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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegan Recipes/ Vegetarian Recipes

Usher in the New Year
With a Soirée or a Daytime Bash


Each year, as the ball drops at midnight in Times Square, we're glued to the TV watching the huddled crowd of thousands go wild with excitement. Confetti flies from upper stories, streamers zoom overhead, and the jubilant shouts of "Happy New Year" fill the air. In a matter of seconds the atmosphere is frenzied with happy voices as we, our guests, and the Times Square crowd officially welcome in another year, a new beginning, a fresh start.

Whether our New Year celebration bids farewell to the "old" year on New Year's Eve or welcomes in the new year on New Year's Day, we can bet the celebrants will be in a festive mood and ready for some tasty bites and zesty beverages.

We plan to start the New Year's Eve gatherings on the late side, often about nine or even ten in the evening. That's because many friends enjoy going out to dinner before the party and joining together afterward for nibbling on finger foods, tidbits, and some New Year spirit.

Beverages may become the main focus if guests arrive after a hearty dinner, so we're prepared with a few choices to tempt the party crowd. Sometimes we'll talk to guests well ahead to determine what their beverage preferences may be. On the other hand, as hosts of the party, we assume partygoers will be delighted to guzzle the creations we've prepared especially for the occasion.

For the early starter crowd, a more substantial meal might include informal, make-ahead foods like a crock-pot of Barn Burner Chili with add-ins like chopped onions, corn kernels, chopped olives, and shredded vegan cheese to keep the guests well fed. We always provide some whole-grain breads and an array of tasty toppings to partner with the chili and prepare a couple of salad dishes to round out the meal. Often, we consider a tossed salad with a colorful selection of veggies and plenty of greens along with a grain-based salad.

At our New Year's Day Open House Party, two giant stockpots gently bubbling with a couple of deliciously robust soups stand tall on the stovetop. One might be the well-seasoned Split Pea Vegetable Soup, while the other might be a zesty Mulligatawny or creamy Sweet Potato Soup. We plan ahead and toss a few whole breads into our bread maker, freeze them, and have them defrosting the night before the gathering.

We're always mindful of the football fans who won't want to miss that exciting moment their team scores a touchdown. Simple foods like chili or soup allow them to enjoy the festivities while glued to the TV.

Frequently, we like to shake our guests out of their familiar comfort zones and urge them to explore the unfamiliar. Bread toppings like Shiitake Walnut Paté and Smoky Garlic Spread provide a great opportunity to introduce wildly innovative flavors, some savory, others pungent.

We recognize today's busy lifestyles leave many of us little time to spend preparing complicated dishes, so we always welcome easy preps and are grateful when guests offer to bring "a little something." We consider that "something" a blessing, and accept it graciously.

We've noticed people are rather sentimental about holidays like New Years and tend to revert to long-standing traditions like singing Auld Lang Syne and kissing at midnight. We're prepared with streamers to toss when the radio or TV announces the momentous countdown and ready to pour special beverages so guests can clink their glasses to wish each other a happy new year.

We save one or two special treats like cookies or confections to serve with coffee or tea after the midnight excitement. Something sweet and a hot beverage guarantee a warm and happy conclusion to the festivities.

For the New Year's Day Open House party, our invitation is specific in determining the length of the party to avoid people showing up before we're ready or long after everyone's left. Either the make-ahead Chili or Hearty Soup Choices work well for events that have guests coming and going at different times. Finger foods are always a hit as are hearty grain or bean-based salads. And we can't forget that something sweet never fails to send the party folk home with a smile.

When the last guests bid goodnight, we take a moment to reflect on the "old year." We both smile and bid personal farewells, and, then, look ahead with hope for a great new year. We usually have a resolution or two and quietly seal those thoughts with personal promises as we start clearing the table and putting dirty dishes into the dishwasher.




    New Year Log Encrusted in Spicy Pecan Gremolata

Main Dish

    Barn Burner Chili with lots of Add-Ins


    Shiitake Walnut Paté
    Smoky Garlic Spread
    Whole Grain Bread selection (English muffins, pita, 100% whole wheat bread)


    Split Pea Vegetable Soup
    Mulligatawny Soup


    Peanut Butter Cinnamon Torte
    Persimmon Coconut Walnut Bars

Decked out for the holiday in its festive winter coat of pecans, peppercorns, and fresh herbs and served with crackers, this tasty log of well-seasoned tofu will delight a hungry crowd of party guests with a single schmear. It has lots going for it--great flavor, attractive looks, and a crunchy topping for appealing texture. It works perfectly as a make-ahead starter. If you leave it in the fridge for more than three days, it will still maintain its wonderful flavors, but the pecans lose their crunch. The recipe makes two logs so you can spread the joy around by placing each log on a separate platter and serving each in a different room.

