Vegan Holiday Recipes + My Tips For Navigating the Holidays as a Vegan

127 comments

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While many of you in the US are putting the finishing touches on your Thanksgiving plans, many of us Canadians are already starting to think about our December menus. Here are some of my favourite vegan holiday recipes that could suit many holiday meals, or perhaps simply a comforting dinner on a cold night!

See below for my tips on navigating the holidays as a vegan.

Soup & Salad:

Mushroom Millet Soup with Cheezy Garlic Bread

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Holiday Soup for the Soul 

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Spiced Red Lentil, Tomato, and Kale Soup

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Holiday Salad with Cranberry Apple Orange Vinaigrette

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Main Course:

Glazed Lentil Walnut Loaf

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High Protein Mashed Potatoes (also see my red lentil version on VegNews)

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Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf

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This Ain’t Grandma’s Sweet Potato Casserole 

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Roasted Fingerling Potatoes and Brussels Sprouts with Rosemary and Garlic

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Roasted Butternut Squash with Kale and Almond Pecan Parmesan

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Herb & Cheese Drop Biscuits

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Dessert!

Vegan & Gluten-Free Pumpkin Pie

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Serve with Whipped Coconut Cream if you’d like…

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Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding

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Pumpkin Gingerbread with Spiced Buttercream 

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Pumpkin Pie Brownies

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Breakfast:

What to do with leftover pumpkin pie? Meet Vegan Pumpkin Pie Breakfast Casserole!

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Baked Apples Stuffed with Cinnamon, Date, Pecan Oatmeal

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Sweet Potato Breakfast Casserole

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Gift Ideas:

Slow Cooker Naked Apple Butter

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Maple Cinnamon Almond Butter with Hemp, Flax, and Chia or 2-Minute Apple Cinnamon PB

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Homemade Pumpkin Butter From Scratch (or from a can)

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I’ve received many questions over the years about how to navigate the holidays as a new vegan. The first year I was “coming out” as a vegan, I recall being so anxious about holiday get togethers! It was the first time I was seeing many family members and I was nervous about explaining it to everyone. Thankfully, I anticipated it to be much worse in my own mind than it actually was, but that isn’t to say that I didn’t have my fair share of critics, comments, and questions too.

Here are some of my tips for navigating holiday dinners as a vegan:

1. If you will be eating at a family members house, let them know well in advance that you eat a vegan diet so there aren’t any surprises on the day of. Don’t be afraid to explain it clearly as it’s not unusual for someone to think a vegan still eats butter or eggs. It’s also helpful to remind them what you DO eat! Often people can assume that vegans have a super restrictive diet, so it’s helpful to let them know all the foods that you do eat – vegetables, fruit, legumes, beans, grains, nuts/seeds, oils, soy, herbs/spices, etc or remind them of foods that are naturally vegan.

2. After letting the hosts know, offer to bring a couple vegan dishes so they don’t feel like they have to scramble to find vegan recipes. A couple good options are the lentil loaf and the Cranberry, Apricot and Pecan Wild Rice Pilaf. For the lentil loaf, I suggest slightly undercooking it the first time if you plan on reheating it in the oven just before serving (so it doesn’t dry out). If you are traveling from afar, offer to help prepare a couple vegan dishes the day before. This again would be helpful to plan out before you arrive.

3. What if you are hosting the meal as a new vegan? When I hosted my first vegan Thanksgiving back in 2010, I let my guests know that the meal would be 100% vegan – and of course delicious! If you don’t want any animal products at your meal, make this clear in advance or you might find Uncle Ted showing up with his turkey the morning of.

4. Challenge some of your open-minded guests to “veganize” one of their favourite recipes and bring it to the dinner. Make this into a competition for the “best vegan dish” at your holiday meal and award a prize to the winner each year! How fun would this be?

5. What to do about naysayers? There will always be naysayers, comments, or questions about why you eat a vegan diet – and it’s good to be able to explain it to others in a few words. Just like they tell entrepreneurs to be able to describe their business in a single sentence, it’s important to be able to communicate why you are a vegan. Plan for these questions and you won’t be thrown off by them at the dinner table. If you are feeling really uncomfortable or cornered by a critic, you can always suggest that you discuss it after the meal. It’s easy to feel outnumbered as a vegan around the holidays, so I like to keep my sense of humour. Crack a joke right or sarcasm right back to a naysayer. It doesn’t need to be so serious.

