Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner — Entertaining Vegans

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Lindsey Hardin
Lindsey Hardin

By Lindsey Hardin | Photographed by Deb Peterson

Celebration, time off from work, delicious food, comfort, relaxation, and time spent enjoying the company of family and friends—that’s what the holidays are all about. For many, including my 5-year-old daughter, the holidays are the highlight of the year, a time for generosity and fulfilling the desires of others, as well as for self indulgence.

Seasonal duties include shopping, cleaning, hosting guests, and of course, cooking. Preparing sumptuous feasts for family and friends is the cornerstone of holiday tradition, but traditional holiday cuisine may not be compatible with special diets. Many conditions like heart disease, diabetes, celiac disease, allergies, and others require special diets. Adjusting to these folks’ needs can be a little difficult, but serving healthy, festive, and even indulgent dishes at your table conveys warmth and love in a way in which few things can compare.

I’m here to help you do just that. A lot of you will be entertaining vegan guests for the holidays. What will you serve them?

Vegans eat a completely plant-based diet. It’s a little different from vegetarian. It means that a person does not consume any meat, milk, cheese, butter, or other dairy products, nor eggs or egg whites. It means no animal flesh or animal products at all. Some vegans do not even consume honey, as it is technically an animal product.

People choose to follow a vegan diet for different reasons. There are ethical and environmental reasons for eating vegan, but there are also compelling health reasons one would choose to forgo animal products. There exists a host of current, peer-reviewed medical research clearly indicating the positive effects eating a plant-based diet has on preventing and even reversing many serious diseases, including heart disease, cancer, type 2 diabetes, and obesity. It just so happens to taste delicious too!

Understanding the benefit of plant-based nutrition is one thing, hosting a vegan for the holidays is a whole other ball game. Most vegans are skilled at cooking for themselves, know what they like, enjoy helping out in the kitchen, and love sharing their favorite dishes. If this sounds like your guest, wonderful! Embrace their willingness and give them some counter space.

However, if you find yourself having responsibility for preparing their meals, here are some tips. Let’s start with the basics.

Plant-based foods and animal-based foods can coexist harmoniously on any spread. I promise your carnivorous husband won’t die if he accidently ingests some of the appetizing and aromatic vegan cuisine you have set out. Let me give you an example.

Let’s say you are serving turkey, mashed potatoes, green beans, and dinner rolls. You can offer your vegan guests an equivalent meal. There are meat-free alternatives to turkey available at natural food stores. Take a trip down to your local health food store and ask for a ‘Celebration Roast.’ It is a meat-free product that often comes with its own meatless gravy. All you have to do is heat it in the oven. Just follow the directions on the package. If you can’t find that brand, they may have something similar. Just make sure it doesn’t have any hidden animal products in it, like egg whites. That takes care of the centerpiece.

Next come the potatoes. You may boil them as usual. Then, before mixing in the butter and milk, take out a good-size portion of unembellished potatoes for your vegan guest and set it aside. There’s a simple fix for them. Get a small carton of unsweetened almond milk and some Earth Balance buttery spread. (Both available at health food stores or Walmart) and mash the separated potatoes the same way you would regularly, only substituting these ingredients. Easy so far, right?

The butter substitute can also be enjoyed on dinner rolls the same as butter.

Now, prepare the green beans. If you add butter or bacon to yours, just save a serving for your guest and sauté it with a little olive oil and salt, or you can cut back on calories by leaving out the added fats all together.

Sometimes buying quality ingredients and preparing them simply allows their naturally nuanced flavors and delicious complexities to shine through. Try it.

Voila, one meal down. You’ve done it! I am sure your vegan guest will be overjoyed.

Tradition is a sacred part of the holiday season. When a family member or friend makes changes in their lifestyle, this may feel threatening to your traditions. If this is something you identify with, I encourage you to express it with your family. Good communication will keep the family close and relieve the stress. Fortunately, traditions grow and evolve with time. Adopting the new doesn’t necessarily mean abandoning the old. Allow your household to continue moving forward and avoid having your traditions become stagnant by starting a brand new tradition.

One of my favorite things to do during the holidays is to make tamales, and it can be done 100% vegan, or you may add some stewed meat to a portion of the tamales for the carnivores. It is super fun to have a tamale making party; everyone can be involved. Here’s an easy recipe for Vegan Tamales with Molé Sauce. Enjoy. It pairs beautifully with a sweet potato pineapple casserole and a fresh green salad.

Dessert? Check out this very special recipe for Fall Harvest Cake that no one will even know is vegan. You’re welcome!

For more information about plant-based cooking, email or call Lindsey: Lindsey@ozarkacupuncture or 870-421-4368. www.cook-to-live.com.