Spicy Pecan Gremolata Log


Yield: about 15 to 25 servings

    Spicy Pecan Gremolata
    1 cup (240ml) pecans

    2 tablespoons black or mixed peppercorns

    2 tablespoons minced parsley
    2 tablespoons minced dill
    2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
    2 cloves garlic, finely minced
    1 teaspoon finely minced lemon zest
    1/4 teaspoon salt

    1 pound (450g) extra or super firm tofu or Chinese extra firm tofu

    3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon water
    3 tablespoons lemon juice
    1 tablespoon plus 1/4 teaspoon rice vinegar
    2 large garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
    1 1/2 teaspoons salt
    1 teaspoon dried dill weed
    1 teaspoon onion powder
    3/4 teaspoon ground coriander
    1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
    1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. TO MAKE THE SPICY PECAN GREMOLATA CRUST, preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4), place the pecans on a baking sheet, and roast them for 8 minutes. Transfer them to a dish to cool. Place the toasted nuts into a hand-crank nut mill and grind them into coarse pieces or place them into a plastic bag and pound them with a hammer until coarsely ground. Transfer to a small bowl.
  2. Place the peppercorns into a small plastic bag and pound them with a hammer until they are coarsely ground. Add them to the ground pecans. Add the parsley, dill, chives, garlic, lemon zest, and salt and mix well. Transfer the nut mixture to a large flat dish and set aside.
  3. TO MAKE THE FILLING, drain and rinse the tofu. Break it into pieces and place it into the food processor.
  4. Add the water, lemon juice, rice vinegar, garlic, salt, dill weed, onion powder, coriander, garlic powder, and black pepper and pulse and process until the mixture is smooth and creamy but still quite firm. Use a firm spatula to scrape down the sides of the work bowl once or twice while processing.
  5. Transfer the filling to a clean, flat dish and use clean hands to form it into two logs. If the mixture is too soft to work with, refrigerate it for 1 hour, then form the logs. Roll the logs into the Spicy Pecan Gremolata mixture, coating them completely, except for the ends. Serve immediately with crackers or wrap them individually with plastic wrap and chill until ready to serve. Refrigerated, the logs will keep well for 3 to 4 days.

Leftover Spicy Pecan Gremolata
With the leftover crusting mixture you can garnish soups and salads or sprinkle the tops of casseroles before baking. The mixture works well as a coating for firm tofu steaks as well as grain or bean patties. A tablespoon or two of the mixture also adds perk to vegetable dishes and salads.

Other ways to enjoy the filling:

  • Use it as a sandwich spread
  • Enjoy it stuffed into celery or mushrooms
  • Serve it over baked potatoes or spread it over polenta.
  • Turn it into an open-faced cheese-melt by spreading a thick layer over whole grain bread, then, topping it with a thick slice of tomato. Arrange slices of dairy-free cheese over the tomato and place under the broiler to melt the cheese.

This is an easy, robust, and delicious chili with flavors that intensify when made a day ahead. For a crowd of 50 you'll need to quadruple this recipe. I make two pots of mild chili for the timid folk and two pots of the spicier variety for the stouthearted souls. The recipe makes a fairly mild chili. For a zestier bite, use 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes and add an extra tablespoon of chili powder. While the recipe contains directions for preparing the chili in a stockpot, it is portioned for a 6-quart crock pot. For a 4-quart size, cut the recipe by one-third.

Before tossing the ingredients into the crockpot, you'll need to water-sauté the onions for close to 30 minutes to coax out their sweetness, a process called caramelizing. Usually sautéing is done with vegetable oil or some kind of fat, but this recipe is flavorful and delicious without the fat. The caramelizing process is slow and gentle, using only medium or medium-high heat to avoid burning the onions. Because onions prepared this way contribute so much to the savory chili, you'll find it's well worth the time invested. ahead and left in the freezer until shortly before serving. This is one of the delcious main dishes in Zel's cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays.

