Vegan Holiday Dinner Ideas + A New Recipe

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One of my frequently asked questions around this time of the year is always, “What vegan recipes can I make for my upcoming holiday meals that will impress the skeptics?”

Eating vegetarian, vegan, or other special diet can be challenging, especially around the holidays. It doesn’t help matters when “Uncle Joe” is ranting and raving about the lack of turkey on your plate either! Obviously, many traditional holiday foods are based around animal products, but that doesn’t mean that you have to eat dry lettuce all weekend. Even if you are a meat eater, you can still bring along a vegan dish to impress your family as well. And who knows, once you get your feet wet, you just might find yourself hosting your very own vegan holiday dinner!

When I first became a vegan in 2009, I told my family that I’d love to bring a couple vegan dishes to contribute. Not only is the host/hostess usually eager to have help, but it assures me that I won’t go hungry during a meal that should be fun and celebratory. It also lets the cook know that I don’t expect them to spend hours trying to figure out what to make me. Plus, it’s always fun for me to surprise others with just how delicious vegan recipes can be. Well two years and many vegan recipes later, they aren’t so surprised anymore, but I guess that’s a good thing.

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On Sundays, I love to cook a big hearty meal and this is even more true during Fall and Winter as the temperatures drop and the evenings darken. This weekend, I used Sunday’s meal to try a new holiday recipe that I could share with you. The recipe is a stunning rice pilaf that would make a great addition to any holiday meal. My inspiration came from a “wild rice stuffing” recipe in Bon Appetit, but I don’t like to call it stuffing because 1) it’s more like a hearty rice pilaf, and 2) I’m not stuffing anything, unless of course you count stuffing this dish in my pie hole. Yes, come to think of it I did a lot of stuffing this weekend.

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I’ve never made a rice pilaf quite like this. It’s luxurious tasting while being deceptively healthy and low in oil. The dish only uses 1 tablespoon of olive oil, yet tastes incredibly rich and buttery. Not to mention, it’s packed with antioxidants and other nutrients including cranberries, dried apricots, pecans, and more.

I’ve been looking for a dish like this that I could make for my own holiday dinner and I’m happy to report that I will certainly be making this again at Christmas! I hope you enjoy it too.

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I served dinner with my Ultimate Vegan Lentil Walnut Loaf, steamed carrots (mixed with a bit of Earth Balance, Herbamare, pepper, and sage), maple cornbread muffins (working on the recipe), and High Protein Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Vegan Gravy.

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I also finally perfected my Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe last week after working on it since late September. Oh, it’s good and well worth the wait. :)

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I will share this recipe soon, complete with a step-by-step tutorial on making a perfect lattice pie crust.

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Need less to say, we’re going to eat very well this week. Anyone want to come over for leftovers?

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Looking for other ideas?

This Ain’t Grandmas Sweet Potato Casserole is one of my favs (this picture does not do it justice). You can prepare it (without cooking) the day before (and place in the fridge), bring to room temperature, and cook it 45 mins before dinner is served.

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Brownie Pumpkin Pie with a Crunchy Pecan Streusel Topping is very well-reviewed too.

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Now hopefully you can keep your cool, have fun, and give thanks for all your blessings this holiday season.

Stay tuned for a few more holiday dishes coming up! In addition to the pie recipe, I have a few other things planned (maybe a festive harvest salad, a drink, and another fruity side dish) so hopefully they turn out!

What is your biggest hurdle with holiday dinners? Eating healthy? Being veg or gluten-free, etc? Getting along with “Uncle Joe”?

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{ 159 comments… read them below or add one }

Kalli November 14, 2011

Oh these are so wonderful Angela. I am struggling because I want to stay vegan during tday week. We are spending the week with my husbands parents but everyone will be wondering how come you won’t eat this or not. It makes me sad. Both my husband and I have been feeling so good on this way of eating. Any suggestions?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

Hi Kalli, It’s definitely tricky to navigate and I can relate to your concerns. I remember the first year I was a vegan I was so nervous to tell people, but luckily it wasn’t as bad as I imagined it would be. I have received my fair share of comments/questions though, but it kind of comes with the territory. What works for me is to let the host know well in advance of the actual holiday. I think most people appreciate a heads up if you are going to be eating in a certain way. I always say, what would you do if you had a gluten allergy or nut allergy? You would tell the host in advance, right? Well, I kind of see a veg lifestyle in a similar way (not like an allergy of course, but something that should be communicated in advance). I also let them know that I don’t mind bringing a couple dishes or making a couple during the stay, to contribute and offload the stress on the cook. This tends to work quite well for me and everyone is always happy to have some yummy dishes to try out. I hope it goes well for you and your husband.

