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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegan Vegetarian Recipes

Turkeyless Vegans Hold Thanksgiving Feast

Includes Recipes Below

For other Thanksgiving menus and recipes click on

While most American families will be carving the hallowed, time-honored turkey and gorging on traditional side dishes at the Thanksgiving table, vegans will be feasting in restaurants, at potlucks, or in their homes. That's right, feasting. How is it possible to celebrate on Thanksgiving Day without a turkey? Sounds like a paradox. Vegans, after all, don't eat anything that comes from an animal. That means no meat, chicken, fish, eggs, or dairy products appear at their tables.

Rather than eating the bird, vegans symbolically invite " Big Tom" as an honored guest and give thanks in their own spiritual way for the fruits of the earth. And then they feast! And what a feast! On what, you wonder? Here are some irresistible dishes that spare the bird and turn, instead, to the riches of the harvest season that are plucked from the trees and gathered from the bushes, vines, and roots. Perhaps these colorful dishes with their tantalizing aromas and tastes will beckon you to the table for a Thanksgiving dinner in the vegan style.

Before we actually sit down at the table, we begin our late afternoon family get-together with a colorful, organic Relish Tray and a tasty Garbanzo Bean Dip. By then everyone has arrived, and we set out our banquet on the buffet table. The featured entrée is the Thanksgiving Torte with Mushroom Gravy, a dish that combines the best flavors and textures of the harvest season. Wild rice, walnuts, pecans, and mushrooms are the highlights of this recipe, along with zesty seasonings fitting for a celebratory dish. It makes a lovely presentation, while adding a hearty centerpiece to the meal. To ease the Thanksgiving Day preparations, we prepare the Torte the day before.

As side dishes we prefer Herb Roasted Potatoes sprinkled with thyme and rosemary instead of the traditional mashed potatoes. We enjoy simple Baked Yams over those covered with marshmallows.

This year we'll be spooning Creamed Lemony Broccoli and Cranberry Fruit Confetti onto our plates, along with a Carrot and Parsnip Ragout to provide a brilliant rainbow of colors on the dish. Cranberry

We haven't forgotten the traditional Cranberry Sauce. Our Brandied Fruit and Cranberry Relish will sport some fresh fruit and maple syrup to make it extra special. To complete the meal we'll include Creamed Chestnuts, a light, fluffy dish with its subtle hint of natural sweetness.

No holiday meal would be complete without dessert. For our finishing touch we'll turn to old-fashioned tradition with two unbeatable winners--Pumpkin Pie and Apple Pie, vegan versions, of course. Then, as an accompaniment to dessert we'll sip our spiced Pumpkin Apple Nog with its rich, creamy base of pumpkin perked with apple juice.

In the many years we've been serving holiday meals such as this one, not one person has remarked about missing the turkey. Quite the contrary, most of our guests are surprised at the variety of delicious foods and delighted to have the opportunity to taste a true vegan feast first hand. We hope you'll enjoy some of our feast dishes.

An ideal vegan Thanksgiving dish, this elegant torte features the pleasing textures and savory flavors of wild rice, mushrooms, nuts, and sage. Served with a robust mushroom sauce on the side, it makes a lovely presentation, while adding a hearty main dish to the meal.

Thanksgiving Torte is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

Thanksgiving Torte


Yield: 6 to 8 servings.

2 3/4 cups plus 1/3 cup (740 ml) water
2/3 cup (160 ml) wild rice
2 1/8 teaspoons salt

3/4 pound (170g) red or white rose potatoes, unpeeled, scrubbed, and cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) cubes
1/2 cup (120 ml) coarsely chopped pecan pieces
1/4 cup (60 ml) coarsely chopped walnut pieces

1 14-ounce (395g) package Lightlife GimmeLean! sausage flavor (soy sausage)
4 large Portobello mushrooms, chopped

1 large onion, diced
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons poultry seasoning
1/3 cup (80 ml) water
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/2 teaspoon hickory liquid smoke
2 ripe tomatoes, sliced

Cooking Joy

Mushroom Gravy

2 cups (480 ml) sliced button or cremini mushrooms
1 3/4 cups plus 3 tablespoons (420 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) dry red wine
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon or lime juice

