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Vegan Living
Vegan Street's All-Star Guide to a Meaningful Thanksgiving

Vegan Street's All-Star Guide to a Meaningful Thanksgiving
Whether you embrace it, dread it or choose to opt out, Thanksgiving is upon us. Learn how animal advocates cope, thrive, reinterpret, reject and find peace with the holiday.

Five great All-Star Thanksgiving recipes below!

When I first went vegetarian as a 15-year-old, I learned in short order that Thanksgiving is often a pretty unpleasant occasion for those who don’t eat animals. It became so unpleasant, in fact, that from mid-October on, I began to dread it. I learned that even if we don’t say a disparaging word, the baggage people lump with herbivores makes us the conspicuous elephant in the room and everything about Thanksgiving - from the insensitive jokes and the lack of respect to lack of food options and the horrific carved corpse on a platter - can make it a day that we learn to white-knuckle through. That being said, this was my Thanksgiving experience for many years until John and I started enjoying a vegan celebration of the day with friends. Suddenly, the clouds lifted. I was able to be among those who shared similar values, I was able to enjoy all the food without worry, and best of all, the holiday itself became transformed from a day that I dreaded weeks in advance to one that embraces the true spirit of the occasion, which, of course, is gratitude. Deeper than that, it’s a day when I get to be grateful to be living at a time when I don’t have a sacrifice the things that are important to my spirit in order to “get along.” Since that first vegan Thanksgiving with friends, I learned that there are people who are pushing through to create something altogether different: something cheerful, something meaningful, something transformative. Yes, there is a lot of ugliness and needless, unimaginable violence. But we are transforming it every day, every moment. We are transforming it. I take great comfort in that and I hope you do, too, comfort and enthusiasm to do what you can to create even more positive change.

Here you will find everyone from a sanctuary founder to a artist who lives in Montana, authors to foodies, and you will find how they approach Thanksgiving. Some paint a painfully honest picture of what it’s like to experience the day as a vegan, and others share how the holiday has positively evolved for them from their early Thanksgiving meals. Some offer tips for surviving with our sense of humor intact and others offer guidance for how you can create a day that is more meaningful for you. All offer us a fresh perspective and, in a way, this is really a snapshot of what it’s like to navigate this world through a different lens, whether it’s Thanksgiving or any other day of the year. Please enjoy this and don’t forget about the amazing recipes at the end. Many thanks to all who participated, in particular Chef Skye Michael Conroy, Robin Robertson, Dreena Burton, Jason Wyrick and Mistress Ginger for sharing your delicious recipes.

May we all have an abundant, compassionate and transformative Thanksgiving.
Thank you for all you do. – Marla Rose

“Holidays can be especially hard for vegans with non-vegan families because non-vegans have such rigid ideas about what "tradition" requires them to eat, and they don't want to try vegan options at these traditional times. I've done holidays many different ways and found each to have pros and cons. One year I was invited to a non-vegan friend's house for Thanksgiving and brought my own frozen Tofurky. The host graciously cooked that and a few more vegan things for me. Another year, my dad picked up pre-made vegan dishes from a wonderful vegan restaurant, which several of us enjoyed, while others ate the ‘traditional’ stuff.  I've also done potlucks with large groups of vegans, which are also fun, although that usually means my family won't be there.

"I've learned that the best way to convince friends and family of the merits of veganism is by serving them tasty vegan dishes, and this is a great time of year for that. I've also learned not to get into debates at holiday meals over the relative merits of vegan and non-vegan foods - it just isn't the right time or place. There are lots of people out there who might go vegan because they read my book or I hand them a pamphlet, but friends and family are unlikely to change at this point - so why bother haranguing them?”
David Simon, author, Meatonomics

"My first vegan Thanksgiving was over 15 years ago. It hardly resembled the joyful, delicious, and bountiful vegan celebration I enjoy today. Over the years, most of my close friends and family have adopted a plant-based and the selection of turkey alternatives have improved dramatically. Today, it's so easy, and mainstream, to enjoy the holiday's without contributing to animal cruelty.”
Nathan Runkle, President, Mercy For Animals

“When our family hosts Thanksgiving celebrations at home, I offer recipes to those who want to bring something. People love to contribute and giving them a reliable recipe is both empowering and less intimidating. When we attend gatherings at other family's homes, we bring an appetizer or dish along with vegan desserts from my company, Allison’s Gourmet. The best way I have found to reduce stress and increase connection is by sharing delectable food. Then, I like to sit back and watch the delighted expressions on their faces as the food speaks for itself!”
Allison Rivers Samson, “Maven of Mmmm,” Allison’s Gourmet

“Like many other Animal Rights Activists and Vegans, this time of the year is difficult. While others are celebrating Thanksgiving and other holidays with ostentatious displays of animal bodies as centerpieces, vegans and activists, including myself, are trying to find ways to use this time of the year to strengthen and unite behind a strong message of Animal Liberation. By collaborating with activists in organizing Fur-Free Friday or events which shed light upon the oppressive nature of Thanksgiving and other holidays, I hope to do my best to use this holiday season as a way to share the stories and plight of non-human animals who are objectified and slaughtered daily for human consumption and use. I do not share a meal with my friends of family if they will be eating the bodies of animals for the same reasons I would not stand silently by if I were to see a dog being beaten on the street.

