More and more people are turning to vegetarian/veganism these days. I often find meat eaters curious about what we eat. The fact of the matter is we eat just as much and just as well as everybody else. In most cases we even eat the same exact things! Shepherd’s pie, stuffed shells, even steak and cheese sandwiches. I have prepared many of these meals for my friends and family, and they can’t even tell the difference between my steak (homemade seitan) and their steak, or my “ricotta” and the real deal. I have seen even the biggest skeptic go wide eyed with surprise when they bite into my one-hundred percent egg-free breakfast scramble and find it delicious.
With Thanksgiving just a couple weeks away, I would like to offer you some ideas on how to either prepare your own vegan feast, or at least cater to those friends and relatives who practice a meat-free lifestyle. It is easy to change just a few ingredients in your holiday staples without sacrificing the taste we all know and crave for the whole year leading up to Tofurkey day!
Two of the items you will find in a majority of your Thanksgiving dishes are milk and butter, both of which you probably use in your mashed potatoes and green bean casserole. If your family is anything like mine, a generous amount of butter has been added to your corn, peas, carrots, and any other vegetable being served. If you absolutely must add butter prior to serving these dishes, try Earth Balance Vegan Buttery Spread. I use it for everything in my house, like baking and spreading on my toast. It’s the most delicious vegan “butter” on the market, and in addition it is ripe with omega 3’s and free from preservatives and trans fats.
When it comes to alternatives to cow’s milk, there are so many choices! Soy milk, rice milk, hemp milk, almond milk, and the list goes on and on. How do you choose the right milk for your meal? For your potatoes and green bean casserole I would recommend giving soy milk a go. Rice milk tends to be on the sweeter side, and hemp milk has a nutty flavor, leaving soy as your best option for creamy, dreamy mashed and whipped potatoes. I like to kick my taters up a notch by mixing in a generous serving of garlic and caramelized onions. You will want to make a lot of these, because people will be asking for seconds and even thirds! The sweet and nutty flavors found in hemp, almond, and rice makes them perfect for breads, cakes and desserts. Try hemp milk in your banana bread for extra flavor. If you are serving a vegetarian family with children, you may want to keep some vanilla flavored soy milk on hand. My sister drinks real milk, but when my seven year old niece comes by she will drink an entire carton of the vanilla soy and she absolutely loves it!
Did you know that most boxed and bagged stuffing mixes are flavored with chicken? If you are cooking for vegetarians this Thanksgiving, make sure you check the ingredients on all of your shopping. If you make your stuffing from scratch and you usually flavor it with chicken broth or juice from the turkey, try using vegetable broth instead. Veggie broth keeps your stuffing just as moist and has the same salty flavor you will find in most poultry stock.
And what about the gravy? There is nothing more delicious than a heaping serving of gravy smothering every thing on your plate! Mushrooms make the perfect base for veg-friendly gravy. I don’t even like mushrooms, and I can’t get enough of the stuff. If you can’t find the mix or a jar of mushroom gravy at your local market, dairy-free mushroom soup will do the trick, especially the kind that comes in a carton. Spice it up with some salt and pepper and add a few spoons of flour to thicken it up. For a real treat, add a handful of raisins to the mix before putting it on the stove top. It may sound weird, but raisins in gravy are one of the most delicious things I have ever tasted.
When it comes to the turkey, most meat eaters are not going to part with this time honored tradition, and that’s okay! There are plenty of alternatives that you can offer in addition to your golden bird. Tofurkey is usually the most popular, but most natural grocers offer a variety of choices. If you don’t want to spring for a faux-turkey, don’t be afraid to ask your guests to provide their own! You have already done a lot to make this years Thanksgiving vegan friendly and they are sure to appreciate all of your hard work and effort!
Melissa Rae Cohen is a vegetarian cook and travel writer from Portland, Maine. She recommends Excellent Hotels for your luxury hotel bookings this holiday season.