6. A delicious vegan dish can tame even the toughest critic. Win them over with the food. ‘Nough said!

I would love to hear your thoughts on this topic as well! Do you find it difficult to navigate the holidays as a vegan? What tips would you give to new vegans?

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{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

Anele @ Success Along the Weigh November 19, 2012

I’m SOOO making the pumpkin gingerbread load with spiced frosting!! Those fingerlings and brussels are mouth watering! Thanks for all of the great tips/recipe round up!

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Tanya @ playful and hungry November 20, 2012

Those are the two recipes I like best, too! =D

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Rachel (Two Healthy Plates) November 19, 2012

Everything looks so delicious but I seriously want one of those pumpkin pie brownies right this minute!

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Geanna November 19, 2012

Thanks for the awesome recipe ideas and suggestions. I hosted a vegan thanksgiving last year and it went surprisingly well, even though it included family members I had never met. I think it’s all about attitude – if you show that you are content and excited about the menu – the naysayers can’t help but get excited too (at least enough to try it!).

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Heather November 19, 2012

thanks for this post! My sister and I are planning to make some of these dishes this holiday. I’ve been vegetarian for 18 years (though I was vegan for 3 of those years–before and during my first pregnancy!). I’d say I got comments for the first, oh, 10 years. No joke. But the past 7 years or so have been great and I usually bring my own dishes, with enough to share if people want to try them out. For me, being the only veggie at the party, I just felt better about bringing my own food, because I would know what was in it and I knew I’d at least be able to eat. Hope you have a great holiday! and thanks for such an awesome blog!!!

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Jen November 19, 2012

I plan to try several of these recipes and at least do a half vegan christmas this year. What one liner do you suggest as an explanation? I go back and forth, because I want to get my point across, but I also don’t want to offend anybody. Thanks for the recipes!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

I usually just say something like, “I started eating a vegan diet for health reasons and I stick with it because of how great I feel and the positive impact I can make on the system.” Obviously, a vague statement, but if they are curious as to other reasons, I’m happy to explain that I’m an ethical vegan and feel it’s the best choice I can personally make for animal rights and the environment. I also don’t pass judgments on what others eat and hope for the same respect.

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Audrey November 19, 2012

I like that response, Angela!

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Andrea @ Vegvacious November 19, 2012

Thank you for all the great recipe ideas Ang! I’m the only vegetarian in my family and even though it’s going on 3 years, some members of my family still find it a wee bit confusing as to what I do and do not eat. I always offer to bring a couple of my fave dishes, so that people can try them and realize that you don’t give up flavour or quality when you give up meat!

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Mimi November 19, 2012

Thank you for this. You site is well of delicious, bright and cheerful information. I’m going to make some of these recipes for my in laws this Christmas, who are all hunters and serious meat eaters. They have known me as a vegetarian up until now, which was challenging enough for them and one person in particular has a hostile reaction to my choices. This is my first Holiday as a vegan, and I want to bring food (I have no choice anyway) and share it with them. So thanks!

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Abby@ The Frosted Vegan November 19, 2012

I needed this! Sometimes it’s hard for people to understand what vegans DO eat. Mainly I would just like to inhale those mashed potatoes and every single one of the desserts!

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Lauren November 19, 2012

This is my first holiday as a vegan and I’m terrified. I don’t know about Canadians but these American folks, ESPECIALLY TEXANS, are down right crazy about their meat! In fact, for Thanksgiving with my husbands family there will be turkey AND ham, not to mention all the buttery cheesiness going on. I’m afraid of looking like a judgemental snob for not eating majority of what is being served. Especially since I’ve eaten it for years in the past.

