Family Recipe Friday: Our Semi-Vegan Thanksgiving 2018

I try to get a handle on Thanksgiving prep so the day of isn’t too bad. I did pretty well this year, although it still wore me out. So today – blogging and laundry. No cooking!

In 2012, I shared a Thanksgiving menu that was my attempt to make everyone happy – vegan and non-vegan alike. I’ve pretty much stuck to this menu since, with the occasional tweaks or attempts at new recipes.

One Thanksgiving, my husband was on an elimination diet and one of the things on the list was gluten. Thankfully, he can tolerate a little gluten in his diet, so I don’t have to be so strict now. It gets so complicated when you want the foods you look forward to on Thanksgiving, but need to make so many changes to the recipes and remember who can eat what!

Here is the original post: Our Semi-Vegan Thanksgiving.

Here’s the 2018 menu:

1. Turkey – It is still a semi-vegan Thanksgiving.

2. Cornbread Dressing

I still use this recipe for the dressing, without the eggs and substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth. I aim for about 12 cups of bread crumbs and fill a 9×13.

In 2012 I used French bread only – no cornbread because I didn’t have a vegan cornbread recipe. I do now. I like this cornbread and often make it instead of my usual cornbread recipe that has eggs and milk. I found it on

Changes I make to this cornbread recipe:
1. It makes a very sweet cornbread, so I usually decrease the sugar to about 4T.
2. If I want to make it gluten-free:
* substitute spelt flour for all-purpose flour, or
* substitute half spelt flour and half quinoa flour for the all-purpose flour

3. Mashed Potatoes. I asked my daughter if I should make the mashed potatoes with soy milk and vegan butter substitute, or olive oil (like the mashed potatoes in the 2012 post) and she preferred soy milk. So I just made them the way I normally would if I were using milk and butter. No recipe.

4. Portobello Mushroom Gravy – same as in 2012 post. I made two batches.

5. Sweet Potato Casserole. I didn’t include the sweet potato recipe I usually use in my 2012 post – I guess because I didn’t use it that year. The cornbread recipe above and the sweet potato casserole recipe below were shared by fellow ESL teachers when we prepared a Thanksgiving feast for our students one year.

Changes I make to the sweet potato recipe:
* I usually decrease the sugar that is mixed with the potatoes by at least 1/4 cup.
* No eggs.
* Use vegan butter substitute

6. This year I did not make cranberry sauce. I wanted the jello salad my mom used to make.

Changes to cranberry salad:
* I don’t think they make black raspberry jello anymore, so I used raspberry.
* This will fill a 9×13 dish, so next time I’ll halve it.

7. Roasted vegetables. This year it was onion, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, red pepper, and asparagus – whatever my husband picked up at the store. Isn’t it great that we have “discovered” roasting veggies?

8. Honey-Kissed Carrots – same as in 2012

9. Yellow Squash Casserole – same as in 2012. I make no changes (except I never bother with the pimento) because I like it just as it is. Not vegan.

10. Pumpkin Pie – I just use the recipe on the can, but I increased the spices after reading an article in the paper about how it would be better with more spice. I increased the cinnamon to 1 1/2 teaspoons and the ginger to 1 teaspoon.

11. This year I tried a recipe for vegan pecan pie that I saw in the recent AARP magazine.
My husband had trouble finding the necessary ingredients at Whole Foods and ordered what I needed before he even got home from the store. They arrived on Wednesday – just in time for pie baking!

Here is the pie recipe –

My notes:
* Coconut oil is solid at room temperature and does not incorporate when you mix it with syrup. I could see that this would be a problem, but the recipe didn’t say to melt it. I finally added one tablespoon to see if I could mash it and stir it enough to blend in. You can see how well that worked. So, I melted the 2nd tablespoon and, of course, it blended right in. It wasn’t enough temperature change to melt what was already in there, but there is so much solid pecan mixture that I decided it wouldn’t be a problem.

* I wish I had known to bake the pie on a cookie sheet because I ended up with baked syrup on the bottom of my oven. Also the syrupy filling seeped under the crust, so it was hard to get out of the pie plate to serve.

* This was my first time to make a pecan pie. It is not something my mom made and I wasn’t introduced to it until we lived in Texas. This pie didn’t seem quite as sweet aa a traditional pecan pie, although it is certainly sweet! All in all, we liked it and I’ll probably make it again next year.
Before baking and after

We had one more delicious dessert – a cream pie with fruit (I don’t know the name) that Stella brought for the Sicilian contribution to our Thanksgiving meal.

People went back for seconds and took leftovers home with them, so I count the meal as a success.

Stay thankful!

Family Recipe Friday – Refrigerator Muffins

After spending time with my dad(Jim) and sisters a couple of weeks ago, I was still longing for some of the foods that Mom often cooked for us. I’ve been wanting to make these muffins for a while, but had a hard time finding wheat bran at the grocery stores where I usually shop. I think I finally found some in the bulk foods at Whole Foods and my dad says he goes to the health food store. Anyway, I had purchased the wheat bran before I left and couldn’t wait to make them when I got home.

