Being a vegetarian come the holiday season can be hard work, what with all of the turkey, ham, and roast beef floating about. Still, there are plenty of cruelty-free sides for you to enjoy and even some mock meat solutions that can make the season go a little more smoothly for happy herbivores such as yourselves. Even if you are a diligent vegan, in between all the butter and cream, there are still a host of creative and wonderful options for you, too. This guide will help vegetarians decide what will work for them the holidays and also provide meat-eating hosts some insight into how they should present Christmas for their veg*n friends.
Vegetarian Turkey Breast or Tofu Turkey
Fowl is the meat of choice for most Americans come Christmas. There are indeed comparable alternatives available. Though vegetarian turkey breast isn't exactly like real turkey, if you soak in enough (vegetarian) gravy, it will get the job done. (Mixing it with those mashed potatoes is a novel idea.) For the most authentic experience, you should be able to find some unturkey or tofurkey, or consider a vegetarian breast by Veat. There are also plenty of recipes available on the Internet, such as this Tofu Turkey from AllRecipes.com.
Vegetable Loaf and Roasts
English meat pies, roast beef, and even boar are carnivore standards come Christmas. To that hearty end, vegetable loaf is a sleeper favorite for vegetarians. These can be prepared for scratch or purchased in an easy-to-cook refrigerated form. For a guide to making a complete Christmas Day meal with veggie loaf as the centerpiece, check out VegSource.com.
If you're not a veggie-lover (and these vegetarians ''do'' exist!) and really want a beef-like dish, check out the Field Roast Web site. They have dozens of delicious vegan roast products.
Mock ham is probably the most difficult to find meat alternative. However, several companies offer this at reasonable prices, though it may take some detective work. An easier alternative is to cook your own. Here's a short mock ham recipe from Vegan-Recipes.com, and here's a Chinese mock ham from About.com. You can also try your own tofu for TVP experiments until you hit the taste that's right for you.
Most Christmas side dishes are already vegetarian and many can easily be made vegan by using simple dairy substitutes. For a list of conventional sides, see the Traditional Dinner Christmas ge.
Though most all desserts are inherently vegetarian, vegans will have a more difficult time navigating through holiday sweets. Luckily, because of lactose intolerance, a grassroots industry has risen up devoted to providing dairy-free and egg-free options. Vegan treats are best purchased through a local bakery or made at home following any assortment of dessert books. However, there are some online retailers that will ship them right to your door. Check the list of Major Manufacturers below for a handful of these providers.
Tips for Mixed Groups
Are you hosting a dinner for people with dietary restrictions and not quite sure how to proceed? Here are some hints to ensure a fun and successful party.
* First of all, learn the difference between vegetarian and vegan. Vegans will not consume foods that come from animals, but some might be stricter than others (for example, your vegan may eat honey and others might not). With regard to vegetarians, the spectrum of choice out there is vast: some will eggs but not dairy, others might eat fish, etc. Avoid unexpected surprises and ask your guests what they will and will not eat.
* On that same token, be sure to ask your veg*n friend about any allergies to food products, or there are any particular food preferences. His or her preferences might also inspire you as you are planning the meal.
* Read the nutritional labels on the products you are using. Animal products can show up in the oddest of places, so aim to use substitutes such as olive oil, vegetable stock, or soy milk.
* Please don't just feed your guests salad and bread! Plenty of sides dishes can easily be made vegetarian or vegan with a few simple substitutions, but if you really don't know what to cook, propose a potluck so the responsibility is not solely on you.
* Use separate cooking utensils for vegetarian dishes.
* Label the vegetarian dishes so everyone knows what he or she is getting (this is also helpful for the carnivore friends--they will likely prefer turkey over tofurkey!).
* Know that your efforts are appreciated. To be included on such a special occasion and to be given a variety of toothsome treats is a wonderful opportunity and is sure to impress.
* Most vegetarians and vegans are used to people eating meat in front of them, so you shouldn't feel self-conscious. However, you might want to discretely offer him or her the opportunity to leave the room before you let loose on the carving station.
* Don't forget beverages! If you are serving coffee or tea after the meal, have soy, hemp, or almond milk on hand. Be aware that your guests might pass on eggnog, as it contains egg and dairy (though you might be able to find a vegan alternative in the organic section of your supermarket).
Gifts for Vegetarians
If you are invited over to a vegetarian's house for Christmas, you may be at a loss as to what to get them as a gift. There are plenty of safe options that won't involve much thinking, like electronics, but if you want to get something that really shows you care about their interests, try some of our ideas listed below.
If you decide to go the standard route and take along a bottle of wine, bear in mind that not all spirits are created vegan. For a list of animal-friendly vineyards, see Barnivore.com.