CultureHealth

Thanksgiving is right around the corner – are you hosting friends? Helping family cook up a feast? Bringing a dish or two to a potluck?

Having just moved across the country and begun a new job that doesn’t afford me the time or moolah to jet back across the country on holiday, I’ll be spending my first Thanksgiving away from home. I’m lucky to have a group of friends here who will also be celebrating without family, but we’re not the most experienced chefs, and most of us have never hosted a Thanksgiving party.

Many of us are vegetarians and vegans, which means a little creativity is required to whip up a meatless meal worthy of celebrating on a day that’s known for its turkey, gravy and cheesy casseroles.

Below are recipes for an easy, last-minute, vegan Thanksgiving feast that won’t have you missing meat one bit:

Appetizer

Start off with a fresh, seasonal holiday salad.

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Holiday Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette – from Oh She Glows

Sides

It’s not Thanksgiving without the green bean casserole.

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Vegan Green Bean Casserole – from Fat Free Vegan

Forget the gravy, make this delicious twist on mashed potatoes.

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Crispy Smashed Potatoes with Avocado Garlic Aioli – from Oh She Glows

 Stuffing

A delightful veggie twist on traditional stuffing.

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Butternut Squash, Brussels Sprout and Bread Stuffing with Apples – from Food52

 Main Dish

 Simple, protein-packed and delicious.

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Quinoa stuffed sweet potatoes – From Veggie Dream Girl

 Dessert

 Easier than pie.

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Vegan Pumpkin Dessert Bars – from The Happy Housewife

 What? I didn’t say it was a healthy, low fat vegan Thanksgiving meal. It’s just animal product-less. And it’s super delicious – click each of the links above for the recipes! Happy, happy Thanksgiving!

What are you eating for Thanksgiving? Share below!

Image: The Happy Housewife

CultureHealth

Nestlé is infamous for many products; I will never forget the excitement I would feel whenever my mother would whip out a container of Nestlé’s powdered chocolate milk. However, it is not chocolate milk or even baby formula that is putting Nestlé at the forefront of health news. The company recently released news about “Exercise in a Bottle” and if it does what they say it can do, this product could mean great things.

The Scientists at the Nestlé Institute for Health Science have found that working on a specific enzyme, AMPK, that, when controlled, stopped the liver’s production of fat. These scientists have coined this enzyme the “metabolic master switcher,” but still reiterate the idea that regular exercise along with use of the product is the best option.

This product will most likely be marketed to people with Type 2 Diabetes, obesity, and other metabolism related issues. Nevertheless, the scientists explain that this will most likely be safe for normal use instead of a constant exercise routine after research has been completed on the product. So who’s to say that people with functioning metabolisms cannot use them? After reading this article, one of my friends suggested selling these bottles post-holiday feasts like Thanksgiving. Once you have filled up on stuffing, mashed potatoes, and turkey, instead of feeling lethargic and guilty for a few days you could just down some “Exercise in a Bottle.” Jokes aside, whether or not this product will become geared towards public use is still up in the air, but the fact that scientists have figured out a way for people to regulate their own metabolism and possibly cure their infirmities is miraculous.

Image: Pedro Angelini

CultureHealth

Whether you are having guests over for a celebration or hanging out with friends for a cozy night in, it’s great to know some quick and affordable drink recipes. These simple and delicious beverages are great to have and share!

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 Cranberry Citrus Punch

Tangerine or Orange slices
Pineapple Juice
Cranberry Juice
Club Soda

Place a few orange slices at the bottom of a champagne glass, then pour equal parts cranberry juice and pineapple juice. Add 2/3 cup of club soda for some fizz!

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Apple Cinnamon Tea

1 Cinnamon Apple Spice Tea Bag (Celestial Seasonings Brand used above)
Fresh cut apple
Cinnamon
Condensed Milk

Add a fun treat to this simple tea by spreading some condensed milk onto an apple slice. Use a knife to scratch a design in the center and sprinkle some ground cinnamon on top. The sweetness of the apple slice is delicious against the tartness of the tea!

