Cathleen Woods is a vegan nutrition enthusiast who runs a website called Vegan Nutritionista. Her free monthly newsletter reaches more than 10,000 people around the world and features free vegan recipes, information on vegan travel, books, nutrition, and frequently asked questions on the vegan lifestyle. Cathleen loves to cook and has created several ebooks with original recipes and meal plans.
Q: There is a vegan couple coming to our holiday cocktail party. What can I make for them?
A: It is really kind of you to want to make something special for the vegan coming to dinner. When I attend a party where someone has gone out of their way to have a dish for me to eat, I’m incredibly grateful, and I think most vegans feel the same way. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy, and could be as simple as a hummus spread with vegetable sticks or pita bread.
Other great options for simple vegan appetizers are olives, black bean dip, guacamole, stuffed grape leaves, vegetarian dumplings or spring rolls, or falafel balls.
If you’re serving a sit-down dinner, a great way to accommodate vegans is to just leave the non-vegan ingredients out of the same foods you are serving everyone else. Vegans tend not to like drawing attention to themselves at a dinner party, so we love to be served essentially the same thing as everyone else.
For instance, if you’re serving a Greek salad with feta, serve the feta as a garnish or add it to all the plates (except the vegan’s) rather than adding it to the serving bowl. If you’re serving a starch like rice or pasta, cook the rice in vegetable broth or water rather than a chicken stock, so that everyone can enjoy the rice. You could bake a piece of tofu in place of the meat you serve others, or you could even just double up on the vegetables on the vegan’s plate.
Definitely don’t let this become a source of anxiety for you. Vegans are very familiar with eating at omnivorous parties, and we have a lot of tricks up our sleeves. Many of us will eat a snack before a cocktail party, so that in case there aren’t many options, we can still enjoy the party without starving. Sometimes when we RSVP, we might offer to bring a dish to share. And most of the time, there are options the host/ess doesn’t even realize are vegan, so we’re perfectly happy.
Q: My daughter and son-in-law are vegans and I want to adjust my Thanksgiving meal so they can eat as much as possible. What should I do to change my recipes so the rest of my family still feels like it’s the same but my daughter doesn’t feel left out?
A: I have hosted my omnivorous family at my house and I made every side dish vegan and everything was a hit. There are so many great tasting milk, butter, and egg substitutes that your guests should never know the difference between the original recipe and the veganized version, especially if you take the time to make everything from scratch.
I made my mom’s famous mashed potatoes, but I used almond milk instead of cow’s milk and Earth Balance (vegetable oil-based) butter instead of regular butter. They were gobbled as quickly as hers had been for the past few decades. I made shiitake mushroom gravy from scratch and the gravy bowl was empty before the turkey gravy even had a dent in it. I made an easy adjustment to a regular green bean casserole recipe by using nondairy milk, and you can even top it with those crunchy French’s onions.
Some Thanksgiving recipes are naturally vegan, like sweet potato casserole (with the addition of Dandies vegan marshmallows), cranberry sauce, and my mom’s famous apple pie. Most stuffing is totally vegan, so you can bake a small portion in a casserole dish for your children. If you bake your own dinner rolls, most bread recipes are also vegan.
For the main event, one of the nicest things you can do for a vegan is not to leave the cooked turkey on display. Most of us can find a way to avoid looking at it if it stays in the kitchen, so a nice floral display or cornucopia would be a better centerpiece for the table. Some vegans are perfectly happy just to dine on the side dishes, while others might like a substitute for the turkey. There are a few good turkey substitutes at most grocery stores and all health food stores. My favorites are the Tofurky roast and the Field Roast version of turkey. You could even find a recipe to make a seitan “turkey” roast from scratch, but that’s not necessary. Most vegans I know would be thrilled to be able to eat all the side dishes and skip the fake meat altogether.
For dessert, you can find quite a few amazing vegan dessert recipes online. I regularly make a pumpkin pie with vegan cream cheese that my family adores, as well as pumpkin bread and pecan pie.
How do vegans bake cookies, pies or cakes for the holidays if they don’t use eggs and milk?
Q: How do vegans bake cookies, pies or cakes for the holidays if they don’t use eggs and milk?
A: I decided to become a vegan when I was an adult, and I’d logged countless hours baking in the kitchen with my mom, so I was endlessly fascinated with the idea that I could bake without eggs and milk. When my cookies, cakes, pies, and bread all came out with the perfect texture and flavor, I was shocked.
The truth is that you don’t need eggs to make desserts. What you do need is an ingredient or two that give the dessert lift and texture, and there are plenty of vegan options.
In place of eggs, you can use a substitute like Ener-G Egg Replacer, Vegg, flax meal whipped with water, tofu, or even mashed bananas. Most vegan websites can give you an idea of which to substitute in certain recipes. Instead of milk, nondairy milk works exactly the same as regular milk, so you can choose based on flavor and thickness. Soy milk is thicker than almond milk, which is thicker than rice milk.
In some of my favorite vegan dessert recipes, you don’t even need a replacement for eggs or milk. My favorite vegan cake recipe calls for baking soda and vinegar, which gives that science experiment-style volcanic eruption which makes the cake light and fluffy.