The entire holiday season can be difficult for vegans and vegetarians, with office parties and potlucks and family get-togethers. But it doesn't have to be that way; with just a few adjustments, many holiday dishes can be made vegan-friendly. And it's easier than ever to find faux turkey products, as well as other meat substitutes and dairy and egg replacements.
Some local (and not-so-local) vegans recently shared how they navigate the food-oriented holiday season, as well as some recipes.
What they said
PARKER ANDERSON of Windsor Township writes: "I'm a 15-year-old vegan and I know firsthand how difficult it is to eat during the holidays. I've been vegan for about a year now, so I'm still getting the hang of things. One of my biggest tips to vegans/vegetarians out there during the holidays is to avoid soups and desserts, unless they were specially made and there are no animal products in them. Soups tend to include some form of stock that is animal-based, or they can contain dairy products. Desserts are another major thing, because they also tend to include some form of dairy or gelatin.
"I advise vegans to bring their own food to holiday events, so that people who don't know all the facts about vegan diets don't serve them dishes that include animal products by mistake. I also encourage vegans to bring their own foods so that people who don't live the vegan lifestyle can see that being a vegan doesn't mean giving up great food.
"I personally always make my own food because I enjoy doing so, but for other vegans/vegetarians who don't, you can find plenty of tasty vegan dishes in the organic section of Giant or at Sonnewald's. If you're looking for a dessert and don't have time to make them, Sticky Fingers Bakery in D.C. makes delicious vegan desserts and they ship.
GRACE FROELICH, founder and director of Animal Rescue Inc. of New Freedom, submitted the photo above of a turkey a friend brought to share a holiday dinner. When asked how she deals with being vegan during the food-oriented holiday season, she wrote: "As a vegan for over 30 years it's easy - family and friends I share the holiday with embrace the same compassionate and healthy lifestyle I have. Sometimes an unexpected guest shows up to share our vegan dinner."
OLIVIA J. REBERT, media manager at Animal Rescue of New Freedom, writes: "Over the holidays, being a vegan is especially fun and rewarding! It gives me a chance to try some great recipes, like chocolate-chip cream-cheese cupcakes and stuffed tofu turkey, on my family - and they like the food every time! I can also use the opportunity to show my family how great a vegan lifestyle is for the environment, for animals and for themselves."
MARIANNE PEARLMAN writes: "I am vegan and celebrate the holidays with delicious vegan dishes. I buy Tofurky or vegan turkey slices to bring to family dinners. (My family isn't vegan). These dinners come complete with gravy, stuffing, and dumplings. My relatives and I complement the main dish with dairy- and meat-free vegetables (no butter or meat added). Vegetable oil or dairy-free margarine can be used for cooking and flavor.
"I also bring desserts. Some fruit pies are vegan, and it's easy to make cake or bar mixes (with no animal ingredients in mix) by using an egg substitute. My favorite egg substitute is milled flax seed (1 tablespoon flaxseed with 3 tablespoons water). Everyone at the gathering enjoys what I bring and the dishes are cruelty-free.
"I also try to attend a local vegan holiday celebration, at Poplar Spring Animal Sanctuary or sponsored by the Vegetarian Resource Group or Open the Cages in Baltimore - lots of good food and camaraderie.
MEREDITH TURNER of New York City writes: "My Southern family is all vegetarian/vegan and our Thanksgiving tradition is to 'adopt' a rescued turkey through Farm Sanctuary's Adopt A Turkey Project and place the adoption certificate on the table as a centerpiece. The certificate features a cute color photo of our turkey and fun facts about his or her personality and favorite foods. We feel great knowing that not only were no turkeys harmed in the preparation of our delicious meal, but we actually made it possible for a turkey rescued from cruelty to live out the rest of his or her life free from harm at one of Farm Sanctuary's shelters."
"What do we eat at Thanksgiving? That's easy! Everything but the bird! And I do mean everything! There's not a single traditional Thanksgiving dish that can't be easily prepared using vegan ingredients. Being a Southern girl, my personal favorite is a macaroni and cheese pie made using almond milk, soy butter, and Daiya non-dairy cheddar shreds. Yum!"