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Jackie Smith November 14, 2011

Just to add to what Angela’s already said, I found that it helped my mom when I reminded her that “normal” food is vegan (spaghetti, tacos, soup, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches!). I think people panic & forget that they eat vegan (or nearly so) on a regular basis.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 15, 2011

That is a great point!

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Alayna @ Thyme Bombe November 14, 2011

I have been waiting all year to make that brownie pumpkin pie. My husbands family is largely lactose-intolerant, so I’m lucky that people are actually excited to eat vegan desserts every year.

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Sam November 18, 2011

My family and I am the same! While not vegan, I am always so excited to find vegan meals and recipes since I know I can eat them without fear of feeling ill later! Being able to eat the batter is always a bonus (and a must with the brownie pumpkin pie!) ;)

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Cait's Plate November 14, 2011

Oh my gosh that Brownie Pumpkin Pie with a Crunchy Pecan Streusel Topping looks AH-MAZING!!!

I would say my biggest struggle would just be portions. Though I don’t tend to worry about it too much because I figure it’s just one day and I know I’ll be back on track afterward!

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Hayley @ Oat Couture November 15, 2011

I second that!!! It looks frikkin amazing!!! As does that pilaf! :)

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat November 14, 2011

Wow, this looks so bright and colourful Ange – it belongs on the Whole Foods salad bar! ;) As far as holiday hurdles go, I’d say one of my biggest is getting past all the driving down the 401! I’m not good with long car journeys but I just have to keep reminding myself that seeing the people at the other end will make it all worth it. Oh, that and figuring out how to hoard all the Brussels sprouts for myself. LOL!! :)

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alyce November 14, 2011

thank you so much for posting this! i’m living back with my family and am trying to gear up for a thanksgiving with them, all omnivores (and i swear my brother ONLY eats cheeseburgers and bacon- he wouldn’t be caught dead with anything green on his plate)- so it’s tricky! i love the idea of cooking my own dishes to contribute. thanks for the *delicious* looking ideas!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 14, 2011

I love this stuffing idea! I made one last winter with figs, but I like the idea of apricots in this version. I bet some mushrooms would be good in it too.

P.S. I made your pumpkin mac n’ cheeze sauce last night – it was soooo good! I think I have a new addiciton. :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

Oh man figs would be amazing! Great idea. :)

Glad you enjoyed the sauce!

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Erica @ Cupcakes & Coffee Breaks November 14, 2011

The pumpkin pie looks heavenly… holy cow. And I’ll definitely be making your pilaf/non-stuffing for my family dinner! Great recipes, per usual :)

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Doran November 14, 2011

I’m drooling on my keyboard! Happy Monday!

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Maria November 14, 2011

Great ideas and the pilaf looks fabulous!

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Heather @ For the Love of Kale November 14, 2011

Your food is unreal. Seriously – wow!

Last year, I made your quinoa with nuts and apricots. It was amazing and everyone loved it! You’ve inspired me to create my own dishes this year and I can not wait! :-)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

Thank you Heather :) So glad to hear that. Have fun with the recipe creation!

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kjerstiye November 14, 2011

Your comment about “Not only is the host/hostess usually eager to have help, but it assures me that I won’t go hungry during a meal that should be fun and celebratory” is SO TRUE for being Celiac as well.
Most folks panic when you say they can’t eat gluten, or they’re super well meaning and they go out of their way to make something they think is GF but actually has modified corn starch or soy sauce (two big hidden sources of gluten) and then you look like a jerk quizzing them on the ingredients and then not eating it. Then everyone feels bad. I always bring a salad (with a safe GF sauce), a side and some sort of dessert, no matter where I am invited. That way I know for sure I’m going to get a good meal, my host/hostess doesn’t have to freak out about me all night.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

I would imagine that would be so difficult too. I’m glad that you are able to brings some things with you so you don’t have to worry!

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Carolyn @ HealthKitten.com November 14, 2011

This year’s holiday hurdle is going vegetarian!

My husband and I always have our own meal on Thanksgiving Day as my family doesn’t get together until the weekend. So, instead of the turkey, I’m going to make the vegan chickpea cutlets from Post Punk Kitchen and attempt their “Thanksgiving in an hour” meal! I’m also going to tackle Brussels sprouts for the first time…those tiny little cabbages scare me! LOL!

I think the hardest part will be going to my family’s dinner and explaining to them why I’m not having the turkey or sausage dressing. Coming from a small town farm family (we raised cattle and hogs and my uncle is a butcher!), they might have a hard time figuring that out. Here’s hoping!

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Melissa November 14, 2011

I’m really spoiled because my mom has been a vegan for 13 years! Needless to say, she has perfected the art of vegan.. everything!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

Wow..go mom! :)

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Andrea @ Vegvacious November 14, 2011

I can’t wait to try that vegan pumpkin pie! I’m heading to the US to celebrate American Thanksgiving with the fam, so I’ll get to “test” out some of these recipes before Christmas rolls around! Happy Monday :-)

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Alix November 14, 2011

looks yummy, and I have some wild rice to use up. can’t wait to try it! I’ve been tweaking my diet and the foods I eat a lot lately, and while I don’t have any life-threatening sensitivities, I think eating dairy makes my skin break out TERRIBLY and makes me feel “ugh” in general. Unfortunately it’s in so many holiday foods! I don’t mind the teasing from my own family, but I feel rude/uncomfortable when I don’t eat or have only a little of the food my boyfriend’s parents make us around the holidays :(

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Amanda November 14, 2011

This will be the first year being veg at holiday time. My mother in law had an in depth conversation with me the other night about how eating vegan isnt right becuase God gave us animals to serve us, and they are inferior creatures. I’ve never been so close to smacking an old lady in my life. Christmas is going to be challenging.

P.S she also told me she didn’t know how my relationship will work with so much pressure of him eating meat and me not (even though he supports me 110% and pretends to like vegan cookies to make me happy)

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Elle November 14, 2011

Aw, that’s horrible! I’m a Christian vegan with an unreasonable mom as well, so I totally know where you’re coming from. She’s never sat down and talked to me like that but she does make a big show out of her meat-eating, leaving tendons and blood all over the kitchen counter. What your mother is saying to you isn’t Biblical so definitely don’t worry about that (if you were at all) and I pray for the best for you. Stay strong!

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lauren @ spiced plate November 14, 2011

Thanks for all of these delicious looking recipes, Angela! I’m working on a menu for the Thanksgiving dinner that I’m hosting — I love to host because as a gluten-free vegetarian, it’s the only way to ensure that I get to EAT something besides salad! I agree with you about stuffing — I think we’ve always had it on the side anyways. I love the lentil walnut loaf and might have to add that to the line up! p.s. — Are you going to be hosting any more recipe round-ups?

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

Oh yea GF veg would be tough for sure!

hmm I might. Maybe a holiday round up would be really fun?

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Anna @ On Anna's Plate November 14, 2011

I think ANY meat eater would LOVE these dishes :-)

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Dana November 14, 2011

Hi Angela,
last year I made my first vegan Thanksgiving and everyone loved the gray recipe you had on the wed site.
This year I an cooking for 20 people . It will be for mostly vegetarian.
One receipe that I tested that was great is mashed sweet potatoes with candied pecans.
You must try it!

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Amanda November 14, 2011

I love that the focus of your recipes is on delicious, wholesome ingredients, rather than the vegan meat substitutes. Things like seitan definitely have their place, but I much prefer this style of vegan eating.

Excited for your pumpkin pie recipe! I made one on Friday (recipe on my blog!) that was really good, but I’m always looking to see how other people make theirs. The crust, in particular, can be a little intimidating.

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Lauren @ What Lauren Likes November 14, 2011

What great ideas! Can’t wait for the pumpkin pie recipe, it all looks fab :D

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Jesse (Out To Lunch Creations) November 14, 2011

This sounds amazing, I can’t wait to try it out. My biggest struggle during the holidays is not pigging out on sweets! I have a crazy sweet tooth and if I don’t pay attention I could eat a whole dessert tray!

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Cat @Breakfast to Bed November 14, 2011

I could OD on sweets and wine. Seriously. My family is eastern european and we go craz-zay. We cork at like…noon and bake all damn day, taste everything, make giant portions, etc. If it weren’t for the 10mi turkey trot in the am, I’d be a friggen house.

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Mahealani @ Beauty, Brains, and Balance November 14, 2011

10 miles the next day???

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Sara Grambusch November 14, 2011

I’ve got a freezer full of cranberries so I’m good to go there. I have been wanting to make those potatoes since last year. No more excuses ;)

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Kim November 14, 2011

I just printed out the recipe for the brownie/pumpkin pecan pie— it looks AMAZING. I am so glad you have so many vegan friendly thanksgiving recipes. I definitely struggle with this holiday since I stopped eating meat, and I still receive my fair share of rude comments. I’m so glad I have these delicious substitutes though.

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katie @KatieDid November 14, 2011

I made the mistake of not communicating my gluten intolerance to the host of our day after thanksgiving family party last year and actually did not end up having nearly anything to eat! I definetely learned from that though and made plenty of dishes to bring for christmas and talked to her beforehand- it worked out much better!

