Friday, April 22, 2011

Holiday Dinners

Thanksgiving, Christmas & Easter: Three major holidays with a huge focus on food. At least that's how they were treated in my family. They also stood for turkey, turkey & ham (& CANDY). Yes, these food focused holidays were synonymous with meat. Having been vegetarian for 19 years, I had lost my love for these holidays. They began to mean mashed potatoes w/o gravy, no stuffing, rolls & cranberry sauce. Sounds drool worthy, no? No? I didn't think so.

That all changed when I went vegan. Not kidding! Our first holiday after going vegan (literally just a couple of weeks afterward) was Thanksgiving. I ate stuffing!, mashed potatoes WITH gravy, cranberry sauce (I'm very fond of cranberry sauce), buttery rolls...and "turkey." That dinner, and the leftovers which followed, made for one of the most joyous holidays of my life. The cherry on top of all that goodness & nostalgia was the fact that not a single animal suffered for what was on my plate. If you are a new vegan, I'm excited for you to have that feeling. It makes everything taste even better!

The reason I hadn't had a holiday meal like that for many years was because I was always at the mercy of family. I took what I could get & gave thanks. As a vegetarian, there was always just enough for me to eat at these family gatherings to not make it worth the trouble of creating another meal, or so I thought. Also, my beloved was an omnivore right up until the time that we both went vegan so it would have been only for me. Why cook for just one person? Oh how wrong headed I was.

Going vegan changed everything drastically. It meant only eating the cranberry sauce at a family holiday gathering, especially since our family was less than receptive to our lifestyle change (& bringing a dish to share was futile, because no one wanted to even look at it). To me, that was unacceptable. It became imperative that I make a holiday feast at home. No way was I going to let Michelle go without! Bonus: I got to have the best dinner EVER! All of the flavors I remembered from my childhood were back! I couldn't help but regret not making a holiday meal sooner, even if it was for one person. I deserve it & you do, too!

With Easter only a couple of days away, I want to share some of my favorite holiday options with you, perhaps to help spur you on. It can be mind blowingly easy to put together, too.

Our absolute favorite holiday "meat" is the Tofurky roast. I get the big box that includes the stuffed roast, a tub of gravy, an Amy's chocolate cake, & a "wishbone" made of Tofurky jerky. I also buy an extra tub of gravy, which you can get separately (they also sell just the roast & one tub of gravy boxed together). I can make a killer gravy, but since it already comes with gravy, I get another to keep it consistent. Is a Tofurky dinner super healthy? Not if you compare it to some other vegan options, but I didn't go vegan for health reasons. Besides, I eat it 3 to 4 times a year so I don't care how healthy it is. Plus, holiday meals just aren't meant to be healthy!

Mind you, there are other brands to choose from, but a basted Tofurky that's sliced thinly & topped with gravy... omg, I can't wait! (Confession time. The name "Tofurky" freaked me out. Silliness of the name aside, I didn't want to eat a turkey, and I sure as heck didn't want anything that tasted like tofu. I'm happy to say that there is nothing carcase-like about Tofurky, nor is it remotely like tofu. I'm even happier to report that I now have a tofu obsession, but that's another post.)

Then there are the sides. Mashed potatoes are super easy. You can make a basic MP without a recipe. Two mashed potato tips: 1st, always put your potatoes into the pan with cold water. Dropping them into boiling water will likely make them a starchy (possibly gooey) mess. 2nd, the smaller you cut your potatoes, the quicker they'll cook. Just be careful not to make them too soft. You'll be adding other ingredients & you don't want to end up with runny potatoes.

Everything you add to your potatoes can be done to taste. Just start small & add as needed. So what exactly goes into vegan mashed potatoes? Salt, pepper, non hydrogenated vegan margarine (Earth Balance) & a vegan milk or creamer (I like So-Delicious coconut creamer). I've also switched out the creamer & used Tofutti sour cream. Adding some roasted garlic never hurt anything, either.

Vegan stuffing is also super easy. Arrowhead Mills makes a great stuffing base (I like their savory herb). Add vegetable broth, Earth Balance, onions & celery, as directed on the package (maybe some additional sage) & you have vegan Stove Top! (I LOVED Stove Top. Don't judge!)

Since Easter is also a candy holiday, I'd like to point out some amazing vegan alternatives. Sweet & Sara is at the top of my Easter basket-filling list. Sugar coated PEEPS! But wait, they're even more delicious than the ones made with gelatin (that stuff is pretty vile, btw. I was a lazy vegetarian, but even then I avoided that goo at all costs). Seriously, she makes the best marshmallows on the planet!

Another Easter must was Cadbury Creme Eggs. They are something that folks either worship or despise. I was in the devout worshipers group. I can't explain it. The chocolate is poor & the filling is sickening sweet, yet I looked forward to them like I look forward to a new Madonna album (I'm a true blue Madonna fanatic, FYI!). Loving Cadbury eggs might have had something to do with the clucking bunny in the commercials. I don't know, but they rocked my world. So what's a vegan to do? Buy veganized versions! Or, make your own vegan version!

What are your favorite holiday dishes & treats? If you need something else to complete your holiday dreams, try searching Vegetarians In Paradise also has wonderful offerings (I found THE best vegan deviled egg recipe over there. So fun, easy & tasty). And don't hesitate to ask questions! I would love to help you make your holiday meal complete, and I know plenty of good folks that I can turn to who would also be willing to respond to any questions or requests that I may not be able to instantly help with. You shouldn't have to feel deprived, as I once did. You deserve a fabulous meal!!!

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