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Veggie Tales

Decatur Daily, November 16, 2011

By Catherine Godbey

Adapting to a turkey-less Thanksgiving is easier than you think; local vegan says changing her eating habits saved her life

The holidays are a time for family, football and food. Oh, how Americans love to celebrate Thanksgiving with food, preferably meat — after all, the holiday is commonly referred to as “turkey day.”

So what is a vegetable-lover to do on a day that glorifies meat?

With the growing focus on nutrition and the rising popularity of vegetarianism and veganism, an increasing number of families face the issue of planning a diverse holiday menu.

“Our kids were already grown and out of the house when we started eating vegan,” said Decatur resident Gerry Coffey. “When we first went vegan, our children stopped visiting us for the holidays. They always had something else to do.”

A practicing vegan for 26 years, Coffey adopted the diet before the trend hit Hollywood and celebrities like Ellen DeGeneres, Carl Lewis, Alicia Silverstone, Fiona Apple and, more recently, former President Bill Clinton made the lifestyle popular.

No recipe books or websites devoted to the subject existed when Coffey converted after doctors diagnosed her with ovarian cancer. Instead of undergoing surgery, Coffey, who led exercise classes and followed the food pyramid, opted to change her eating habits.

“It was difficult because everything is centered around eating. Funerals, weddings, birthdays and holidays are all about food,” she said. “It took me a long time to embrace the lifestyle. I would go on a fast and then gorge on fast food.”

After three years and three fasts, the ovarian cyst disappeared.

“I feel I am lucky to be alive and need to share with others eating habits that will help them lead their lives to the fullest,” said Coffey, 71.

The former nutrition and activities leader created her recipes through trial and error. Yes, Coffey said, many recipes failed during the learning process.

“People today have it a lot better because of all of the cookbooks out there to direct them,” she said. “Back then, we had nothing to go on. It was all experimental.”

Now, as an experienced vegan, Coffey offers advice and already-proven recipes to appease and please the herbivores, as well as the carnivores.

“A lot of people think it tastes like cardboard; well it doesn’t,” said Coffey, who grew up eating meat every chance she got. “It might taste bland to a lot of people of first. That is because much of the food we eat is packed with salts, fats and sugars. The pure, natural flavor is lost.”

For Coffey, a typical Thanksgiving menu includes stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, sweet potatoes, vegetables and dessert.

Making Thanksgiving dishes vegan-friendly is not difficult, said Julie Lawson, who taught vegan and vegetarian cooking classes at Decatur Seventh-Day Adventist Church.

In sweet potato casserole, Lawson replaces milk with soy milk, and in stuffing she uses vegetable broth instead of chicken broth.

“Pretty much all of the side items are vegetable-based,” she said. “There is even a company that makes a loaf made of tofu that simulates turkey. Of course, it’s not like the real thing, but it is good.”

Here are Coffey’s recipes:

Veggie Plate with Peanut Butter Dip

Dry roasted, salt-free peanuts

Vegetable options: broccoli, cucumbers, zucchini, yellow squash, celery, cauliflower, mushrooms, carrots, red and yellow bell peppers.

Use a juicer and run the peanuts through to make the dip. Select and cut the vegetables. Place on plate.

Cornbread and Wild Rice Stuffing

Pre-made cornbread and 7-12 slices whole wheat toast

2 cups pre-made brown and wild rice

1 large onion, minced

1 clove of garlic, minced

4-6 stalks of finely chopped celery

2-4 tablespoons of low-salt soy sauce

1-2 cups of chopped nuts: pecans, walnuts or mixture of both

1 large box of Veggie Broth or 4 cups of water

1 pound mushrooms, chopped

1/2 cup parsley, chopped

Few handfuls of raisins, optional

Break up the cornbread and whole wheat toast into small pieces and add onion, garlic and celery. Combine the broth and soy sauce and pour above the cornbread mixture. Use hands to work the liquid into all the ingredients. Add more broth if needed. Mix in the wild rice, nuts, mushrooms and raisins. Pour mixture into a large, rectangular casserole dish and bake covered in oven at 350 degrees for an hour. Garnish with parsley.

Mashed Potatoes

1 potato per person

1/2 cup of dry walnuts, pecans or cashew nuts

Vanilla

1 pitted date

Wash but do not peel the potatoes (the peelings give the potatoes texture and contain the majority of vitamins and minerals). Quarter potatoes and place in covered pot with the water. Cover, bring to a boil and turn heat low to simmer until they are soft when pricked with a fork. Avoid adding too much water, as the nutrients drain into it and will be lost.

Place the nuts in a blender until mealy. Add one or two drops of vanilla and the pitted date. Blend until smooth. Add more water if a thinner consistency is desired. Use the blended mixture to mash the potatoes until creamy.

Creamy Mushroom & Onion Gravy

1 clove garlic, minced

1 small onion, minced

1 or 2 stalks of celery, minced

2-5 cups of chopped mushrooms

1 tablespoon of low-salt soy sauce

Splash of olive oil

Dash of sea salt

2½ cups of water

2 tablespoons of corn starch or wheat flour

Saute the garlic, onion, celery, olive oil and leftover broth from boiling potatoes. Add water if needed. When mixture becomes translucent, add mushrooms. Add liquid as needed to keep from scorching.

While stirring, add 2 cups of water and heat. Add the soy sauce.

Combine the corn starch or wheat flour with 1/2 cup of water and mix until smooth. Add mixture to the gravy. Add more water if consistency is too thin.

Yam Stuffed Oranges

5 large sweet yams or sweet potatoes

1/2 to 3/4 cup fresh orange juice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 to 3/4 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, optional

Handful of raisins, optional

Bake yams in their skins at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes or until soft in center.

Put all ingredients in a food processor or blender. Puree the mixture, adding enough orange juice to make it the consistency of mashed potatoes.

Place the yam stuffing into empty and cleaned out orange halves. Bake at 350 degrees for about 20 minutes. Serve hot or cold.

Dream Cream

1 ripe banana per person

Peel banana and place on cookie sheet. Freeze until solid. Feed frozen banana through a juicer with the blank in place. Serve as is or mixed with other pureed fruits, nuts or sauces.

Other suggested fruits include peaches, mango and pineapple.

Tip: Bananas are not truly ripe until they have “freckles.” That is when the true flavor and nutrients are at their best.

Carrot Juice Cocktail

5-7 organic carrots make one 8-ounce glass

Rinse in cold water and remove the end, tip and any debris. Put through juicer.

Other types of cocktails include carrot and apple juice and carrot and ginger juice. For the carrot and apple cocktail, wash and core 1/2 apple and juice along with the carrots. For the carrot and ginger cocktail, cut off 1/4 to 1/2 fresh ginger and juice with the carrots.

Tips: If using non-organic carrots, remove tips and peels before putting through the juicer. Opt for California carrots; carrots from Florida tend to have a bitter taste, Coffey said.

Fresh Guacamole

2 very ripe avocados, mashed

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 cup of tomatoes, finely chopped

1 teaspoon lime or lemon juice

2 tablespoons onions, finely chopped

1 stalk celery, finely chopped

Add all of the ingredients to the mashed avocados. Cover and chill. Use dip for fresh vegetables, pita pieces or to spread on sandwiches. (Recipe from “Recipes for Life from God’s Garden” by Rhonda Malkmus)

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