I’m a Christmas baby. Born 2:45 in the early morning, I arrived just in time for a birth on actual Christmas Day. As a result, holiday traditions are my favorite. This is also in large part due to my holiday-lovin’ mama who always made our Christmastime and my birthday special. My mom was – and continues to be – the consummate holiday maven.
Seven years ago, however, my mom and I were at a crossroads. October of 2008, after twenty-four years of eating just about anything, I decided to switch to a 100% vegan lifestyle. Used to serving up my old favorites – prime rib roast, turkey and all the fixings, and traditional holiday cookies galore – my mom now felt lost as to how to keep us connected during the holidays. For her, as I’m sure it is for many of you and yours, the traditional holiday food we made together was an act of love and comfort. My being born on Christmas and the pressure to make an awesome birthday meal for me – mom’s time-honored tradition – certainly didn’t help things.
It was that holiday season I realized, however, that traditions really can be reinvigorated, and in the process of it, you can connect with your loved ones in new ways you never imagined. For my mom and me, learning to create totally plant-based versions of common holiday foods allowed us to bond because it became this fun, new project for us to take on. That first year, I even ended up making a homemade holiday cookbook for my mom filled with new plant-based versions of our old holiday faves. And by year two of living vegan? Our new holiday traditions were a breeze to continue and celebrate, and even better, they became an example that ultimately led my little brother and sister to go vegan.
So what are some ways to veganize your old holiday faves?
Well, first of all, a few tips if you’ve switched over to a vegan lifestyle at the holidays:
– At the end of the day, your family loves you. Remember that. Come to them at the holidays knowing that your mom, dad, even Uncle Ned just want everyone to be happy at the holidays. Your own personal lifestyle shift can be a means of joy and connection, not something to fear, if you remember that your family loves you in the process.
– Begin emailing family members now – as positively as possible, people! – asking if there are ways you can help in terms of cooking your own versions of things. Always offer from a place of help and service, rather than expecting family to immediately accommodate you, especially if you know for sure your family has never tried making plant-based dishes.
– Know that, especially at the holidays when emotions are running high for loved ones, any questions and challenging convos about your way of eating and living could potentially pop up. Compassion is key here. Prepare yourself by talking with people you know within your vegan/plant-based community about what they do when encountering non-vegan family members with questions. Have a limited pool of vegan friends? I find that a simple “How to handle the holidays as a vegan” Google search always helps.
– When in doubt, make and bring your favorite dish to family events. I’d suggest checking in beforehand first with the main chef of the family. Be creative – I love picking dishes that sneakily taste like non-vegan versions of my faves to see if anyone notices the difference. Many times, they love my version and don’t notice!
And now, a few fun, easy ways to veganize the top common holiday foods:
TURKEY AND OTHER ROASTS
We are so lucky nowadays to have a myriad of turkey-free replacements. For quick, easy, store-bought alternatives, check out holiday roasts from brands like Tofurky, Field Roast, Gardein, or Vegetarian Plus. Heck, even Trader Joe’s has a vegan roast for the holidays! Times, they are a changing.
This one’s easy, friends. For whatever non-vegan recipe you use, just be sure to substitute vegan-friendly bread (with no eggs, milk, or honey), and then sub in vegan butter like Earth Balance, along with using a combo of store-bought or homemade veggie broth and an unsweetened, non-dairy milk (I like plain, unsweetened soymilk) to moisten the stuffing before popping it into the oven. Used to adding eggs to your stuffing? I’ve found that by keeping the stuffing moist – similar to the consistency of bread pudding – I’ve allowed it all to bind and stay together nicely without the use of eggs. Don’t forget the poultry seasoning!
Again, subbing in vegan butter and non-dairy milk will easily allow you to make a plant-based version of this dish.
This is where things get fun. Usually, it’s as simple as subbing in an alternative to eggs when the recipe calls for more than one egg (in most cases, just try omitting eggs if they only call for one). Common alternatives include EnerG brand Egg Replacer, mashed bananas, silken tofu, or even flaxseeds. A great list of sub-ins for eggs can be found here. Along with all of the above, subbing in non-dairy milk and vegan butter where recipes call for milk and butter is an easy switch. Try Peaceful Dumpling’s holiday cookies, along with recipes from my personal favorite, the cookbook “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar.”
Alright, time for me to go pour myself some vegan holiday nog and decorate the tree. A safe, happy, compassionate holiday season to you and yours!
More in holidays: 5 All-Natural DIY Holiday Gift Ideas
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Photo: Lindsay Wolf