November 21, 2012

Choosing Vegan

Today, my friend Christine agreed to share her story about becoming vegan and some of her holiday favorites. I know I will be trying the chickpea tart for sure!  Thanks Christine! 

I started eating a vegan diet exclusively a little over a year ago. I had read The China Study and learned about the health benefits of eating a vegan diet. I decided I wanted to give it a try for 30 days. The Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine offers a 21 Day Vegan Kickstart Program complete with a menu plan, recipes, ideas and articles and posts from well-known and not-so-well-known vegans to help you try to eat a vegan diet for 21 days.

The thought behind the program is that if you try to eat vegan for just 21 days, it isn’t as intimidating as deciding to cut out animal products all at once for the rest of your life. After 21 days you may decide to add animal products back into your diet. Maybe you’ll decide that eating a vegan diet isn’t for you, or maybe you’ll be like me and realize that eating vegan can be just as satisfying and rewarding as eating a diet including animal products, even more so. You may feel a lot better, lighter, and have more energy realizing that adding animal products back into your diet just weighs you down and upsets your stomach. Whatever the end result is, it’s a way to test yourself, challenge yourself to rid your diet of animal products and see how you feel.

I did the challenge last year in October. I let animal products back into my diet on Thanksgiving day. I still refrained from eating meat, I can’t go there, but I ate foods containing butter, milk, cheese, etc. My body had an unpleasant reaction. I discovered that I can eat delicious foods that make me feel great and not have the side-effects that animal products gave me. The day after Thanksgiving last year, I went back to eating a vegan diet and have not looked back.

However as a vegan it can be challenging to find something to eat at social gatherings, parties, and holidays. It’s especially difficult at Thanksgiving and Christmas where the meal is often centered around the turkey. Luckily I think it’s even easier now to make a delicious, healthy meal for Thanksgiving or Christmas free of animal products.

So that being said, how does a vegan navigate around the dinner table at Thanksgiving or Christmas?

It’s a good thing we have wonderful vegan cookbooks that are available and have become staples in my kitchen. Dreena Burton is my favorite vegan cookbook author. She is a lovely lady and has been vegan for almost 20 years, has 3 young girls, and has recently released her fourth vegan cookbook, Let Them Eat Vegan, which includes 200 “plant powered recipes” that focus on whole foods cooking without the vegan meat and cheese replacers. A lot of her recipes can be adapted to be nut, soy, gluten, and wheat free too. This book is my most frequently used cookbook in the kitchen.

On her website,, Dreena recently wrote a post about vegan cooking for Thanksgiving and Christmas menu ideas. She included a slew of recipes, many of which I have made and loved. I would like to touch on a few. If you are looking for a replacement for turkey for your holiday meal there are a couple of delicious options I would recommend.

Festive Chickpea Tart
This tart is savory, flavored with spices associated with holiday cooking and very simple to whip up. You can use a pre-made crust to make preparation that much quicker or even make it crust less. I’ve made this several times and it’s a delicious centerpiece that non-vegans love too.

No-Fu Love Loaf
This is a fantastic vegan version of meatloaf. It has a lentil base including oats and barley and all the seasonings you love that go into a standard meatloaf. I have three young boys and they love this recipe.

Besides the centerpiece you’ll want some delicious sides to go with your holiday meal.

Roasted Vegetables
I love roasting my veggies whether they’re root vegetables, brussel sprouts or asparagus. Roasting them with a touch of oil, salt and pepper is really all you need.

Dessert is the best part of the meal, right?

Chocolate Pumpkin Pie
I had never tasted a chocolate pumpkin pie before making Dreena’s recipe and I don’t need to
look any further. You’ll be surprised how quick this goes together. And I haven’t found a person
yet who hasn’t loved this pie.

Pumpkin Pie Custards with Brulee Topping
This is a must-make recipe this holiday season (along with the Chocolate Pumpkin Pie of course). I first made this custard as an actual pumpkin pie. My oldest son loves pumpkin pie and I wanted to make a vegan version that was low in sugar but full of healthy ingredients. We loved it so much I made a second the following week. I also reserved some of the custard to try the brulee. Wow! The sugar on top caramelized nicely and created a beautiful crust on top. This will be your show-stopper recipe that will have your guests speechless. Make sure you have enough custard cups for your guests as it’s fun to have individual servings, but of course it’s not necessary.

This just touches on a few of the recipes Dreena mentions in her Thanksgiving and Christmas Menu Ideas post. She also mentions green salads, cranberry sauce, gravy and squash. All are great ideas to have at your holiday table. All are delicious, healthy, and satisfying. Which ones will you be making this year?

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