Readers can learn more about Farm Sanctuary's Adopt A Turkey Project at www.farmsanctuary.org/giving/adopt-a-turkey
GENE BAUR, president and co-founder of Farm Sanctuary, has been vegan since 1985. He said for Thanksgiving he likes to eat "squash, potatoes, cornbread - pretty much everything people normally eat for the holiday except the turkey. Turkey substitutes such as Tofurkey and Field Roast are both excellent. Also Silk nog, the substitute for eggnog, is very good."
"Thanksgiving is a time to show appreciation and be grateful for friends, family and those we care about. At Farm Sanctuary, that includes the animals. We don't need to celebrate the holiday over the body of a dead bird," Baur said.
For Christmas, Baur said he prefers vegan stews that include ingredients such as root vegetables, greens, beans and barley.
Farm Sanctuary offers a Celebration for the turkeys each year where the turkeys are the guests of honor, not part of the menu.
"Turkeys are social creatures, they like to be with other turkeys and often like the companionship of people as well," Baur said. "They'll follow you around and check out what you're doing. They really dig into the feast."
During the Celebration for the Turkeys, the sanctuary turkeys are served a feast of stuffed squash, pumpkin pie and cranberries. Guests to the event are treated to a vegan holiday feast of their own as they hear guest speakers share compassionate recipes and stories.
There were three celebrations planned this year: Nov. 11 at Farm Sanctuary's Animal Acres in the Los Angeles area, and Nov. 17 at Farm Sanctuary's shelters at Watkins Glen, N.Y., and Orland, Calif. Baur said hundreds of people signed up for each of the celebrations this year. "People across the country are looking for a more compassionate way to celebrate the holiday."
Find out more about the event at www.farmsanctuary.org/events/celebration-for-the-turkeys.
BONNIE WINTER of Shrewsbury writes: "People are vegan for various reasons, such as environmental and health concerns. I am an ethical vegan. This means that I do not promote, support or consume any animal products because of my compassion, love and mercy for sentient animals.
"The Thanksgiving dinner for us can include traditional dishes that non-vegans prepare. Vegans enjoy a delicious dinner by simply substituting other ingredients that do not include animal products.Yes, I will stuff myself on (faux) turkey, mashed and/or sweet potatoes, gravy, and the ever-popular green bean casserole! Then, if I have any room left, there will be pie, cake, cookies, pumpkin roll and (non-dairy) ice cream. We have it all - except the suffering and death of billions of animals.
"Let's give thanks to all living creatures."
DAWN VILLANI of Pylesville, Md., writes: "I've been living a vegan lifestyle since 2007. ... The fact is that they are all very loving creatures that have feelings very similar to humans including fear, pain and love, animal mothers love their children as much as human mothers. For some reason I never made that connection as I was ordering cheeseburgers through the drive-thru windows.
"After I educated myself on living a vegan lifestyle I learned of all the health benefits, which were an extra bonus for me.
"Since I'm the only one in my family that is vegan, I have Thanksgiving with friends who are vegan. My family eats real turkey and I haven't celebrated any holiday dinners with them since 2008." Villani said she usually stops by to visit after her family has finished dinner.
"A small group of us started having vegan/vegetarian potlucks years ago and the group has really grown over the years. It's called Dine Kind and meets in Fallston, Md., once a month. Everyone brings a vegan/vegetarian dish and shares recipes and we try to have a speaker each month."
ASHLEY CARLSON of New Freedom writes: "I've been vegan for the last 6 years. For the holidays, my family typically 'veganizes' some of the side dishes with vegan margarine and soy milk. And then we make a vegan entree like a Tofurkey or a Celebration Roast. I am the only vegan, but everyone eats the vegan side dishes and some others eat the Tofurkey or vegan roast in lieu of the turkey."
· Make the holiday stuffing vegetarian-friendly by using vegetable broth instead of a meat-based broth.