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Mimi November 19, 2012

First of all, congratulations for your ethical and compassionate choice! Being vegan in an animal-eating world can feel lonely no matter where you are, especially when people respond with hostility. I’m always amazed at how hostile and defensive people can get when faced with someone who, in the end, has made decisions based on compassion, peace and the environment. People who react aggressively to this are usually projecting something within themselves that they don’t like. They might feel like you are coming along and breaking traditions, or that you are bringing up issues they are not willing to confront. Or some people (most people, actually) think vegans are radicals, etc. Just know it is not personal. Your being vegan confronts others in their ethics and personal choices. If you are confident about your choices and why you have decided to become vegan, don’t let yourself be deterred by your meat-eating family. Eating meat is not a religion, and being vegan is not a religion (although it can be spiritually uplifting). The best way to face hostility is with humour, as Angela pointed out, and with love and compassion. When asked a question about being vegan (and you WILL be asked questions), you can choose to say it’s for “personal reasons”, or “health reasons”, or, if you feel there is a real openness to know, you can talk about animals, health, the environment, etc. I know Texans have a bad rap, so good luck to you! I am also going to face this for the first time this Holiday season. Bring it on, I say. : )

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Mimi November 19, 2012

As for the food, you don’t have to apologize for your choices. Bring some of your own (let them know in advance) or have a double serving of vegetable side dishes. If they were cooked in or served with butter, and it’s the only non-meat choice you have, the decision is up to you. : )

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

Great tips, thank you Mimi!

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Audrey November 19, 2012

I can totally relate! I don’t even know if many of my relatives know that I’m vegan. I’m pretty shy about stirring up hostilities–although of course I don’t eat the non-vegan food. My family also usually has the turkey and ham, except this year they are replacing the ham with sauerkraut and sausage. In any case, not vegan-friendly. :) I’m going to bring a bean and veggie salad, a lettuce salad + dressing, and maybe a dessert (I’m thinking mini pecan pie tarts). I would love to bring something more adventurous for the main course, but I’m kind of afraid of how it would go over with my very carnivorous (not to mention hunting and fishing [!]) family. Maybe at the next family gathering. I just didn’t want to bring anything that they might see as too “weird.” We might have to work up to the lentil loaf (even though I love it). Whew, it’s good to ‘talk’ about this, because I’m actually really nervous about how it. I’m probably just not going to talk about the fact that I’m vegan unless someone asks. I’m most scared about questioning if the squash has butter in it, because I don’t want to look like veganish is hard, and that I’m a super-fastidious person. For the most part, I’m just going to try to focus on my family, the conversation, and keep things friendly and light. But I’m not going to be ashamed of being vegan, either. If someone asks, I’ll definitely give an answer. Does anyone have ideas for a succinct, maybe humorous, answer?

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Matti November 19, 2012

Lauren,

As a fellow Texan, I feel your pain! I have had great success bringing several of Angela’s dishes to holiday events. Sticky toffee pudding in particular! I have also shared her creamy barley risotto to a meat eater crowd with lots of success. I usually tell people I have learned eating this way is the best choice for my body so I am happy with it. I have never gotten a negative reaction to that comment. Good luck!

Matti

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Jazz November 21, 2012

As a Canadian (non vegan) married to a Texan, it’s definitly a meat fest when we go home for Christmas.. and they think I’m crazy for not wanting to eat out for EVERY meal, but prefer to cook for myself.. I had to fix the oven last time so I could bake because they don’t use it often enough to bother fixing it!! Best of luck, and don’t mention Obama.

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Donna November 25, 2012

I’m not Texan, but I am Southern, and that last part made me LOL. So true. : )

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Amber from Slim Pickin's Kitchen November 19, 2012

Wow, Angela! All of these recipes look amazing, especially the Holiday Salad, Wild Rice Pilaf, and the Pumpkin Pie breakfast casserole! I’m tooootally going to be trying these recipes out. Can’t wait to try them :)

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Shira November 19, 2012

What a fabulous round up of recipes! Biscuits are high on my list this week after your last post ~ and that squash is looking outrageous! :)

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Lia November 19, 2012

I liked #5 the best. I think that is the scariest part for new vegans and the part that can ruin the whole day for them too. I agree that having a short concise, non-attacking reason for it is best. I’ve always used the “It makes me feel amazing so I stick with it” as my foundational reason, with the other more arguable ones as supports. People can’t really argue with personal feelings of wellness. And making sure that you point out you are not attacking their beliefs. That’s where the attacks come from. The other people think that you are bashing their way of eating simply by you being vegan. I always immediately let them know that they can do as they wish, I have no problem with that and they shut up. I’ve been put in charge of more and more of the main dinner parties we have, so I veganize the dishes and when I tell people after the meal they are blown away and reconsider their preconceived notions about it. That’s the BEST way to make a point!