3 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons water

  1. To make the torte, lightly oil a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan, line the base with parchment paper (for easier cleanup), and set it aside.
  2. Combine 1 3/4 cups (415 ml) of the water, wild rice, and 3/4 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat to medium-low and steam for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the rice is tender. Drain any excess liquid and set the rice aside.
  3. Combine the potato cubes, 1 cup of the water, and 1/8 teaspoon of the salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a medium bowl, mash them, and set them aside.
  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) . Toast the pecans and walnuts in a 10-inch (25 cm) skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a dish to cool.
  5. Combine the vegan sausage, mushrooms onion, remaining 1/3 cup (80 ml) of water, olive oil, poultry seasoning, and pepper in a large, deep skillet. Cook over high heat for 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions are transparent, stirring frequently with a wooden spoon or paddle to break up the sausage chunks. Drain and reserve any excess liquid. Add the remaining 1 1/4 teaspoons salt and hickory liquid smoke and mix well.
  6. Add the mashed potatoes to the skillet along with the toasted nuts and cooked wild rice. Mix well to combine ingredients thoroughly. Adjust seasonings if needed.
  7. Press the mixture firmly into the prepared springform pan, and attractively arrange the tomato slices over the top, covering most of the surface. Bake uncovered for 1 hour. Allow the torte to stand for 15 to 20 minutes before removing from the pan.

For Gravy:

  1. Prepare the Mushroom Sauce while the torte is baking. Combine the mushrooms, 1 3/4 cups (415 ml) of the water, soy sauce, red wine, and lemon juice in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan and bring to a boil.
  2. Turn the heat down slightly and simmer for 5 minutes.
  3. Combine the cornstarch and remaining 3 tablespoons of water in a small bowl and stir with a spoon to make a runny paste. Add the paste to the bubbling sauce, a little at a time, stirring constantly for about 1 minute, until the sauce has thickened to the desired consistency.
  4. To serve the torte, run a clean flatware knife around the edge of the springform pan, release the springform collar, and set the base with the torte on a platter. Serve the sauce in a gravy boat on the side. Makes about 2 1/4 cups (540 ml).

Notes: To ease the feast-day preparations, make the torte the day before, store it in the refrigerator, and reheat it at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 15 to 20 minutes just before serving.

The preparation comes together more quickly if you cook the wild rice before beginning the torte.

Add a gourmet touch by serving the torte on a footed cake plate and garnish the edges with sprigs of fresh herbs and orange slices.

Variation: Stuffed Acorn Squashes

  1. Cut 5 acorn squashes in half.
  2. Brush the cavities with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Stuff the mixture into the cavity of each squash half.
  4. Place on a baking pan, cover with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake at 350 (Gas Mark 4) for 1 hour.

Cranberry Relish


Yield: about 5 cups (1 1/4 liters)

1 12-ounce (340g) package fresh cranberries
3 firm, sweet apples, quartered and seeded (do not peel)
1 cup (240 ml) black raisins
1/2 cup (120 ml) golden raisins
24 pitted dates, cut in half
1/4 cup (60 ml) toasted pecan pieces

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup
2 tablespoons brandy

2 Fuyu persimmons, sliced

  1. Place the all the fruits and nuts, except the persimmons, into the food processor and pulse chop until fine. Transfer the ingredients to a medium sized mixing bowl.
  2. Add the maple syrup and brandy and stir to thoroughly combine. The mixture will be very moist. Transfer to a clear glass serving bowl.
  3. Garnish by lining the sides of the bowl with the sliced persimmons.

This unique fruit combination is one of the sugarplums of the autumn season. It's so rich in colors and flavors, you can serve it often as a meal accompaniment throughout the holidays. Once cut open, cranberries have a tendency to lose some of their delightful tang after several hours. If you decide to make this dish a day ahead, pulse-chop and add the cranberries no more than two to three hours before serving.


Yield: 8 to 10 servings

2 cups (480 ml) whole fresh cranberries

2 large sweet apples, with peels, cored and chopped

2 cups (480 ml) black raisins
30 dates, pitted and chopped
2 large Fuyu persimmons, diced
1 cup (240 ml) pecans, toasted and chopped
2/3 cup (160 ml) toasted pine nuts

2 lemon wedges

  1. Rinse the cranberries in a strainer, drain them thoroughly, and place them into the food processor. Pulse-chop until the cranberries are finely minced and transfer to a large mixing bowl.
  2. Pulse-chop the apples in the food processor until finely minced and add them to bowl with the cranberries.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients, except the parsley and lemon wedges, and toss to distribute the fruits evenly. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and garnish with a few sprigs of parsley and lemon wedges.

Because it's so easy to prepare, this tasty broccoli dish is ideal when serving a multitude of traditional dishes for the holiday meal. With it's pleasantly tangy flavor and bright green hue, this dish also brings alluring bold color to the table.


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

2 large broccoli crowns, bottoms trimmed, florette portion cut into 8ths

1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 2 tablespoons water
3 to 4 tablespoons lemon juice
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (optional)
1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon salt


1 slice of lemon
Parsley sprig

  1. Place the broccoli into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan. Add about one-half inch (1 cm) water, cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam 3 to 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is just fork tender.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the broccoli to the food processor. Add the water, lemon juice, olive oil, if using, and salt and process until creamy but still slightly textured. Adjust the seasoning if needed and transfer to an attractive serving bowl. Finish with a garnish of parsley and a twisted slice of lemon.

