Over the years, I’ve posted lots of photos, recipes and tips for preparing vegan, raw vegan, and/or vegetarian holiday food. You can click through to read about a Raw Vegan Easter Feast, a Raw Vegan Thanksgiving Feast, a Raw Vegan Indian Food Feast, a Raw Vegan Pizza and Italian Feast, Raw Vegan Thai, Tiramisu and Key Lime Pie, two Raw Vegan Christmas Feasts, Goji Dandelion Red Lentil Curry, the five flavors principle, vegan alfredo sauce and links to various other recipes. We also have some sort of vegan feast every six weeks for our Wheel of the Year Celebrations, although I usually keep the details of those gatherings private. It’s some good vegan eating, though!
Today, I wanted to share what we did this year for Thanksgiving, Yule and Christmas. Hopefully, the vast variety of foods shared in the above links and below will inspire some people to think of new possibilities when sharing holidays with non-vegans or non-vegetarians.
Please note: I’m not fully vegan anymore. For tooth and bone strength, I drink organic, raw goat milk, which we pick up directly from local farmers. I loved being 100% vegan and often 100% raw in California and Arizona, but once I got back to the cold Midwest, after 8.5 years of a strict vegan lifestyle, my body started demanding very specific types of dairy and occasional organic, free range eggs.
It was an extremely difficult decision to move from vegan to vegetarian, but the improvements in my health really speak for themselves. In photos I often miss my former waif self, not always recognizing my stronger, curvier self these days; however, I cannot argue with improved cognitive function, no more tooth pain, and greatly increased overall strength. It was the right decision for me, for now. I’ve never judged anyone for his or her dietary choices, as I know injuries, relocations, illnesses, stress, vibrational management, and other factors make “ideal” diets much more complicated than a simple dogma sometimes addresses.
I share the information here, not to judge, but to inspire. I prefer as cruelty free as possible for the holidays. It’s nice not to look at a carcass, to bypass the food coma, to celebrate life, and sometimes even to feed relatives the only veggies they’d willingly eat! All while having them ask for seconds. Or thirds. Anyway, without further ado … our menus this fall holiday season:
The night before Thanksgiving, David and I met his daughter and her boyfriend at a new microbrewery in South Bend called The Crooked Ewe Brewery & Ale House. This place has a dedicated vegan menu that directly corresponds to the regular menu. We thought it would be fun to take the young ones to a new spot where all of us could eat and enjoy an edgier atmosphere than Northern Indiana usually offers.
Oftentimes vegan versions of traditional menu items involve a lot of fake meat made from wheat gluten or soy, but we were blown away by the creativity and freshness of their entrees. It was too dark for photos, so we don’t have any; however, the dishes were so authentic tasting we actually asked our server if he had remembered to give us the vegan versions. Instead of gluten and soy, our “wings” were made from tender, perfectly seasons artichokes! Our Thai inspired dish used cauliflower instead of beef. We seriously could not believe how good our meals were! I will write a long overdue vegan Michiana post at some point. For now, just know that if you’re vegan or have a vegan in your crew, Crooked Ewe would be a special treat.
Just prior to meeting our young dinner guests, we stopped at the Mishawaka Whole Foods (which David helped open in 2013), and treated ourselves to one of their vegetarian holiday boxes. We don’t usually buy a prepared box of holiday foods, but with everything we had going on Thanksgiving weekend, we thought we’d treat ourselves. It was entirely vegetarian, some of it vegan, and some of it gluten-free. It did feature a seitan based loaf, which I could not stomach even beyond one bite, but David enjoyed that loaf a lot. The surprising thing coming from “Whole Paycheck” was just how much food we got for $29.95! We seriously had about 5 meals from this box. You can see some of the spread below:
If you’re hosting a holiday for “regular eaters” and don’t know what to do with some oddball vegetarian guests, then the Whole Foods Holiday Box for vegetarians might be a great way to go. Vegans or gluten-free peeps would need more a la carte ordering, which removes some of the price advantage of the box, but if you’re out of your league cooking for vegans or vegetarians, Whole Foods offers an easy, tasty, considerate option.
