Updated: May 27, 2020
If you're like me, you're still thinking about what deliciousness you can add to your Thanksgiving menu or bring to a friend's house this Thursday. I usually have an idea of what to make, as it tends to be the same every year, but I'm always looking for one or two different items to add — then I end up at the grocery store the Wednesday (tomorrow!) before Thanksgiving with all the other crazy last-minute shoppers. The more people the more festive, right?
Thanksgiving has changed A LOT since I was a kid, when we had a traditional feast with a full table from grandparents to grandkids to cousins and friends stopping over for dessert. I have so many warm family memories at my grandparents house, playing with my cousins outside on the cool crisp day and helping my grandmom in the kitchen. However, in terms of food, Thanksgiving was probably my least favorite holiday growing up —I wasn't vegan yet, but the idea of turkey, gravy and potatoes just never resonated with me. (My feelings about the food probably would have been different if Thanksgiving came with a pound of pasta and marinara sauce!)
However, now, things have changed. Thanksgiving has become my favorite holiday of the year. Since we moved from California to Atlanta six years ago, my parents have been making it a tradition to come from New Jersey to our place in Atlanta where the four of us make a small feast and stray (far) away from the traditional Thanksgiving menu (see below). We're finally in a home (yay!), but even when we were we in an apartment, the four of us would squeeze around our fold-up table with the couch serving as chairs, stayed in our pajamas all day, drank wine and had fun while cooking lots of food together. While we now officially have a table, the tradition continues and remains the same with the "one rule" that we must stay in pajamas all day. Over the past six years, Thanksgiving has become the simplest day and most treasured holiday for me. For that, I am incredibly grateful.
While our menu changes a little each year, for the most part it stays the same and consists of a the delicious hearty plant-based sides that make our bellies full and hearts happy. Last year I added a new item, Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts, that was so good, we added it to the menu again this year. Plus we have a new addition! Nope, it's not a baby — Ricky has created the most delicious vegan mac 'n cheese recipe that's been added to this year's Thanksgiving menu! Check out the full spread below.
Ricky's Creamy Mac 'N Cheese
Do I have the recipe? Of course not, the boy does not measure. Rest assured, I'll be watching closely on Thursday to try and capture the precise measurements so that you can recreate it at home — because it's THAT GOOD. Made with a garlicky homemade cashew creamy cheese, blended with a vegan mozarella (typically Violife or Parmela Creamery Aged Nut Cheese) and topped with whole wheat bread crumbs, this might be the best mac 'n cheese I've had (vegan or not!).
Mom's Candied Sweet Potatoes
Again, no recipe for this since my mom has been making this from her head (and heart) since we were kids — it's my dad's favorite so it's always a staple on the menu. From what I've seen it's a simple recipe with sweet potatoes, maple, Miyoko's butter, cinnamon and maybe a few other ingredients. There's this vegan recipe from Healthier Steps for vegan baked candied yams that also Iooks pretty delish.
I used to have a recipe from Minimalist Baker, but can no longer find it so I'll be following this recipe on Thursday. Bonus that the local farmers market has been stocked with jalapeños and we love EXTRA in the cornbread!
Nic's Pumpkin Soup
This soup is surprisingly easy even though you start with the whole sugar pumpkin. I love starting with this soup since it's power-packed with nutrients like vitamin C and vitamin A, not to mention fiber, which fills you up and prevents you from over stuffing yourself!
Kung Pao Brussel Sprouts
You guys, this one will probably be staying on the menu FOREVER. The asian theme does not fit with the Thanksgiving cinnamon and spice flavors, but who cares? It's delicious. Try it Thursday or try it another day. You won't regret it, thanks to Cookie and Kate.
For all the naysayers — "where's the protein?"
There's PLENTY of protein in the mac 'n cheese (cashews, Parmela nut cheese, soy milk and nutritional yeast), pumpkin soup (pumpkin seeds!) and Brussel sprouts (peanuts!). But if you really feel you need more, I'd highly recommend either No Evil Foods "The Pardon" or Field Roast's "Celebration Roast."
Happy Thanksgiving to your and your families!