I love holiday meals- they just feel so special. Though Thanksgiving has already passed, many of us will be having more holiday meals in the weeks ahead!
I just spent the Thanksgiving holiday at my mother’s home, where my mom bought me a vegan holiday roast, and made most of the side dishes vegan (of course, I helped). When I was talking with some acquaintances about going there, someone asked, “your mom will cook vegan for you?” I was a little floored- but I smiled and answered, “of course she does. My mother loves me.” Why wouldn’t my mom make sure there was something I can eat at Thanksgiving?
I’ve been at this whole vegan thing for a few years now, so it’s pretty much a given that there will be vegan food at holiday gatherings with my family. I’m sure that it helps that I do a fair amount of the cooking with my mom, but making sure that the side dishes are vegan is usually pretty easy- it just takes a little substituting. Butter is easily replaced with vegan margarine and/or olive oil, cow’s milk can be replaced with soy/almond/coconut/rice milk, and chicken/beef/turkey broth can be replaced with vegetable broth. This can cover basic vegetable side dishes, mashed potatoes and stuffing (cooked on the side, not in the bird). Vegan gravy is as simple as a roux (with vegan margarine) and a tasty veggie broth. That pretty much covers the side dishes- but what of the main event?
There are of course, several commercially available holiday “roast” dishes out there- and some of them are pretty tasty. They don’t take much effort (follow package directions for baking and seasoning) or special know-how to make. I think most people have heard of Tofurky  at this point, but there are also vegan roasts available from Field Roast  and Gardein , all of which should be available at Whole Foods  and Mrs. Green’s , or other natural foods markets. There are other brands out there too- just make sure to check the label to make sure it’s vegan and doesn’t contain any eggs or dairy. Quorn , for instance, makes a vegetarian roast, but not a vegan one.
I for one, would be thrilled and touched if I was going somewhere other than my mom’s and the host was serving a Tofurky or other vegan holiday roast. There’s no need to make something fancy. But what if you’re the kind of person who really wants to?
There are recipes out there for making your own vegan stuffed roast . I’ve tried one, and mine didn’t come out so great. I might try it again some time, but that also begs the question- do the holidays have to involve a stuffed something? To me, they don’t. Some of the best holiday meals I’ve had  have featured pasta as a main dish. A couple of years ago, I had an all Asian-inspired holiday meal . It’s okay to think out of the box!
There are also some nice fall/winter-flavored vegan dishes out there. My favorite has been a Rosemary and Hazelnut Encrusted Seitan dish. I’m providing a recipe for making your own seitan, but you can certainly use store bought. Or, if you don’t like seitan or can’t find it, you could use tofu (pressed and drained) in its place.
Whatever you have for the holidays- don’t stress when it comes to having a vegan guest! Many of us will happily eat plain vegetables if that’s what you can offer.
- 10 oz seitan slices or chunks
- 3/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, skinned
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 tbs minced rosemary
- 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
- 1 cup almond or soy milk
- 2 tbs stone ground mustard
- 1/2 tsp agave nectar (or sugar)
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup water (as needed)
- oil for frying
- 3/4 cup vital wheat gluten (or "gluten flour")
- 1 tbs nutritional yeast (optional)
- 1 tsp granulated garlic
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1 tsp vegan worcestershire sauce, optional
- water as needed
- Add the gluten flour, nutritional yeast (if using) and garlic to a medium sized bowl and whisk together.
- Add the vegetable broth, and mix with your hands until it comes together in a ball.
- Kneed the ball for 3-5 minutes, let it rest for 10, and kneed again for another 3-5 minutes. Shape into a small loaf.
- Mix the seitan broth ingredients together either in a small slow cooker (2 quart), or a medium pan on the stove.
- If using a slow cooker, add the kneeded seitan loaf to the slow cooker, and cook on low for 6-8 hours (perfect to do over night!). If using the stovetop, bring the broth to a boil, and reduce to a simmer. Add the loaf, and simmer for 1 hour, turning occasionally. The broth should completely cover the loaf; if it does not in your pan/slow cooker, add water or additional broth as needed.
- Allow to sit at least 15 minutes before slicing.
- Grind the hazelnuts, flour, rosemary, salt and pepper together in a food processor and add to a shallow dish.
- Mix the mustard, water and agave together in another shallow dish (the water should just thin the mustard out to a thin yogurt consistency).
- Add the almond or soy milk to a third small dish.
- Take a slice of the seitan, dip it into the mustard mixture, coating on both sides.
- Dunk the slice into the hazelnut/flour mixture, turning to coat.
- Dunk it into the almond/soy milk, and then back into the hazelnut/flour mixture. This all works best if you can use one hand for the wet, and one for the dry!
- Repeat with remaining seitan slices.
- Heat about a 1/2" of oil to about 325F to 350F (medium, of you're not using a thermometer. This all works fine in a cast iron skillet), and add the seitan gently. Fry until golden on both sides, being careful not to burn it.
- Serve with your favorite holiday side dishes!
I Eat Plants columnist Jodie Deignan went vegetarian in 2004 and fully committed to veganism in 2007. By day she’s a psychiatric nurse practitioner and by night she spends a lot of time cooking delicious vegan food for herself and her friends. She’s a bit of a picky eater, with a special distaste for mushrooms, seaweed, raw tomatoes, and eggplant, though she’s discovered along the way she’s a little more open-minded than she once thought. She blogs at The Picky Vegan . Follow her on Facebook , Twitter  and Pinterest .