The 2015 Holiday Food Guide
WHERE has the time gone? Seriously. Just yesterday it was August and I was sweating in the lounger in the backyard. Well, I’m still sweating (it’s still in the 80’s in Florida) but my mind has been wandering to cookies, pie, hot drinks and classic Christmas movies (Home Alone is still my favorite of all time). The holiday season means food and lots of it.
And while I have pledged to not eat myself into a coma this year, I can still remember the first family Thanksgiving as a vegan with all 20 plus extended family members and lots of confusing food. I remember those times and having lived through it, I wanted to talk today about the upcoming challenges you will soon face. It doesn’t have to suck though, it can actually be pretty fun if you know what to expect.
Whenever I am invited to a food gathering, I always ask if there is anything I should bring. And even if my hosts are polite, I bring something regardless. This way I know I have at least one dish I CAN eat. But even more important, you gotta let your hosts know about your diet, if they don’t already. This is not just critical, it is respectful and eliminates those awkward “Oh…..so you don’t eat meat?” conversations at the table. Would you rather tell one person in private or dozens of people on the spot with your mouth full of food? (Awkward!)
It’s a good idea to help your host in whatever way you can. Offer suggestions for appetizers that everyone will enjoy, like hummus, crackers, salsa and chips. For salads, request that any cheese or meat toppings be kept separate. If the host isn’t planning on preparing a vegan dish, this is when you should be prepared to bring one to share. Ask what is going to be offered and either:
1. make suggestions for what you can eat (some hosts might not have a clue)
2. offer to prepare it on site
3. make it yourself and bring it
No biggie, right?
Things can get fun if you are hosting because YOU get to be in control of the kitchen! I would not suggest making every single dish vegan, especially if your family isn’t all vegan (this could spark an opposition).
But some things, like mashed potatoes, stuffing or gravy, you an easily make vegan without raising suspicions. Prepare food that isn’t obviously vegan if you want picky eaters to remain calm. Tofurkey can be strange and intimidating to even the bravest guest. I generally avoid it because it doesn’t do my stomach any favors.
So what the heck do you eat? Here are some ideas:
WHAT TO MAKE
Stuff Cucumber Bites
Spicy Roasted Chickpeas (literally the easiest, most awesome appetizer you could ever make)
Homemade Black Bean Hummus
Simple Corn Salsa
Baked Polenta Fries
Roasted Cauliflower Bites
Garlic Pepper Tofu Bites
Red Pepper Dip
Sweet and Spicy Kale Salad
Caesar Salad with Chickpea Croutons
Black Bean Lentil Salad
Asian Cashew Quinoa Salad
Holiday Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette
Fresh Citrus and Cranberry Salad
Winter Slaw with Kale and Cabbage
Butternut Bliss Fall Salad
Fluffy Mashed Potatoes
Sweet Potato Casserole
Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf
Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts
The Best Damn Vegan Biscuits (You can find a gluten-free version here!)
Green Bean Casserole
(Can you tell I love vegan desserts?)
Pumpkin Pie with Gluten Free Pecan Crust (Find whipped cream here!)
Sinless Sticky Toffee Pudding
7 Ingredient Vegan Cheesecake
Lemon Tofu Cheesecake
Simple Vegan Brownies
Chocolate Peanut Butter No Bake Cookies (Great take-away gift for your guests!)
Deep Dish Apple Crumble Pie
Vegan Nanaimo Bars (My childhood favorite!)
Vegan Salted Caramels (Makes a great gift!)
Mint Chocolate Ice Cream Cake
WHAT TO EAT
The dinner table can be a confusing place. If nothing is labeled, you often times have to use your best detective skills to determine what’s even in a dish. At a foreign table or buffet, your best bet is to stick to the basics. Side dishes, and plates that aren’t complicated are going to be safer. The less ingredients you see with your own eyes, the easier it will be to identify as vegan.
- Cranberry sauce: high likelihood of being vegan, as this dish is cranberries and sugar
- Veggies: you’ll want to double check if the dish has been prepared with butter or cream
- Salads: double check for small bits of cheese and meat
- Sweet potatoes: you’ll want to check if the dish was prepared with butter or milk
- Bread/rolls: bread can contain butter, milk and/or eggs; check the packaging it came in or ask the cook to verify
- Drinks: could contain cream; if you are worried about alcohol being vegan, check out Barnivore.com.
WHAT TO AVOID
Approach each dish with caution.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with asking the cook what is in each dish.
At your typical holiday table, main dishes will revolve around meat. These dishes you will want to avoid:
- The meat: …obviously
- Mashed potatoes/mashed sweet potatoes: you’ll want to check for butter and milk
- Desserts: unfortunately are not vegan by default, however I’ve listed a bunch of recipes for vegan desserts above; fruit and sorbet (not sherbet) will be vegan so look for this
- Stuffing: traditionally prepared in the turkey carcass, you’ll want to avoid this
- Gravy: also traditionally prepared using turkey giblets, this is a no-go
So to wrap up. You’ve basically got two routes you could go down as a vegan this holiday season.
- Take control of your situation. Host your own dinner. Bring your own dishes. Prepare vegan items alongside the main cook. Talk about what you want to eat and make it happen. Find recipes that inspire you, make you salivate and make you want to share with all your family. Good food is good food, period. So make good vegan food and share it. I guarantee that people will love it if you take care into find a recipe and make it with love and passion.
- Sit on the sidelines. You’ve decided to let everything just slide. You don’t care what you eat, what is prepared or what happens to go into your mouth. You won’t ask because you will just assume it’s vegan. Oh my GOD I’ve done this before and it is the worst way to go. If you’ve got any drive or desire to go vegan, you won’t let this happen. Don’t assume people will cater to you, especially if you are the only vegan in the room.
It’s not only possible, its truly within your realm to create a delicious, satisfying and amazing vegan holiday meal. There are so many incredible resources out there aside from what you are reading here. Anything you can dream of making, has already been made by many talented and passionate people. The world is changing in a positive way, even just in the past 10 years. I can only imagine the future for vegan and I am so excited to be a part of it and I hope you are too.