The key to successful vegan cooking is not to try to replicate meat and cheese dishes with fake no-meat products.
Really, if you are craving turkey, or meatballs, or macaroni and cheese, why eat the Quorn or Boca version, or the homemade fake equivalent?
No, the goal of vegan cooking is to prepare dishes that don’t use meat and cheese products, but instead bring out the rich and satisfying flavors and textures of the ingredients that you are using.
So bring on a vegan Thanksgiving, where you can do just that! Here are 10 tips to ensure that you have an awesome Thanksgiving celebration:
* Know Your Guests. Make sure to get a count of your expected guests. This is essential for menu planning, and ask them to let you know about any special dietary needs. Also, let your guests know ahead of time the overall timing of the day.
* Be Prepared For Kid Guests. Ask parents if their kids have any specific hates or loves, or food allergies. Don’t dwell on the word “vegan.” Kids aren’t interested in long discussions about their food — they just want to eat! If they love pumpkin pie, using the word “vegan” is irrelevant — it’s just pumpkin pie!
* Keep It Simple For Kids. Children are mostly very conservative in what they like and don’t like, and your amazing Thanksgiving dinner won’t change that. Most kids will eat something that looks familiar. If they see a slice of pizza, they will eat it, even if they don’t know that the pizza has a gluten-free crust and is topped with soy cheese. So make sure that you have some food options that look simple, traditional and kid-friendly.
* Substitute Vegan For Non-Vegan Ingredients. Some suggestions:
Butter – Vegan Buttery Spread, Earth Balance brand
Gravy – Vegan Gravy
Chicken Broth – Vegetable Broth
Cheese – Vegan Cheese
White Sugar – Maple Syrup, Agave Syrup, Raw Vegan Sugar
*Make A Schedule. Don’t leave all your kitchen work until the day of Thanksgiving. Make cranberry sauce, pies, appetizers, cold veggie dishes and salads ahead of time and store them in the fridge. Thanksgiving is about spending time with family and friends, not about feeling so frazzled that you have no time to sit and enjoy your company.
*Dish Labels. If your guests aren’t familiar with vegan food, they may not recognize what they are eating. Why not place some labels in front of your dishes, and those that your friends bring, to explain what is in them? And of course the discussion of these dishes can provide some excellent dinnertime conversation.
*Make It An Environmentally Friendly Meal. Don’t use disposable plates or napkins. Purchase organic ingredients and organic wines. Your local farmers market is the best place to get fresh, organic produce, so that you know you are not feeding your guests pesticides, chemicals and other additives.
*Bring-a-Dish. I’ve found that guests usually offer to bring a dish, so you’ll need to let them know that you are planning a vegan Thanksgiving meal. They may offer to bring their favorite non-vegan dish, and then it’s up to you to decide whether or not you want a 100% vegan table. Or maybe suggest how they could use some vegan substitutions?
*Celebrate The Homemade. Here’s a list of Thanksgiving favorites that really should be made from scratch: stuffing, cranberry sauce, pie (no substitute for the real thing!), mashed potatoes, yams and gravy.
* No More Tofurky. Please! There are so many exciting options to replace the tofurky as your main event. Here are just three delicious suggestions: Roasted Apple, Butternut Squash and Caramelized Onion Pizza; Coconut Mashed Yams With Currants; and Southern Skillet Black-Eyed Peas and Cauliflower With Quick Biscuits. Start with these three, and you can find plenty more here.
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