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Laura @ Sprint 2 the Table November 19, 2012

I love these round ups – your walnut-lentil loaf remains one of my favorite recipes. This is going to be the year I make the pumpkin-brownies. I’d had them pinned forever!

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Julie November 19, 2012

I also love the lentil walnut apple loaf. I took it to work the other day for a pot luck and it was a big hit. Now I have made it for my non-vegetarian/vegan family and will be taking it with me. Hopefully, it will be a hit with them as well!

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Willow November 19, 2012

Great advice! I’m not vegan, but I have enough experience with restricted diets to know what this is like… and you’re so right about needing a short, one-sentence way to explain yourself. It can be way too easy to get long-winded about all the reasons.

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Beks November 19, 2012

I’ve actually made a few of your dishes for my family (and followed the recipe to the letter!), and no one knew that it was vegan. They didn’t suspect that your chocolate mousse torte had avocado, or you sweet potato caserole was free from eggs. Rave reviews, too. :-D

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Marissa November 19, 2012

I like your tip #5. Humor is such a great way to deal with someone who is teasing or criticizing your diet. Since my whole family gets together only a few times a year, the last thing I want to do is get into a debate with someone who thinks they already have all of the answers. A succinct response that shows that vegans have a sense of humor, too, (why is that such a novel idea?!) usually bypasses any heated discussion.

Great roundup of holiday recipes. I must be in a soup mood because all of them are especially enticing today!

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Erica @ Coffee & Quinoa November 19, 2012

Thank you for all the delicious holiday recipes, Angela! These are my first holidays as a vegan, and I know it’s going to be… interesting. So far everyone is very understanding, and I feel like if everyone is flexible and keeps an open mind (myself included), things should go smoothly. Also, I agree that a delicious vegan dish silences all criticism!

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Shundara@ SavyNaturalista November 19, 2012

Vegan breakfast casseroles sounds so yummy for breakfast; I am going to half to make one for the morning after. I never thought about having a vegan Thanksgiving if I did not have plans in place I would definitely have a vegan Thanksgiving. I know I will defiantly have one next year…

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Robin November 19, 2012

I was just looking for a good sweet potato recipe! I volunteered for it when my host told me they make the kind with marshmallows. Bleh!

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allison November 19, 2012

I have found the best thing is to bring something you can eat and share…people are curious. :-) The hardest comment i’ve dealt with is people saying i’m starving my boyfriend…or my kids :-( But the best is when they back it up…like my boyfriend saying no i choose vegan too..or my daughter saying mom’s food is amazing….(my kids aren’t vegans but I don’t make two suppers…come on.) I like that…tell them because it makes me feel amazing. No one can argue that. :-) I am hosting xmas eve this year. Vegan perogies and cabbage rolls and baking. It will all be excellent :0) Alberta’s a lot like Texas. haha We seem to have a bizarre obsession with our meat.

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Robin November 23, 2012

Do you make your own perogies? I’m looking for a good vegan recipe. What you put in your cabbage rolls? I did some last year with mushrooms and barley that were very yummy.

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Katie November 19, 2012

I think you are so right in that you can totally win anyone over with the food! I find that by offering to bring a dish (or multiple dishes!), the guests are more willing to try what I bring and they often ask for the recipe. I’m thinking the Sinless Toffee Pecan Pudding will be on the list this year =)

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Lisa November 19, 2012

Amazing!!!

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Herbivore Triathlete November 19, 2012

Great round up! I’ve made several of these recipes and they’re all great. The sweet potato casserole will be on the table on Thursday, along with your pull-apart dinner rolls! This is my first holiday season as a vegan, but I am the cook so dinner will be vegan as well. My family has definitely been pleasantly surprised at how delicious plant-based foods can be. Thanks Angela.

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DIANE November 19, 2012

So what are some of the specific things people say as their “elevator pitch” about their decision to go vegan?