· Gravy is a cinch with Hain instant vegan gravy or canned mushroom gravy (check ingredients to be sure there are no animal products).
· When baking holiday bread, use an egg replacer and soy milk in place of eggs and milk.
· Swap the milk and butter with soy milk and margarine for vegan mashed potatoes.
Be sure to have a vegan dressing for the salad.
· PETA offers a substitution guide and shopping guide at www.peta.org/living/vegetarian-living/recipes-food.aspx.
Try these turkey-friendly alternatives this holiday season:
GARDEIN has seasonal items as well as year-round favorites. Gardein is available at select health food stores and Whole Foods Markets, and at some Giant Food Stores and Walmart locations.
TOFURKY ROAST comes stuffed with a savory herb dressing and is available as just the roast or as part of a complete meal with gravy, dumplings, wild rice stuffing and "wishstix."
CELEBRATION ROAST is an artisan-made vegan grain meat with a sausage-style stuffing made from butternut squash, apples, and mushrooms. It's available at select Whole Foods Markets.
VEGGIE TURKEY BREAST with Wild-Rice-and-Cranberry Stuffing is available at Whole Foods.
NOT SURE HOW TO PREPARE the faux turkey? For wheat- and soy-based veggie turkeys, try basting them in vegetable broth while they're cooking.
FOR A TRADITIONAL FLAVOR, coat the roast in olive oil or melted margarine, then spread on the following seasoning before cooking:
1½ teaspoons poultry-seasoning herbs
1 teaspoon paprika
½ teaspoon dried thyme
Pinch of salt and pepper
FOR A SPICY-SWEET TWIST, try PETA's southwestern glaze. Cook the veggie turkey according to the package directions, but baste it with the glaze during the last 45 minutes of cooking time.
2 teaspoons chili powder
½ teaspoon garlic powder
¼ teaspoon allspice
¼ teaspoon cumin
Sea salt to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
2 tablespoons agave nectar or maple syrup
1 tablespoon water
Vegan pie crust
1½ cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup frozen Earth Balance veggie spread
½ teaspoon salt (optional)
Chill flour and pastry blender in large mixing bowl for half an hour; the freezer is ideal.
Cut the frozen veggie spread into the flour with a pastry blender or a fork until the mixture resembles a coarse meal .
15- or 16-ounce can pumpkin (2 cups)
¾ pound tofu
1½ teaspoons cinnamon
¾ teaspoon ginger
½ teaspoon nutmeg
1/3 cup oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup light brown sugar
1½ tablespoons molasses
3 tablespoons flour
1 prepared unbaked pastry crust
Blend all ingredients until smooth. Pour into crust.
Bake at 350 F for 50 minutes. Cover crust edges with aluminum foil or crust shield. Bake an additional 20 minutes.
Chill and serve.
1 large onion
1 cup celery and tops (if desired), chopped
4 cups dried bread, stale bread crumbs, fresh bread or corn bread
1 cup vegetable broth
½ teaspoon of each: dried sage, thyme and savory, with a pinch of rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Chinese sesame oil for the pan
Fry onion and celery in oil until translucent but still crunchy. Remove from heat and add bread crumbs. Pour broth and remaining ingredients over mixture, and stir well while heating on low.
Place stuffing in an 8-inch square pan. Lightly brush the top with sesame oil and cover with foil, baking at 350 degrees F for 30 to 60 minutes, depending on desired crispness.
Smashed Sweet Potatoes
2 sweet potatoes
Earth Balance Natural Buttery Spread
Organic brown sugar
½ teaspoon fresh, ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
Pinch of kosher salt
¼ cup unflavored soy milk
Peel and cut sweet potatoes into cubes (yields approximately 4 cups). Boil cubes in salted water until soft, about 20 minutes, then drain.
Add Earth Balance, brown sugar, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt. Mash with mixer, adding small amounts of soy milk until mixture is creamy.
Top with vegan marshmallows, a handful of raisins or a sprinkling of finely chopped pecans.
