A RELUCTANT VEGETARIAN’S THANKSGIVING
This week's Wildlings is by Carolyn Flood, the co-founder of NotMilk - a locally made, fresh nut milk designed with coffee lovers in mind.
Carolyn recently quit her "safe" full-time job to build this business with her sister. She is an entrepreneur on a mission to bring some kick-ass nut milk to a coffee or latte near you.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, she explored why we kill turkeys and pray over them. Just kidding... She uncovers what it's like to be a vegetarian, and of course, provided a Pumpkin Pie "Cheese" Cake recipe, which will have your family & friends bowing down to you in gratitude.
We love Carolyn's untamed outlook and her vintage leg warmers, and we are certain you will as well. Keep on reading...
Becoming vegetarian was hard for me. And not because I liked meat. In fact, I’ve never been much of a meat eater and I have always hated bacon. Giving up meat was challenge for me because my decision forced me to take a stand.
My mother always said that vegetarian was just a fancy word for picky eater. (I’ve never asked her what she thought about vegans.) Vegetarians are the kind of people that need a special meal on airplanes. Vegetarians order appetizers and sides as mains at fancy restaurants, and meticulously examine the menu looking for hidden animal products in the entrees they order. Worst of all, vegetarians ask the waiter for additional clarification, which always results in the waiter having to go back to the kitchen and confirm with the chef. Picky. Maybe my mother was right. For nearly four years now, I’ve been that person many times, much to my chagrin. It’s true. I concede that I am a picky eater.
One concession down, but now to the real reason becoming vegetarian made me so uncomfortable. More than picky eaters, vegetarians (and definitely vegans) are the Jehovah’s Witnesses of the food world. It’s not enough to order sides and ask for clarification of ingredients, they must evangelize. Maybe it was growing up in the Bible Belt or just the constant affront from various religious groups in public spaces around NYC, either way, my aversion to the conversion is strong.
And who can blame me? Being vegetarian is like being in a cult. You have to convince people of your way, if not to convert than at least to validate your decision. Nothing but public scorn and shame befall the vegetarian who simply doesn’t like meat. You have to have a “real” reason. So, we vegetarians talk about the cost of eating meat to society, to the environment, and to health, and in turn blame meat-eaters for these problems. We build a wall with our reasons. Soon we socialize only with other vegetarians, going to vegetarian or vegan (gasp!) restaurants.
Then you eat your first Satan steak. Sorry, I think that’s spelled Seitan. Shortly thereafter, the transformation is complete. Your carnivorous friends are seen a little less often. They are rarely invited to dinner and the friendship dwindles down, creating a tribal division: Us the Vegetarians, and Them, the Meat-Eaters. This wasn’t the stand I wanted to take.
I believe that food is supposed to bring people together, not divide us. If the picky eaters of the world are tearing us apart to such an extent that we can’t even share a meal, what’s a vegetarian to do? (Especially on Thanksgiving, a holiday one vegetarian friend of mine referred to as “a special day for turkeys to die”?)
I hate being a picky eater, but I am what am. But, I refuse to evangelize, I love diversity (and my meat-eating friends) too much. And I still love to cook and to share. So on Thanksgiving, this reluctant vegetarian does just that – she cooks up a bountiful feast, inviting all friends- carnivorous and not - to come enjoy good food. Meat-eaters are welcome to bring meats, vegetarians are welcome to bring greens, and everyone is invited for some good old-fashioned home cooking, (mine just happens to be plant-based.)
Oh, and did I mention that I’m lactose intolerant too? So you won’t find much dairy in my cooking either. I’ll never wag a finger at the milk-lovers, but if my succulent cream-free sweet potatoes and cashew cheesecake evangelize, I can’t be held responsible.
Below is my recipe for pumpkin cheesecake. Cheesecake, along with ice cream, used to be one of my favorite desserts. This one mimics the creaminess and richness of classic cheesecake without the cream cheese, making it not only vegan and raw (gasp) but also a pleasant way to finish off a big meal - a little bit of sweet, doesn’t sit heavy in the belly. It is an adaption of a few recipes I’ve seen for vegan pumpkin pies and cheesecakes. I hope you and your Thanksgiving guests (meat eaters and not) enjoy it as much as my friends (picky and not) do.
PUMPKIN PIE “CHEESE” CAKE
Cream Cheese Filling
1 can organic pumpkin puree (15 oz.)
2 cups raw cashews, soaked overnight and then strained
maple syrup to taste (I used about ¼ cup)
3 tablespoons organic coconut oil
2 tsp. cinnamon
½ tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. ground ginger
½ tsp. ground cardamom
pinch of sea salt
1 cup dates, pitted and chopped
1 cup raw almonds, coarsely ground
1 cup raw walnuts, coarsely ground
½ cup shredded coconut, unsweetened
pinch of sea salt
1. Combine all ingredients in a food processor or high speed blender until combined. The desired texture is a chunky and sticky "dough". You should be able to squeeze the dough in your fingertips to create a firm crust.
2. Divide the mixture evenly in the muffin tins and firmly press the dough into the muffin tins until a thick bottom layer has been created.
3. Freeze for at least 3 hours.
4. While you're waiting for the crust to harden, start making the filling.
5. First strain and rinse the cashews, then puree in a blender.
6. Add in the coconut oil and the pumpkin puree blending until smooth.
7. Pour the batter into a mixing bowl. I always taste the batter unsweetened first and try to add as little maple syrup as possible. For this recipe, since the crust is so sweet, I chose to keep the filling slightly sweet to balance out the flavors. Add the maple syrup and spices to the mix and stir well. Adjusting the mixture until the spice and sweetness is to your taste.
8. Set mixture aside in the fridge to chill.
9. When your crust is done chilling, pour the filling mixture into the muffin tins using a spoon to even out the muffin tops.
10. Freeze for at least 2 hours prior to serving.
11. When you're ready to serve, remove the mini cheesecakes from their tins and thaw at room temperature for about 30 minutes or until the pumpkin pie filling is thick, creamy, and cool- it should not be frozen. Also, if the mini cheesecakes stay out too long, they will become soft and lose their shape so be careful not to take them out too early!
12. Garnish with coconut flakes (you can even drizzle with a little maple syrup for a sweet topping!)