Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes: Bell Pepper Soup, Polenta Loaf, and Apple Crumble

When you hear the word "Thanksgiving," no doubt the first image that comes to mind is a big fat glistening roast bird. But if you think about it, most of the stuff that usually surrounds that slab of turkey on your Thanksgiving plate is plant-based. Traditional mashed potato, green bean, cranberry, and stuffing dishes are all just a few ingredients away from being vegan, so it doesn't take much effort to make your holiday table totally animal product-free.

But the world of vegan cuisine offers a lot more interesting stuff than bland white potatoes whipped up with soy milk. You can make some delicious soups, scrumptious healthy desserts, and some grain, lentil, or nut loaves that make great turkey replacements. Here are a few "out of the box" holiday-ready recipes from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau, author, chef, and creator of the new 30-Day Vegan Challenge program.

Spicy Red Bell Pepper Soup
This creamy, zesty, and colorful soup will make a great precursor to the rest of your Thanksgiving feast, and its flavor zing will provide a nice contrast to the safer, more traditional flavors of the holiday. It's a great idea to make it the night before your gathering so the flavors have a chance to mingle and meld.

4 red bell peppers, seeded and chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 yellow onion, roughly chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
6 cups vegetable broth
1-1/2 cup raw cashews
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sautee the bell peppers, carrots, onion, and garlic in a few tablespoons of water or vegetable broth in a large soup pot over medium heat. Cook and stir the vegetables for about 10 minutes, or until they're soft. Add the 6 cups of vegetable broth, cayenne, red pepper flakes, and salt, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer until the veggies are tender (about 20 minutes). Remove from heat.

Put cashews in a high powered blender and blend on high power. Add about 1/2 cup of the broth from the soup and continue to blend until the mixture becomes a thick cashew cream. Then add the rest of the soup contents to the blender and blend until smooth. Season to taste, blend again, and then return to the soup pot to heat. Serve hot.

Creamy Leek Polenta "Loaf"
Prepare this the night before your feast so you can give the polenta time to refrigerate and "set up" in a bread pan overnight. Or prepare it the day of Thanksgiving and serve it as a fluffy side instead.

3 large leeks (white and pale green parts only), thinly sliced and diced
2 cups water
2-1/4 cups vegetable broth
1 cup polenta (coarse corn meal)
3/4 cup almond, soy, or rice milk
1 teaspoon sea salt
freshly ground pepper

Sautee leeks in a 4-quart saucepan with a few tablespoons of water. (Use olive oil or Earth Balance spread instead of water if you're not opposed to extracted fats, as I am.) Cover and cook for about ten minutes until leeks soften, stirring occasionally.

Add the water and broth, cover, and bring to a boil. Slowly pour in the polenta, whisking simultaneously. If you don't whisk, the polenta will clump.

Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook until thick and creamy. Stir frequently with a wooden spoon. As the mixture thickens, add the non-dairy milk and continue cooking. Add a pinch of the salt. Continue stirring, cooking, and slowly adding more milk and salt until the mixture is creamy.

Remove from heat. (Optional: Stir in a tablespoon of nondairy butter or olive oil for added creaminess.) Season with salt and pepper.

If you're serving the polenta as a side dish, it's now ready to eat. If you're making a "polenta loaf," pat the cooked polenta into a loaf pan or a baking dish and refrigerate overnight. Pop your "loaf" in the oven for a while before serving.

No-Bake Apple Crumble
This quick and easy dessert relies on whole foods fats (walnuts) and sweeteners (dates) --- not shortening and refined sugar --- for its delicious flavor pop.


Crumble Topping:
1/2 cup walnuts
2 pitted dates, chopped

4 apples, peeled sliced and diced
1 tablespoon lemon juice

2 apples, peeled, sliced and diced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
5 pitted Medjool dates, chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Blend the dates and walnuts in a food processor until the mixture resembles Grape Nuts. Set aside. Toss the 4 peeled, sliced and diced apples with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice and set aside in a bowl. Next, blend the remaining 2 apples, 2 tablespoons of lemon juice, 5 dates, raisins, cinnamon, and nutmeg in the food processor. Toss this mixture with the diced apples. Spoon the mixture into dessert dishes and top with the crumble topping. (Credit: Cathy Fisher of straightupfood.com)

For more recipes and information on the vegan lifestyle, or to try her 30-Day Vegan Challenge, check out Patrick-Goudreau's website.

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