"Celebrating genocide against indigenous people while slaughtering millions of animals is hardly ‘giving thanks,’ and opens a chance for animal rights activists to invite dialogue about the intersection of oppression between human and non-human animals. While people across the United States celebrate a holiday filled with both historical and continuing violence, this year, Direct Action Everywhere will be hosting a NoThanksgiving event for those seeking an alternative. We will be doing a public demonstration in solidarity with non-human animals and indigenous people at a place of violence and have a vegan potluck later on to build strong bonds with a community of vegans and activists.

"This time of the year is always difficult as I always risk being perceived as betraying my family values. For that reason, I am inviting my family to a non-violent celebration instead, hoping that they would join me in taking a stance against injustice and in creating new values within a context of a larger family -- a family of all animals who have an equal right to their home -- planet earth.”
Priya Sawhney, organizer, Direct Action Everywhere

“I'm lucky in that I often spend holidays among other vegans. Farm Sanctuary's Thanksgiving Adopt a Turkey program and Celebration FOR the Turkeys events were born in response to the angst we experienced over a holiday feast centered on the body of a dead bird. We wanted to create something positive amid the carnage. Sometimes being proactive, creating your own holiday tradition, is a good way of coping.

"When I'm confronted with attitudes that are unsupportive of, or even hostile to, vegan living I try to use those challenges as a way to learn and grow, remembering that I can't control others, only myself.”
Gene Baur, President and Co-Founder, Farm Sanctuary

"Even in my twenties, I knew better than to spend the holidays with my family - the drama and carcass just wasn't worth it. Sure, there were a few vegan-considerate holidays wherein I deftly verbally combated (with scientific aplomb) all dumb vegan jokes, and enjoyed my vegan options while everyone ate their animals, but overall I've found that spending the holidays with my chosen family, our vegan BFFs much more pleasant and sans drama. Building a crew of other vegan friends and families who maybe don't live close to home or don't get along with their family is one of the best things you can do as a vegan during the holidays.

"When Thanksgiving rolls along, the Wolfson (Marisa - my BFF who made the brilliant Vegucated documentary) and Davis families always know we are going to spend it together…and it's always lovely. I have a few friends whose families decide to eat vegan one day of a year and the vegan of the family spearheads the recipe delineation, those evenings always sound to have been successes, and we had a few pretty awesome all-vegan family affairs in the past when more members of my family went vegan. But if there's no way your family is going plant-based for one day, do your best to out-do their meaty recipes with dazzling vegan recipes. And if you aren't a good cook - then is the time to order something spectacular from your favorite gourmet vegan restaurant. Blow them all away, and come armed with retorts to all mentions of protein. Nobody can resist vegan cake, so let 'em eat it!"
Chloé Jo Davis, Founder of GirlieGirl Army: Your Glamazon Guide to Green & Cruelty-Free Living

“I have hosted Thanksgiving and other holidays at my place. It is much easier to invite everyone than to try to navigate the cruel traditions at many other homes. The few times that I spent Thanksgiving at other family member’s homes, it was a disaster. On one occasion I arrived at a relative’s house and he had just gotten a special gizmo that deep-fries turkey carcasses. He was on the fourth dead body when I got there... just trying to get it ‘perfect.’

"Another family member insisted that my not wanting to join their celebration meant I was ‘choosing my animal rights over my family’ and told me that it just showed that I don’t care about my family. I replied that he, in fact, was choosing the dead bird on the table over family. Five of us would not be there because of the dead bird. Hmm, one person chooses to live consistently with her values, while the other one is unwilling to not eat flesh for one meal. I wonder which one doesn’t care about family?

"Although holidays are not a big deal to me, I have chosen to be the one who invites others to celebrate compassionately at my place. We dance, eat, hike, go sledding, play games. It is a blast!  We have over 30 coming to our house on Thanksliving Day this year. We also have our community Vegan Thanksliving a few days before in a huge public space because it has grown so big. 

"On Christmas and other holidays, I like doing a combination of hiking and volunteering.  Many of the animal rescues, shelters and sanctuaries are short-handed during the holidays.”
Rae Sikora, co-founder, Plant Peace Daily

“Food traditions are such an important part of major holidays that family gatherings and celebrations can be very stressful for vegans if the gatherings are not among those who also eat a compassionate diet. On these occasions, I usually bring a plant-based dish to share with everyone -- and if it's a dessert, I have the recipe handy because everyone will want to know how I made that delicious cake or brownies or whatever without eggs or dairy. I look upon holidays as a great time to share my veganism with others, and I try to be patient with people who will want to ask the questions we're so used to hearing, like where I get my protein. It can be very difficult celebrating with people eating dead animals, but again, I try to think of this as an opportunity. So bring your most delicious dish and try to demonstrate how easy veganism can be.”
Mark Hawthorne, journalist and author, Bleating Hearts

“The holidays are meant to be a time of celebration and joy and vegans have more reasons to celebrate than anyone else, because they can do it without harming anyone. So, enjoy! Don't let anyone get in your way. If you can't bear the site of the carcass, come for dessert. Bring food if you need to, and make sure it's yummy. And if your annoying Uncle Fred won't leave you alone, just smile nicely and say, ‘This kind of eating really works for me!’”
Jasmin Singer, Executive Director, Our Hen House

“This topic is especially relevant for women, who are generally the keepers of family traditions, including food traditions. I think vegans sometimes disregard or forget how difficult it can be to give up the foods we connect to culturally, and what it signifies when we as vegans appear to reject those food traditions. There's great potential for hurt feelings within the family.

"I cook and entertain for practically every occasion, at our house, because I've found it's the easiest and best way to avoid hurt feelings or pushback. Everyone knows if they're coming to our house, everything is going to be vegan.

"One way I make these occasions less socially traumatic is by replicating and veganizing certain dishes so that there is no appreciable ‘culture loss.' We don't have to pass up the foods of our heritages and our families if we can mimic them competently. This also helps show non-vegans that a vegan diet isn't deprivation or sacrifice.

"The one exception is Thanksgiving, which my in-laws host because it's an important holiday to them. Over the years, we've become more firm about not joining them for dinner because of the abundance of dead animals on the table. Instead we show up later in the evening and bring homemade desserts. I make the traditional apple and pumpkin pies, something chocolate-y, and often cinnamon ice cream, which goes perfectly with everything sweet on the table.”
Kezia Jauron, Evolotus

“I won't be part of this year's Thanksgiving meal with family. I've helped chickens fight for their lives from a variety of terminal illnesses brought on by their breeding or neglect, including gangrene infection, egg peritonitis (chronic reproductive infection), cancer and sudden death from heart failure. I've held dying birds in my arms who I cared for and loved so they would not be alone when they passed. So, no, I will not then sit at a ceremonial meal with a dead bird centerpiece and pretend that I am somehow grateful that this unlucky soul had to suffer and die in the name of tradition. And then, of course, most people will complain how dry the turkey was afterwards. Clearly, most people don't even like the flesh of turkeys, which is all the more a testament to how nonsensically we follow certain traditions.

"I do have regrets about not being with family, but, at the same time, we probably wouldn't even be having this discussion if it were a dog instead of a dead bird as a centerpiece. No one would come, right? I've turned Thanksgiving into a celebration of turkeys that are really quite magnificent in their natural habitat, first having been domesticated around 800 B.C. by Native Americans. Prior to that, they were all free-flying and free-foraging birds.

"The other holidays are not as symbolic for me, and I have no religious connection to them, so I navigate through them a little more freely. It seems like I'm almost never the lone vegan at the party any more. And there's something about having two or more of us at the same event that seems to really change the dynamic. Suddenly, there are more food options, more accommodations being made and more conversations raised by non-vegans about how they've been exploring this and that vegan food or recipe.”
Robert Grillo, President and Director, Free from Harm

“Holidays can be challenging when you're vegan, because they are times when family, culture, and food collide. You have chosen a path that is different from ‘the norm,’ which your family may view as a threat to tradition. You chose a path based not on tradition, but on ethics, knowledge, and compassion.

"What I've learned over the years is this. Be confident in your decision to be vegan, and the people around you will begin to respect it. Never apologize, but also never preach to others (especially at the dinner table—no good ever comes of that). Always bring a dish that can satisfy you and win over others. Be positive; a radiating example of what a vegan can be. And do your research! There are countless recipes, vegan holiday advice blogs (like this!), cookbooks, and more that will empower you to have the best animal-friendly holiday season yet. Finally, find support from other vegans, either in your area or over the World Wide Web. You never need to feel alone.”
Michelle Taylor Cehn,

"I have spent 36 Thanksgiving now as a vegan and I'm about to enjoy my 37th. My favorite holiday tradition is that I have a 100% vegan Thanksgiving potluck celebration on the Wednesday night before Thanksgiving. Veg-curious folks are welcome to attend, but their offering must be vegan.

"This way, I get to have an amazing Thanksgiving dinner regardless of whatever happens on the Thursday. If I go somewhere that isn't vegan or has vegan food on the holiday, I offer to bring a dish to share. I've never had a host refuse and of course, mine is always the most delicious one there so it gets gobbled up.

"I have vegan friends who refuse to attend events if animals are being served, but if I did that how would I get the opportunity to expose new people to veganism in the easiest and most delicious way possible, by getting them to taste the food?

"Some years I volunteer at a homeless shelter on Thanksgiving Day and I make sure that I am the one serving up the vegetables!”
Chef AJ, chef and author, Unprocessed

“For me, Thanksgiving is the perfect opportunity to dazzle friends and family with delicious vegan food. I always bring several fine-tuned dishes that I think my fellow diners will enjoy - from freshly baked truffle-oil biscuits to a cranberry and caramelized pecan salad to a flourless chocolate torte with coconut whipped cream. Bust out your best holiday dishes and showcase how fantastic vegan cuisine can be!”
Colleen Holland, co-founder, VegNews Magazine

“I will do this year what I have always done for the past 34 years...bring or prepare the largest, most colorful salad I can. I love assuming the traditional role of the designated salad-bringer. I use it as an opportunity to give new meaning to the world ‘salad.’ I put in everything but the kitchen sink. The real motivation of course, is that I know I have something to eat.

"As you might imagine, family members have been made aware in recent years of my position on these things. As a third daughter, I often found, like Dr. Neal Barnard describes in his talks, that getting the family's attention was always a challenge. Of course I talked about this at a lot of holidays years past. With the written word being mightier than the sword, I figure if I write 10 or 12 books, maybe my family will give this vegan thang a second look.

"My best advice is to remember that it is only one day. Or maybe a few if you're visiting. I stuff my luggage with nutritious food that I can eat, enjoy the company, and look forward to returning home. I focus on the numbers of people I've helped to go vegan and don't get stuck on the ones who don't. We can only change ourselves and our reactions to others. Others have to be ready for the change. Hopefully your great role-modeling will inspire.”
Ellen Jaffe Jones, coach and author, Paleo-Vegan

“One nice thing about living in the Washington, DC region and being surrounded by vegan activists is that my holidays are very vegan. For Thanksgiving, a bunch of us get together and feast, potluck style, on delicious vegan fare. And for Christmas, I usually just take it easy at home, as I visit my family in January when I can find cheaper flights.

"When I do visit my non-vegan family members, they are at least respectful of my veganism. Most think it is the right thing to do, even though they are not vegan themselves. So they don't mock me or expect me to eat anything non-vegan.

"Being involved in activism for over a decade, I've found that it's helpful for me to put all my emotional activist energy into reaching out to strangers. And then when I get together with friends and family, I don't spend energy attempting to change them; I just enjoy my moments with these individuals. My friends and family know where I stand. If they want more information, they'll ask, and I'll gladly give. But I figure I'm going to be much more successful just channeling my desire for a vegan world into, say, leafleting a college, where I'm able to reach thousands and thousands of a receptive demographic, than if I were to focus my efforts on friends and family members, who number in the dozens and many of whom grew up not even hearing the word "vegan". Activism is a numbers game, and I put all my emotional energy into the activism that allows me to reach the largest number of potentially receptive individuals.

"Being in situations where others are celebrating with meat can be stressful. I just remember that I've done my best at setting an example as a friendly and non-judgmental vegan and that some things are beyond my control.

"To anyone stressing over this year's Thanksgiving, keep in mind that it'll only be a day or two. Even though many of your friends and family members aren't vegan, try not to let that keep you from connecting with them emotionally, as these relationships are so important to us. The more comfortable your friends and family members feel around you, the more likely they will be to inquire about your vegan lifestyle. But even if they don't, remember that you can impact many more individuals throughout the rest of the year through activities like leafleting. And that's worth celebrating!”
Jon Camp, Executive Vice President, Vegan Outreach

“Being vegan during the holidays has evolved over the years for me and my family. At first, I was loudly and passionately advocating for vegan options, to remove the dead animals from other family member's table, and for everyone to change their own diets. I preached about the health benefits and indulged in sharing stories of how animals ended up on their plates. I finally learned this approach was not least it wasn't for me. It was stressful, uncomfortable, and pretty miserable. In fact, I lost friends and stopped getting together for family meals as often throughout the year. But holidays are different. We need to get together with family for holidays. So, I have evolved to be more effective and calmer in a few ways. I stopped initiating conversations about diet, veganism, or animal rights. But I always answer questions when asked (which I always am, despite trying to avoid it).

"I always bring delicious vegan options for myself and plenty to share to others' homes. I claimed at least one holiday a year where I make an inordinately huge spread of hearty, yummy food that entices even the most skeptical. And, perhaps most importantly, I unintentionally began inspiring my family. They see what I do for a living. They see that I feel better than ever. They read my books and articles and watch my TV shows and videos. Slowly, slowly everyone around me either dabbles in veganism, has flip-flopped through vegan periods, or is full-on vegan. In fact, I learned a surprising lesson: the less I try and the more I simply am, the more inspired my loved ones become. This is not to say I have perfected the formula or that I don't lose my patience and appetite with a carcass nearby on the table. But it has become much easier and I am doing the best that I can to be compassionate to my loved ones, as it needs to come from within, as it did for me.”
Julieanna Hever, the Plant-Based Dietician

“The holidays are supposed to be a time of deep peace. But I have to be honest in that with each passing year of being vegan, the holidays are a mixed bag of peace clashed with an awareness of incredible violence and hypocrisy. I do not know ‘why’ our species has been victimizing precious vulnerable nonhuman animals for so long, but I know it has to stop. What gives me hope nowadays is knowing that more and more people are waking up to veganism and the truth that it is the only way to respect nonhuman animals. If you struggle as a non-vegan, with your non-vegan choices, stop resisting what you know to be the right decision - go vegan. And if you struggle as a vegan, with the holidays, know you are not alone.”
Sarah Woodcock, founder, The Abolitionist Vegan Society

“Over the years, we have started our own traditions. For instance, two weeks before Thanksgiving, the hospital puts on their annual Fall Health Festival, an event featuring free screenings, low cost blood tests and flu shots, all sorts of vendors, and a free ‘healthy’ breakfast (sausage, eggs, and pancakes!!).  Live and Let Livingston has a booth there, we usually are next to the free bone-density test booth (a.k.a. the Got Milk? booth). We hand out vegan Thanksgiving recipes, free food samples, and literature from PCRM. It is seriously so much fun and we love being there.

"The day after the Health Festival is our annual ThanksLiving potluck, open to the public as always, and it has the biggest turnout of the year. People love it. Every year, new people try Tofurky for the time, and they are amazed that it's delicious.

"On Thanksgiving Day, it's our tradition to invite ‘holiday orphans’ to our house for dinner - friends or acquaintances who have nowhere else to go. They don't have to be vegan, but the food does! It's the one time a year we use Grandma's china, we make all the holiday favorites, and after dinner is dessert - in front of the TV for the mandatory viewing of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles.

A"s for the holidays, our tradition is to send yummy vegan treats (like homemade cookies, along with the recipe) for gifts. On Christmas day we relax all morning, then go to a movie with friends and get Chinese food after, followed by the mandatory viewing of Elf. (We did visit my husband’s family for Christmas once; I made a fancy dinner and they enjoyed their traditional deli meat tray. We aren't fighters, everything just makes us laugh).
Bonnie Goodman, artist and founder, Live and Let Livingston

“I use the time to show others the best of vegan food.  The holiday hell roast episode will show you a few staples.  The roasted garlic gravy is always a hit.

As far as pushback, negativity or pressure, I simply keep my cool, answer anyone’s questions, and stick to my vegan guns. If the questions get really stupid, I feel free to give them equally as stupid answers.”
Brian Manowitz, a.k.a., the Vegan Black Metal Chef


Side Dish
Charred Brussels Sprout Slaw with Shallots and Toasted Pine Nuts by Chef Skye Michael Conroy

Main dishes
Festive Chickpea Tart by Dreena Burton
Spinach, White Bean, and Pine Nut Strudel by Robin Robertson

Baked Apples in Phyllo by Jason Wyrick
Apple-Blueberry Crisp by Mistress Ginger (aka Justin Leaf)

“‘Tis the season to eat and be merry…compassionately! Every year I think back to my childhood, remembering all the wonderful aromas coming from the kitchen as the holiday meal was being prepared. My favorites were always the side dishes. I’ve carried those favorites into my holiday tradition as an adult and make them the focal point of my holiday meal. Since my diet is strictly plant-based, I utilize a wide variety of vegetables, grains, legumes, nuts and fruits to create twists on the traditional classics. I incorporate plenty of resinous herbs associated with the holiday season such as sage, thyme, rosemary and bay, and warm spices such as ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. By creating an assortment of textures and flavors, both vegans and non-vegans will be pleased and satisfied…”
Chef Skye Michael Conroy, The Gentle Chef

Charred Brussels Sprouts Slaw with Shallots and Toasted Pine Nuts
Charred Brussels Sprout Slaw with Shallots and Toasted Pine Nuts

This dish is one of my favorite holiday side dishes. It’s very easy to make and may just win over guests who never cared much for Brussels sprouts before. Any cold leftovers make a unique and delicious spring roll filling.

Fresh Brussels sprouts, about 1 lb.
¼ cup pine nuts
2 tablespoons non-dairy butter, margarine or mild olive oil (plus more as desired)
2 shallots, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
Sea salt or kosher salt and coarse ground black pepper, to taste

Remove the tough stems from the Brussels sprouts and discard. Remove any outer leaves that are damaged or wilted. Shred the sprouts using the shredding blade in a food processor. Set aside.
In a small dry skillet, toast the pine nuts over medium heat. Stir the nuts frequently to evenly toast and prevent scorching. Set aside.
In a large skillet or wok, melt the butter or margarine (or heat the oil) over medium-low heat. Add the shallots and garlic and a pinch or two of salt. Sweat the shallots and garlic, about 10 minutes. You should hear a faint sizzle - if the sizzle is loud, reduce the heat a bit. The goal is to draw out flavor without browning the shallots or garlic.
Add the slaw and a pinch or two of salt. Increase the heat to medium-high. Stir the mixture occasionally. The goal is to slightly char or caramelize the vegetables just a bit. If the vegetables seem dry, add another tablespoon or two of non-dairy butter, margarine or olive oil, if desired. Cook until the slaw is tender crisp. Season the slaw with black pepper to taste and add additional salt as desired. Serve immediately.

“Well, I have always hosted for our big holiday dinner, which is Christmas for us. In the past, I've invited family members and really enjoyed showing how flavourful and satisfying a full vegan holiday menu could be! I think it helps to remember that for most people, the side dishes of a standard holiday dinner are the favorites anyhow! The stuffing, roasted root veggies, mashed potatoes, gravy, etc...Many people love those dishes better than the centrepiece (turkey). So, play up those dishes, and then select one or two hearty recipes that would serve well as a ‘main.’ I usually go with a phyllo-based casserole, or my Festive Chickpea Tart. That pulls everything together.

"To take the pressure off with preparation, choose some recipes that can be cooked or partially prepped in advance. For instance, I always make my cranberry sauce several days ahead (even a week), and my dessert (pumpkin custards). Most important, give yourself a break where you can so you can enjoy the day! This year for our Canadian Thanksgiving, I bought a few store bought items. Our cat had passed a few days prior, and I just wasn't up for a lot of food prep. By the time Thanksgiving arrived, I felt more relaxed, lighter with the kids, and we took that calmer time to reflect on our time with our cat and give heartfelt thanks. It was one of our more connected, relaxing Thanksgivings. (And the food was still pretty yummy!)”
Dreena Burton, Plant-Powered Kitchen

festive chickpea tart
Festive Chickpea Tart

This tart takes center stage at holiday dinners, with its combination of chickpeas, spinach, crunchy walnuts, and savory seasonings.  It’s a family and reader favorite!
Recipe from Let Them Eat Vegan
by Dreena Burton.

Serves 4-5

1 - 2 tablespoons oil or water
1 cup onion, diced
1/2 cup celery, diced
4-5 large garlic cloves, minced
1⁄4 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 cups chickpeas, reserve 1/3 cup
2 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoon tamari
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 cup walnuts, toasted
1/2 cup rolled oats
1 - 10 oz. package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed to remove excess water (after removing water, about 1 cup)
1/4 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, chopped (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme added to puree)

For topping:
1 teaspoon tamari
1 tablespoon walnuts, finely chopped

Add oil/water, onion, celery, garlic, salt and pepper in a skillet over medium-high heat.  Cook 9-10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until softened and turning golden. In a food processor, add chickpeas (except reserved 1/3 cup), lemon juice, tamari, sage, salt, and sautéed mixture, and partially puree (not fully like hummus).  Add toasted walnuts and oats, and briefly pulse to lightly break up nuts. Transfer to a bowl, and stir in spinach, cranberries, parsley, thyme, and reserved chickpeas. Transfer mixture to a pie plate, lined with parchment paper or misted with oil to prevent sticking. Smooth mixture to evenly distribute in pie plate. Then, brush tamari over top and sprinkle on the walnuts. Bake in preheated oven at 400 degrees for 30 minutes, until tart is golden on edges and top. Cool 5-10 minutes, then serve with cranberry sauce or gravy of choice.

Robin Robertson
’s top tips for harmony at the holiday dinner table:

When you’re the host:
  • Include traditional favorites using plant-based ingredients (mashed potatoes made with Earth Balance, gravy made with vegetable broth, and so on).
  • For a main dish (if serving omnivores), make something with familiar ingredients such as a roast stuffed squash or maybe a spinach and white bean strudel (below). 
  • Start your own holiday tradition:  serve a non-traditional meal such as a lasagna and salad and enjoy your guests!
When you’re a guest:
  • Ask your host to use vegetable broth, olive oil, and other “simple swap” vegan ingredients when making their side dishes so that you can share in some of the food.
  • Offer to bring something hearty, such as a grain and bean pilaf, to serve at the meal so you have a “main dish” to enjoy. (Bring enough for everyone to have a taste!)
  • Even if you bring a main dish, consider also bringing a vegan dessert to show how decadently delicious vegan food can be.
Spinach, White Bean and Pine Nut Strudel
Spinach, White Bean, and Pine Nut Strudel

Serves 4 to 6
Tender baby spinach combines well creamy white beans and crunchy pine nuts in flaky pastry for a strudel vaguely reminiscent of spanakopita.  Pine nuts can be a bit pricey, so use walnuts instead if you want to economize. This recipe is from 1,000 Vegan Recipes by Robin Robertson.

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
6 cups baby spinach
1 1/2 cups cooked or 1 (15.5-ounce) can white beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup chopped pine nuts or walnuts
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots and garlic, cover, and cook until softened, 3 minutes.  Add the spinach, and cook, stirring until the spinach is wilted and any liquid is evaporated, about 4 minutes. Set aside. 

Place the beans in a bowl and mash them well.  Add the reserved spinach mixture along with the lemon juice, oregano, salt, and pepper, stirring to mix well.  Refrigerate to cool completely.  Preheat the oven to 425°F. Roll out the defrosted puff pastry and sprinkle with about 1/3 of the pine nuts.  Spread the cooled spinach and bean mixture evenly across the dough and sprinkle with about 1/2 of the pine nuts. Fold over sides and then roll up like a strudel. Place the strudel on parchment paper on a baking sheet, seam-side down.  Sprinkle with the remaining pine nuts.  Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.  (If the nuts begin to brown too much while baking, tent a sheet of aluminum foil over the strudel while baking.)

“The holidays seem to be the time when the differences between vegans and non-vegans are most amplified. I remember one time several years ago when my grandmother pulled me aside and offered me a bite of turkey. Obviously, I said no. Her response? ‘It’s ok, I won’t tell anyone!’ I laugh about it now, but back then it was a big vegan face-palm. Despite our food choice differences, however, there is one thing that tends to unite people around the dinner table, and that’s great food. Not average food, or even good food, but great food. When I first went vegan, I would have my own separate Thanksgiving feast while my family ate their own foods. Then they started seeing how good the food I had was and kept asking for tastes of mine. Roasted garlic crispy sage mashed potatoes, pumpkin pie laced with ancho chiles, roasted wild mushroom stuffing with a kiss of port wine, deviled purple potatoes, you get the idea. Now, several years later, I bring all the dishes for everyone except for the turkey. I still haven’t gotten them away from that, but I have for all the other dishes around the table. Here’s one of my favorite holiday desserts. It’s easy, delicious, and elegant.”
Jason Wyrick, The Vegan Taste

Baked Apples in Phyllo
Baked Apples in Phyllo

This is one of the first holiday desserts I created after going vegan many years ago and it has stood the test of time. In this case, that means it doesn’t take a long time for all of these to disappear when I serve them! They’re fairly simple to make and lend an easy gourmet touch to any holiday meal. Make sure when you unwrap the phyllo dough that you start working with it quickly so it doesn’t dry out.

Makes 6 servings
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1 teaspoon cardamom
2 tablespoons flame red raisins (plump golden raisins are fine, too)
2 tart green apples, diced
18 sheets of phyllo dough
2 tablespoons agave nectar
Almond oil or melted vegan margarine for brushing the phyllo
A light pinch of salt for each phyllo packet (flakey sea salt preferred)
Extra agave for garnish

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Combine the spices. Toss these with the apples and raisins until the apples are well-coated.

Stack three phyllo sheets together and lightly brush the top one with the oil. Add 1/6 of the apple raisin mix to the center of the stack and drizzle it with 1 teaspoon of agave nectar. Fold two opposite sides of phyllo over the apple mix, then fold the other two opposite sides over to make a closed packet. Repeat this until you have six closed phyllo packets. This process works best if you can lay out all six phyllo stacks at once and put them together all at once instead of doing one at a time.

Lightly oil a baking dish. Lightly brush the outside of the phyllo packets with oil and sprinkle a little salt on them. Transfer them to the oven and bake them until they are golden brown and crispy, about 25 minutes. Gently lift them off the baking dish and transfer them to your serving plates. I usually garnish mine with an extra drizzle of agave.

“Being a snazzle-frazzle vegan for more than a dozen years, I've had a spectrum of holiday experiences, from omnivorous family gatherings that feature not only turkey but also ham and mac and cheese, to veg-friendly feasts where, though turkey was served, I supplied a vegan entree and dessert and the other guests, though not vegan themselves, thoughtfully veganized the side dishes that they brought. Though I can happily hobnob with my omnivorous peeps (and try not to think too hard about the turkey on the table), my very favorite rendition of Thanksgiving happened for the first time last year. I hosted a queer vegan potluck with some of my very best friends -- my chosen family. Though not all of them are vegan (or even queer), every one of them could eat anything on the menu. In that way, it truly felt like a celebration of gratitude, rich with an abundance of food and friendship. We were creating our own paradise, where the virtues of love and compassion felt especially alive.

Bring a bounty of scrumptious vegan goodies to your holiday celebration. Chances are that people will want to eat what you’re eating. Chances also are that people will ask you why you won't eat the turkey. Now, how does one respond to such a question in that moment? In my experience, the Thanksgiving dinner table is not the place to expound upon the evils of factory farming. Say something brief and innocuous but true for you, such as ‘I do it for the animals, my health, and the planet.’ You can respond joyfully, respectfully, and with reserve. If they have follow-up questions right there at the dinner table, say that you'd be happy to chat with them about it at another time. Though they’ve expressed an interest, if they are eating animals at that meal, they are unlikely to be receptive to your vegan philosophy. They are more likely to be defensive, and who knows where the conversation will go from there. If fisticuffs have to break out at the holiday dinner table, let it be over whom gets to have the last slice of vegan pumpkin pie and not about something so highly charged as our food choices.

If you want to be a voice for the animals at your holiday celebration, consider how you can most effectively do that. The outspoken, confrontational approach is not always the best one to take, especially at holiday celebrations. Aim for harmony. Focus on the common ground, what you share. In my experience, just being present as the joyful, compassionate (and devastatingly gorgeous) creature that I am, I can create positive experiences for others around the image of veganism.

In summary, your Mistress recommends that you show up at your holiday gatherings with some glorious vegan food in tow, keep the conversation light and nonjudgmental, and, if at all possible, wear something sequined.”
Mistress Ginger (a.k.a, Justin Leaf), Mistress Ginger Cooks

Apple-Blueberry Crisp
Apple-Blueberry Crisp
from Mistress Ginger Cooks!: Everyday Vegan Food for Everyone

Yields 8 servings

Get ready for your taste buds to get seriously serviced. This melt-in-your-mouth fruit crisp is ready, willing, and able. Serve warm, with nondairy ice cream to heighten the experience. Who would have guessed that a freaking fruit crisp would be the love of your life—or even just a thrilling one-night stand? Oh, it can, and it will. Serve with dairy-free ice cream and enjoy!

3 cups apples, peeled and sliced (¼ inch thick)
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons whole wheat pastry flour
¼ cup light brown sugar, packed
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons Ener-G Egg Replacer
3 tablespoons warm water
½ cup vegan buttery spread, melted

The best way to initiate a thrilling one-night stand is to simply turn up the heat, and then get things good and lubricated. In other words, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and coat a 6-cup casserole dish with vegan buttery spread.

Time to get fruity. Mix the apples and blueberries in the casserole dish.

Mix 2 tablespoons of the flour with the brown sugar in a small bowl. Sprinkle over the fruit and stir gently until the fruit is evenly coated.

Sift the remaining 1 cup of the flour into a medium bowl and stir in the sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt until well combined.

Put the egg replacer and water in a food processor and process until frothy, about 3 minutes. Using a fork or pastry blender, cut the frothy mixture into the dry mixture. Sprinkle evenly over the fruit and drizzle with the melted vegan buttery spread.

Bake uncovered for 1 hour until golden brown and bubbly. Let cool for 10 minutes before servicing your overeager taste buds.

Store leftover crisp (if there is such a thing) in a tightly sealed container in the refrigerator and use within 1 week. Chances are, however, that fruity crisp will be gone when you wake up in the morning. Damn those fly-by-night romances!

© 2013, 2014, Vegan Street

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