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Chocolate Coffee

Your choice of coffee (Kirkland Pacific Roast featured above)
Unsweetened cocoa powder
Coconut milk
Nutella
Pecans

Brew a cup of coffee and add two heaping tablespoons of cocoa powder. Feel free to go for sweetened cocoa powder if you’d like it extra sweet. Add 1/3 cup of coconut milk. If you prefer a milkier coffee, include creamer and sugar to your liking. Spread Nutella along the rim of your mug and dip the rim into sliced up pecans or nuts of your choice. Coconut flakes or crushed up candy canes would also be great cup toppers.

All the cups and glasses featured in this article have been purchased from a local dollar store. You don’t have to spend a lot to entertain! Cheers to you and yours this holiday season. Happy sipping! 

Images: Marian Rose Bagamaspad

CultureSkills

There are many things to be thankful for when the Thanksgiving pieces have fragmented into a “disastrous holiday.” This very American, very well planned, very much awaited for holiday may not be the picturesque family-filled weekend.

The Away-From-Home Blues

Not everyone gets the marvelous chance of traveling home for Thanksgiving as intercontinental trips can result in two entire days of travelling, exorbitant holiday fares, or simply lacking the luxury of time to do so. These away-from-home holidays can be seriously depressing – especially when you scroll through your relative’s posts of family reunions or phone calls that report you’re on speaker and all family members you love and secretly hate are together dining without you screaming their “Hellos.” However, if you are away from home, it doesn’t mean you need to celebrate Thanksgiving alone. Call up some friends who are also away from home and have a five-person-Thanksgiving-dinner; try cooking it all together. Amateur cooking without the guidance of your Mothers expertise is only calls for hilarious memories! Another option could be tagging along with along with a friend who has family in the area. Why not experience a different kind of Thanksgiving?

Preparation Timeliness

It’s almost law that you pay a price for the good stuff, no? Food: delicious, anticipated, and the entity that makes Thanksgiving actually happen. In other words, it is one of the most, if not the most important part of any Thanksgiving dinner. However, in order to have your guests roll their eyes in heavenly delight, you must first prepare this complex meal – aka the ultimate “OCD-enticing-price” as people are stressed out of their minds because the food is either finished too early or too late. Both can be disastrous because nothing is better than eating a home cooked recipe fresh out of the oven and nothing is worse than having to wait hours for your long awaited meal. Take a piece of advice: relax. Nothing ever turns out perfectly and that’s just a part of life! The premise of Thanksgiving may have a food component thrown in there, but when looking deeper into the holiday, it’s about being around family and friends and being able to reflect on just how lucky you are to have them!

Bizarre Selections

The quintessential Thanksgiving Dinner: turkey, apple pie, and stuffing? These are all foreign to me as my family celebrates with only a traditional turkey and Colombian food. Maybe we will get the occasional pumpkin pie that is bought from the nearest convenient store and left untouched throughout the night. Our unconventional dinners allow me to realize that there is true beauty in this holiday: the convergence of two cultures. On a different note, there are great stress-inducers other than the turkey not being prepared on time: not having a turkey. Not having turkey is only the worst thing that can happen in any Thanksgiving. But why? Why not have what vegan/vegetarian families have and eat seitan instead? Why not solve the catastrophic problem of having all stores having sold out turkeys by having a chicken substitute instead? The odd substitutes for what is representative of this day may just bring other little surprises!

Family Reunions

Aside from the obvious mishaps that can happen to anyone on any given family gathering, this can be the most unsettling: awkward reunions. It can be the horrible to have to introduce that semi-announced boyfriend or girlfriend. The impressions, the expectations, and the anxiety can all be a bit nerve wrecking. How about this situation: the absolutely irking family members who try to catch up with the happenings of your life by prying with totally eye-rolling questions. They’re all the same. “Any new boyfriends/girlfriends I should know about?” “You’re turning into such a woman/man!” or the expected comparisons to other relatives. Maybe you’re about to see relatives you have not seen in ages. What to expect? Expect anything from total joy to total awkwardness. But, hey, family reunions do these things – they are good problems to have!

Two Ideals. One Night.

