxes do suggest mixing butter and water into the stuffing, but if you use vegan butter then this will make the whole thing vegan. The Pepperidge Farm stuffing is available on Amazon, and if you have Amazon Prime take advantage of that free overnight shipping. Also, another helpful hint, make sure to check out your local grocery chain’s brand of herb seasoned boxed stuffing because often they are accidentally vegan, like the grocery chain Kroger on the East coast has their own brand of stuffing that’s vegan.

If you do want to try your hand at making your own vegan cornbread stuffing, click here to find a great recipe at Trendeing.com.

And what family dinner doesn’t include dinner rolls?

pillsbury_Crescent_Rolls

I don’t know if you know, but Pillsbury’s Crescent Rolls are accidentally vegan. Just pop them out of the can, roll them up, and bake. It’s as simple as that! Plus, if you aren’t hosting thanksgiving dinner, offer to bring these over to thanksgiving dinner. It’s a nice gesture and no one will believe you when you say they are vegan.

Another side dish you can offer to make and bring to thanksgiving dinner are roasted vegetables.

At my local Safeway, in the vegetable section, there are pre-made butternut squash with thyme, carrots with dill, or fingerling potatoes with rosemary. You can either make these a little sweet or savory. For example, with the carrots and dill you can drizzle maple syrup and brown sugar on top and roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit.  Or if you want them to be savory, you can drizzle olive oil, salt, and black pepper on top of the potatoes and roast for 15-20 minutes at 425 degrees Fahrenheit. It’s a simple dish that elevates any meal and is easily shareable.

Another Thanksgiving side dish that is always included is the cranberry sauce.

cranberry_SauceIn most grocery stores you can find this sauce in a can. My go-to is Ocean Spray Whole Berry Cranberry Sauce. But beware of any of the jellied cranberry sauces since they may contain gelatin, which is mostly not vegan. You can find a lot of variety online that ranges from homemade jars of it to organic.

The only thing I had a very hard time finding a vegan substitute for are Boxed Mashed Potatoes. These packages of instant mash potatoes usually have butter, milk, and eggs in their ingredients. However, I do know a great and easy recipe to whip up some mash potatoes if you want to make a vegan version for the table. Click here to make garlic mash potatoes with shiitake mushroom gravy.

My absolute favorite finds this thanksgiving are the desserts I discovered that are accidentally vegan.

Both Sara Lee and Marie Calendar’s Cherry and Apple Pies are completely vegan. I couldn’t believe it at first, but after re-reading the ingredient list I could confirm that there are no animal products in these pies. And what goes best with pie?

SoDelicious_vanilla_icecream.png

How about some vanilla ice-cream? So Delicious soymilk vanilla ice-cream is a great option I found at Safeway. It’s the best price for the amount you get.

These products can be made for your own vegan Thanksgiving dinner, or if you are having thanksgiving dinner at someone else’s home you can offer to make and bring these vegan options. I recommend bringing your favorite vegan dish, whatever that may be, so in case there aren’t too many options you at least have your favorite food there. But feel free to make one, two, three, or as many dishes as you want. I think thanksgiving is all about sharing, and what better day to share your love of food and veganism than on a day that celebrates sharing thanks with friends and family.

This Thanksgiving, I wish you a wonderful Thanksgiving filled with love, compassion, and delicious vegan eats.

What the Valley Knows Book Review

whatthevalleyknows

Everyone knows the old saying, “don’t judge a book by its cover,” but I hardly live by that rule. We’re all guilty of it. We see that beautiful book cover and maybe, probably, just buy it based on its aesthetic and not the actual content of it. And of course, we are guilty of doing this, the marketing team in publishing houses are banking on you to do this. But, another thing I judge a book on is its book jacket summary. This is the hook, the promise the author offers the reader. And to be honest, this book’s pitch didn’t entice me at first, which is seen below.

“When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton – a nice guy with a bad drinking habit – longtime friendships are threatened, and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.

“The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield. She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.”

There is absolutely nothing wrong with that plotline, but since I’ve lived in small towns and understand the dynamics of a community like that, I wasn’t too eager to revisit that. But as I do with all books, I read the first page to give it another chance and see if I like the voice and/or writing style. And man, oh man, is that first page one of the most gripping things I’ve ever read. It starts right in the middle of all the action, which in this case is the accident.

And as I kept reading, the overall pace felt natural and the plot kept moving in an interesting direction towards that dark secret mentioned in the summary. Heather Christie’s writing style was what kept me captivated the entire time – it’s elegant enough to feel like I’m reading adult fiction, yet it connects on a deep level to the actual mindset of a teenager. She also does a wonderful job of handling the superficial aspects of high school problems such as beauty and popularity while simultaneously diving into the underlying theme of healing in the form of substance abuse recovery, healing from a car accident, and healing from ‘something terrible [that] happened before the accident.”

I wish the later form of healing was more drawn out in the novel, but instead it was curtailed in favor of Molly and Wade’s relationship. This wasn’t necessarily a bad move, however, it left me wanting more about Molly’s recovery from that specific incident. I’m not mentioning this incident because I don’t want to give away any spoilers. In general, I think giving away spoilers are such a no-no because someone worked very hard to make sure it gives the element of surprise, and nothing’s worse when that surprise has already been ruined before the reader got a chance to read the book.

Overall, this book was way more in depth than what I had initially expected it to be. I’m so glad that first page hooked me in and I gave it a second chance because it has become one of my favorite YA reads this year.