Food is a central feature of pretty much any holiday gathering that I can think of, and this is especially true of winter celebrations. Not only do we need to eat, but we like to eat, and us cooks tend to get more creative and ambitious with our culinary offerings on special occasions.
Unfortunately, vegans, vegetarians and carnivores alike are all too familiar with the frustrations of holiday gatherings precisely because of the central role food plays at such times. Winter holiday gatherings and meals are traditionally dominated by meat, poultry and fish, and thus our more carnivorous family and friends serve up meals without a knowledge of what makes for balanced, filling and delicious vegan and vegetarian fare, apprehensive because they want us to enjoy the culinary aspect of the festive occasion as much as they do. Similarly, even experienced vegan and vegetarian cooks preparing the bulk of the holiday spread hope they can provide enough dishes to satisfy the appetite and stimulate the palates of all their diners, especially if neither meat nor seafood is served.
You can imagine my delight then when I was contacted by Zel Allen who offered me a complimentary copy of her new book, Vegan for the Holidays: Celebration Feasts for Thanksgiving through New Year's Day. I've been a vegetarian for over 20 years and have learned to adapt and often make much of the food for family dinners enjoyed by carnivores as much as by the vegetarians present. But you never can have enough recipe ideas, and the unique charm of this book is that it is specifically designed for special occasions with recipes free of all animal products.
Ms. Allen stays true to the flavors and pairings traditionally associated with Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa and New Year celebrations. Between the covers you will find unique, elegant and often bold recipes of varying complexity for appetizers, starters, graceful comfort foods, sensuous mains and sides, irresistible desserts and treats, and even beverages to suit the occasion. The innovative offerings are made with ingredients that are accessible to most cooks and you'll be pleasantly surprised how easy and straightforward the recipes are to prepare. The grace and distinction that characterizes each dish will leave everyone satisfied. Equally important is that the food is presented with a view to healthful eating, so you needn't feel too guilty if you find yourself over-indulging. This is a book that will have you counting your blessings rather than your calories.
After flipping through the pages, my appetite stimulated, I just had to start cooking right away.
Mushroom connoisseur that I am, the first dish I tried was tempeh bacon stuffed mushrooms. Of course, this is a vegan recipe, so there is no actual bacon included. I adapted the recipe because I enjoy playing with different flavor combinations and textures. Ms. Allen certainly seems to enjoy doing the same.
I fried tempeh strips in oil sprinkled with smoky chipotle powder until crispy instead of using tempeh bacon, substituted quinoa for the bread cubes, and spiced it up further to achieve a smoky flavor with the rather liberal use of the chipotle powder in the stuffing too. In addition, I came up with a light salad dressing for the leaves that line the plates.
The recipe for these luscious little tapas appears in the New Year celebration chapter of the book but I think they would be a welcome treat for any occasion. Serve as appetizer or as a feature on a tapas platter. Myself, I could easily eat a good few of these for dinner, all by myself, and come away from the table quite satisfied.
|Tempeh Stuffed Mushrooms|
|Recipe by Lisa Turner|
Adapted from Vegan for the Holidays: Celebration Feasts for Thanksgiving through New Year's Day
Published on September 26, 2012
Plump and juicy mushrooms stuffed with a savory mixture of spiced quinoa and smoky chipotle fried tempeh — a delicious and surprisingly nourishing appetizer
Then I was intrigued and tempted by Santa's favorite panforte. This nut and dried fruit chunky, sweet and chewy treat is highly addictive — I could barely control the urge to eat more than a few small squares at one sitting.
Now I am eager to try some of the dazzling vegetable dishes and substantial mains in addition to more starters, little bites and tempting desserts. Topping the entrée list are pistachio and sweet pea torte with roasted-tomato aïoli, savory lentil terrine with mushroom-wine sauce, savory chickpea Yule log and shiitake tornadoes in cashew cream sauce. Glazed beets in maple-balsamic sauce and chestnut-smothered brussels sprouts are appealing sounding side vegetables dishes and you couldn't go wrong with wild rice and chestnut pilaf or curried pumpkin-peanut soup. My list of appetizers and starters to make is already quite extensive, and I'm intrigued by a recipe for homemade Parmesan cheese made with almonds and anxious to try some of the vegan pastries.
Though all of the recipes are vegan, vegetarians could adapt some of them to include dairy. But vegetarian that I am, after test tasting some of the recipes, I don't think you will feel the need to do so.
Vegan for the Holidays is a festive guide to help you create your own special meals that will be sure to impress everyone present. Vegans surely won't be disappointed, carnivores won't miss the meat, and vegetarians won't miss their dairy. Ms. Allen certainly demonstrates that vegan food is far from boring. I will be cooking from this book all year long, no matter the occasion. Don't be surprised if your non-vegan friends start asking you for recipes after trying some of the fare.
You can purchase a copy from the author's website or through Amazon.
The opinions expressed here are my own. I am not affiliated with the author nor her publisher.