How to enjoy the holidays as a vegan

 

I had a lovely Thanksgiving yesterday, how about you? All my planning and baking turned out great, and my vegan dishes got 4 thumbs up from the 13 year old twins. Now that the holiday season has officially begun, and the meal-including invitations are starting to fill our our calendar, I’m thinking a lot about how to enjoy the season as a vegan.

The cardinal law of being a vegan (or vegetarian, or gluten-free) is simple: Bring your own food. But beyond that, figuring out what to bring can be a challenge. Here are a few things to think about before you pick a recipe:

1. Find the spirit of the event.

Every holiday party has its own personality. Thanksgiving with my in-laws is about big plates of food and every sibling and cousin in one place around the long table. Thanksgiving with my mom is hot chocolate, cookies, tree lighting and craftiness. For some families, it’s that Norman Rockwell brining-the-turkey-to-the-table moment.

Before you explore your vegan options for an event, take a second to acknowledge what you want to experience and what you love about it. Is there anything you don’t want to feel you’re missing out on? What doesn’t matter as much to you? How can you take part in the spirit of the thing?

Can you spot the vegan options?

For example, at the big Swiger family dinner, everyone brings several dishes to share, so it’s no big deal for me to bring 3 vegan dishes. Jay and I can load up our plates with food we love, and no one notices except to compliment it (out of the three sweet potato options, mine were the only ones completely devoured!)

2. Focus on the seasonal flavors.

 

A lot of vegetarians try to recreate the entire omnivore meal plan, which can be interesting, but is it really what you want?

 

What are the flavors you’re most exited about? Focus on recreating those, or make sure there’ll be a vegan option. The thing I always loved about Thanksgiving is the stuffing: sage-y, thyme-y, savory; paired with tart cranberries. I’ve made veggie stuffings in the past, but this year I made a chickpea tart that had the same flavor. My husband loves desserts, so I brought us a vegan version. Neither one of us ever cared about the turkey, so I don’t worry about Tofurkey or Field Roasts.

3. Bring what you love.

While it’s awesome when your uncle falls in love with vegan black bean empanadas, don’t drive yourself crazy pleasing others. Be content that as long as you love it, and it improves your experience: it was worth the effort.

 

And now that you have some ideas for how to pick, here are the recipes I’ve used (and loved) in the last few years:

  • Black bean squash empanadas, from The Veganomicon – brought to last year’s Thanksgiving, and gone to moans and compliments in under 10 minutes.
  • Festive Chickpea Tart- made the night before (but not baked) and then frozen. It thawed as we drove the 3 hours to meal and then baked for 30 minutes. Delicious!
  • These sweet potatoes – they beat out the other two options on the table.
  • Brownie Pumpkin Pecan pie – easier than it sounds.
  • Elvis cupcakes, from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World – a family favorite! Banana cupcakes filled with peanut butter frosting and topped with chocolate ganache.
  • Maple pecan pie – made this for just us…and I’m smitten.

What do you do to enjoy the many eating opportunities during the holidays?

 

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