“Bye! I’m off on a shopping spree,” everyone practically screams as they hurriedly move from feasting on gluttony to feast on the “more is better” American mantra. You just had a night of thanks for everything you have had and everyone you have had in your life and suddenly America hurries off to Black Friday to catch those 50% off deals like a heard of sheep desperate for a grass buffet. I have forever been curious and mildly disapproving of this concept but it’s very much present in this culture. Perhaps discern this transition with some extra-thanks? Thanksgiving is the time of year when everyone meets in loving gathering – most of the time. It is the time of year when everyone gives thanks for the experiences, opportunities, people, and things in their lives. But it’s also a time when patience, emotions, and your ability to “let go” is tested.

How will you manage your Thanksgiving mishaps?

Image: Satya Murthy

Culture

Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrated among all sorts of families from all walks of life. The moment they came to America, my family resolved to understand how the culture and holidays work here as part of their immigration process. I’m from a Chinese family, and with that comes its own values. One of them, like many cultures, is to be thankful for the good that has come, and to hope that there is good in the future.

The way my family celebrates Thanksgiving isn’t too different from other families. We put on the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade broadcast on our television. Over the years, the television went from a big bulky block that sat on our table to a nice flat screen. Sometimes it would be the sound of the Nintendo Wii, and me kicking my cousin’s butt on Super Smash. While the sounds of trumpets and music and the voice of an announcer cheerfully declares the coming float, the sounds of metal clanking comes from the kitchen.

Our family has turkey like many others. We also have rice and fish, salads and cooked dishes of vegetables. The important thing is that everyone is happy and eating what they want, so having both turkey and chicken wasn’t unusual on some Thanksgivings. I always liked my little bowl of cranberry sauce, and my dad makes a great mixed salad, and my mom orchestrates the way the extended oval table, with its orange and white Hawaiian flower cover, is arranged.

We did prayer every year, with my grandparents leading, and this year is special. The prayers involve incense and a neat arrangement of oranges, meats, sweets, and vegetables by the window. The prayer is to the spirits, ancestors or gods or what have you, to thank them for protecting us and that we would appreciate their protection in the future. Any deaths in the family, especially any within the past year, would especially be remembered, as the spirits of those people are most close to us. This year, we indeed have one of these close spirits, so the prayer will not be without deep contemplation.

The fun comes after the food is done, after the prayers said. That’s when we get to eat, and my family, as well as extended family from all over NYC, come to one household. It’s a loud event with a lot of noise and clattering and energy, but there is a lot of love. More than anything else, this love, not the food or the parade or the incense, is what makes Thanksgiving so lovely.

How does your family celebrate Thanksgiving?

Image: martha_chapa95

Culture

We’re so excited that one of our favorite holidays is just around the corner. While delicious food is a major perk of Thanksgiving, it is also a great time to remember what you are grateful for. We’ve talked about ways to show your gratitude throughout the year, Spotlighted a guy who started a company that encourages sending thank you cards, the power of random acts of kindness, and have offered tips on different ways to say thank you.

Thanksgiving is a time to count your lucky stars, appreciate your family, and give back to those you love. It is also a perfect time to share with friends and show how much you care about one another. A fantastic way to do this is by hosting a Friendsgiving! Friendsgiving is the celebration of Thanksgiving dinner with your friends, and it usually happens the Wednesday before or the Friday after Thanksgiving.

Whether you plan a Friendsgiving a couple of days before Thanksgiving or if it replaces actual Thanksgiving (since you might not be able to make it home for the holiday), there’s no better way to spend time with friends.

These are the 6 benefits of hosting a Friendsgiving:

  1. Experiment with new recipes.

Have you been waiting for the perfect event to make those mini pumpkin pies? Here it is, your perfect moment has arrived. Since you’ll be cooking or baking for a crowd, you can try multiple recipes and show off those kitchen skills.

  1. Experience different traditions.

Encourage those attending to incorporate their family traditions – does your best friend play football with his family before the feasting begins (hello Friends!)?, does your other friend watch football on TV afterwards? Is there a movie that one of your friends watches every Thanksgiving? Does someone love playing board games post-meal? Perhaps your family goes around the table before eating to say what they are grateful for?

