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Cooking when visiting people and our first vegan Thanksgiving

Michael and I stopped eating animal products at the end of August. As November came into view and our plans to visit his family came together, I wondered what we would eat on the road and at his Mamaw’s house. I figured it would be best to plan to cook for ourselves completely–even when on the road. We went grocery shopping for cans of Eden rice and beans and canned veggies, as they would be easy to heat up in a hotel. I put together a list of recipes to eat for Thanksgiving day, as well as our favorite every-day recipes. I packed up all the canned foods, put together small jars of wheat gluten, veggie broth powder, shelf-stable almond milk and tofu, and other staples that I expected would be difficult to find at our destination. I also packed all the spices I wanted for the recipes, along with bowls and utensils for eating in the hotel.

We only ate in the hotel on the way down, but it was nice to just open some cans of food and cook them in the microwave (we brought a hot plate in case, but found the microwave to work well enough). When in Mississippi though, the cooking was more intensive.

We had to inform family of our dietary change and to not be surprised by our cooking. You know how families are, grandmother’s want to cook for you! We kind of turned that around and cooked for her. She protested but enjoyed everything we made.

The day we arrived we hit up the local Piggly Wiggly to see what was available–we found refrigerated soy and almond milk were readily available, one refrigerated tofu, one vegan chk’n product, and of course, lots of produce, rice, beans, and pasta.

A day or so later we visited the Winn Dixie and found they carried Earth Balance! I realized the grocery aspect of the week would not be a problem. A few days later we visited Cater’s Market, where we found many of these items along with Daiya Cheese. The big finds at Cater’s were the vegan Worcestershire sauce that is made in Oxford, along with local grits and polenta.

To simply our time in the kitchen since we were kind of invading it daily, we kept breakfast pretty simple with dry cereal and milk or grits. Lunch was generally out (sandwiches with vegetables or salad at most places) or leftovers. One evening we made everyone an improvised Mexican rice and beans. Another night it was tofu scramble and fried potatoes. Snacks were generally nuts or peanut butter, fruit or veggies, or snacking on leftovers.

Thanksgiving was the big production since we were competing with everyone else to make food. I took a lot of recipes, but I ended up simplifying the plans by buying some organic wild mushroom gravy and organic stuffing mix before we left home. That really only left us needing to make mashed potatoes, lentil loaf, and PPK Chickpea Cutlets. For me the cutlets were really the perfect Thanksgiving food, because they were crispy, of meaty texture, and so so good. I plan to ask Michael to make them every year for Thanksgiving. I bought bread stuffing mix rather than a cornbread stuffing mix, which is what is generally eaten in MS. Next year I will probably offer to make the cornbread stuffing for everyone, so there aren’t two stuffing options available. The maple pecan pie I made for Christmas will definitely be made for Thanksgiving next year. So I expect my annual vegan Thanksgiving from now on to be: Chickpea Cutlets, Maple Pecan Pie, Cornbread stuffing, Mashed potatoes, some version of sweet potatoes (which I didn’t tackle this year). If time allows I would make a pumpkin pie, too.

Overall I found the week to be pretty fun since I got to relax and cook a bunch. Bringing all our spices and such with us made it pretty easy to cook like I would at home.

The BEST holidays

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