Barn Burner Chili


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    2 medium onions, chopped
    2 green bell peppers, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, chopped
    1 large carrot, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) water
    5 cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

    1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
    1 tablespoon soy sauce

    2 1/4 cups ( 540 ml) water
    2 cups (480 ml) quartered cooked chestnuts (See note)
    1 15-ounce (425g) can pinto beans, with the liquid
    1 15-ounce (425g) can kidney beans, with the liquid
    2 6-ounce (340g) cans tomato paste
    1 large tomato, chopped
    1 tablespoon chili powder
    1 tablespoon ground cumin
    2 1/2 teaspoons liquid Wright's Hickory Smoke Flavor
    2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon cayenne
    1/4 teaspoon pepper
    2 dashes Tabasco Sauce

    1 15-ounce (425g) can corn kernels, well drained
    1 sweet onion, chopped
    1 8-ounce (225g) can black olives, drained and chopped
    2 cups (480 ml) shredded dairy-free soy-based cheddar cheese

  1. Have ready a 6-quart (6 liter) crockpot. Combine the onions, green and red bell peppers, carrot, water, and garlic in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir frequently with a wooden spoon over medium-high heat for about 30 minutes, or until the onions are beginning to caramelize and turn a light golden brown. Add more water as needed during cooking to prevent the onions from burning.
  2. Add the balsamic vinegar and soy sauce and transfer the vegetables to the crockpot. Add the remaining ingredients, set the crockpot on low, cover, and cook for 6 to 8 hours.
  3. Spoon the chili into serving bowls and place the toppings in individual bowls to pass at the table.

Note: Consider replacing the chestnuts with 2 cups (480 ml) bite-size chunks of peeled fresh or canned yams. They add pleasing flavor, texture, and healthy goodness to the chili.

A deliciously rich tasting spread, the paté is easy to assemble and offers plenty of versatility. Serve it with whole-grain crackers or toasted whole-wheat pita or try one of the suggestions below. You can also enjoy this savory, ultra-creamy paté as an appetizer. Any way you choose to enjoy it you'll reap the many health benefits of walnuts. They're not only a delicious, nutrient-dense food, but they are also an excellent source of plant-based Omega 3 fatty acids.


Yield: about 1 2/3 cups (400 ml)

    1/2 pound (225 ml) shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded, coarsely chopped
    1 small onion, chopped
    1 large clove garlic, chopped
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon water plus more as needed

    1/2 cup (120 ml) raw walnuts
    2 tablespoons unsweetened soymilk
    1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
    2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    1/2 teaspoon salt

    1 small sprig of fresh herbs like parsley, basil, mint, or tarragon

  1. Combine the mushrooms, onions, garlic, olive oil, and water in a large skillet, and cook and stir over high heat about 10 minutes, or until the onions are transparent. Add small amounts of water as needed to prevent the mushrooms from sticking or burning.
  2. Transfer the cooked ingredients to the food processor and add the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, lemon juice, and salt and process until smooth and creamy.
  3. Spoon into an attractive bowl, garnish with a sprig of fresh herbs, and serve warm or chilled. Refrigerated, the leftovers keep for 3 or 4 days.

Serving Suggestions:

  • Spread the paté on crackers and top with sliced green olives. Serve as a canapé.
  • Simply enjoy the paté on bread
  • Spread it over cooked polenta
  • Stuff it into pasta shells
  • Spoon it into celery ribs
  • Enjoy it as a sandwich filling
  • Serve on a large platter surrounded with colorful raw veggies and crackers.

The addition of liquid smoke makes this garlicky tofu spread an instant favorite. It's delightfully savory and begs for an earthy whole-grain bread or pita.


Yield: about 2 1/2 cups (500 ml)

    1 pound (450 ml) extra firm tofu

    5 cloves garlic, peeled
    2 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
    2 tablespoons water
    1 1/4 teaspoons Wright's Hickory Seasoning
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt

  1. Rinse and drain the tofu. Break it into several chunks, and place it into the food processor.
  2. Add the remaining ingredients and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer the spread to an attractive serving bowl and enjoy. Store leftovers in the refrigerator where they will keep for 1 week.

