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Vegan for the Holidays

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Vegetarians in Paradise

Vegetarian Books

Each issue the VIP birds endeavor to soar to the highest literary peak to peck out the most unique, informative, and accomplished book or books that contribute to vegetarian enlightenment.

This month we review a book that proves that vegans don't have to envy their carnivore friends when it comes to holiday dining.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen:
More Than 200 Delicious, Festive Recipes
For Special Occasions

By Nava Atlas

Sterling, 2011
Hardcover, $24.95

Seasoned author Nava Atlas adds yet another flower to her blossoming tree of creative works with Vegan Holiday Kitchen, a stunning and sterling hardcover volume that simply dazzles the eyes. Like fine wine that improves with careful aging, this author reaches new heights with this tasteful treasure.

One cannot dash directly into the book without pausing to admire the beautiful cover design glowing with inviting warm colors and a mouthwatering display of stuffed winter squash.

The introduction notes how the author proudly basks in the vegan culinary glory of today and recalls that not so long ago holiday celebrations left vegans to pick at a few side dishes. She empathizes with those "lone" vegans who still experience being the only ones at the celebration to eschew the meaty dishes. "This book is dedicated to them… " she says and will, no doubt, also help the host who may be expecting vegans to join the holiday festivities.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen Recognizing that food allergies can be challenging for both guests and hosts, the author adds labels at the top of each recipe that list whether the dish is soy-free, nut-free, gluten-free, or can be made so with a few simple tweaks.

Because Thanksgiving is the "Mother of All Holidays," Nava recommends enlisting the help of family and friends to prepare a dish or two to ease the stress of assembling this multi-dish feast alone. She also suggests that if invited to a non-vegetarian celebration, the "lone" vegan might offer to bring a generous vegan main course to share.

The Thanksgiving menu focuses on foods that celebrate the harvest with several dishes featuring the "three sisters:" corn, squash, and beans, foods Native Americans introduced to the first American settlers. Many of the headnotes here and throughout the book, describe food traditions, legends, and lore, such as "Three Sisters" Stew, a voluptuous medley of pumpkin, beans, corn, chiles, and tomatoes bathed in seasonings of the Southwest.

One of the most adored Thanksgiving dishes is the stuffing, a dish often based on grains, bread, or breadcrumbs and enhanced with creative accompaniments. With her five hearty stuffings to grace the table, choosing one may be the biggest challenge. Perhaps the tempting Walnut-Apple Stuffing or something more unique like Sauerkraut, Potato, and Apple Stuffing may become a family favorite.

Thanksgiving side dishes, a revered tradition, include temptations like Maple-Pecan Sweet Potatoes, Red Quinoa Pilaf with Kale and Corn, or Agave and Mustard-Glazed Brussels Sprouts or Green Beans.

While dessert centers on Pumpkin Pie, Nava also offers other desserts like Cashew Chocolate Mousse Pie or Cranberry Carrot Cake for guests who shy away from pumpkin.

Many equate Christmas with sweets to share and give as gifts. The choices are bountiful from Chocolate Mint Bars and Ginger Cookies, to a trio of mini quick breads like Gingered Chocolate and Pear Mini Loaves. The Holiday Appetizer Buffet becomes a homey event that offers a perfect balance of finger foods and beverages, including New World Wassail. No one goes hungry at the dinner table that features creations like Hearty Lentil and Mushroom Shepherd's Pie and finishes with Spiced Pears and Fresh Figs in Red Wine.

Nava Atlas The appetizing array of foods traditionally served during the Jewish Holidays, like Passover, Rosh Hashanah, and Hanukkah, are so sumptuous and tasty everyone can enjoy them throughout the year. Nava faced the challenging task of transforming dairy and egg-laden traditional dishes and did a splendid job of turning them into luscious vegan creations. She demonstrates her successes with egg-free matzoh balls, latkes, and challah, along with dairy-free noodle kugel and honey cake sans the honey.

One of the highlights in the Jewish Holiday section is Spinach, Leek, and Potato Matzoh Gratin, a stunning lasagne-like dish substituting layers of matzoh, instead of pasta, between layers of vegetables and garnished with pine nuts. Another is the Moroccan Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives that makes a gorgeous display on a large serving platter.

Delectable dishes for Easter, Independence Day, and summer entertaining zing with plump fruits and succulent vegetables in season. The book offers a host of recipes for cool salads and summer grilling. And when the sweet corn comes into season, one might start the meal with Cold Avocado or Green Pea Soup, serve a platter of Corn Fritters with Cilantro Sauce, and conclude with Unbaked Peach and Berry Crumble.

Set apart on separate pages throughout the book are informative sidebars in various background colors to offer the home cook wonderful tidbits of kitchen savvy or holiday tradition. The book even feels good to the touch with its matte-finish clay-coated surface.

Vegan Holiday Kitchen is a beautiful volume that contains a galaxy of tantalizing recipes not only for entertaining throughout the fall and winter holidays, but also for creative spring and summer celebrations. The book is a graphic delight with a multitude of well-designed full-page photos artfully displaying irresistible dishes. Recipes and instructions are so clear and invitingly doable, you'll want this cookbook at your fingertips year-round.

Click here for past book reviews

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