Enjoying a Vegan Holiday
By David Yeager
Replacing dairy ingredients with nondairy alternatives is easier than clients think. Here are some suggestions and recipes for traditional holiday favorites.
Clients can choose to eat a healthful vegan diet, especially since doing so has become easier in recent years. Vegan specialty foods such as soy yogurt and veggie dogs were once consigned to health food stores but are now sold in most major grocery chains. In addition to foods that are naturally vegan, there are an increasing number of specialty items that either substitute plant products for animal products within foods, such as baked goods, or serve as a replacement for the animal product, as in soy cheese, rice milk, and meat substitutes.
While eating a vegan diet still requires some planning and creative meal preparation, one time of year that may require a little extra creativity is the holiday season. People tend to favor certain traditional dishes, and many of them are made with at least one or two animal products. But that doesn’t mean vegans can’t enjoy the foods they grew up with. All it takes is a little modification.
“You don’t need to mimic exactly what you’re used to [eating] to be festive and celebrate the holiday,” says Dina Aronson, MS, RD, president of Welltech Solutions, which specializes in wellness Web technology, and a vegan. “You’re creating new traditions with plant-based foods, which is something a lot of people embrace. It just takes swapping out a few ingredients. There are many traditional recipes that can withstand some swapping without anyone noticing.”
Although meat dishes can be difficult to replicate, many holiday favorites, such as stuffing and pies, can become vegan without altering the taste. One of the easiest switches is to use margarine instead of butter. In fact, most dairy products are easy to replace. There are a wide variety of cheese, sour cream, butter, and cream cheese alternatives available.
Another easy substitution is to use vegetable broth instead of chicken or beef broth. (For those who choose to enjoy their holiday meal at a restaurant, ask which type of broth the restaurant uses in its soups; even vegetable soups are sometimes made with chicken broth.) Clients also should be mindful of sweeteners as well. Honey, which comes from bees and is therefore not vegan, is used in many desserts. Maple syrup and agave nectar are good substitutes for honey.
Clients can use egg substitutes in dishes that call for one or two eggs. But recipes that use eggs as their primary ingredient, such as soufflés, don’t fare as well. Instead of sweet potato soufflé, for example, Aronson recommends switching to a denser sweet potato dish.
Perhaps the trickiest part of eating vegan is sharing a meal with nonvegans. While most people are at least familiar with the vegan diet, nonvegans may not realize how easy it is to remove animal products from the dishes they love. This can pose a problem for vegans who aren’t eating at home. Aronson says the best way to handle this scenario is to discuss it with the host.
“It’s very easy to ‘veganize’ traditional holiday favorites. The challenge is when you’re going to someone else’s house and they cook traditionally,” Aronson says. “If you’re going somewhere else, either communicate with them in a way that everyone is comfortable with or bring your own food, depending on what your relationship is to that person.”
But wherever the holiday meal is served, the most important thing clients should keep in mind is that there are plenty of options. For recipe ideas, Aronson says there’s a growing roster of websites and cookbooks that cater to the vegan diet (and check out some options below). Whether clients want to update an old favorite or try something new, there are vegan recipes to suit every palate this holiday season.
— David Yeager is a freelance writer and editor based in Royersford, Pennsylvania.
1/4 cup soy sauce
5 cups water
5 slices fresh ginger, thinly sliced
8-oz package tempeh, sliced into eight triangles
1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
Garlic powder, to taste
Dried basil, to taste
Oregano, to taste
Salt, to taste
1 T toasted sesame oil
1 large onion, sliced into thin half moons
2 cups button mushrooms, cut into 1/4-inch slices
3 T mirin (rice wine) or dry vermouth
- Put soy sauce, water, ginger slices, and tempeh in a large skillet. After bringing to a boil on medium-high heat, reduce to low. Cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Remove tempeh with a slotted spoon and place on a plate. When tempeh is cool enough to touch, dredge each piece in the pastry flour dusted with garlic powder, dried basil, oregano, and salt.
- Pour the cooking liquid into a bowl and save for later. Put toasted sesame oil in the skillet and when hot, but not smoking, lay in the tempeh triangles. Brown the tempeh on medium-low heat for 3 to 4 minutes per side.
- Layer the sliced onions and mushrooms on top of the tempeh. Pour the reserved cooking liquid on top, cover, and simmer for 20 minutes.
- Add water to the remaining flour to make a paste. Remove the ginger slices from the broth, and gradually stir the paste into the broth until it thickens. Add the mirin or vermouth and cook for a few more minutes. Serve for holiday meals in place of turkey or other meat-based entrées.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 234; Total fat: 10 g; Sat fat: 2 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 1,032 mg; Total carbohydrate: 23 g; Dietary fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 6 g; Protein: 14 g
* Note: To reduce the sodium content, use low-sodium soy sauce.
— Recipe courtesy of Jill Yeager
Quick and Easy Vegan Holiday Stuffing
This recipe is very forgiving: You can vary it greatly depending on preference and on what veggies, add-ins, and seasonings you may have on hand.
1/2 cup Earth Balance margarine
1 large onion, diced
2 celery stalks, diced
2 tsp poultry seasoning
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 bags (10 oz each) hydrogenated oil-free vegan stuffing mix (Whole Foods 365 brand has a vegan stuffing mix. For other options, check health food stores locally or online. You also can use 24-oz cubed stale bread or cornbread and adjust seasoning by adding dried thyme, parsley, salt, and pepper.)
About 4 cups vegetable broth (homemade or store bought)
1 small apple, peeled and diced
1/2 cup dried cranberries or currants
1/2 cup toasted walnuts or pecans, chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
- In a large pot, melt the margarine. Add the onion, celery, and seasonings and cook until the veggies start to soften.
- Add the stuffing mix and stir well.
- Add three cups of broth, a little at a time, stirring until the mixture is close to the desired moistness.
- Add remaining ingredients, stir well, and keep mixture covered over very low heat for about 30 minutes, stirring every few minutes.
- Taste for doneness. If the stuffing is still crunchy or chewy, add more broth, stir, and keep it on the heat until stuffing is at desired consistency. Adjust seasonings and serve.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 314; Total fat: 12 g; Sat fat: 3 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 989 mg; Total carbohydrate: 45 g; Dietary fiber: 3 g; Sugars: 10 g; Protein: 6 g
— Recipe courtesy of Dina Aronson, MS, RD
Mom’s Baked Apples
2 medium-sized Granny Smith apples
4 T brown sugar
2 T margarine
Cinnamon, to taste
- Cut apples in half and scoop out cores.
- Put 1 T brown sugar and 1/2 T margarine in the hollowed-out portion of each apple half.
- Sprinkle cinnamon over the apples.
- Bake at 350˚F for 30 to 45 minutes, depending on the oven, until apples are cooked through.
Nutrient Analysis per serving
Calories: 150; Total fat: 6 g; Sat fat: 1 g; Trans fat: 0 g; Cholesterol: 0 mg; Sodium: 71 mg; Total carbohydrate: 26 g; Dietary fiber: 2 g; Sugars: 23 g; Protein: 0 g
— Recipe courtesy of Nancy Yeager