A vegan holiday season

Leah Mulaly

     For most students, the holidays imply a giant smorgasbord of traditional foods, including the ever prominent turkey. For a handful of students, however, turkey is the last thing they think of when contemplating a holiday feast. Typically, these students are either vegetarian or vegan. Vegans, the more dramatic versions of vegetarians, not only shun meat, but also any other animal products. They can’t eat butter with their rolls, no giblet gravy with their mashed potatoes, no ice cream with their pie, no stuffing if it contains eggs, and most stuffing does, no cheese, no milk… vegans have a difficult time negotiating dinner with their non-vegan family!

     So what can vegans eat on food-focused holidays?

     Besides the infamous tofurkey, plus vegetables and fruit, there are options. Honestly, who wants to spend their indulgent holidays eating just tofu and vegetables?

     Most vegans are already aware of the various butter substitutes on the market. There are even several egg substitutes—useful in desserts. Soy, rice, hemp, almond and other milks make good substitutes for dairy. However, the best part of being vegan is not seeing how many substitutes you can come up with, but discovering new dishes that don’t require an alternative product. Quinoa, a high protein grain, is delicious as well as healthy. It also makes a great stuffing-type dish when added to chopped vegetables and olive oil.

     Another source of protein is tempeh, a soybean product. Mary Sheehan’s book, Coming Home to Cook: vegetarian recipes inspired by the organic gardens of Ireland, provides several delicious vegan and vegetarian recipes, including one for Tempeh with Balsamic Glaze. The ingredients are as follows:

2 packages tempeh

2 tablespoons olive  


2 garlic cloves,


6 button


   thinly sliced

2 tablespoons

   balsamic vinegar

1/3 cup orange


1 tablespoon


2 teaspoons


2/3 cup water

1 tablespoon chopped

  Italian parsley

  Salt and pepper

     Heat oil in a skillet, add garlic, then cook until soft and brown. Cut each block of tempeh into 12 pieces and add it and the mushrooms to the pan. Cook until the mushrooms are soft. Turn tempeh and cook until browned on both sides. Mix together vinegar, orange juice, honey, salt and pepper. Dissolve cornstarch in water and add to vinegar. Pour into skillet and cook until mixture begins to thicken. Sprinkle on the chopped parsley and continue to turn tempeh for another minute. Serves four to six.

     Mashed potatoes are already vegan, of course (as long as no dairy products are used) but gravy typically is not. A tasty vegan gravy can be made using vegetable broth, miso paste and soy sauce instead of the usual meat products.

     Of course, no winter holiday is complete without pumpkin pie! This recipe, also from Mary Sheehan, uses arrowroot powder for thickening instead of eggs. Arrowroot powder comes from the root of a West Indian plant and is gluten free. And, if you have time, the best pumpkin pies are made from a fresh pie pumpkin, boiled until mushy,       instead of canned pumpkin. To make a vegan pumpkin pie, use:

3 ½ cups mashed pumpkin

2  cups plain soy milk

¼ cup arrowroot powder

½ to ¾ cup maple syrup

1  tablespoon vanilla extract

½ teaspoon each of cinnamon, 

    nutmeg, and salt

Preheat an oven to 350 degrees. Mix all ingredients and pour into a nine-inch pie shell. Bake for 50-60 minutes.

     As you can see, vegan food can be jazzed up for the holidays too! Plus, a lot of vegan food tastes just as good as the stereotypical non-vegan holiday fare (and your dairy-loving family won’t even know the difference if you put it on the table)!

     For more vegan recipes, go to Mary Sheehan’s website, www.marysheehan.com, and blog: www.vegetarianireland.com