I will be thankful. No turkey necessary.

We will wake up- slowly, and on different schedules. My mom will get up first and will start the coffee. My dad will wake up second, and start a fire. My brother and I will roll down stairs, eventually, with messy hair and sleepy eyes, and it will be Thanksgiving.

My mom will likely have made some muffins or rolls, because she’s amazing. We will all share a few warm bites of that fresh baked bread over a warm cup of caffeine, and then the day will begin!

The boys will rake leaves, or watch football. My brother will play guitar, sending melodies floating through the house like smells from the kitchen.  And my mom and I will cook. We will cook all day together- side by side, rotating counter tops like a choreographed dance- weaving in and out, in synch, until the meal is prepared.

Then we will then gather around the table, overwhelmed with all that we have to be thankful for, and will likely eat as if we’ve done something that day to really deserve ‘stuffing’ ourselves.


I love Thanksgiving. I am unabashedly nostalgic and tradition oriented, and am happier when I see my family with more regularity than not. However, in the last few years, my opinions about Thanksgiving have shifted.  I have decided that nostalgia is not what was important at Thanksgiving. Traditions do not have to be set in stone for me to be thankful.

And yes, if you could not read between the lines of this vegetarian food blog, I’m talking about turkey- that one piece of the tradition that we seem to struggle to let go of the most. I am talking about the way we, as Americans, have adopted norms and traditions that may taste yummy or are fun, but are harmful, and yet under the heading of comfort or preference or “it just isn’t thanksgiving without…,” we manage to ignore our responsibility for change year after year.

Ignorance is bliss. However ignorance will also be the downfall of us. So, here are the facts:

  • It will take at least 915,200 barrels of oil to produce and ship all the turkeys Americans eat (Cohn and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune). That is a heck lot of oil people!
  • According to research done by the University of Manchester in England, a typical Thanksgiving meal for 8, produces 44 pounds of carbon dioxide emissions- about 60% of which comes from Turkey alone (Cone and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune).  Those carbon dioxide emissions are what play a huge role in global warming, and the dissolving of our atmosphere. Take note.
  • Every dish on your Thanksgiving table will have a carbon footprint, vegetarian and carnivorous alike! However, your green vegetables are estimated to be responsible for only 0.4 pounds of carbon dioxide (or about 1 mile of driving), while your turkey intake is equivalent to 4.8 pounds of carbon dioxide (about 6 miles of driving) (Palmer, Washington Post). It’s worth thinking about.

In other words, if you want to lower your carbon footprint, if you want to have a green Thanksgiving, or if you want to protect the poor- who will be the first to be hurt by global warming, then you have a responsibility to pay attention to how you eat.  And that responsibility, which is backed up by dozens and dozens of research articles, would say that turkey is not the way to go. Look on the bright side though, if one thing had to go, wouldn’t you rather it be the turkey over the sweet potatoes or the pumpkin pie?!?!

My entire family is now vegetarian, and it hasn’t been easy for all of us.  My parents spent most of their life eating meat, and looking forward to turkey on Thanksgiving day.  We know how frustrating and challenging changing traditions can be, and thus have played around with the idea of buying local, organic, naturally fed meat instead of giving up meat all together.  For some, it feels like a win-win; you can love the environment and eat your meat too! Unfortunately the research would tell you that even sustainable and environmentally conscious meat growers require a lot of resources, so the best way to care for the environment would be to eat significantly less meat all together (Cohn and Wheeler, Chicago Tribune).   However, I’m for baby steps, and if you are not ready to let meat go, organic local meat is so much better than big-agg birds mass produced, and every step you make makes a difference.


Now, honestly, I don’t expect that anyone will read this little post and decide to give up their turkey for Thanksgiving. I know that even if turkey isn’t your favorite part of the meal, there is something special about having that big roasted bird, which takes hours to prepare, on the table.  That feels special- that feels like Thanksgiving. I get that, I know that. I have thought that too.

However, when I think about Thanksgiving in it’s truest sense, I think the purpose of Thanksgiving is to be grateful. I think the purpose of Thanksgiving is not to eat as many calories as you possible can in one meal, or to indulge in a particular menu once a year. I think Thanksgiving is suppose to be a time where we slow down and practice saying “thank you,” to the Earth, to one another, and to the Creator.