Nothing comforts like a bowl of hot soup brimming with vegetables and zesty seasonings when the weather turns cold, rainy, windy, or snowy. New Year's Eve and New Year's Day can be any or all of those, causing guests to make a dashing beeline to the soup kettle. Mulligatawny Soup originated as a meat or chicken-based soup in East India, which explains the multitude of seasonings. As the soup traveled to the West, different ingredients were added, reflecting the influences of many creative cooks. In this vegan version, tofu makes the soup hearty enough to be the main dish. Accompany the soup with plenty of whole grain bread. You can even enhance the soup by adding cooked brown rice to the stockpot or putting the brown rice into each soup bowl and spooning the soup over it.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 large onion, chopped
    1 large broccoli crown, chopped
    2 large carrots, peeled and sliced
    1 large green apple, unpeeled, cored, and chopped
    1 stalk celery, sliced
    1/2 red or green bell pepper, chopped
    4 cloves garlic, crushed
    2 whole cloves

    3/4 cup (180 ml) water
    2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon ground coriander
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    3/4 teaspoon turmeric
    Freshly ground black pepper

    1 quart (1 liter) vegetable broth or water
    1 medium potato, unpeeled and diced
    1/4 cup (60 ml) fresh lemon juice
    3 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
    1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

    2 cups (480 ml) coconut milk
    1/2 pound (225g) extra firm tofu, diced
    2 tablespoons chopped parsley

  1. Have ready an 8 to 10-quart (8 to 10-liter) stockpot. Place the onion, broccoli, carrots, apple, celery, bell pepper, garlic, and cloves into the stockpot.
  2. Add the water, olive oil, coriander, cumin, turmeric, and black pepper and cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 8 to 10 minutes or until the vegetables are softened and transparent.
  3. Add the vegetable broth, diced potato, lemon juice, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper and simmer about 10 to 12 minutes or until the potatoes are softened.
  4. Add the coconut milk and puree half the soup in a blender. Return the pureed soup to the stockpot, add the diced tofu, and adjust seasonings if needed. Warm the soup over medium heat but don't boil. Spoon into bowls and garnish with chopped parsley.

Old-fashioned split pea soup can deliver comfort and satiety in a single bowl. Enhance it with vegetables, and it only gets better. While some people prefer pea soup completely pureed, our preference is to partially puree the soup leaving some of the vegetables intact to provide a pleasant texture. For serving a large gathering, we always double this recipe. If, by chance, there is some soup left over, it's even better the next day.


Yield: 6 generous servings

    2 cups (480 ml) dried split peas
    9 1/2 cups (2.25 liters) water, divided
    1 large clove garlic, crushed
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed in a mortar and pestle
    Freshly ground black pepper

    3 large carrots, chopped
    1 medium onion, chopped
    1 large tomato, diced
    1 large parsnip, sliced thin (optional)*

    Salt and pepper to taste

  1. Look over peas and discard any imperfect ones. Rinse the peas and put them into a large stockpot along with 8 cups (2 liters) of the water, garlic, salt, rosemary, and pepper. Partially cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer 30 to 40 minutes, or until the peas are soft and broken down when pressed with a spoon.
  2. While the peas are cooking, combine the remaining 1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water, carrots, onion, tomato, and parsnip, if using, in a large deep skillet. Cook over medium-high heat for 5 to 8 minutes or until the vegetables are softened. Add more water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables.
  3. Add the cooked vegetables to the cooked peas and puree the soup in batches in the blender to make a smooth puree. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to puree the soup in the pot. If you prefer soup with more texture, puree partially, leaving plenty of texture.
  4. Adjust the seasonings, if needed, and serve hot with whole grain bread.

*Though the parsnip is optional, it does impart an irresistible touch of sweetness, making the soup much more flavorful.

CHUNKY VARIATION: To the already listed vegetables, add any of the following:

    1 or 2 turnips, diced
    2 to 4 stalks celery, diced
    1 or 2 broccoli crowns, chopped
    1/4 head cauliflower, chopped
    1 green bell pepper, chopped
    1 red bell pepper, chopped

Sauté the vegetables in a small amount of water until they are softened and add them to the stockpot after pureeing the peas. Cook gently for about 5 to 10 minutes to blend the flavors, and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

The entree may be exceptional, and even lavish, but everyone will most likely remember the dessert. If you loved peanut butter since you were a kid and could never get enough of it, you'll find this well-endowed frozen peanut butter torte easy to love. It's deliriously rich in flavor, densely packed with peanut butter, and perfectly accented with cinnamon to bring out its sweetness. The list of ingredients relies mostly on simple, whole foods, yet this tasty torte gives the impression of a much more complex preparation. The bonus for the host is that this exceptional treat can be prepared several days ahead and left in the freezer until shortly before serving. This is one of the delcious desserts in Zel's cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays.

