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This was my 20th vegetarian Thanksgiving but my first year as a healthy vegetarian. I say this because in years past, my diet relied heavily upon processed fake meats, lots of cheese and pasta, generous amounts of alcohol, many breads and sweets and chips, and then a handful of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. This year I cleaned up my diet, dropped the fake meats (I have an occasional veggie burger but that's it) and turned instead to purer forms of protein like tofu, tempeh, edamame and eggs. I amped up my fruit and vegetable consumption, laid back on the breads, pasta and pastries, and switched out beer for water. Old Me loved to start her days with bagels. She couldn't pass a coffee shop without stopping for a latte and scone. She often made nachos — the cheesier the better. Dinner was often pasta, pasta, pasta (and a few veggies.). I drank enough to nearly keep up with my husband and I had no qualms about turning to frozen dinners or fast food if laziness struck. I exercised sporadically and went through huge periods of not exercising at all. I spent most of my days sitting and I constantly felt tired. This year I've turned into a clean, mean, lean machine. I wanted to have a holiday that reflected that, too.

We started our day at a Tofurky Trot. This is something I'd recommend to anyone on any holiday: get your blood flowing early with a short run, whether it's a part of a race or not. This immediately takes some of the sting out of the "It's a holiday so I'm going to start lazing around and eating crap from the minute I wake up" argument. After the race I ate a healthy breakfast (mushrooms, butternut squash, eggplant, eggs and Parmesan wrapped in a whole wheat tortilla), a healthy snack (pecans, dates, and a square of dark chocolate) and was ready to go into the big meal with a healthy attitude: indulge but don't overeat.

Generally at holiday meals I opt for a fake meat product like Tofurky or Field Roast, which I love wholeheartedly. This year, though, I wanted to make a dish that was based around vegetables. I wanted to make something clean and delicious. I stumbled across this vegducken recipe and decided to give it a try.  

Luckily we had the sense to make it the night before, because this is one time-consuming recipe. And although ours ended up a little overcooked and it fell apart into a crumbly mess, it was still delicious and a decadent-but-healthy vegetarian entree for the holidays. 

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For the record, this is what the vegducken was supposed to look like. 

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There are many ingredients involved in the making of vegducken.

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The filling from the squash, eggplants and zucchini is combined with all the other ingredients to make the vegducken filling.  

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Good news, everyone: my food processor survived the great guacamole pie experiment and made it to Thanksgiving.  

 

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There areTWO STICKS OF BUTTER in this butter maple syrup sauce, but we didn't end up using most if it — just enough to brush on the outside of each layer of vegducken. 

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"Who the hell has kitchen twine?" is a question I may have asked out loud once. The answer: My husband. My husband has kitchen twine. My husband's the one who knows where we keep a flashlight and has everything neatly organized in the garage and hand-sewed the tie of my robe when it fell off. My husband is basically MacGuyver.  

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So, here's what happened. We fully cooked the vegducken the night before and intended to merely warm it up the day of. But there was a lot going on in the oven and a lot of dishes to keep track of, so it stayed too long/ got too soft / crumbled when we cut it into slices. This picture clearly looks nothing like their picture. But who cares? How did it taste? It tasted delicious.  (If there's one thing about myself I'm particularly thankful for, it's the fact that I have NEVER strived for perfection. I know my limitations and don't waste a lot of time worrying about them. The heap of goo on that plate was not a disaster to me. It was delicious.)

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We broke out the china and fancy glasses for the occasion.  

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We did a little craft project and planted succulents inside pumpkins. (This was again my husband's idea. He's the one with artistic vision. I contributed the napkins.) 

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My parents brought these awesome mashed sweet and white potatoes.  

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We may have a small house, but we fit 11 people around this table.  

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Our guests brought oher sides, including delicious desserts.  

Friends, family, food: That's what it's all about. Thanksgiving always reminds me of my favorite Story People quote by Brian Andreas: "There are things you do because they feel right and they may make no sense and they may make no money and it may be the real reason we are here: to love each other and to eat each other's cooking and say it was good."

I'm so thankful for my family, friends, sweet readers of this blog, the Fit Girls Guide community, my able body and mind, and my vegetarian diet that finally feels like a REAL vegetarian diet chock full of vegetables and other deliciousness. (P.S. My MacGyver husband also made a turkey and all the meat eaters raved.)

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Happy Thanksgiving! 

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