Veganizing your favourite holiday treats and meals

The holidays with family and friends can be a fun but also difficult time for vegans and vegetarians. It may be stressful introducing people to new ideas and new foods where traditions dominate. People who have been vegan or vegetarian for a long time probably don’t have a perfect way to approach the holidays where their dietary and ethical choices are respected, but from what I have experienced, those who respect peoples’ ethical and dietary choices will make for a less awkward holiday.

Whenever I visited family that I didn’t see too often throughout the year, I, like other vegans, have felt unsure  saying no to certain foods that I know took a lot of time and effort to prepare. Family and friends may feel pressured to adjust annual dinners that include recipes that they aren’t familiar with, so this is a great opportunity for those asking for cruelty-free dishes to help out and make it a positive experience. If you have open-minded family members and friends looking to try new recipes, here are some ideas for the holidays.

Who knows, maybe after eating that delicious vegan pumpkin pie, your friends and family will be open to having a conversation about exploring cruelty-free lifestyles. Traditions are comforting and easy, but new traditions based on health and compassion can also be forged through the holidays by trying new recipes and sharing them with one another.

Pumpkin Pie

Difficulty Level: 3

Crust ingredients:

½ cup unbleached flour

7 tbsp. whole-wheat pastry flour

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. sugar or granulated sugar cane syrup

½ tsp. baking powder

3 tbsp. oil

3 tbsp. soymilk plus ½ tsp. lemon juice

3 to 4 tbsp. Water

Crust directions:

You can also buy a pre-made crust. In medium bowl, combine both flours, salt, sugar and baking powder. In another bowl, mix oil and milk mixture.

Pour liquid mixture into dry ingredients, and mix with fork until dough holds together in ball. If it is too dry, add some water, a little at a time, until dough is moist enough to roll. (If time allows, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for one hour)

Roll out dough on lightly floured surface with lightly floured rolling pin, forming 11-inch circle. Line nine inch pie plate with dough. Crimp edges with fingers or fork. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until ready to use.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Filling ingredients:

1 package silken (soft) tofu

1 can of pumpkin purée

1 ½ tsp. cinnamon

¾ tsp. ginger

½ tsp. nutmeg

½ tsp. salt

4 tsp. oil

½ cup plain unsweetened milk (soy, almond, etc.)

1 tsp. vanilla

1 cup brown sugar or ½ cup maple syrup

1 ½ tbsp. molasses

2 tbsp of cornstarch

Filling directions:

In a blender, pulse together pumpkin, maple syrup or sugar, milk, oil, spices, salt, cornstarch and molasses until very smooth. Pour into the pie shell and bake for 60 to 65 minutes until the center looks semi-firm not liquidy.

Remove from oven to cool.

Refrigerate overnight.

Serve with vegan ice cream of choice.

Ingredients:

3 pounds Yukon gold potatoes

½  cup unsweetened almond milk at room temp

¼  cup extra virgin olive oil

¾ tsp. salt (plus more for the water)

Several dashes fresh black pepper

Mashed Potatoes 

Difficulty Level:  1

Directions:

Cut potatoes into about 1 ½ inch chunks. Place in a pot and cover with cold water. Add about a tsp. of salt into the water. Cover and bring to a boil.

Once boiling lower heat to a simmer and cook for about 12 minutes, until fork tender. Drain potatoes, and then place back in the pot. Mash with a potato masher, just to get them broken up. Add milk, oil, salt and pepper and mash until fluffy. You may want to add a bit more milk, if needed. Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Mushroom Gravy 

Difficulty Level: 3

16 oz. cremini (button) mushrooms

1 ½ cups hot water

2 cups veggie broth

1 medium yellow onion, diced

4 – 5 garlic cloves, minced

2 tsp. dried thyme (2 tbsp. fresh)

1 tsp. dried rosemary (1 tbsp. fresh)

1 tsp. dried sage (1 tbsp fresh)

½ tsp. salt

3 tbsp. nutritional yeast

2 tbsp. cornstarch

2 tbsp. Bragg’s liquid soy seasoning or gluten-free tamari

½ cup red wine or white (merlot or chardonnay)

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

In a small bowl, mix the flour with vegetable broth until well dissolved. Set aside.

Preheat a two quart pot over medium heat. Saute the onion in oil for about five minutes, until translucent. Add mushrooms, garlic, thyme, sage, salt and pepper and saute for about five more minutes.