Cinnamon Peanut Butter Torte


Yield: 10 to 12 servings

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) whole almonds

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) dried cranberries
    4 to 5 tablespoons water

    1 1/3 cups (320 ml) pitted dates, halved
    1 cup (240 ml) smooth or chunky peanut butter
    3/4 cup (180 ml) well-mashed firm tofu
    1/2 cup (120 ml) plain soymilk
    1/4 cup (60 ml) organic sugar
    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    2 tablespoons dried cranberries
    1 tablespoon coarsely ground dry-roasted unsalted peanuts

  1. Line the base of a 9-inch (23-cm) springform pan with parchment, lightly oil the sides of the pan, and set aside. Place the almonds into the food processor and process to a coarse, slightly chunky meal.
  2. Add the dried cranberries and water and pulse and process until the cranberries are well broken down into tiny bits and the mixture holds together when gently pressed. Spoon the crust mixture into the bottom of the prepared springform pan and distribute it evenly, pressing the mixture with the back of a spoon. Set aside and wash and dry the processor workbowl.
  3. Place the dates, peanut butter, tofu, soymilk, sugar, cinnamon, and vanilla extract into the food processor and pulse and process until the dates are completely incorporated and the mixture is smooth and creamy.
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the peanut filling to the springform pan, spreading evenly over the prepared crust.
  5. Garnish the top with a sprinkle of dried cranberries and peanuts and gently press them into the surface. Place the springform pan into the freezer and freeze until firm, about 8 to 12 hours. Remove from the freezer about 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Use a knife to loosen around the edges, then, remove the springform collar. Place the torte on a large serving platter and cut slices as you would cut a pie.

I look forward to the fall and winter season for the stunning bounty of wonderful fruits that come to market. I welcome them all, but there is one special fruit that brings me extreme joy--the Hachiya persimmon. This fruit has two distinct personalities. Before it's fully ripened, it has an unpleasant, astringent quality that quickly turns people away. But patience pays off. When the fruit is fully ripened, a process that can take up to one or two weeks, it becomes totally softened and squishy all over. That's when the flavor is exceptionally sweet and offers a taste of nirvana with every bite. The Hachiya persimmon is a delightful experience simply eaten as is, skin and all, but it also adds wonderful flavor and a pleasing moistness to holiday treats like these irresistible bar cookies.


Yield: about 32 bars

    1 cup (240 ml) whole wheat pastry flour
    1 cup (240 ml) chopped walnuts
    3/4 cup (180 ml) dried unsweetened coconut
    2/3 cup (160 ml) packed brown sugar
    1/2 cup (120 ml) black raisins
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    1 teaspoon baking soda
    1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
    1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

    1 cup (240 ml) Hachiya persimmon pulp
    1/2 cup (120 ml) melted vegan margarine

    1 tablespoon Ener-g Egg Replacer
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water

  1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (Gas Mark 3) and lightly oil a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33 cm) glass baking pan.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the flour, walnuts, coconut, brown sugar, raisins, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, salt, cloves, and allspice and stir well.
  3. Add the persimmon pulp and melted margarine and mix well.
  4. In a small bowl, combine the Ener-G Egg Replacer and water and beat with a fork until foamy. Add to the batter and mix well.
  5. Spoon the batter into the prepared baking pan, spreading evenly and smoothing the edges. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  6. While hot, frost the top of the bars with the Easy Icing, if using, or cool completely and cut into bars.

Easy Icing (optional)

    3 tablespoons vegan margarine
    2 to 4 tablespoons soymilk
    2 teaspoons vanilla extract

    1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar

  1. Heat the margarine in a 1-quart (1 liter) saucepan until delicately brown. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in 2 tablespoons of the soymilk and the vanilla. Mix well and add the confectioner's sugar. Add the additional soymilk, if needed, to create a spreading consistency.
  2. Use the back of a spoon to spread the top of the bars with the Easy Icing.

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