Holidays – gatherings of family and friends full of high spirits (and often actual spirits) and joy, occasional awkwardness, sometimes even friction and frustration. Although they come and go, ebb and flow year round, winter is the time when many of these gatherings come in quick succession for some of us. In the US, Halloween (end of October), is quickly followed by Thanksgiving (end of November), quickly followed by winter holidays of a religious and non-religious kind that stretch into January. That’s a lot of get togethers!
And each one of these holidays comes with a traditional feast – a huge meal to share and enjoy. What’s on the menu varies from a holiday to a holiday, and from one family to the other. What doesn’t vary as much is the dominance of meat in these meals. In many cultures (Serbian for example), religious people observe lent for six weeks before Christmas Day (January 7th), where the only animal food they are permitted to eat is honey and fish. They break the lent on January 7th usually with a pig roast! And this repeats for Easter, when the lent is broken on Easter Sunday with lamb roast.
With similar holiday food attitudes entrenched in many cultures, it becomes very difficult to be a plant-based eater over the holidays. My social media feeds are filled with people either frustrated about the lack of vegan options during the holidays, or anxious about social penalty that they will have to pay for not fitting in. Plus: with many gatherings now expecting you to bring food to share, people on plant-based diets often wonder what to bring that others will enjoy!
I am first to admit that some vegan recipes include ingredients that I’ve never encountered before I switched to plant-based diet, so I can appreciate that if I was to tell someone that they are eating nutritional yeast or flax meal, they may look at me funny. That’s why I try to keep my shared holiday meals simple, and based on common ingredients. This is probably the reason why I enjoyed the stuffing recipe below – it’s simple, it’s rustic and it’s appropriate to bring to any holiday gathering. (For another stuffing recipe option that includes apples, mushrooms and chestnuts see here.)
The recipe comes courtesy of a recently published cookbook “Vegan Holiday Cooking” by Kirsten Kaminski, creator of The Tasty K, a food and travel blog. Kirsten has assembled a nice collection of 60 festive recipes that are made to impress. They look great, they sound inviting, and they are prefect for sharing. She includes everything you need to host a party – ideas for appetizers, soups, main course, drinks and, of course, desserts, lots of them!
May of the recipes in this cookbook are things that people expect to see served at the holiday table, like the stuffing – but they’ve been reimagined and upgraded to fit a more modern palette, and to incorporate only plant-based ingredients. That is not to say that there isn’t any indulgence to be had – quite the opposite! Here, again a little indulgence goes a long way, and I appreciate how Kirsten balances a lot of good for you foods, with just a bit of naughtiness. One of the recipes I made for our Thanksgiving feast this year was her Mushroom Bourguignon, and red wine (which I view as a bit on a naughty side) made all the difference. It was delicious!
All in all, “Vegan Holiday Cooking” is a helpful cookbook to have a around year-round. Enojy!
Reprinted with permission from Vegan Holiday Cooking by Kirsten Kaminski, Page Street Publishing Co. 2019. Photo credit: Kirsten Kaminski
SOURDOUGH BREAD STUFFING
This classic Thanksgiving side dish is incredibly easy to make yet full of vegan-friendly flavor. It has a subtle zing in every bite and is very hearty, satisfying and oh so filling! Stuffing is such a popular dish that it’s usually the first one to run out at the holiday table, so make sure to pile on enough of this “just like grandma used to make” stuffing!
YIELD: 6 to 8 servings
8 cups (350 g) sourdough bread, cubed (or any other bread)
3 tbsp (42 g) vegan butter or 3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
1 medium white onion, roughly chopped
2 to 3 medium ribs celery, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp (3 g) finely chopped fresh sage
1 tbsp (3 g) finely chopped fresh thyme
2 cups (150 g) thinly sliced cremini mushrooms
2 to 3 cups (480 to 720 ml) vegetable broth
Salt and black pepper, to taste
Preheat the oven to 350°F (175°C) and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Grease a 7×10–inch (18×25–cm) baking dish.
Spread the bread cubes out evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Toast the bread in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes, flipping it halfway (being careful not to let it burn). Increase the oven temperature to 375°F (190°C) and place the toasted bread cubes in a large bowl.
Heat the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion and celery and sauté until they are translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and sauté for 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and a splash of the broth and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the mushrooms are soft and their moisture has evaporated somewhat. Add the mixture to the bread cubes and combine with a spoon.
Transfer the bread mixture to the prepared baking dish. Pour the remaining broth over the bread mixture and carefully combine, until the bread is just saturated—not too wet and not dry. Season with the salt and black pepper and bake for 30 minutes, until the top of the stuffing is crunchy. Let the stuffing cool slightly and serve.