Note: For a low fat version, eliminate the extra virgin olive, and add extra water if the mixture is too thick.

When you want a brilliant accent of color, you can count on this appealing combo of root vegetables. It's the ideal marriage--both partners are endowed with natural sweetness and contribute a pleasant balance to the festive meal. To enhance the sweetness, use agave nectar or maple syrup. This recipe makes an easy dish that can be prepared a day ahead and simply reheated at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for about 10 minutes.


Yield: 6 servings Parsnip

    4 large carrots, sliced
    4 large parsnips, sliced
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water

    Ground black pepper
    Dash of ground nutmeg
    Dash of ground cinnamon
    1 to 3 teaspoons agave nectar or maple syrup (optional)

    1 tablespoon coarsely chopped toasted pistachios

  1. Combine the carrots, parsnips, and water in a 3-quart (3 liter) saucepan. Cover the pan and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and steam the vegetables about 5 to 7 minutes, or until they are fork tender.
  2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the cooked carrots and parsnips to the food processor. Add 1/2 to 1 cup (120 to 240 ml) of the cooking liquid and process to a smooth puree, adding more water if needed. Season with salt, pepper, and a dash of nutmeg and cinnamon. If desired, sweeten with agave nectar or maple syrup and transfer to an attractive serving dish. Finish with a garnish of toasted pistachios.

Here's a unique side dish to serve with festive meals where chestnuts take center stage. Since fresh chestnuts require some patience with the peeling process, it's always best to prepare them the day ahead. If time permits, the entire dish can be prepared ahead and chilled in a serving dish that can be heated gently in the oven the following day.

Creamed Chestnuts is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.


Yield: 6 to 8 servings


1 3/4 pounds (800g) fresh chestnuts in the shell, cooked and peeled, or 5 1/2 cups (1.3 liters) peeled cooked chestnuts
1 scant cup (approximately 200 ml) regular soymilk or rice milk

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Dash ground nutmeg
2 ripe Fuyu persimmons slices, quartered (optional)

  1. Place the chestnuts into a 4-quart (4 liter) saucepan and add enough water to cover by 2 inches (5 cm). Bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down to medium-high and boil gently for 20 to 30 minutes, or until the chestnuts are soft enough to pierce with a fork.
  2. Drain the water into a 2-cup (480 ml) measure, and add enough soymilk to equal 1 1/2 cups (360 ml). Pour into the food processor, add the chestnuts, and process until smooth. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Transfer to an attractive serving bowl and sprinkle the top with a dash of nutmeg. Garnish with the optional persimmon slices, placing them around the outer edge, and serve.

Notes: The second cooking of the chestnuts will soften them further and result in a very delicate, creamy texture. For a thicker, firmer texture closer to mashed potatoes, eliminate the second cooking and place the chestnuts into the food processor. Add 3/4 to 1 cup (180 to 240 ml) soymilk or rice milk and process until thick and smooth. Transfer to an oven-proof dish, and warm in the oven at 350 degress (Gas Mark 4) for 15 to 20 minutes.

To save preparation time, use two 15-ounce (420g) jars cooked and peeled whole chestnuts. They are available at specialty shops, natural food stores, and some grocery stores during the holiday season. Each jar contains about 2 1/2 cups (600 ml) chestnuts.

Creamed Chestnuts may be prepared a day ahead and chilled in an overproof serving dish. Reheat it gently in the oven at 325 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 15 to 20 minutes. Garnish just before serving.

Here's the ideal punch bowl beverage to serve your guests. It's creamy, it's rich, it's gustatorial! Enjoy!


Yield: 2 to 3 servings


1 1/2 cups (360 ml) apple juice
1 cup (240 ml) canned or fresh pumpkin puree
1 cup (240 ml) unsweetened soy milk*
1/2 cup (120 ml) maple syrup
3/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg plus extra for garnish
Pinch salt
  1. Combine all the ingredients in the blender. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Refrigerate the nog until well chilled.
  2. To serve, blend the nog briefly to lighten and fluff the mixture. Pour into old-fashioned glasses or punch cups.
  3. Sprinkle lightly with ground nutmeg, if desired.

Note: If you prefer to add spirits, either brandy or rum make an excellent choice.

To prepare in quantity, it will be necessary to make this recipe in several batches. Unfortunately the blender is not large enough to prepare even a double recipe. However, it's quick and easy.

*I prefer the unsweetened soy milk for its thick creamy richness. The recipe will still work with a sweetened soy milk.

Note: If you wish to add spirits, eithr brandy or rum makes an excellent choice.

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