I don’t know where mom got the recipe – probably a magazine. I think she started baking them in the late 70s – isn’t that when whole grains gained traction in the food world? Whenever it was, these muffins became a staple in Mom’s kitchen.

As you can see, my recipe card is well-used too! Mom almost always added raisins to her muffins and so do I. I have also made them with added cinnamon, grated carrots, or nuts. And I have made them with some substitutions:
reducing the sugar by 1/4 cup
substituting 6 egg whites for 4 whole eggs
decreasing the salt to 1/2 teaspoon
replacing half of the vegetable oil with applesauce.

As you can see, my variations have followed certain guidelines for healthier eating as they came and went over the years. The best, of course, is the original recipe. And that is what I made and have been enjoying all week!

Refrigerator Muffins

5 cups whole wheat flour                   2 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cups wheat bran                      4 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons baking soda                  1 cup oil
2 teaspoons salt                                1 quart buttermilk
raisins, if desired

Combine dry ingredients in a mixing bowl.
Add eggs, oil, and buttermilk, and mix until blended.
Batter may be stored in a covered container in refrigerator for as long as four weeks.
Bake, as needed, in lightly greased muffin cups (or paper liners) filled 2/3 full.
Bake in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.
Makes 3 1/2 dozen.

As you can see, the batter discolors a bit when left in the refrigerator. Just stir it up until it is all the same, or stir just a bit for a swirly pattern. 😉

They also freeze well. I have about a dozen in the freezer right now.

Family Recipe Friday – Dora’s Cucuzza

On our recent trip to Sicily for a family wedding, I got to spend some time in the kitchen with the groom’s mother, Dora. They are cousins to my husband. I’ve been having fun trying out the recipes here at home! Today’s recipe is for cucuzza.

Most of the Sicilian-Americans I know (my husband’s family and assorted cousins from Houston), have a sentimental attachment to cucuzza and some even take it upon themselves to grow it. A few will admit that they have never really liked it all that much, even as they take a serving of the giant squash that one of them grew and someone prepared just like their nana did.

We happened to be in Sicily when cucuzza were available in the markets and Dora prepared it for lunch one day. I made sure to be in the kitchen to help. I had a feeling I would like Dora’s cucuzza. And I did.

Soon after we returned from Sicily, cousin Anthony gifted us with cucuzza that he grew this spring. We had a family dinner at a local Italian restaurant and picked up our share. This year I had Dora’s recipe, so I was not intimidated!

Here are our giant cucuzza!

Below you can see Dora peeling and chopping the squash she prepared. They were not nearly as big. And they were easy to peel with a potato peeler.

Anthony grew more than one variety of cucuzza. The first one I used was easy to peel; even though it was large, it was not tough. The second time I made the recipe, I used a different variety and my peeler didn’t make a dent! If you click on the photo, you can see what little impact my peeler made on it. I had to bring out the big knife for this thick-skinned giant.


As with the other recipes I learned from Dora, I didn’t always get exact measurements, so I just did what seemed right and made adjustments based on the size of the squash I was using. One of my cucuzza surely equalled more than two of her cucuzza. If I thought I was cooking more squash than she did, I added another potato and a large can of tomatoes. Following is what I photographed in Sicily with the notes I took:

Peel and quarter two cucuzza. Cut out most of the seeds; chop. Peel and chop 3 potatoes.

Grate onion (about 1/2 c.) and sauté in a good bit of olive oil. Add chopped vegetables and salt; stir.

Add crushed tomatoes and some water. Bring to boil; reduce heat to simmer. I think she added oregano, so I did.

Simmer until veggies are tender and sauce has cooked down – about 20 minutes.
Serve with pasta and good Sicilian cheese – which, of course, I did not have. She used dry ricotta.

It was really good.

As I have learned from my new Sicilian relatives, the type of pasta you use is extremely important and Dora said that this short tube pasta is what is needed. Well, I didn’t go buy the correct pasta, and instead used some cool-shaped pasta I had impulsively purchased a couple of weeks before. I have to admit, her pasta looked and tasted better.

The truth is, pasta isn’t even necessary. The second time I made this recipe, we just ate it like soup. Delicious! To me, the addition of potato makes this better than the other cucuzza I’ve eaten. It seems to add a bit of sweetness and texture.

I’ll be making it again next year if Anthony is still in the cucuzza growing business!

Dora’s Cucuzza

2 medium cucuzza
3 medium potatoes
1/2 cup grated onion
olive oil
14.5 ounce can crushed tomatoes
1-2 teaspoons oregano
pasta – optional

Peel and quarter cucuzza. Cut out seeds; chop. Peel and chop 3 potatoes. Grate onion and sauté in a good bit of olive oil until soft. Add chopped vegetables and salt to taste; stir. Add crushed tomatoes, a half can of water, and oregano. Bring to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. Simmer until veggies are tender and sauce has cooked down – about 20 minutes.
Serve with pasta and grated cheese.

You might also like Dora’s recipes for fava beans and rice patties.