I’m much more of a Yule gal than a Christmas celebrant, so when we went to David’s daughter’s graduation last weekend in Madison, I prepared a Yule Feast for the friends who hosted us. These are the same friends who joined us for most of the raw vegan feasts linked above, although this time, I offered a mix of cooked and raw, always gluten-free vegan dishes: homegrown cushaw squash soup, chickpea “meat”loaf, homegrown massaged kale and tomato salad, almond flour rolls, and a gluten-free vegan yule log. Those yule logs are labor intensive, but for once a year festivities, I do love them! So did our friends, who jumped with glee when I gifted them all the leftovers.
You can find the Chickpea Vegan Meatloaf recipe here. I made this twice — once for Yule and then again for Christmas because David requested it. I texted Tania Marie about our Christmas Eve Feast, and her Dave requested it, too! I found that the recipe needed between 1/8 to 1/4 cup of ground chia seeds added in. I used less the second time I made it, and although it tasted good, the texture never firmed up. David’s completely meat eating, non “weird diet” brother-in-law requested firsts, seconds and thirds of even the mushier version on Christmas, though, which tells you how yummy this recipe is.
The kale salad above is just kale, dehydrated tomatoes (soaked), chopped olives, lemon juice, olive oil and sea salt, massaged together.
Below, you can see this year’s gluten-free, almost sugar-free, vegan yule log. I loosely followed this recipe, substituting gluten-free flour and a combo of coconut sugar and birch sweetener for the refined sugar. The non-edible holly garnish came from bushes I relocated to the blue house front yard:
Whenever I make a yule log, I always have some kind of major kitchen whoops! In this case, I did not have enough gluten-free flour, and had subbed in some fava bean/chickpea flour without the other ingredients to make it “all purpose.” Oops, no arrowroot in the house, so I added chia seeds. This was the year of chia. The cake was fine as a cake, but in order to make a yule log, you need to fill it with creme or jam and roll it up. I used a low-sugar, local strawberry jam, but once I started rolling, this baby cracked all over the place!
I had not planned to make a glaze, but I needed a coconut based one to hold it together. I heated up coconut oil, maple syrup, vanilla stevia and chocolate on a low burner, but quickly realized that would just dribble down the cake, not hold it together. It needed a little chilling; however, our fridge was full. Outside it went into 29 degree weather for enough time to turn firm enough to mold, but not so firm I couldn’t use if for yule log intervention. The final product turned out just right. You’d never know this one created almost as much mess as the one gluten-free-sugar-free-dairy-free yule log I made in 2013.
When we returned from our whirlwind trip to Madison, I thought I was mostly done cooking for the holidays, but David liked the chickpea loaf so much that he wanted one for Christmas. His daughter loves the traditional green bean casserole, and David had seen a reasonably clean gluten-free version of the crispy onion topping at ALDI’s of all places. I ended up planning another homemade feast. This one included gluten-free vegan versions of all the traditional green bean casserole ingredients:
I threw all that together on Christmas Eve, along with the loaf, and prepared a favorite sweet potato dish with coconut milk and lots of sauteed, home grown garlic. I added some sauteed mushrooms and onion to the traditional directions for the green bean casserole, but it was pretty plug ‘n’ play. The green beans were a hit with everyone, and the sweet potatoes surprised David’s brother-in-law into requesting both firsts and seconds. Even the non-veggie eating nephew liked one serving of sweet potatoes:
I appear to have redeemed myself from the “swamp pie” I made David and me for Christmas 2012. We loved the deep green spirulina raw vegan pie topped with goji berries, but we’ll never forget the reaction of the bro-in-law and nephew when they learned that spirulina’s algae! Stuck out green tongues and no end of remarks like, “As long as you don’t try to serve us pond scum …” .
All of which is to say, you can find no end to creative vegan and vegetarian meal options for the holiday, but if you’d like to share your feast with others, take it easy on the algae. 😉