Growing up, Thanksgiving was a happy time in our household.  My father loved to cook big holiday meals, about the only time he ever cooked for us.  He spent many years in the army as a food services professional, retiring after 25 years as a warrant officer in charge of all the mess halls on Fort Ord, California.  He and my mother owned a couple restaurants after he retired, the type open 24 hours serving breakfast all day and lots of comfort food.  His cooking was over the top in terms of quantity and over-seasonings.  He was used to making large vats of food and any recipes he learned in his army cook days were scaled for hundreds.  I can still hear my mother telling him, “Zack, not so much pepper please”.  Needless to say, he would make enough food to last for several days for our little family of four.  I would always help him with making dressing, gravy, potatoes and other side dishes.  Everyone agreed that he made the best gravy.  Fast forward to the years after I left home, starting my own household, raising four children and cooking for my family.  I followed the family traditions from the mid 1970’s until about 2018, always making turkey, ham, rich side dishes and desserts.  In 2017 I started following a plant-based diet to combat rising weight, cholesterol and blood pressure (which, by the way,  has been very effective in getting me off the cholesterol medication, reducing my blood pressure, and taking off a few pounds).  I attempted to have a few dishes for myself that year, but ended up eating everything in sight.  In 2018 I made an entire selection of plant-based dishes on Thanksgiving day along with traditional dishes for the family.  My plant-based dishes were not very good and even I didn’t eat them.  I was determined to make really great plant-based dishes for Thanksgiving 2019.  I firmly believe I have a good plan for this year. I’m really looking forward to Thanksgiving this year for a number of reasons.  The most important reason is my family comes together to share a meal. Seeing my adult children, their children and my husband seated around the table is wonderful.  Sadly, my oldest daughter, Helen Spencer and her family of five will not be here. She lives in Houston and it gets a little complicated for her. Fortunately, I can see her at some point during the holidays as Houston is not too far away.  I enjoy watching her family enjoy their Thanksgiving dinner from a distance. Helen is a great cook and she makes some dishes I’ve made for her which have now become her family’s favorites.  For another thing, as mentioned, I actually have some really good dishes to enjoy this year.  In fact, I  plan to  make my plant-based dishes for everyone instead of the traditional ones.  I will make a couple non plant-based dishes for my husband, but I do that regularly anyway. He is not following the same way of eating as me and I can’t force it on him.  I have found that over the past two years he has become much more positive about the food I cook and has surprised me with how willing he is to eat my plant-based entrees.  And lastly, I look forward to eating a reasonable amount of food that won’t leave me in a state of all or nothing overload.  You see, I have always had a problem with overeating and holidays were always the worst.  It was like a switch was flipped and I proceeded to eat constantly from Thanksgiving to New Year’s Eve with every intention of dieting after the first of the year.  I’ve found that the plant-based dishes I enjoy don’t turn on my overeating switch.  The absence of meat, fat, dairy and sugar seems to help me enjoy a moderate amount of food.  Even my plant-based desserts don’t tempt me to overindulge.  I  love them but don’t find myself wanting to eat them when I’m already full.  In years past, I could always find room for more and more and more food, leftovers, desserts, and snacks until I felt miserable.  I would plan to “just eat whatever I wanted for one meal” but then find myself eating all the leftovers for days.  This year I will have an assortment of whole food plant based dishes for several meals and I’ll feel fantastic every day I eat them. So what am I making this year?  Most of these dishes are already on my website in the recipes section and you will see the links. All my recipes are whole food plant-based and contain no oil. First of all, I’ve learned that plant-based dishes are best enjoyed when you are truly hungry.  Unlike standard American diet dishes that are rich and full of fat and salt, the whole food dishes don’t provide the same level of stimulation to the taste buds so you’re less likely to want them if you’re not physically hungry.  What I’m trying to say here is that if you fill up on nuts and crackers and dips before the meal nothing will taste very good.  Instead of heavy appetizers I’m having a tray of raw vegetables with some of my Special Occasion Hummus, made from chickpeas and red bell peppers and a little spicy kick. I’ll make a fresh green salad and some Tahini Dressing and I’ll be sure to put together an old fashioned relish tray on my mother’s divided glass dish.  The pickles, olives and pickled peppers provide a great contrast to the rich potatoes and gravy.  I’ll also have some homemade cranberry sauce with lots of orange juice, zest, and not too much sweetener.  I’m not so focused on a “main dish” because I love all the sides so much, but I suppose the Savory roasted tofu could be called a main dish.  It looks like a ham, after all.  I’ve made many other side dishes since September to test for my Comfort Foods class and ebooks and I love them all, however I had to choose my favorites.  I have not made mac and cheese for Thanksgiving before but I included it because it’s just that good.  The mashed potatoes and gravy have my husband’s approval and he is very picky about his mashed potatoes.  The green bean casserole is a reworked version of the standard version and has none of the salty canned soup and fried onion rings, yet tastes better to me because it’s lighter and fresher.  My friend, PJ Scherer, is responsible for the PJ’s Sweet Potato Delight.  She asked me to make a dish like her family’s favorite decadent (and cream/butter/sugar filled) dish.  My version is sweet, creamy and satisfying without all those ingredients.  Lastly, the pecan pie, with a no oil crust, is surprisingly special.  Ginger Molasses cookies may make an appearance, but I’m undecided about that right now.  Whatever you decide to make for your family this year, relax and enjoy every bite, and look forward to the leftovers. Here’s my menu: Vegetable grazing board with tahini dressing Chopped salad with tahini dressing Savory Tofu Roast     Mashed potatoes   Gravy Macaroni and plant-based cheese Green Bean Casserole   PJ’s sweet potato delight (rich and creamy from cashews)     Pecan Pie with Date, Walnut, and Oat Crust     Recipes not posted on my website are available in my ebook, Plant Based Holiday Table, available here: