Being vegan and celebrating the holidays with a non-vegan family or non-vegan friends can sometimes be challenging, especially at the beginning. You may want to use this as an opportunity to have discussions over the ethical treatment of animals, the advantages for the environment or the health benefits with your family and friends. As it is a cheerful time, others also want to avoid arguments over food during this time, especially if arguments and debates are stressful for them. And vegans also want to eat some tasty holiday meals! Here are some tips to enjoy your vegan holidays;
Whether you would like to talk about veganism or not during this time, people will most likely ask questions. A frequent first question is to ask why you are vegan. If you are new to veganism and prefer to avoid discussions and arguments with you family around this subject, you may want to consider saying that you do it because you feel better that way. By making it all about yourself without any exterior reasons, you will avoid long discussions about the animals, the environment, or health. However, if you prefer discussing the reasons that led you to veganism, you may want to consider preparing yourself with a concise explanation that will inform your family and friends while avoiding them feeling attacked or judged. Keep it factual, explaining how it influenced your decision. Even if you want to dodge most questions, some are likely to come up, including those about proprer nutrition and buying “humane” or “free-range”. Be ready with some factual answers, but don’t be stressed about knowing everything; you can easily say that you don’t remember exactly something, but that you recommend a source that influenced you, such as a documentary, book or website.
Contributing with vegan dishes
If you are attending a holiday celebration at someone else’s house and they don’t know yet that you are vegan, you may want to consider informing them. This will avoid them feeling insulted if they prepare food they didn’t know you can’t eat. If the host would like to prepare something for you, make sure they don’t feel obligated and that they know you are grateful. Still, the best bet is to offer to contribute to the meal by bringing a dish for yourself that can be shared with the other guests. Make sure what you bring is enough for you to have a full meal (i.e., don’t only bring a salad). There may also be some vegan sides when you get there, but don’t rely on this assumption as animal products can sneak up in almost any dish. Don’t hesitate to bring something that will make vegan food shine by showing your host and the other guests that it can be flavorful, and just as tasty as any non-vegan dish! Here I give you some ideas that can easily be brought to a gathering and will satisfy your need for some holiday flavors!
Impress for brunch: Gingerbread Latte Buns
Ingredients (makes 16 buns):
- 4 tsp active dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 cup 100-110°F water
- ½ cup plant-based milk
- ½ cup espresso (about 4 shots)
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 2/3 cup vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 2 tsp sea salt
- 1 flax egg: grind 1 tbsp flax seeds, mix with 3tbsp water and set aside until gelatinous
- Yeast mixture
- 6 cups all purpose flour, divided
- ¼ cup vegan butter, at room temperature, + more for the pans
- ¾ cup sugar
- 4 tsp ground ginger
- 2 tsp ground cinnamon
- ¾ tsp grated nutmeg
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1 cup icing sugar
- 2 tbsp plant-based milk
- 1 tsp pure vanilla extract
- Mix flax egg and set aside.
- Mix together yeast ingredients and set aside for 10 minutes until doubled in size and bubbly.
- Meanwhile, combine the wet dough ingredients (non-dairy milk, espresso, vegan butter, sugar, salt and flax egg) in a small saucepan. Heant on medium heat until combined. Remove from heat and let cool until it is below 110°F.
- Place 4 cups of flour in a large bowl. When the saucepan mixture is cool enough, add in the proofed yeast. Add the mixture to the flour and stir with a wooden spoon.
- Add the remaining 2 cups of flour. Mix with the spoon for 10 seconds, then knead with hands for another 10 seconds. Place the dough on a floured surface.
- Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Add flour only if it starts to stick to the counter.
- Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl. Cover with a wet towel and place in the oven with the light on. Let rise for 90 minutes.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling by mixing the sugar, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves. Make sure the vegan butter is out of the fridge so it can be at room temperature.
- After 90 minutes of rising, poke the dough. If it does no spring back, it is ready. Use your hands to spread the dough into a 16-inch by 20-inch rectangle. Go slow so you don’t rip the dough.
- Spread the ¼ cup of room temperature vegan butter on the dough with a pastry brush. Sprinkle the sugar mixture on top.
- Grab the end of the dough at the shortest (16-inch) end and roll the dough, keeping the sides as straight as you can. Let it rest on the seam when it is rolled up completely.
- Using a pastry brush, coat two 9 by 13-inch baking dishes with room temperature vegan butter.
- Grab some floss and cut the rolls (about 1-inch per roll) by placing the floss underneath the dough, bringing it up and crossing it. Place the rolls in the baking dishes (8 rolls per dish). Cover with a wet towel or plastic wrap and place in the oven with the light on. Let rise 45 minutes.
- Remove the rolls from the oven and preheat to 350°F. Remove the towel or plastic wrap and bake for 25 minutes, until lightly golden.
- Let the buns cool. When they are at room temperature, make the glaze by whisking all the ingredients together. Drizzle on the buns.
Easy side: Kale & Cranberry Salad with Orange Dressing
Ingredients (serves 8):
- 2 heads of kale, stems removed, leaves in bite sized pieces
- Juice from 1 small orange (1/3 cup juice)
- 3 tbsp maple syrup
- ¾ cup dried cranberries
- Mix the orange juice and maple syrup together.
- Put the kale in a large bowl and pour the dressing on top.
- Using your hands, massage the dressing into the kale.
- Leave for at least 20 minutes.
- Add the cranberries and serve.
Revamped classic: Sweet Potato Green Bean Casserole
Ingredients (serves 8):
- 3 tbsp vegan butter (such as Earth Balance)
- 1 tsp neutral tasting oil + more to brush the sweet potato
- 1 large vidalia onion or 2 sweet onions, thinly sliced
- 1 large sweet potato, peeled and sliced
- 1 pound green beans, ends trimmed
- Florets from 1 small or ½ large cauliflower
- 1 package (12.3oz) firm silken tofu, drained
- 1 cup non-dairy milk
- 1 ½ tbsp nutritional yeast
- 1 tsp salt + more to taste
- 2 tsp cornstarch
- Pinch or freshly ground nutmeg
- 2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 package (8oz) cremini mushrooms, finely diced
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- ¼ cup dry white wine
- 2 bread slices
- Black pepper to taste
- Make the caramelized onions:
- Melt 2 tbsp of vegan butter over medium-low heat. Add the sliced onion and let cook for about an hour until caramelized, while completing the other steps. Stir occasionally.
- Prep the sweet potatoes:
- Preheat oven to 425°F.
- Spread the sweet potato slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides with oil. Lightly sprinkle with salt. Bake for 40 minutes, turning halfway through.
- Prep the green beans:
- Steam the green beans for 6-7 minutes and transfer to ice water.
- Make the mushroom soup:
- Steam the cauliflower for about 15 minutes, until very soft.
- In a blender, add the steamed cauliflower, tofu, non-dairy milk, nutritional yeast, 1 tsp of salt, cornstarch and pinch of nutmeg. Process until completely smooth.
- In a large saucepan, heat 1 tbsp of vegan butter and 1 tsp of oil over medium heat.
- Add garlic and sautée for 1-2 minutes. Add the diced mushrooms and sautée until soft and water has evaporated. Add thyme and sautée for 30 more seconds.
- Add white wine and cook until evaporated. Add the cauliflower mixture and keep over medium heat. When the mixture is hot and starts to boil, reduce to low heat. Let cook for 15 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Make the casserole:
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- In a 9x13 inch casserole dish, spread the roasted sweet potato slices. Top with the green beans. Pour the mushroom soup on top and spread to cover all the vegetables.
- Put the caramelized onions in paper towels and squeeze out the excess of vegan butter. Spread on top of the mushroom soup.
- Put the two bread slices in a food processor and process to get bread crumbs. Sprinkle on top of the casserole.
- Bake for 20 minutes.
Author: Charlie is a PhD student and fitness enthusiast who also loves cooking delicious meals and treats. On her blog Sweet Salty Spicy, she shares her tasty vegan recipes and cooking tips, hoping to show to people that a plant-based lifestyle can be easy, healthy and delicious (and that vegans don’t only eat lettuce)!