Author Zel Allen is resident kitchen goddess of the venerable website Vegetarians in Paradise. She knows in her bones, whatever holiday you’re celebrating, it’s all about the food.
“Food, after all, is a powerful bonding agent that seals warm memories of cherished occasions.”
And much as I like to change up the food on holidays (let’s do Indian this Xmas!), Zel knows the truth: the right holiday recipes, for the right holiday feast , make everything right with the world.
Coloring each holiday celebration is love, gratitude, kindness and compassion, tradition, spirituality, religious ceremony. All of that makes being vegan mean so much more at Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, Kwanza and the New Year.
What better way to express vegan ideals than by veganizing the menus marking the unique flavor traditions of major American holidays?
The resulting recipes are irresistible to veg and non-veg traditional eaters, because they look, smell and taste just right for the occasion.
Whether it’s crowd pleasing Christmas dinner recipes, holiday appetizers, or holiday dessert recipes, you’ll find them in Zel Allen’s cookbook, Vegan for the Holidays.
It was hard to pick just two recipes to represent this book, when the natural urge was to pick six or eight, make them all, and put on a feast. Half the pages now have corners turned back!
Zel’s holiday recipes have straightforward real world directions and work well. Most are easy to make, and you can cook them with confidence.
Like many veteran creative cooks, when telling what they did so others can do it too, Zel Allen occasionally leaves out details that seem obvious - or should.
Details that tripped me up in Roasted Butternut Sunset were dicing the beets small enough and slicing the carrots not TOO thick so that those harder veggies were cooked at the same time as the butternut squash. My oversized beets and carrots turned out a bit on the crunchy side, while the squash was on the squishy side.
Roasted Butternut Sunset still looked and tasted fantastic (just the name was fantastic), once I put it back in the oven for a few more minutes. When I make this dish again, I’ll be sure to slice the carrots no more than 1/4 inch thick, and dice the beets in 1/2 inch or less cubes.
My repertoire of holiday drinks is usually limited to herbal tea or chai, hot spiced apple juice or sparkling grape juice, so I was happy to see innovative beverages to go with the creative holiday dishes.
I made Spiced Cranberry Nog, which was super easy, creamy and delicious - who knew you could do stuff like this with cranberries and soy milk! I was delighted to see so many creative cranberry recipes in one cookbook.
There are many more recipes I plan to make from Vegan for the Holidays and I won’t be waiting for holidays to come around. Here are just a few to whet your appetite:
Hazelnut Cranberry Bread Pudding with Crème Anglaise, Pg. 132
Hot Spiced Cranberry Punch, Pg. 130
Sweet Potato Pie with Cashew Ginger Cream, Pg. 106. I thought I’d try that with a GF crust.
Oatmeal Crumb Crust on Pg. 36 looks good.
Tahini-Dijon Salad Dressing Pg. 83
One thing different about Vegan for the Holidays – many of the recipes are oil free, especially the ones where you’d think to use a little oil for frying.
But no, Zel Allen has quietly integrated oil free veggie frying into her recipes. No announcements or explanations, just that-is-how-I-cook-this. I thought it Admirably Sneaky of her, and quite a useful cooking technique.
In the recipes where she does use oil, Zel doesn’t mess around, so it all balances out. She doesn’t do anything alarming like try to make Potato Latkes without frying them in oil, but she does bake the Beet Latkes on the next page, so you have choices.
I can tell that this will be one of my go-to cookbooks all year round, but especially when I want to delight and impress company. I highly recommend Vegan for the Holidays.