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Create a Vegan Holiday Feast for Meat-Eaters
by Melanie Wilson

Many vegans prefer not to celebrate their holidays in a home that features meat as the centerpiece of the meal. They choose, instead, to have an all-vegan holiday meal at home, and an animal carcass is not welcome. So when I invite others to share in our vegetarian feast, I am clear that there will be no meat. In fact, I have declined offers from friends to "make a turkey and bring it" - even for potluck style meals held in our home. I assure everyone that if they'll just have a little faith, they will be in for a big surprise. I focus on the positive and reassure everyone that they won't even miss the meat. Then I follow through with a delicious meal!

I think it's worth mentioning that I have never included a fake turkey at our holiday celebrations. You can supplement these recipes with a Tofurky or another ready-made "meat" centerpiece, but it's not necessary. See below for a list of these items.

First, make a list of all the foods that you might find at a traditional holiday meal that are already vegetarian: nuts, bread, cranberry sauce, some vegetable dishes, apple pies, etc. Then think of all the dishes that traditionally contain animal products, like mashed potatoes, stuffing, gravy and pumpkin pie that could easily be made vegan. Finally, make note of the meat items and list possible substitutions.

The key is to start feeding your guests the moment they walk through the door, and send them home full and satisfied! The best compliment I ever received about my holiday spread was from a devout meat-eater: "You don't even miss the meat!" With that goal in mind, I'd like to share with you a few of my favorite, tried and true recipes for a spectacular vegetarian feast.

Finger Food
These items are the ones that will be available for snacking before dinner, to tame those hunger pangs while your still doubtful guests mill around wishing they'd gone to the in-laws' house instead. Set out the finest mixed nuts, dried fruits and gourmet crackers you can find. Splurge, if you can, on stuffed green olives, black olives, and deli slices.

1 cup firm tofu, mashed (not the silken variety found in vacuum-packed cartons, but the kind packed in water found in the refrigerated section of the store) Preheat oven to 350°F. Mix all ingredients together in a medium bowl and roll into small balls. Place on a greased cookie sheet. Spray oil over the top of the balls for a more crispy texture. Bake for 30 minutes until browned. Serve warm.

Voracious Vegan Pate (adapted very slightly from How it All Vegan)
Note: This can be made one day ahead of time. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a medium saucepan, sauté the onions, mushrooms, and garlic in oil on medium-high heat until tender. Meanwhile, n a large bowl, combine the ground sunflower seeds (you can grind them in a blender or a food processor), flour, yeast, and spices. Add the water, soy sauce, potatoes, and oil and stir together. Stir in the sautéed vegetables and optional pepper and mix well. Spoon mixture into a lightly oiled 9" pie plate. Bake for 45 minutes or until the center is set and browned. Chill thoroughly before serving.

Black Olive and Caper Spread on Toasts (adapted from Vegetarian Sandwiches)
Note: This can be made up to 2 days ahead of time and kept in the refrigerator. Process all ingredients, except parsley and bread, in a food processor until the mixture is a coarse puree. Using a rubber spatula, scrape down the sides as needed. Stir in the parsley. Taste and adjust the seasoning. When ready to serve on the day of the party, toast the bread. Spread with the olive mixture and serve.

Sugar and Spice Mixed Nuts
Place the nuts in a large bowl. Combine corn syrup and vanilla with a fork or whisk, then pour over the nuts, stirring to coat them evenly. In a small bowl, combine the sugar, and spices. Pour this mixture over the nuts, stirring to coat them evenly. Spread the nuts on an oiled baking sheet with a lip or a 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350°F for about 15 minutes, until bubbly. Let cool, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. Transfer to a very lightly oiled container while still warm.

Be sure to include some delicious, fresh dinner rolls. Mashed potatoes can be made with plain (non-sweetened) soymilk and margarine or olive oil; stuffing with vegetable broth (I've included my favorite recipe below). Sweet potatoes can be made with maple syrup, and other vegetable dishes are a cinch. For example, Imagine Foods now makes a soy-based creamy mushroom soup, so you can make a dairy-free green bean casserole. Other foods, like gravy, may have you stumped, so I've included a terrific recipe that is sure to please!

Delicious Traditional Stuffing
Chop or break the dried bread into ¼-inch cubes. In a frying pan, sauté veggie ground sausage in 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Then transfer to a bowl. Add the remaining 1 Tbsp. olive oil to the frying pan and sauté the onions, celery and mushrooms until soft. In a large bowl, combine all the ingredients except broth, olive oil, soy sauce and wine. Combine the last four ingredients, using more broth if wine is not used. Pour the wet mixture over the bread mixture slowly, stirring as you go. Press the mixture into a greased 9 x 13-inch pan. Bake at 350° F for 30-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Rich Wine and Mushroom Gravy
This is absolutely the best recipe for vegan gravy that I've ever tasted. It was sent to me via email, so I'm afraid I can't give the creator credit. Heat oil in a medium saucepan and sauté onions and garlic. When onions are tender and translucent, stir in the flour, nutritional yeast and sage to form a paste. Slowly add water, soy sauce and wine, stirring constantly. When gravy starts to thicken, stir in the mushrooms, salt and pepper. Add more water if necessary to thin the gravy. Serve.

Emerald Corn Chowder
I adapted this wonderful fall recipe from my family's original, which contained bacon and milk. The resulting vegan soup is just as satisfying and one that appears more complicated than it really is. It's sure to impress your guests! It's even more delicious the next day, so feel free to make it one day ahead to save time. Saute onion in oil over medium heat in a soup pot until tender and translucent. Add potatoes and cover with water. Simmer until potatoes are tender, but not mushy. Add liquid smoke, corn kernels, and greens and cook until the greens are tender, but again, not mushy. Remove from heat and stir in coconut milk. Then add salt and pepper to taste and serve.


Tofu Pumpkin Pie
Preheat oven to 425°F. Mix all ingredients in a large bowl until completely smooth. Pour into a pie shell and bake for 15 minutes. Lower heat to 350°F and bake for another 40 minutes. Let cool, then chill the pie and serve.

Chocolate Fudge Cake
Ingredients: Preheat oven to 350 F. Grease a 13 x 9" pan or two 8" cake pans. In a blender, combine the flax seeds and boiling water. Let sit for several minutes, and then blend for 60 seconds to form an egg-like substance. The seeds will not entirely disintegrate. In a large bowl, sift together the carob or cocoa powder, flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In a smaller bowl, mix the soymilk with the vinegar. Let sit for a minute, and then add the flax seed mixture, the oil, maple syrup or honey, and the vanilla extract. Add the wet mixture to dry and stir just until combined. Pour the batter into the greased cake pan(s) and bake for 20-30 minutes or until a fork inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool, then remove from pan(s) and transfer to a cake plate. If desired, drizzle the cake with pure chocolate syrup and sift powdered sugar over the top. Serve.