Add wine and turn heat up to bring to a boil. Let wine reduce for aboutn three minutes. Add the broth/flour mix and the nutritional yeast. Lower heat to medium and cook for about 20 minutes, stirring often.

Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Baklava

Difficulty Level:  4

Ingredients:

2 cups agave nectar

1 cup granulated Sugar

1 cup water

1 tsp. ground cinnamon

Zest of 1 large orange (optional)

1 pkg. phyllo dough

1 ¼ cup melted coconut oil OR vegan margarine

2 cups toasted, finely chopped pistachios

 Directions:

In a medium saucepan over high heat, bring the syrup, sugar, water, orange rind and cinnamon to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Grease a shallow baking pan. Place a phyllo sheet in the pan, extending over the rims, and brush with some of the margarine. Repeat with three more layers.

Spread 1/2 cup of the nuts evenly on top, sprinkle with some of the prepared syrup (reserve about 1/2 cup of the syrup for later use) and some of the margarine, and cover with two layers of phyllo dough, brushing each with margarine. Repeat this procedure three times, covering the last layer of nuts, syrup and margarine with four layers of phyllo dough, brushing each with margarine (including the top layer).

Press the dough firmly against the rim of the pan and trim with a sharp knife. Cut through the top layer diagonally in a criss-cross pattern to make 24 diamond shapes of equal size. Bake for 30 minutes, and then increase the heat to 400°F and bake an additional 10 minutes, until golden brown.

Pour the reserved syrup on top and let cool. Slice all the way through the previous cuts to make 24 diamond-shaped bars.

Green Bean Casserole

Difficulty Level: 2.5

Ingredients:

Beans

2 quarts water

1 tbsp. salt

1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into bite-size pieces

Sauce

10 ounces button mushrooms

3 cloves garlic, minced

pinch cayenne pepper

Salt and pepper to taste

2 tbsp. flour

¾ cup vegetable broth

¾ cup soy creamer (or unsweetened soymilk)

Topping

1 ½ slices whole grain bread

1 tbsp. vegan margarine

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Beans: Bring the water to boil in a large pot. While it’s heating, cut up the beans. Add the salt and beans to the boiling water. Cover and cook for six minutes. Drain beans in a colander, and then spray for a minute with cold water to stop the cooking. Let them drain in the colander, shaking every now and then to get off all the water.

Sauce: Trim and discard the mushroom stems and chop the mushrooms into pieces. Spray a non-stick pan with canola oil and heat it. Add the mushrooms, garlic, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Cook until mushrooms are very soft and exude their juices. Whisk the flour into the vegetable broth and add to the mushrooms along with the sherry. Simmer, stirring, until mixture thickens. Add the soy creamer and simmer until thick, about five to 10 minutes. Adjust the seasonings and stir in the beans.

Topping: Put the bread, margarine, salt, and pepper into a food processor and pulse until crumbly. Pour into a bowl and add the onions. Stir to combine.

To assemble: Put the green beans into an oiled casserole dish and top with the onion mixture. Bake at 425°F for about 15 minutes. If you are not serving this right away, refrigerate the topping separately; bring to room temperature before sprinkling the topping on the casserole and baking for about 20 minutes or until hot throughout.

Stuffing 

Difficulty Level: 2

Ingredients:

10 cups bread cubes – whole wheat or other sandwich bread

2 tbsp. + 1 tbsp. olive oil

1 tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 ½ cups finely chopped celery

½ cup minced fresh parsley

1 tsp. dried rubbed sage leaf

1 tsp. dried thyme leaf

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

2 – 3 cups vegetable stock or 2 1/2 cups apple juice

1 ½ cups dried cranberries (optional)

Directions:

Pre-heat over to 350 degrees.

In a small bowl, pour apple juice over cranberries and set aside.

In a large skillet, sautee the onion, celery and garlic in the vegan margarine until soft. Add thyme, sage and parsley and sautee for one more minute.

In a large bowl, combine bread, onions, celery, garlic, cranberries and apple juice, stirring to combine well.

Bake for 20-25 minutes. Add additional spices, if desired and serve.

Roast

You can make a turkey alternative from scratch using many different ingredients involving wheat-gluten (seitan), mushrooms, chickpeas and more, or you can buy a pre-made roast. Here are some suggestions for turkey alternatives to look for:

Harvest Celebration Field Roast

Gardein Stuffed Turkey

Tofurky Roast

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