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Mahealani @ Beauty, Brains, and Balance November 14, 2011

I can’t wait to make the sweet potato casserole for my family this year! Thanksgiving used to be difficult, being baited with questions about animal rights always put me on edge. After years of passing on the turkey platter, my finace’s family has just accepted me as “that vegetarian one” and stop trying to grill me. :)

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tweal November 14, 2011

Oh my gosh, that whole meals looks and sounds amazing! I don’t usually love rice pilaf but this one is so pretty. And your pumpkin pie looks stellar too. Can’t wait to try some of these recipes, thanks for sharing Angela :)

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Gillian G. @ When Bread Is Broken November 14, 2011

Aaaah, your sweet potato casserole looks just like my Southern mom’s – how exciting! I so rarely see the “casseroles” as opposed to the pies with the marshmallows on top, which make me gag. I love marshmallows but for some reason that weirds me out….
anyway, maybe my mom & I can have a SP-off and I’ll make your vegan one – could be interesting!

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Victoria @ The Pursuit of Hippieness November 14, 2011

We’re having Thanksgiving at home this year, but I’m a vegan in a family of carnivores! I’ve been on the hunt for some great recipes and that stuffing/pilaf looks fantastic. And your brownie pumpkin pie has been bookmarked for several weeks now :)

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Chloe November 14, 2011

Can’t wait to see that pumpkin pie recipe! (always so tempted to say ‘punnkin’) Looks so tasty. oh who am I kidding, everything looks so tasty. -drool-

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Ali J November 14, 2011

My problem is definitely “Uncle Joe” lol – and his son. They always make these side comments to me like, “wow this turkey is so tender and so good, are you sure you don’t want some?” or, “your plate is looking like it’s missing something…” sometimes they’ll come right out and say “why don’t you want any turkey/ham/whatever we’re eating?”

It doesn’t bother me so much anymore, i just comment on how i’m glad they’re enjoying their dinner because i’m enjoying mine as well. my biggest thing now is trying to stop myself from rolling my eyes in front of them haha

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

lol…I love your response “i’m glad you’re enjoying your dinner because i’m enjoying mine as well” so clever and to the point without being rude!

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Anna @ The Guiltless Life November 14, 2011

Great ideas! For Christmas this year I am hosting some friends at our place for the big Christmas meal and it will all be vegetarian, so it’s a bit of a challenge on my shoulders! I look forward to trying some of these out – and I love packed pilafs, that are stuffed with all kinds of goodies. Yum!

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Sarah with Veggie Kids November 14, 2011

The colors in that rice pilaf are beautiful! Almost too pretty to eat…almost. And that pie is just so fancy!! I’ve been making your High Protein Mashed Potatoes for a while now and it is seriously good!!

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Alison M. November 14, 2011

Angela-
I can’t eat pecans or walnuts. Do you think roasted almonds would be okay in any of your pumpkin recipes? I desperately want to have those pumpkin brownies. Plus I can’t wait for the pumpkin pie recipe. My issue is that most veg sites are making a walnut loaf for their main dish. Any other ideas??

Thanks!
Alison

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

I would guess with the pumpkin brownie you could do without the nuts all together? I wouldn’t say it’s 100% essential for the recipe to taste good. Almonds would probably be ok too although Im having a hard time imagining the taste with pumpkin pie filling! :)

In a savoury recipe such as the lentil loaf I think it would be much easier to sub almonds for the walnuts.

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Jill in Chicago November 14, 2011

YES, I WANT TO COME OVER FOR LEFTOVERS!!! (And can’t wait to make the pilaf :))

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

dont be jealous but I just had this for lunch! ;)

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Liz @ IHeartVegetables November 14, 2011

That sounds amazing! I made your gingerbread cake for some friends last night and they RAVED about it. (They also said anytime I wanted to bake something, I was invited over to their house, haha) It was so good. Your recipes are always fabulous!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

haha nice! It seems to go over well with many crowds.

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Christina @ HealthyCosmos November 14, 2011

OH Angela, as per usual, this look completely delicious! I’m so envious of your presentation skills! (And, needless to say those stellar cooking skills.) I’m definitely going to make that pilaf as one of the vegan dishes I bring to my family’s place. Thanks!!

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Brittany @ Runwithbritt November 14, 2011

We are having a Thanksgiving potluck at work on Friday and this would be perfect! I always get a hard time from them because I’m vegetarian, but this recipe looks perfect to show how my lifestyle is delicious and healthy!

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Jessica @ Chockohlawtay November 14, 2011

Yes, I’d like to come over for some leftovers! :D
But, I bet there isn’t any pumpkin pie left… that looks TOO good to put in the fridge for later. Can’t wait for the recipe! :)

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 14, 2011

there might be 1 slice left if you can get here by…5 mins. heh

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