Include these fun and new traditions into your Friendsgiving. By kicking off Friendsgiving, you and your friends will be starting a tradition of your very own.

  1. Try your friends’ favorite foods.

Make your Friendsgiving a potluck and tell everyone to bring their favorite dish (you’ll want to coordinate this so you don’t have four types of mashed potatoes). Through the variety of foods, you will experience the different flavors that your friends have enjoyed and celebrated over the years.

  1. You’ll get two days to focus on being thankful!

While being grateful every day of the year is important, this year you’ll get two days to focus on what you are thankful for – Friendsgiving and Thanksgiving. Lucky you!

  1. Start celebrating Christmas early without judgment.

So you and your friends want to start listening to Christmas music without being judged for it? This is the safest environment to do it in! Blast those Christmas carols and holiday tunes and make a dance party out of it. Who better to rock out to Jingle Bells with than your best friends who love the holidays just as much as you?

  1. Cleaning has never been faster.

Once the meal is over, there are multiple hands to make the clean-up process move much faster. For a stress-free post-meal experience, clean before you eat dessert. This way there won’t be that huge task looming over you. The job gets done sooner when everyone helps out.

Happy Friendsgiving!

Image: Friends Season 10

Skills

During the holiday season, especially right around Thanksgiving, gratitude is everywhere. Starting around kindergarten, we’re taught that this is the time to list out the things we’re grateful for and say our thank you’s. It’s a wonderful thing, and our warm holiday glow often lasts a few weeks past the big day. But, most of us get caught back up in our busy routines and forget to show or regularly acknowledge our gratitude for the miraculous gifts life has given us: friends, family, love, education, health, pets… and the more simple ones (which may not be so simple to many people in the world): a sip of water, a bite of food, or a breath of fresh air.

Forgetting to show gratitude doesn’t make us bad people, but it actually would serve us and our happiness if we could remember to thank our lucky stars each day. Giving thanks daily can be so quick, but can truly impact the way we see our days.

Here are a few ways to remember our gratitude and give thanks to those who mean so much to us:

  1. Gratitude list – get a small journal, notepad or just sheet of paper, and fill it every day with five things for which you are grateful. You will soon realize how many tiny yet wonderful things have accumulated in your life.
  2. Start your day with thanks – if you happen to be religious or spiritual, wake up and thank the Universe, God, or any divine form of energy or higher power you worship. An example could be “thank you for letting me see another beautiful day.” Repeating this each morning can slowly rewire the way you see things.
  3. Say “thank you” – to EVERYONE! The person who held the door, your server, your friends, your boss for complimenting you, your teammates for working hard. Thank people for just being. Even if they try to play it off cool, no one ever dislikes being genuinely thanked for being kind or doing a good job.
  4. Write thank you notes – it doesn’t matter how long you’ve put them off, write letters to people who have recently given you gifts or cards. Write thank you notes to your friends for being the friends they are. Write a thank you note to the person who smiled at you and made your day, even if you don’t know them and have no way of giving them the note.
  5. Thank yourself – no matter what anyone says, you are doing the best you can, so thank yourself for that. You’re here, living despite any challenges you may be facing. You’re awesome, thanks for being you! Write yourself a note or just look in the mirror and say it.
  6. Share – when we truly appreciate the abundance in our lives, we are more willing to share it. I believe this can work backwards, though; when we share, we often become more aware of our abundance.
  7. Make a phone call – call a grandparent, and ask him or her to tell you a story from his or her life. Ask your dad to tell you his favorite recipe, or your mom to tell you more about her favorite hobby. Asking others about themselves is a way to show we care, we are interested and we’re glad they’re here.
  8. Take a deep breath – and notice the air filling your lungs. That, in itself, is a miracle, and the more we slow down, stop to smell the roses and feel the air in our lungs, the more we train ourselves to realize these small but beautiful things.

Thank you for reading! How do you show your gratitude? Share below!

Image: MTSOfan

Culture

There is a quote by Aesop which says, “No act of kindness, no matter how small, is ever wasted.” I have never seen that statement disproved. I am sure you have seen those articles on the Internet claiming to restore your faith in humanity by mentioning a few random acts of kindness. A random act of kindness is simply helping others without being asked. Reading about these wonderful moments can be pleasant, but being a part of them can be even more enjoyable. Many people like accepting gifts from others, but doing nice things for others can be just as rewarding.

