Thanksgiving Sans the Cruelty

Thanksgiving is right around the corner and you know what that means? Turkey. Lots and lots of turkey. Grandmothers and moms everywhere are dusting off their ovens and prepping for the most important food day of the year. But this Thanksgiving, maybe you should consider leaving the turkey off your plate and try a meatless option.

Every Thanksgiving the president pardons a turkey, the White House website claims. This tradition has been ongoing since the 1940s. Farmers started to send birds to the White House to promote the poultry industry. The first president to pardon a turkey was George H.W. Bush as a result of pressure from animal rights activists. The presidential flock of 50 turkeys is narrowed down to two and the president picks one life to be spared. But imagine if every person in America pardoned a turkey. How many lives could be spared?

According to the Farm Sanctuary website, 46 million turkeys are slaughtered for this holiday alone. They die after a life of being cramped in small spaces, being pumped with hormones to make them grow unnaturally fast and existing in a constant state of fear and stress.

Well what if I don’t care about the poor dead turkeys? The ethical approach doesn’t work for everyone. A lot of people can accept what happens in slaughterhouses-- cognitive dissonance, I suppose. However, from an environmentalist standpoint, animal agriculture is one of the leading causes of climate change. If everyone ate one meatless meal daily, especially on a holiday where food consumption is so great, there would be tons of benefits for the planet. According to the World Meat Free Day website, just one day of giving up meat can reduce enough carbon monoxide emissions to drive around the world 2,438 times, save up to 5,700 acres of land and reduce water usage by 13 million tons.

I know, I know. A Thanksgiving without the big bird may sound a bit weird... But hear me out. Why put your money towards that when there are so many options for a Thanksgiving without death? Now I know what you’re thinking: well if I shouldn’t eat turkey then what should I eat?

In 2019 the possibilities are endless. Unless you’ve been living under a rock you would know that vegans are taking over the world. The Impossible Burger is available at Burger King, KFC is testing vegan chicken wings, and grocery stores are packed with an abundance of vegan options. Tons of companies have mock-turkey meat options that are easy to make and don’t take 8-hours to cook like a real turkey would. However, if mock meats aren’t your thing, I have a perfect recipe for you. A vegan loaf made with lentils, mushrooms and vegetables that is so flavorful and savory you won’t even miss the meat. This recipe is my adaptation of the Mushroom Lentil Loaf from the blog Making Thyme for Health.

Vegan Maple Mushroom Lentil Loaf

Ingredients:

  • 1 can of green or brown lentils (You can cook them from dry beans if you want but that sounds like a lot of effort that I am not interested in doing-- but to each their own!)
  • 1 ½ cups carrots, diced
  • 1 ½ cups yellow onion, diced
  • ½ cup celery, finely chopped
  • 4 portobello mushrooms, diced
  • 4 tablespoon minced garlic
  • ½ cup red bell peppers, diced
  • 1 cup breadcrumbs
  • ½ cup walnuts, finely chopped
  • 1 cup flour
  • 2 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2 tablespoons vegan Worcestershire sauce (Worcestershire isn’t vegan because it normally has anchovies)
  • 1 teaspoon liquid smoke
  • 2 tablespoon poultry season
  • 2 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon smoked paprika
  • 1 flax egg (1 tablespoon flax seeds, 3 tablespoons water)

            Maple Glaze

  • 2 teaspoon maple syrup
  • ⅓ cup BBQ sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 375ºF and line a loaf pan with parchment paper (Yes, even if it it’s non-stick, trust me, you’ll be really upset if you try to take it out of the pan and it falls apart!).
  2. In a small bowl, combine the flax seeds and water and let it sit in the fridge to thicken until it turns gelatinous. This is our egg replacer that will hold together the whole lentil loaf.
  3. There are two options for chopping the vegetables: food processor or by hand. I would deeply suggest a food processor if you want to avoid a future of carpal tunnel, however, if you don’t have one you can finely chop all the vegetables on by hand.
  4. Once you cut up the vegetables, heat olive oil in a large skillet, and throw in the onions. Sauté them until they cook down and start to look clear. Once the onions are cooked add the vegetables to the skillet with a pinch of salt and let them cook for at least 10 minutes or until the moisture has released from the mushrooms. Set aside to cool.
  5. In a large bowl add the lentils that have been washed and drained. Roughly smash them with the back of a fork but be careful, don’t turn them into mush. Add in the breadcrumbs, walnuts, flour and sautéed vegetable mixture. Lastly add the tomato paste, flax egg, liquid smoke, Worcestershire sauce. Stir the ingredients together until well combined.
  6. Pour mixture into a parchment lined loaf pan and smooth out the top with the back of a spoon until a loaf shape forms.
  7. In a small bowl, combine the BBQ sauce, maple syrup and soy sauce. Spread the glaze over the top of the loaf with a spoon or silicone basting brush.
  8. Place in the preheated oven and cook for 45 minutes. Let cool for 15 minutes before serving (if you cut into it right away it will fall apart. It will still be delicious, just not very pretty.)

This dish is sure to wow everyone, vegans and meat-eaters alike. My family loves this recipe and hopefully yours will too. I hope it proves to you that Thanksgiving can be just as delicious without a giant dead bird as the centerpiece.