The holidays are coming. It’s important and easier than you think to have vegan options on the table – for guests, for the animals, for the world we live in.
As you probably know, Brian is the cook in our family and was vegetarian for a year and a half. But for vegan expertise, I turned to Linda Soper-Kolton, vegan chef and culinary instructor at Catskill Animal Sanctuary, who wants everyone to make room for compassion at their holiday table this year. She helped me put together creative and delicious ways that you can veganize some or all of your holiday meals, starting with Thanksgiving.
Advice from Linda about cooking and shopping for vegans
"I've fed and taught thousands of people in my time at the Sanctuary–a good number of them were not vegan. What comes to mind when I'm teaching or feeding people who aren't vegan is the idea that it's just food! Vegan food is EVERYTHING—except just a few things, so if you're hosting vegans this holiday season, remember that you can make incredibly satisfying dishes using foods you're likely already familiar with. Sometimes, a few simple swaps can veganize a dish so everyone can enjoy the same thing. Think about easy vegan substitutions for things like chicken broth, milk, cream, and butter in dishes like mashed potatoes, vegetables, and stuffing. Look for a variety of plant-based brands of butter and milk at Sunflower Market.
And I often recommend doing a practice run if you're nervous. It's a delicious way to enjoy the flavors of the holidays twice! Seasonal squash stuffed with grains, beans, nuts, and dried fruit is simple and hearty. A beautiful pasta dish with garlic, greens, white beans, and sun-dried tomatoes is easy and most folks I know would be thrilled to see this on the holiday table. And for dessert, so many baked items can be converted by simply swapping out butter and dairy for vegan options. So remember, if you're cooking for vegans this season, the fact that you took the time to honor their beliefs by providing options is a wonderful and welcome gesture."
WHAT TO MAKE THIS HOLIDAY
Below are 10 of Linda’s holiday favorites but you can see all the holiday recipes on the Catskill Animal Sanctuary website including the ingredients and directions for each one. Most of her favorite brands and ingredients are available at Sunflower Market in Woodstock and Rhinebeck so please be sure to shop there.
1. Roasted Cauliflower-Garlic Soup
We love a bowl of soup to start a holiday meal. It’s so civilized. It also nourishes us so we pace ourselves for the rest of the meal. This Roasted Cauliflower-Garlic Soup is incredibly simple but when you top it with micro greens or fresh herbs, the presentation is lovely. Everything gets roasted and then puréed–what’s easier than that? Cashews add luscious and compassionate creaminess without using dairy (though I have to leave those out).
2. Butternut Wellington
Let this magnificent dish dispel the notion that vegans have to dine on side dishes. Butternut Wellington compassionately reimagines the original concept of a filet rolled up in pastry and mushroom pâté by using butternut squash. As a centerpiece to a holiday meal, there is no comparison: It’s festive, gorgeous, and scrumptious…and doesn’t leave a carcass behind. The color, when sliced is a spectacular, vibrant orange. An easy mushroom pâté and store-bought puff pastry add a rich and savory aspect to this gently sweet squash. Definitely a home run for all kinds of eaters!
3. Crispy Oven-Baked Potato Latkes
Yes, you can make latkes without eggs…and you can skip the labor-intensive frying and bake them instead! The recipe calls for ground flaxseed as an egg replacement but you could also use a store-bought product like Just Egg. These latkes are light and crisp and are a pleasure to make and eat. Brian thinks this is also a great alternative for mashed potatoes, though Linda also has a recipe on her page for that.
4. Rich Vegan Gravy
This delicious gravy makes a topping for just about any dish that needs a rich, creamy, and savory finish. It also proves that you don’t need drippings to make flavorful gravy.
5. Best Green Bean Casserole
Forget the canned cream of mushroom soup–the best green bean casserole is vegan! This version replaces the dairy ingredients with easy-to-find, healthy alternatives and includes a scrumptious topping made with homemade breadcrumbs and crispy-baked shiitake and shallots.
6. Cauliflower Kugel
Kugel is typically made with egg noodles, sour cream, cottage cheese, and eggs. By creatively replacing some of the key ingredients, this beloved dish gets a vegan makeover. The result is creamy, slightly tangy, custard-like inside, and crispy on top. Seconds, anyone?
7. Sourdough Stuffing
Stuffing is another dish that can easily be reimagined without causing harm to animals. Why not use vegetable broth instead of chicken? How about including vegan sausage for added taste and texture? And plant-based butter is one of the easiest swaps to make today.
8. No-Bake Pumpkin Pie
Save room for dessert because you'll definitely want to dig into this Creamy No-Bake Pumpkin Pie. Spiced just right with cinnamon, ginger, and cloves, this pie is a delicious way to have your vegan pie... and eat it, too! The crust is a simple, flavorful blend of dried fruit and nuts, so it’s perfect for gluten-free guests, which in my family is a lot of us.
9. Cashew-Macadamia Cheesecake
Smooth, rich, and luscious, this is a cheesecake made without cream cheese! Macadamia nuts and cashews blend beautifully to create a creamy base for this dessert, but the real secret ingredient is chickpeas! Everything comes together in a blender and the graham cracker crust takes only minutes to make and uses vegan butter instead of dairy. While the salted caramel is optional, we think it's more than worth it! You know I wish I could eat nuts and enjoy this.
10. Raspberry-Almond Rugelach
Rugelach is traditionally made with a rich pastry dough made from butter and cream cheese. In this vegan version, easy swaps of plant-based butter and cream cheese stand in for the usual dairy versions. The filling is a tempting mixture of raspberry jam, ground almonds, and a touch of cinnamon. The finished cookies are rich yet light, just sweet enough, and wonderfully tender.
Hope these dishes are helpful as a resource. Thank you so much, Linda! Find all the recipes at "Dishing Up a Vegan Holiday Season" at Catskill Animal Sanctuary's site. And if you love animals like I love animals, you can also hear my interview with Kathy Stevens of Catskill Animal Sanctuary in Episode 75.