You never know when a simple act can brighten someone’s day. It can be easy. My father will sometimes surprise me by buying me breakfast, just because he’s thinking of me. Kindness can mean just as much coming from a stranger. All people deserve to be cared for. Thinking of someone else’s happiness for even a moment can make them feel cared for.

Doing a random act of kindness can actually make you feel better, as well. It is hard to see anyone suffering. If you are able to help anyone, it could lift you up. Helping someone could be as easy as giving someone a milkshake on a bad day, giving someone your seat on the bus, or donating your hair to Locks of Love. Even something as little as buying a sandwich for someone who is starving will cost you very little, but will help someone else a lot. Through my experiences and stories from others, I know that whenever you help someone out, it stays with you. Giving joy and seeing joy can make you happy. It’s as much a gift to you as it is to someone else.

Take the time to help someone else. Don’t wait for someone to ask you to step up when you see someone in need. A kind act can be uplifting for everyone involved. Find your way to help and do it. There is a website called The Random Acts of Kindness Foundation which carries ideas to help others. It also features stories of when people were helped or when they helped others. It just might inspire you in time for World Kindness Day on November 13. So, why wait? You can’t lose. Just remember that even the smallest act can have a grand effect on someone.

When have you done a random act of kindness?

Image: Jennifer

Culture

These days, Thanksgiving is known for its big meal and is otherwise swallowed up by the rest of the holiday season. However, when we think of it like that, we miss a lot of joy that comes from the holiday itself. It is a day that brings family and friends together and makes them take stock of the goodness in their lives. Everyone has their own role to play in this. Even if Thanksgiving is not your favorite holiday, it has values you can celebrate all year long.

1. The holiday motivates us to keep in touch.

With social media, it’s easy to see what your loved ones are up to throughout the year, but it’s hard to make plans to see each other. People really make the effort to be together on holidays but you don’t need a holiday as an excuse to get together. When you miss someone you love, make a plan to see them. I know work and school can be hectic. However, in the last year, I’ve made the effort to spend more time with my extended family and I’m grateful for it. We know each other in a new way now and I wouldn’t trade that for anything.

2. Thanksgiving allows you to forge a bond through food.

We all know everyone has to eat. Thanksgiving is a food holiday, but also one steeped in tradition. People work together in their kitchens to keep old traditions alive or create some new concoction. I love to eat and to cook. Throughout my childhood, I was a last minute helper. I had to contribute in my own small way. Now that I am adult, I do most of the cooking myself. On Thanksgiving, preparing food is not just cooking, it is carrying on tradition. Everyone contributes to the meal. We are brought up on recipes that we learn to make ourselves. It’s a group bonding activity that does not have to be one day of the year. I frequently help my family cook. It takes away some of the work after a long day. Take some time throughout the year to share recipes with others or to cook together. It is a fun way to pass the time with people you care about.

3. Thanksgiving is one of the biggest volunteering days of the year.

Remembering what we have now reminds us to help others less fortunate. A lot of charities put out food for families and the ill on this holiday but people need to eat all year round. Why wait to volunteer one day of the year? There are many worthy causes looking for help during the year. Try one.

4. Think about what you are thankful for.

We are in the ‘now generation.’ We tweet, Instagram, and Facebook to talk about what we are doing in the moment. Most of the time, it’s important to keep moving forward and be present. That said, it does not hurt to realize all that you have going for you. It also never hurts to remember all the people in your life who make your life better. Let them know what they do for you. Again, this doesn’t have to happen one day of the year. When you appreciate someone in your life, tell him or her.

Holidays are a time to celebrate events that happen year after year. However, we don’t have to only bring out these values one day of the year. We can get closer to our loved ones, work together, give back, and appreciate all that life has to offer. All you have to do is remember to try. I told you some ways that I celebrate. Think of how you want to contribute this year.

What Thanksgiving lessons do you implement throughout the year? Share in the comments below or tweet to us!

Image: Lee