So, while I would love for each of you reading this to be inspired and abandon the turkey for one year- and it really would make a difference for the environment, whether you’d like to think it does or not. I do not anticipate that happening.

But I do hope you think a little longer about what you’re really thankful for, because I have a hunch turkey is not the reason we are grateful this time of year. I have a hunch, that if you count your blessings, it will be for the people you love, for warmth and a roof over your head, and for the Earth, which even when under attack, has continued to give us food year after year.

I know for me, we will wake up- slowly, and on different schedules. My mom will get up first and will start the coffee. My dad will wake up second, and start a fire. My brother and I will roll down stairs, eventually, with messy hair and sleepy eyes, and that will be Thanksgiving. We will be together, and I will be thankful. No turkey necessary.

 

Sources 

Cohn, Meredith, and Tim Wheeler. “Thanksgiving Dinner’s Carbon Footprint.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Nov. 2015.

Palmer, Brian. “The Environmental Costs of a Thanksgiving Meal; ‘food Miles’ and Other Damage.” Washington Post. 11 Nov. 2013, accessed 23 Nov. 2015.

Build Your Own Vegetarian Thanksgiving

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Society is generally supportive of vegetarianism, that is, until Thanksgiving. When discussing my family’s vegetarian Thanksgiving with others, there is always a host of mixed reactions and questions.

In yesterdays post, on Why to Have a Vegetarian ThanksgivingI explained that I love the questions people ask, becuase I love sharing the ratioinale behind this lifestyle choice, hoping that it will inspire people in some small way to think more intentionally about what in their own life they could change to better protect the environment.

Of all the questions I get, varying from specific recipe details to protein concerns, the two main questions I get boil down to:

 1) Why?, and 2) How?

Yesterday, I answered why have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving. You can check out some of those statistics and reasons here!

Today I want to focus on how to have a vegetarian Thanksgiving. 

Drum roll please!

Like any large meal, the formula for a vegetarian Thanksgiving is the same as a traditional Thanksgiving meal. You want an entrée dish, several dishes- varying from vegetable to bread options, and of course, dessert! Thus, I propose the following formula:

1-2 Entrée Dishes + 3-6 Side Dishes + 1-2 Breads + 1 Dessert = Vegetarian Thanksgiving!

From the food options below, you can select your own entrée dishes, side dishes, bread recipes, and dessert recipe, to build your own vegetarian Thanksgiving menu, which you can supplement with some of your family’s favorite dishes! Base the number of dishes and recipes off of the crowd you are anticipating, and if you have a family favorite recipe that you do not see on this list, leave a comment below! I would love to add your favorite dishes to my “To-Cook” list for my own future Thanksgiving celebrations!

Happy Celebrating, cooking, and eating. Come back soon!

Love, A Rented Kitchen

Entree Options:

Side Dishe Options:

Bread Options:

Dessert Options:

Why Have a Vegetarian Thanksgiving?

dsc_00111 In general, life as a vegetarian is really quite easy. Vegetarian corndogs are delicious, my favorite burger joint serves the most beautiful veggie burger, and I am able to get more than enough protein everyday (contrary to popular belief). Ten years ago, it might have been challenging to find vegetarian options at restaurants in the United States. However, these days, we Americans are great at the vegetarian game! Vegetarianism no longer seems to be just a fad or a hippie diet, it’s a way of living, and society, in general, is supportive. Society is supportive of vegetarianism that is, until Thanksgiving. When discussing my family’s vegetarian Thanksgiving with others, there appears to be a lot of confusion and mixed reactions. For example: 5208392 wutimages

Once the initial reaction wears off, the two main questions in regards to a vegetarian Thanksgiving tend to be: 1) Why?, and 2) How?

Some people want to know what we will eat, others want to know what the protein source will be, and still others are curious to know if the meal feels as set apart and celebratory without a full turkey. Those are all legitimate questions, and I cannot blame people for asking. Honestly, I love the questions, because I love sharing my perspective with others, in hopes that it will gently challenge people to think about the impact of traditions. Thus, today, I am here to answer question number 1:

Why would you have a vegetarian Thanksgiving?

