Consider this an informal guide on how to veganize your holiday. For simplicity’s sake, I’m assigning a difficulty level to each task (though nothing mentioned here is that difficult! Promise!): minimum, moderate and maximum. It’s up to you to decide how much time and effort you’re able to devote to these suggestions. With a little time, thoughtfulness and creativity, your festivities are sure to be a blast! Ready to have the most vegan Christmas of all?
Food is, of course, the center of any great event. You want your guests to arrive with their mouths watering and leave with their tummies stuffed. Ideally, you also want them to be raving about the food until next Christmas. So how do you accomplish this, and stay vegan? This guide applies to both vegan hosts puzzling over what to serve their omnivore friends, and omnis who have no idea what to feed the vegans!
You can feed them all of this. It's veg-friendly!
Serve up a veggie platter with pretzels and hummus. Simple as that. You can buy platters with raw vegetables already cut, or you can hit up the market, grab a ton of different veggies (lots of colors = healthy!) and slice ‘em up yourself. It’s pretty easy and will be a hit with vegans and omnis alike. Because who doesn’t like to scarf down party veggies and dip?
Veggie chili! Chili is a major crowd-pleaser, especially in the winter, and is one of the easiest dishes to veganize. If you’re pressed for time, you can buy vegetarian chili just about anywhere… Amy’s makes a canned vegan chili, and even offers a few different flavors (some mild, some super-spicy). Buy several cans, heat ‘em up on the stove, and serve with tortilla chips and vegan shredded “cheese” (also available at most supermarkets). If you have the time, it’s really rewarding (and healthier!) to cook your own. I would make it the day before your fête, so the flavors in the chili have time to marry. You can find awesome vegetarian chili recipes just about anywhere; when in doubt, Google! I like to make black bean chili, and my recipe (if you can call it that; I call it throwing a bunch of ingredients in a big pot and heating it!) is pretty simple. All you need is…
- Olive oil
- 2 cans of (sodium-free) crushed tomatoes, 1 can tomato paste
- 2 cans each of (organic, sodium-free) black beans and kidney beans
- 1 carton organic vegetable broth (or No-Chicken broth; that one has great flavor)
- 2-3 peppers (it looks fun to do red, yellow and orange!), 1 white onion, 2 cloves garlic, several scallions or chives (for garnish)
- Chili powder, cumin, black pepper, to taste
Here’s my fuss-free recipe… Dice up your garlic, white onion and peppers, then sautée them in olive oil on medium heat in a separate skillet while you begin to heat your broth in a soup pot. When the broth is warm and the veggies sautéed, add the veggies to the broth. Stir and continue to heat while you add in the cans of tomatoes and tomato paste. Drain 3 of your 4 cans of beans (I save some of the liquid and add it to the soup for flavor) and add them to the pot. Save one can of beans (black or kidney, doesn’t matter) and mash the beans up before adding them (this thickens the brew; you don’t have to blend them perfectly – I just use a fork – but if you want the soup to be super-smooth, you could always throw the beans into a food processor). Keep heating until the veggies are soft (but not soggy) and the soup is hot enough… it takes me less than 30 minutes. Season it up, garnish with green onions or chives, vegan cheese or sour cream, tortilla chips, whatever you like! Done!
Try your hand at some of the gourmet vegetarian recipes featured on The New York Times online, created by top chefs for Thanksgiving (awesome for Christmas and New Years', too!). Serve up an entire meal of savory vegan dishes, like the Tempeh and Wild Mushroom Fricasse and Maple-Roasted Brussel Sprouts. Your guests will be too busy oohing and ahhing over the beauty of these foods to even notice that they’re missing meat!
Candy in a pretty dish is always a welcome site on your holiday table. Plenty of popular candies are also vegan—check out VegFamily’s “I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan” list, or PETA’s “Accidentally Vegan” page for proof. I would head over to Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or the local natural foods store, and grab some organic dark chocolate truffles. Brew some organic, fair-trade espresso to serve with this decadent dessert!
Make vegan s’mores! No baking is required, and you can find all of your ingredients at Whole Foods. If you don’t have a Whole Foods nearby, don’t fret; all of these vegan goodies can be found online, so try to order well ahead of time! I recommend using Whole Food’s 365 graham crackers (yum), but Nabisco’s are also vegan. Grab some bars of organic dark chocolate (I go foodie-crazy and buy gourmet kinds, like raspberry or hazelnut). And don’t forget the – ta da! – vegan marshmallows (non-vegetarian ones contain gelatin). Whole Foods carries Sweet and Sara, and you can find Dandie’s (which most resemble “real” marshmallows) online (right on Amazon! Nice).
Can’t assemble vegan s’more stuff in time? You can make a quick, delicious, nutritious dessert with sliced-up fruit and chocolate fondue… just be sure the melted chocolate doesn’t contain eggs or dairy! Strawberries, raspberries, kiwis or mangoes would all be extra-tasty drizzled in chocolate… Mmm.
Try your hand at vegan cupcakes! It will take you longer than it would to simply buy a dessert, but think of the fun you’ll have trying something new. Your super cookbook? Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World!
‘Tis the season, after all. Holiday gift-giving is all about showing how much you care. Show the vegan in your life that you care about her causes and convictions by giving her something meaningful… and if you’re the vegan gift-giver, what better way to inform your family and friends than with thoughtful, compassionate gifts?
Sponsor an animal! This is easier than ever, thanks to the internet. Dozens of organizations offer animal sponsorships on their websites, from Defenders of Wildlife to Farm Sanctuary to the World Wildlife Fund… your options are endless. You can spend a lot or spend a little, and rest assured knowing that your gift is making a difference and a positive impact on the life of an animal. Plus… you’ll get a cute stuffed toy!
I think one of the sweetest, most thoughtful gifts you can give is a basket full of your loved one’s favorite things. Like the option above, you can spend a little or a lot, and still find a way to make the gift recipient smile. For the vegan in your life, how about filling a gift basket up with yummy vegan treats, like dark chocolate, coffee, and more of those marshmallows? You could also include a vegan guide or cookbook (lately, I’m loving “The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life”), and maybe some sweet little lotions, soaps and lip balm (just be sure to read the ingredients first! If you have any worries about beauty products, check out LeapingBunny.org for a list of just about any and every cosmetic that’s cruelty-free).
Indulge in vegan fashion! If you’ve got a big budget, give the gift of warmth with a coat by Vaute Couture. These eco-, animal-friendly coats are arguably the most fashion-savvy in the green garment industry. Yes, they cost a pretty penny, but are no more expensive than a quality wool coat. Like a designer garment, they’ll last a lifetime; unlike mainstream designer coats, no animals are harmed in the making! Vaute Couture also makes their coats in the U.S.A., without child labor or other sketchy manufacturing practices.
If a coat proves too pricey, check out these brands of vegan, eco-friendly handbags (some of which I’ve shared before): Susan Nichole, Matt & Nat, Nahui Ollin. All three of these companies use recycled materials in their designs… the latter uses recycled candy wrappers! And even though this gift is listed under “maximum” effort, it couldn’t be easier to snap one of these up… all are available online. And if price is an issue, try a vegan wallet! They’re less expensive, but the sentiment is still the same.
Feel free to try any (or all) of these tips and report back to me! I’d love to know how you like to spend your holidays. I’ll try to save you some yummy vegan treats! ;)