Like all things zero waste, this menu requires a bit of planning but not that much.
A few weeks ago, I decided to schedule a weekly Instagram Live chat on Wednesdays at 4pm Pacific Time. Yesterday, I discussed tips for preventing waste at Thanksgiving—not just food waste but packaging waste also (read 18 waste-busting tips here). During the live stream, a few people asked for Thanksgiving dinner menu ideas, specifically for vegan dishes.
After I finished the chat, I realized I should type up a menu. This realization alone was proof to me that I’m onto something by doing these live videos every week. I can respond immediately to people’s questions (I usually can’t do that with comments in my Instagram feed) and get a feel for what kind of information might be the most useful to my readers.
I hope many of you find this menu useful (and delicious!).
1. Hummus with fresh, raw vegetables
I have a couple of recipes on my blog for hummus. My favorite contains preserved lemons. If you don’t have preserved lemons, this simpler hummus recipe also tastes delicious and kids may like it better than the one with preserved lemon. You can cook the chickpeas for this well in advance, store them in the refrigerator or in wide-mouth jars in the freezer and make your hummus a couple of days before dinner.
Earlier this week, I added pumpkin to half of my hummus with preserved lemons. It tasted amazing! I gradually added about ½ cup of pumpkin purée to 1 ½ cups of hummus, tasting as I went until I liked the flavor. It needed a bit of fresh lemon juice, so I added a tablespoon or so of that too.
Serving the hummus with vegetables—carrot and celery sticks, broccoli and cauliflower florets, bell pepper strips, mushrooms, radishes—balances some of the richer food at the table.
Hummus also tastes fantastic with sourdough crackers. You’ll need a starter to make those however, and with Thanksgiving only a week away, you won’t have time to bring the necessary starter to life if you don’t already have one. Next year!
2. Sourdough bread
I will make my sourdough bread this weekend during a workshop and freeze it until Thursday morning. I’ll bring a loaf (and a few other things) to the Thanksgiving potluck that my friends and I have planned. This always earns me lots of oohs and ahhs even though other people bring much more complicated dishes that to me look like a lot more work.
If you don’t bake the bread, buy it. I can buy loose bread in my own cloth bag at a store a few blocks from me. When buying sourdough, look for “leaven” or “levain” listed in the ingredients, along with flour, water, salt and very little else. The leaven indicates you’ve found a true sourdough loaf made with wild yeast.
3. Pear-cranberry chutney
Essentially all fresh cranberries come in a plastic package. I was able to buy them loose once a few years ago but not this year. So I’ll make fruit chutney that contains bulk dried cranberries. It’s delicious.
If you plan on serving this, start it a few days in advance so it can ferment for a couple of days, after which you can store it in the refrigerator until dinner—and scratch one dish off of your to-cook list early. You can find the recipe for that here.
My daughter MK first made us chutney to replace cranberry sauce with a plastic-free alternative. Because you don’t ferment it, you can make it at the last minute if you need to. Here is MK’s recipe.
4. Roasted squash
I love the small honey nut squash in the picture below. They taste like butternut squash but sweeter. I peel them, slice lengthwise into ¼” slices, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle on lots of finely chopped garlic, salt and a bit of dried thyme or cumin seeds, roast at 350°F for about 40 minutes or until tender and caramelized. That’s about all there is to it but here is a full post on this recipe.
5. Mashed potatoes
I don’t have a recipe on my blog for vegan mashed potatoes but found one that calls for roasted garlic, olive oil, nut milk, a bit of salt and chives. How can you go wrong? Here is the recipe.
6. Mushroom gravy
I have a very long to-blog list… I wish I had time to write a post every day. Mushroom gravy has sat on the list for awhile. I found a recipe for it from New York Times Cooking that, like every recipe I’ve tried from there, sounds amazing. If you have amassed a pile of vegetable scraps in your freezer, you can make the necessary vegetable stock for this. Serve the mushroom gravy on the mashed potatoes. Here is the recipe.
7. Pumpkin dal
Last year around this time, some leftover pumpkin purée inspired me to make this recipe. It tastes delicious and I cook it often. Here is the recipe.
8. Apple crumble
Or apple pie. But I don’t have an apple pie recipe on my blog. I do have one for apple crumble though. It tastes delicious and is very easy to make. You can substitute other fruit for the apples. I’ve made this in the summer with peaches and in the winter with apples, pears and quince. You can make the topping a few days to a week in advance and store it in the refrigerator until you bake the crumble. Here is the recipe.
There you have it! An entire zero-waste vegan Thanksgiving dinner. After you come up with your menu and before you go shopping, you can figure out how much food to buy with the Guest-imator from Save the Food. This tool calculates just the right amount of food you’ll need for your big meal, based on the number of guests you expect, the size of their appetites and the number and type of dishes you’ll serve. This type of planning prevents food waste.
One reason we waste so much food at Thanksgiving—turkey meat equivalent to 6 million turkeys in 2016—is that we serve many more dishes than usual and assume that everyone will eat a full serving of each dish. In other words, we buy and cook way too much food. Of course we all love leftovers—but maybe not quite so many—and the Guest-imator takes this into consideration also—just enter the number of leftover meals you’d like.