Holiday Recipes for Vegans

On the eve of Thanksgiving I opened my kitchen cabinet door; the little skinny one that holds the cookie sheets, and other oblong cooking supplies. And there it stood – my mother’s mother’s turkey platter. It’s been in my family for decades, and it means a lot that I’ve been the lucky one entrusted with its care. I love the platter for all its tradition and the sweet memories it invokes since Turkey Day has always been my favorite holiday.

Setting the table is still my favorite

This year was a bit different though. We introduced a new menu, sans turkey, and though I tried I wasn’t able to find a way to use the family platter. The fact that it was just the three of us celebrating had a lot to do with the lack of food volume needed to fill that baby. But I also didn’t use the black-with-white-speckles roasting pan. Or the turkey baster I’d found in my stocking 3 Christmases before. Or even the little grease separator that quite handily coaxed the gravy into becoming less responsible for heart disease.

As I prepared for this meal steeped in family tradition I came to realize the sheer volume of specialized cooking materials dedicated to this single meal, and I was still worried that such a drastic departure with tradition would dampen the spark and cast a weird shadow over the day. I’d felt a small twinge of it as I’d shopped earlier in the week, making special trips to our local Fort Collins health food stores in search of alternative ingredients. I was even a little sad about not purchasing a turkey, even though I plan to never buy another one.

Throughout the week I kept reminding myself that change is good. And while comforts of the past are cozy to fall back on this time of year, miring in a comfort zone outside of your goals holds you back. I have experienced this personally on many levels, including fitness of course. And my job is to help people on a daily basis get brave and step out of their own comfort zones. This is what I always come back to. My connection to and journeys with others becomes more of an inspiration to me than my own journey. How can any of my clients take me seriously if I don’t walk my own talk?

So. My number one goal is to stay as healthy and pain-free as possible. That goal is the reason we started all this vegan-ness a year and a half ago. My number two goal is to extend my love for animals beyond those accepted as pets and promote strong ethics around ALL sentient beings and their treatment. My third goal is to help our environment by decreasing demand for animal agriculture, which places a huge burden on our planet.

She keeps me real AND loves to cook

I was recently asked if health were not an issue would I still be a vegan. The answer is yes, because of all I’ve learned as I’ve changed my lifestyle, slowly over the past 3 years. My daughter, who was the first person in our family to stop eating meat, is my constant inspiration and reminder that animals suffer needlessly because we just don’t want to be bothered by the real truth behind what we’re doing. There’s a reason why pork isn’t called pig and veal isn’t called baby cow on a menu. If I’m not going to take an innocent animal’s life myself, I’m certainly not going to pay someone else to do it for me. *Steps off soapbox*

So. In the grand scheme of things our old, stand-by Thanksgiving dinner probably wouldn’t have been the end of the world since we keep to our new diet all the other 364 days of the year. However, changing up one’s lifestyle is a serious endeavor, and taking that to ALL the levels sets a great example and has been what works best for me and my family long term.

We did just that this year, and it was not only delicious, but surprisingly filling. The plant-based whole foods we enjoyed provided the savory, stick-to-your-ribs kind of satisfaction we all crave when we sit down to a Thanksgiving feast. We did our best to over do it, as in years past, but could barely stuff down seconds, and only with a few of the dishes. It still just amazes me how hard it is to overeat whole foods.

I’ve linked all the recipes we used below, and we will definitely be using all but one of them again. Y’all know by now that I’m still not the best with the cooking. I like simple recipes with few ingredients and time requirements. We chose these based on those criteria, so I wanted to pass them along if you’re seeking the same for your next holiday dinner. The cool thing about the new trend of veganism, however, is that there are SO many real food recipes online to choose from now. It’s easy to find those best suited for your appetite and abilities.

Vegan Thanksgiving Recipes (also gluten, soy and corn free)

  • 4 Ingredient Portobello Steaks – by This was our main dish. Because it was so simple and quick, we actually had to wait to make it LAST. Can you imagine? 30 minutes instead of 3-4 HOURS? Not to mention the several days prior thawing process and refrigeration real estate encroachment. Huge cost investment. Getting up at bird-thirty. Messy clean up. I could go on. But. You get it. Did I mention how amazingly delicious these were? Of all the foods we made that day, the portobello main was the most beloved by all of us. We followed the recipe almost exactly, but reduced the olive oil by a tad.
  • Kale, Apple and Quinoa Salad – by Kale and quinoa. Two of the most nutritious foods on the planet. You could eat this as a meal on it’s own because of the filling starch. It was super easy to put together and the flavor combo was fantastic. The dressing added a particular brightness to this dish. We actually skipped steaming the kale and instead ate it raw, chopped very finely. Loved it!
  • Mashed Potatoes and Ultimate Vegan Gravy – by What is Thanksgiving without mashed potatoes? We used standard russet potatoes, boiled in water until tender. We added a bit of cashew milk for creaminess, but were all kind of disappointed with the gravy. It was pretty labor intensive and lacked the texture and flavor we were looking for. I will admit that we had to substitute 1 cup of wild rice for brown, which ultimately altered both. The touch of lime juice was a pleasant surprise, but we’ll be trying this recipe next time.
  • Pumpkin Parfait with Cashew Vanilla Cream – by The key indulgence around holiday meals for me has always been pumpkin pie. In fact, I have been known to eat an ENTIRE PIE on this day, with no remorse whatsoever. Given my gluten-free status, though, trying this baking feat was just beyond me this year. We made this dessert instead and didn’t miss the crust at all! The cashew cream was quite an adventure to whip up in the Ninja, but we eventually pulled it off (I’d highly recommend using the blender as noted in the recipe). Definitely a winner, and my generous daughter let me eat most of it. Still no remorse whatsoever!

Overall I am thrilled to announce that we experienced no weirdness and enjoyed huge success with this meal! Turkey and misgivings notwithstanding. I will keep posting as we progress down this path and hope you’ll comment back if you’re trying new recipes or wanting to ask questions. It is definitely a journey, like all of life tends to be. The key takeaway for us this year was the simple act of sharing food and “visiting” (a term us southerners describe as hanging out). This idea hearkens back to the authentic engagement and community our modern society is sorely lacking, and why I hold this holiday so dear. The food is a significant factor in embodying this tradition, and our family goals continue to carefully stretch our own comfort zones and look for new ways to incorporate that old turkey platter!

How was your Thanksgiving holiday? Need to reset pronto? Still taking registration for our Holiday Pre-Hab Challenge! Instead of waiting until January to undo everything you will probably end up doing (again) this year, why not just keep from doing it in the first place? And all while still feeling like a human and enjoying your holiday traditions. Starting over is SO last season, let’s catapult you into 2020 in massive momentum! Jump on this one quickly, it’s the only discounted workout program I offer ALL YEAR. Registration closes Dec 1.

If you’re new to Fort Collins you can learn more about where I came from, where I’m hanging out and how I’ve been able to help some awesome people right here in northern Colorado.