A Vegetarian and Vegan Thanksgiving

23 11 2009

Fresh cranberries at the farmer's market

American Thanksgiving is this week and it’s the biggest food day of the year for millions of people. Cooks across America have been busy in on-line chat rooms and blogs discussing menus and what recipes they’ll be making for their feasts.  Turkey is usually the centerpiece of a traditional Thanksgiving meal but what if you or one of your guests don’t eat meat or poultry?  Not to worry – there are plenty of delicious options that everyone can enjoy without feeling like they’re missing out.

Many recipes can also be adapted for vegans (who don’t eat any animal products, including milk, cheese, butter and eggs).  To make a recipe vegan, sometimes all you have to do is substitute margarine or oil for butter and leave out any cheese the recipe may call for.  I have noted which recipes can easily be adapted for vegans. Here are some suggestions for a delicious, meat-free Thanksgiving dinner:

Stuffed Butternut Squash is an elegant vegetarian alternative to turkey.

White Bean Dip with Fresh Herbs – Get the party started with this vegan-friendly dip made with white beans and hearty autumn herbs. 

Mushroom Crostini – These make impressive hors d’oeuvres for any autumn dinner. Leave out the cream, parmesan and sour cream if serving vegans.  Adjust the flavour by adding more seasonings to taste.

Butternut Squash Soup – This low-fat soup is easy and delicious.  To adapt for vegans, omit the brown butter – use olive oil to sauté the sage leaves instead.

Peppery Leek and Potato Soup – Using vegetable stock instead of a chicken base makes this easy soup suitable for both vegetarians and vegans.

Stuffed Butternut Squash – This makes an impressive main course dish that easily takes the place of turkey.  Can be adapted for vegans (see pointers in the article).

Potato-Sage Dressing – Cooking the stuffing outside the bird means that everyone can enjoy it, including vegans.

Roasted Green Beans with Shallots – Take a break from the usual green bean casserole with this vegan-friendly dish.

Cranberry Sauce – Just because you don’t have turkey doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some vegan-friendly cranberries with your meal.

Mashed Potatoes – Always a favourite, mashed potatoes can be adapted for vegans by nixing the butter and cream.  Use a little vegetable stock and a bit of olive oil to give them a creamy texture.

Mashed Potatoes are a must at any Thanksgiving table.

Butternut Squash Gratin with Sage and Parmesan – The key to this dish is the butter and parmesan so vegans may have to pass on this one but vegetarians and meat-eaters will no doubt enjoy it.

Corn Scallop – This dish is tasty and rich but unfortunately it’s not vegan-friendly. However, Roasted Corn with Red Pepper and Herbs is – just use olive oil in place of the butter. Fresh corn is not in season right now but canned corn works very well in this dish.

Roasted Beet Salad with Walnuts and Feta – This hearty winter salad is practically a meal on its own.  Leave out the feta for vegans.

Braised Garlic Swiss Chard – Cooking swiss chard in lots of garlic and stock makes eating your greens a lot more delicious.  Use oil in place of the butter for vegans.

Roasted Tomatoes – These sweet and addictive slow cooked tomatoes are great in salads, on pasta or even just eaten with bread. They are vegan-friendly as well. 

Celery Root Slaw – This tangy salad is the perfect accompaniment to rich dishes.  If serving vegans, use a vegan-friendly mayonnaise that doesn’t contain any eggs.

Salads – Mixed greens and other vegetables are a great option for vegetarians, vegans and health-conscious diners.  Recipes for Basic Vinaigrettes will give you  lots of ideas for dressings.

Pumpkin Pie with Maple-Walnut Praline – The pumpkin custard contains eggs and milk so it’s not vegan-friendly but everyone else will enjoy this dressed up version of a classic.

Apple Pie – Another classic.  Be sure to use a pastry recipe (or prepared dough) that doesn’t contain animal products if serving vegans.

Take a break from green bean casserole with vegan-friendly Roasted Green Beans and Shallots.

Many people are eliminating meat and animal products from their diets for both health and ethical reasons but there’s no reason why they can’t enjoy a tasty holiday meal as well.  

Bon Appétit and Happy Thanksgiving!

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