(The following words are a repost from my Vegetarian Thanksgiving post last year! These estimates and my opinion still apply here.).

“There are many advantages to a vegetarian thanksgiving. Here are a few….

  1. The environmental impact of going vegetarian is Huge! It is so easy to shop local and organic for fruits and vegetables that are in season, which cuts down on the use of pesticides, food miles traveled, and minimizes waste! In order to plump up the almost 46 million turkeys Americans consume each year, there has to be an enormous amount of grain grown. That means there is unbelievable amounts of energy, water, and land used to produce that grain- food and energy we could just be using and eating ourselves.
  2. A vegetarian thanksgiving can be much healthier! If you sub out the meat, which by the end of being cooked, stuffed, and covered in gravy can be pretty high in calories and fat, and substitute in more vegetables, you will end the meal feeling much better about yourself than you are used to!
  3. A vegetarian thanksgiving is quicker and easier! You may make more casserole dishes than you are used to by eliminating the main entrée (the turkey), however many of those smaller casserole dishes can be conquered a few days in advance. This allows for you to spread out your cooking endeavors, and actually give yourself some time to relax on the holiday- instead of being in the kitchen waiting on that bird to brown all afternoon.

For all these reasons and more, I encourage you to think about a vegetarian thanksgiving. If you absolutely cannot imagine that, try to use an organic or local turkey- it makes a huge environmental difference! Also consider using a smaller turkey than you’re used to. More is not always better, or necessary.”

I share this with you not to guilt anyone into having a vegetarian Thanksgiving, but to encourage you to think about what you can do to minimize envionmental harm. Curious in how to pull off a vegetarian Thanksgiving? Check back tomorrow for my very own “Build Your Own Vegetarian Thanksgiving!,” including some of the delicious recipes pictured above! Until then, thank goodness it’s Friday.

Baked Acorn Squash with Walnuts and Cranberries

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For someone who loves and uses sweet potatoes as much as I do, I have been seriously neglecting some of the other delicious fall/winter root vegetables. For example- the acorn squash. (Where is the love, Sarah?!)

Not cooking with acorn squash sooner was a huuuuge mistake, for it turns out that acorn squash is all kinds of delicious! While there are dozens of ways to use acorn squash, this recipe in particular was not only delicious, but incredibly easy! If you happen to have an acorn squash in your house at this moment, start preheating your oven now! It’s worth it, and the prep time will only take you 5 minutes!

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With Thanksgiving right around the corner, I have easily imagined this recipe serving as an entrée dish for a vegetarian Thanksgiving. Surround this delicious squash with green bean casserole, cranberry sauce, and sweet potato biscuits, and you will have one incredibly delicious vegetarian meal, a very full plate, and zero complaints about a missing turkey!

On that note, make sure you check back in a few days for my very own ‘Build Your Own Vegetarian Thanksgiving’ post.

Tis’ the season to be jolly! (and go green!)

With love,

A Rented Kitchen

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Ingredients

  • 1 Acorn Squash, cut in half
  • ½ cup walnuts, roughly chopped
  • ½ cup cranberries, frozen or fresh
  • 3 Tablespoons brown sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons butter

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 375F.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the walnuts, cranberries, and brown sugar. Mix well to combine.
  3. Rinse the acorn squash and cut in half.
  4. Using a spoon, scoop the seeds out of each half and discard.
  5. Using a fork, poke a few holes in the bottom and top of each squash half, and then evenly divide the fruit and nut mixture between two halves of the squash.
  6. Top each haf with 1 Tablespoon of butter, and place side by side in a square baking pan.
  7. Cover the pan loosely with aluminum foil and bake for 1 hour 15 minutes- 1 hour 30 minutes. (Done with a fork can be easily inserted).
  8. Serve warm and enjoy!

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Notes and Tips:

  • Yield: 2 Servings
  • Vegan? Either substitute vegan butter, or drizzle with a little bit of honey/agave.
  • Source: Let the Baking Begin!
  • Like this recipe?! Check out these other delicious fall favorites from ‘A Rented Kitchen’! (Recipe links found below photos)