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You don’t have to reinvent the tradition to make your fall feast interesting, enticing and vegan for all. Just a few tweaks and a handful of super recipes will guarantee that no one misses the meat and dairy. Here are my top strategies for pleasing everyone at the holiday table.
Hors d’ Oeuvres
Looking for a rich, creamy dip to keep peckish guests busy? Adapting many holiday favorites to be dairy-free isn’t difficult. You can puree silken tofu in the food processor, adding a hit of lemon or cider vinegar for tang, and use it as a superb replacement for sour cream. Vegan mayonnaise is also an easy sub in dip recipes, as are soft vegan “cream cheese”-style cheeses.
This rich, classic-tasting Creamy Spinach Dip gets great taste and silky texture from a tour de force of plant-based ingredients: avocado, pureed white beans and almond milk. Serve this ingenious dip with crackers or vegetable crudités.
Also a great choice for vegan noshing is a crostini or bruschetta topped with flavorful vegetables. These Winter Squash Crostini feature a tasty puree of squash enriched with almond butter. Garnish them with a few sliced chives and a drizzle of white truffle oil to really dress them up for a holiday crowd.
The kind of rich texture we seek out in Thanksgiving soups is easy to get with some of the same vegan ingredients that do well in dips: silken tofu, pureed beans and nut butters. Garnishes are what really make a holiday soup special, so try one of these vegan ideas: A combination of several herbs rather than just one, toasted croutons made from vegan bread, crispy shallots (you can buy or make them), toasted chopped nuts, or finely diced red bell pepper for festive color.
Cauliflower is more popular than ever, and it’s the terrifically healthful star of Creamy Cauliflower and Apple Soup Shooters. If the shooter idea is too casual for your dinner, try serving the soup in more traditional bowls — it’s a winner! For mushroom lovers, nothing beats a soup like this simple but elegant Mixed Mushroom Soup, packed with savory umami flavor.
Many traditional side dishes are already vegan. If they’re not, chances are they’re easy to adapt. Butter can almost always be replaced with nutty sunflower oil or coconut oil, milk and cream in dishes like mashed potatoes can be replaced with non-dairy beverages (my new favorite: cashew milk), and sautéed shiitake mushrooms or vegan sausage are super-flavorful substitutes for meat products in dishes like stuffing.
Some vegan standouts that stay in the classic mold but branch out just a bit include the popular Especially Good Sweet Potatoes, made irresistible with a combination of orange and coconut, and Tahini Garlic Mashed Potatoes, one of my very favorite takes on the Thanksgiving mash.
Serve your guests this wonderful Garlic and Shallot “Buttah” to spread on rolls or dollop on potatoes — I guarantee no one will miss the fatty dairy variety!
The world of delicious center-of-the-table vegan dishes is much bigger and more varied than most people imagine. A classic strategy for the meal that always elicits ohhs and ahhs is a vegetable stew or ragout like served in a hollowed-out pumpkin. Winter Squash Stew with White Beans and Kale is a great option. To prepare a pumpkin to serve it in, cut off the top and remove the seeds, brush the pumpkin lightly with oil and bake at 350°F until just softened, about 35 minutes for a small pumpkin or 55 minutes for a medium one.
Or make up a big batch of falafel mixture, stir in diced onion and herbs and form the mixture into a loaf or roast shape; my mother actually molds hers into a “turkey,” complete frills on a pair of faux drumsticks. You can bake your own version (in whatever shape suits your fancy!) in a 350°F oven until lightly browned on the outside and heated through. This recipe for Falafel starts with packaged mix for the base; you could tailor it to Thanksgiving by adding fresh chopped sage and thyme or dried poultry spice.
A store-bought prepared vegan roast that just requires heating can also be a delicious shortcut for your meal, and there are a number of extremely tasty choices out there. Add a from-scratch gravy for homemade credentials: Two of my favorite vegan versions are Roasted Garlic and Parsnip Vegan Gravy, rich with holiday flavor, and this classic Vegan Mushroom Gravy. Spoon it on!
Pie is the order of the day, there’s no getting around it, and so what you need is a great vegan crust. I love to bake with coconut, so this recipe for Coconut Oil Piecrust is one of my top choices. It’s a tasty base for standard fruit fillings, most of which don’t need to be modified for vegan diets.
If you’re looking for a vegan version of pumpkin pie, you can replace the cream or evaporated milk in most recipes with coconut milk. An egg replacement can also be made by mixing 1 tablespoon finely ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water and letting the mixture thicken for 5 minutes.
If you want a flavor-packed recipe that combines the best of two holiday classics, pumpkin and pecan, this crowd-pleasing Vegan Pumpkin Pecan Pie is a real showstopper.
Whatever dessert you serve, remember that a dollop of whipped topping is the best way to elevate your dish to holiday status. So if you haven’t tried making your own Whipped Coconut Cream now’s the time! It’s fabulously rich and flavorful and super-easy to make — just three ingredients required.
For more vegan celebration ideas, plus a complete menu, check out our vegan Thanksgiving feast.