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Audrey November 19, 2012

I would love to have some ideas, too. :)

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allison November 19, 2012

I say it was a personal choice and nutritional decision and then I ask if they want the long or short version :-) They often follow it with what about protein and I like to answer that one with “where do you get your protein?” or “how much do you think we need?”…depends…if the person is being pushy or really just wants to know. And I usually follow it up or end it with “i dont’ really miss meat, sometimes i miss cheese and sometimes eggs” and that usually does it. :-) I have all the time in the world to talk about it, but zero time for the pushy types. :-)

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Angela November 19, 2012

I love that – “elevator pitch” :)
Great advice Allison – I love that you ask about the long or short version. I will have to try that next time. What do people usually respond with to you?

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Sarah L. November 19, 2012

Love your tips, Angela! I eat a mostly vegan diet at home, but give myself a little leeway on special occasions such as the holidays. Only butter available? I’ll put a tiny bit on my bun. Eggs and/or dairy was used in making the pie? Just a small slice then. But I’ll definitely fill up on the vegan fare, and make sure I let the cook know how much I enjoyed it, so that they don’t feel offended when I pass up the turkey. :)

This might not work for everyone, but for me, I’d rather not make a big deal of it and know that I’ll have my diet back on track when I get home. Luckily, my family is really easy going and they LOOOVE the lentil loaf!

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allison November 19, 2012

I do that too. If my daughter makes cookies…I have one..I never want to discourage someone for cooking for themselves. I won’t eat meat or cheese…but I may eat some butter or eggs…or something cooked with milk. And then load up on the veggies.

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Angela November 19, 2012

I’m glad you’ve found what works for you. I love reading everyone’s unique approach, as I’m sure do others. Thanks for sharing!

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LeeAnn November 21, 2012

Thanks for that, Sarah. Your comments have helped ease my mind and helped me make some decisions. This is my first holiday (U.S. Thanksgiving) as a vegan, and I am hosting the family. I’m going to make Angela’s butternut squash-kale-almond-pecan-parmesan dish for myself and to share, of course, but everything else will be the traditional meal. I’ll pass on the turkey and gravy, but I’ll have small amounts of dairy-containing foods. As you say, I’m not going to make a big deal of it. I also won’t impose my new way of eating on the rest of my family who are naturally expecting a traditional dinner. And now I won’t have to boil up that wretched turkey carcass for soup!

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Sarah L. November 21, 2012

Good luck, LeeAnn! I’m not a fan of imposing my way of eating on my family either, but rather making kick-ass vegan sides and entrees that always get them asking for the recipe. Secretly seducing people to make more vegan meals is my specialty, muahaha! :)

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Allie November 19, 2012

Oh Ange, this post shows just how talented you are at cooking! I want to make EVERYTHING!

The holidays as a vegan can be tough, but more often than not people can accomodate it and I try and make them feel less anxious about it by bringing some of my own dishes. The lentil walnut loaf was a hit at our Thanksgiving in October.

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

I’m so happy to hear it was a hit. I’ll be making it for Christmas and I already can’t wait for it. hah. It will be hard to share…

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Christa @ Edible Balance November 19, 2012

Thankfully, because I was diagnosed with Celiac over 11 years ago, my family has been absolutely great and accommodating since transitioning to vegan. Yes, I do have to remind them of eggs, butter and dairy but I’m blessed to have a family that understands. This is my first Christmas completely plant-based, so this is when I will FINALLY make that delicious lentil loaf and make your sweet potato casserole again. It was a huge hit at Thanksgiving with all my family. Even my brother who can’t stand sweet potatoes!!

Fabulous tips, and glorious looking recipes as always, thank you Angela!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

That is exciting! You’ll have to let us know how it goes. :)

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Lana B November 19, 2012

That post has just made me so hungry!!! I really want to make that Pumpkin Gingerbread with spiced frosting too, it looks so good!!! :)

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Kelly B November 19, 2012

HI
I was just bringing a green salad to Thanksgiving but this post has challaged me to bring and share more yummy vegan dishes. My 7 yr old yesterday asked me “what my favorite Thanksgivnig food was and I can’t say salad”. Even though greens are great I need to share more vegan dishes with relatives.
thanks

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

That is such a great attitude! What do you think you will bring?