Tamales
Tamales

VEGAN TAMALES WITH ROSTED POBLANO AND GARLIC FILLING
Makes 20-24 tamales

30 dried corn husks
5 cups masa harina (available at health food store)
7 tablespoons vegan butter
½ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon good chili powder
½ teaspoon cumin
2 teaspoons salt
1 cup warm veggie broth
about 1 cup warm water

Directions: Soak the dried corn husks in warm water. In a large mixing bowl, add masa with spices and salt. Add butter and oil and mix. Add broth and mix. Add warm water ¼ cup at a time and mix until mixture is soft, but not so soft you cannot make a ball of dough with it.

Filling:
5 fresh poblano chili peppers
1 full bulb of garlic
1 can organic sweet corn

Directions: Roast the peppers on an open flame or under broiler in oven. They should be completely black. Place roasted peppers in a non-reactive bowl and cover. Allow them to cool. Peel off the black skin with a spoon, seed them, and cut into strips.

Remove most of the outer skin of the garlic bulb and trim off top. Place in oven and bake for about 30 minutes at 350. The cloves will become soft and fall out of their peels easily.

Remove the roasted garlic from the skin and place in a food processor. Drain the can of corn and add 1 cup of the drained corn to the roasted garlic in the food processor. Pulse until smooth. Add a pinch of salt and pepper.

Roll about 3 tablespoons of dough into a ball with your palms and place in the center of a corn husk toward the widest side.  Spread it out with your fingers, add filling to the center and wrap. Tip: Google wrapping tamales for a demo!

Take a large pot and place a steam basket as far from the bottom as you can. The tamales steam for a long time, so you need a lot of water in the pot to steam. Steam the tamales for 40 minutes.

VEGAN MOLE SAUCE
Makes 2 cups
(Can double and freeze extra)

4 tablespoons olive oil
½ large white onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves
¾ cup slivered almonds
2 tablespoons peanuts (optional, in case of allergy, substitute sesame seeds)
2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds
½ cup raisins
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons dried oregano
¼ teaspoon anise seed
2 teaspoons of chipotle peppers in adobo sauce (found in a can at health food store)
1 can diced tomatoes
1 ½ cup veggie broth
1 ounce unsweetened chocolate, grated

Directions: Heat oil in a cast iron or heavy skillet. Fry the raisins, onions, nuts, and seeds with salt for 5 minutes, then add spices. Toast nuts and seeds to a golden brown. Transfer ingredients from skillet to a non-reactive stock pot and add chipotle peppers, tomatoes, and veggie broth. Allow to simmer for 20-30 minutes. Remove from heat and cool slightly. Puree in food processor until very smooth. You will need to strain the mixture with a fine mesh strainer as you add it back into the stock pot. Add grated chocolate. Add salt if needed and simmer for 30 minutes, allowing sauce to reduce slightly. Stir often.

FALL HARVEST CAKE
Makes 12 cupcakes or a 6 x 9 cake
Converted by Lindsey Hardin to vegan and half the sugar from “Edible: Seattle”

1/3 cup grated parsnip
½ cup grated carrot
2/3 cup grated green apple
2/3 cup grated zucchini (squeeze out extra juices)
1 cup all-purpose flour
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon dried ginger
1/8 teaspoon ground clove
½ heaping teaspoon cinnamon
2/3 cup organic dark brown sugar
½ cup maple syrup
½ cup coconut oil
zest and juice from one orange
1 teaspoon vanilla
½ cup chopped pecans (optional)
½ cup raisins (optional)

Directions: Preheat oven to 350.

Grate the veggies and fruits and combine in a medium mixing bowl. Squeeze off the extra liquid from the grated ingredients. Fluff the grated ingredients so they are not smashed together from squeezing.

In a separate bowl, combine flours, salt, baking soda, and spices and set aside.

To the bowl of grated ingredients, add brown sugar, oil, orange juice and zest, and maple syrup, and mix. Stir until well combined and slowly add the dry ingredients. Be careful not to over mix. When just combined, fold in the pecans and raisins, if desired. Pour into greased baking dish and bake for 18 minutes. Check with a toothpick and bake for 4-5 minutes longer if toothpick does not come out mostly dry.

VEGAN CREAM ICING

1 cup cashews, soaked over night and drained
½ cup coconut milk (from can)
1 teaspoon vanilla or scraped vanilla bean
½ cup powdered sugar, or agave

Directions: Place the can of coconut cream/milk in the fridge so the fat is solid. When using the coconut milk, use only the solid part, there will be some liquid in the bottom of the can. (use for another recipe.)

In a food processor, pulse the cashews and solid coconut milk until smooth. Add vanilla and sift in sugar, or slowly add agave. Blend until smooth.

You can add cinnamon and a ½ teaspoon apple cider for flavoring.

M! Oct/Nov 2013

 

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