It's finally November, so take your pick of your favorite feature of fall, whether it be the foliage, rounds of cider (spiced or hard), or not being covered in sweat after walking to class. And while this time of year also means it gets cold and dark before dinner, we do have an abundance of warm food options to help us stay lively. This fact of life had me thinking about our cult favorite holiday — Thanksgiving, and the creation of the holiday for geographically-challenged and comradery-loving folks, Friendsgiving.
I always loved the idea of Friendsgiving, from its quirky name to the idea of scuffling for food with friends instead of family. So I decided to embark on a mission to orchestrate a meal in my dorm kitchen that was not only comparable to what we usually spend an entire day cooking in home kitchens, but was also turkey, butter, and cruelty-free (read: vegan).
Armed with a spatula, two baking pans, and two pots from the front desk, I went to work. Thanks to the foodie Mecca that is Trader Joe's, I succeeded with some tips to share. Here's a guide to hosting your own vegan TJ's Friendsgiving.
Thanksgiving is the holiday where every food item is thoroughly planned, and drinks are no exception. The Spiced Cider ($2.99) hails as one of the most comforting iconic drinks of the fall (if you're of age, feel free to pull out that hard cider or champagne). The 64-oz bottle was enough for a cup of each of the six of us.
Considering the limited resources for cooking in a dorm kitchen, one has to compromise. For this rendition of Thanksgiving, go simple with the starter that requires zero prep and will leave people hungry enough to try the turkey-less roast.
I went with the pita crisps with cranberries and pumpkin seeds ($2.69) with a roasted garlic hummus ($1.99). My friend also brought pomegranate seeds that she had spent four hours diligently peeling – this is the kind of friend to keep close.
Rolls ($1.99) are a must, because bread is the ultimate vehicle for the mess of food on our Thanksgiving plate. Leave these in the oven (off, but still warm from baking the roast) until you're ready to eat.
To add a little green to an otherwise indulgent Friendsgiving, try the kale and edamame salad ($3.99) and miso alla grig vegetables ($3.99). The salad requires no prep, and the veggies can go on the same pan as the roast after it's been in the oven for 15 minutes. Easy, peasy.
For a fun twist on mashed potatoes that doesn't require eating sketchy powdered mashed taters, I suggest frozen mashed sweet potatoes ($2.49). The potatoes came in little chunks and were super easy to prepare in a pot over medium until mushy (about eight minutes). Bless Trader Joe's and their food ingenuity.
As a convenient alternative to corn on the cob, which seemed very complicated to replicate in the dorm, I heated up canned corn in a pot for 10 minutes. You can get canned corn from anywhere, but Trader Joe's sells them for 89 cents each, so why not just make it a one-trip grocery run?
The (not) Turkey
Yes, the idea of a lump of meat-substitute wrapped around stuffing sounds pretty questionable to me too. But I had to give the breaded turkey-less stuffed roast with gravy ($9.99) a try for all of my meatless comrades out there. Of course, you could always go without a turkey replacement, but it might be un-American to go without the usual centerpiece of a Thanksgiving feast.
The preparation was simple enough: I used one of my two baking sheets and baked it in the oven for 25 minutes or so. I used the stove to warm the gravy, but a microwave is always an easy option.
The roast was surprisingly really good! It was definitely satisfying, if not a little synthetic tasting (if I say that's not a bad thing, does that make me weird?). I would definitely recommend vegetarians try it for the sake of staying as close to Thanksgiving tradition as possible.
Unfortunately, the foundations of staple Thanksgiving desserts—pumpkin and apple pie—are loaded with butter, cream, and eggs, so you'll need to get a bit creative. And by that, I mean read the Trader Joe's Fearless Flyer and decide which of the dairy-free pumpkin desserts sounds the best.
I settled with the pumpkin rolls and also bought a can of the regular jumbo cinnamon rolls ($3.99 each) for my less adventurous friends. I baked these on the second pan towards the end of our meal because the strategy of waiting to digest before dessert is a fallacy.
A centerpiece is a vital part of the table spread. Be creative! Anything orange is fair game. Ours was a simple yet thought-provoking arrangement of the classic Cucurbitaceae from the Pilgrim's first Thanksgiving (aka the pumpkin). Be sure to pick one of these mini pumpkins up at TJ's while you're grocery shopping.
For music, I suggest Frank Sinatra or Lauryn Hill, or even one of the Pandora Christmas radio stations if you're that kind of person. A laptop with the volume turned all the way will do the trick too, or even a phone in cup. Go wild.
Here's a glimpse of the joy that Friendsgiving and $38 can bring you and five of your friends. I highly recommend that you and your friends shamelessly hog the communal kitchen for a few hours and partake in an endeavor like this. For $38 and a few weird looks from less creative (read: lame) students, I can confirm that a vegan Friendsgiving in your dorm truly embodies the warmth and love that comes with the holidays.
For more Friendsgiving advice, check out this article!