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Kathleen November 19, 2012

Angela, thanks so much for this post! I was actually already planning on making your lentil loaf as my main course when I saw your post on it a little while back. It looks amazing, can’t wait to see how it turns out.

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laura November 19, 2012

Great post! This will be my first christmas as a vegan. :)

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amanda jelm November 19, 2012

I already have my lentil loaf , aint your grandmas sweet potato casserol, and a slice of pumkin brownie made and in the freezer for me to take with me!!!

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

you are so prepared!!! That’s impressive. Thanks for trying the recipes!

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Sarah @ mymostlyhealthylife.com November 19, 2012

Those photos are UNREAL… I think I need to figure out how to start taking better photos of my food..! I’m not a vegan myself but some of your dishes look unreal and I will definitely be trying them out! Thank you for sharing! :)

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eatingRD November 19, 2012

Drooling over all these wonderful recipes!!! They all look fabulous and delish. Happy Holidays!

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Benna November 19, 2012

I’m preparing a full spread and taking it to our family Thanksgiving. My fiance is excited that he’ll essentially be getting two delicious meals in one day (he eats vegan at home but eats meat when he’s around family/friends/coworkers) and I’m excited to show off some delicious vegan recipes. Rather than restrict myself to eating only vegetable side dishes (most of which will have butter all over them), I prefer to spend Wednesday in the kitchen so that I can enjoy Thanksgiving to the fullest extent- entree, main course, sides, dessert… I feel like it’s an opportunity to show what’s possible and to create more options for everyone. Since it’ll all be mixed together on the same table, I think some people might be suprised what they end up wanting for seconds :)

And of course I’m lucky to have a family that accepts food offerings as a positive and doesn’t think I’m trying to upstage the turkey…

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Angela (Oh She Glows) November 19, 2012

That is fantastic! It sounds like your family is in for a real treat. You’ll have to report back.

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Hanna M. November 19, 2012

Great tips! I’m not vegan (hate labels), but love to eat vegan most of the time. I’m thinking about arranging a 100 % dinner for my meat and fish loving family during the Christmas holiday, so I’m really grateful that you gathered this to one post!
Just a comment on the red lentil mashed potatoes: I see that others have commented that the texture became gluey and not very attractive when using the blender, just like my mash (glad I didn’t try it the first time for an important dinner!). Next time I’ll blend the lentils etc, and mash in the potatoes manually. Perhaps this could be commented on in the recipe?

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Hanna M. November 19, 2012

100 % VEGAN dinner, that is. *facepalm*

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Angela November 19, 2012

Yes, I will see if that can be added to the recipe for sure. I didn’t experience this problem, but I can see how that could be possible if processed too long. Have fun with your dinner!

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Laura November 19, 2012

The best thing for the naysayers, I have found, is to just be 100% confident in all of your decisions and rationales to pursue whatever food/diet choices you have chosen. This helps me feel less bothered when people start criticizing or questioning my choices. I also just like to make awesome vegan dishes that no one knows are vegan and then follow through with tip number 6. Thanks Angela!

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Cassandra @ TheScienceofFood November 19, 2012

I LOVE your table setting…and the photography! Great job on both!

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Katie @ Fun Fearful Female November 19, 2012

Thanks for the great recipes, Angela! This will be my first holiday season since I’ve begun following a plant based diet & although there’s a bit of anxiety around it, I’m confident that my choice to not eat meat/dairy is the right one for me. Like you I explain that following a vegan diet makes me feel so much better physically & mentally, and I don’t judge others for their food choices. I’m looking forward to trying these recipes. Happy holidays to you and your family!

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Angela @ Eat Spin Run Repeat November 19, 2012

Ok, I have a painter in my kitchen right now so I can’t make dinner until he leaves, and you have just made me INSANELY hungry!!!! I love the setup of the first shot, and all the food ones of course! That holiday soup for the soul is exactly what I need right now. As you know, I’m not vegan but having an all-vegan Thanksgiving is perfectly fine by me…. especially when you’re cooking!

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Angela November 19, 2012

We will have to do it again soon!!! Seriously that was so much fun. :)

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