Source: Farm Sanctuary
Parker Anderson of Windsor Township shared some recipes she likes to make.
Butternut Squash Mac 'n' Cheese
1 fresh butternut squash
Extra virgin Olive Oil
1 tablespoon Earth Balance (butter substitute)
¾ cup unsweetened almond milk
1 tablespoon cornstarch
6 tablespoon nutritional yeast
2 teaspoons spicy mustard
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon hot sauce, more if desired
4 servings of macaroni pasta
Cooked vegetables of choice: spinach, kale, edamame beans, peas, etc.
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Line casserole dish with foil and place cubed butternut squash into dish. Drizzle olive oil on squash and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake for 40 minutes.
Meanwhile, make "cheese" sauce by melting Earth Balance on low-medium heat in a large pot on the stove. In a bowl, whisk together almond milk and cornstarch until lumps dissolve. Add to the pot and whisk.
Add the mustard, nutritional yeast, garlic powder, salt and pepper. Whisk together on low heat for about 7 minutes. Turn off heat.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Warm up cheese sauce on low heat and mix in drained pasta.
Mix the baked butternut squash using a mixer, then to pasta and cheese. Turn heat to medium-low and add cooked veggies.
Source: Based on a recipe from ohsheglows.com
Unbaked Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
2¼ teaspoon active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water
¾ cup pumpkin puree
2 tablespoons margarine, melted
2 cupss flour, plus more for dusting
2 tablespoons sugar
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup packed brown sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
¼ cup margarine, melted
1 teaspoon margarine
1 teaspoon vanilla
1½ cups powdered sugar
2 tablespoons water
In a small bowl, stir yeast into warm water; set aside. (It will get very foamy in 5 to 10 minutes if your yeast is any good; if it's not, hold off on this recipe.)
In a large bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, nutmeg and salt.
Add pumpkin puree and margarine to your foamy yeast mixture; blend well.
Make a well in your dry mix and add liquid, stirring to incorporate.Knead for a couple of minutes until smooth, adding extra flour a little bit at a time as needed to keep it from sticking to everything. Don't add too much or your rolls will be tough. Gently poke the dough with your index finger; if the indent bounces back, you're good to go.
Cover tightly with plastic, set in a warm, draft-free place for an hour while the dough rises.
Once it's about doubled in size, punch it down and roll out until it's rectangular and about ¼- to ½-inch thick. Slather with melted margarine and sprinkle brown sugar and cinnamon evenly over the top.
Applying slight pressure, roll the dough up like a jelly roll. If you want wide, squat buns with a ton of rings, roll it up the long way and make thinner slices; if you'd rather have more, taller buns (like the ones pictured), roll it up the short way and make thicker slices.
Saw through the roll with a serrated knife. Arrange in a 9x13 pan (for squatter buns, use a 9-inch cake pan).
Cover and set in a warm place to rise for another 40 minutes, then bake at 375 degrees F for 25 minutes.
While the buns bake, whisk together icing ingredients until smooth.Set aside at room temperature. When buns are done baking, drizzle icing generously onto warm buns.
Sweet Potato Cauliflower Curry Soup
Large head cauliflower, washed and cut into bite-sized pieces
Salt and pepper to taste
4 small sweet potatoes peeled and cubed
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
7 cup water
For garam masala, mix together:
1 tablespoon cumin
1½ teaspoons coriander
1½ teaspoons cardamom
1½ teaspoons pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon cloves
½ teaspoon nutmeg
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Put cauliflower pieces in foil-covered baking pan. Drizzle olive oil and sprinkle garam masala and salt and pepper onto cauliflower. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes until tops are slightly golden brown and cauliflower is tender.
In large pot bring water, sweet potatoes, garlic and onion to boil. Reduce heat and simmer until tender.
Stir in cooked cauliflower and salt and pepper to taste. Turn heat off and allow soup to cool.
In small batches, blend soup in blender until smooth. Serve with a dash of salt, pepper and garam masala.
THE FOLLOWING WEBSITES offer advice, tips and recipes for vegan or vegetarian diets: