You may ask yourself, with Thanksgiving and Christmas on the horizon, how does a vegan survive a holiday based around the devouring of an animal? Well ok I know the holidays are NOT based around that, but you get what I mean. After being vegan for almost a decade I have the keys to get through the holidays whether you are dealing with un-understanding family members who insist you eat meat or a table with no vegan options at all!

  • Healthy Responses to Unnerving Questions: Being vegan for several years you begin to be annoyed with questions like “What do you eat?” and “Why not just eat one piece?” or even statements like “But its historical to eat meat!” The best way to deal with questions like this is to gracefully respond. You may feel like saying “I eat whatever I want” or “I don’t believe in eating corpses.” However, you should really answer questions like this with remarks such as “Actually I eat anything I want and have a healthy dose of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes, and beans. You would be surprised how many vegan products exist now and how easy it really is!” Or you might say “Sorry I choose not to eat meat for political/environmental/religious/personal reasons” If they want more feel free to elaborate, as they have opened the door! Try your best to refrain from sounding too condescending or superior, as it will only irritate them and could lead to bad feelings.
  • Educate, Educate, Educate!: The truth is, many of the annoying questions people ask us, is because they are curious and not trying to offend us. Take these opportunities to really educate your family, because most of them probably don’t know much about veganism and animal rights. So when a question like “How do you get protein?” may irritate you, as you have heard it a thousand times, it’s best to explain how exactly we get protein. I have found that people are genuinely curious as to why we live a vegan lifestyle and if I am asked why I do not eat meat, I will fully explain. I will even offer facts about the meat and dairy industry as well as historical references. If you want to come prepared, bring a book on veganism or some info packets. Although, from my own experience, do not bring those Why Vegans? to the dinner table. These packets may be effective away from food, however, your family will not be sympathetic to pictures of dead animals as they are eating.
  • Don’t Be Afraid To Ask: Don’t be afraid to ask your hosts to set aside some of the dishes before they add the meat or dairy products. For instance, I always ask my family to set aside some mashed potatoes before they add milk or butter and stuffing before they add gravy to it! Then I bring along soy milk and mushroom gravy and add it to the items they have set aside. Also, you may want to inquire ahead of time as to what dishes will be already vegan and if your hosts need suggestions on how to make certain items vegan. Sometimes it’s just a simple ingredient that can be substituted for the vegan version. So ask away, that way you are prepared!
  • Bring A Vegan Dish: If you are a dinner party guest, try bringing at least one traditional dish made vegan and surprise your family! This works particularly well if you wait until after they have eaten the dish to inform them it is vegan. I have made several dishes that have “fooled” my family, especially desserts. Now my mother asks me to make some of my classic thanksgiving dishes! For ideas on recipes check out our postings for Candied Yams, Green Bean Casserole, Pumpkin Pie, Cheesecake, and Spinach Dip. I have always found that the best way to convince family members that you eat well is to show them how we vegans do it! Once they have tasted your delicious vegan dish, they will be more understanding of your lifestyle and choices. You might be surprised how many of the rude statements and questions disappear after someone has eaten some impressive vegan goods.
  • Plan an ALL Vegan Dinner: For years I have had two dinners, one with family and one HUGE vegan potluck with friends and family. My family members who come are always shocked by the display we have created and are willing and excited to try all the vegan versions of their favorite holiday meals, including the Tofurkey! Even if you can’t convince your family to see eye to eye with your eating and political views, inviting them to an entirely vegan meal will stop some of the questions we previously mentioned above. Also, this will benefit you, as you can relax and enjoy a meatless and dairy-less meal in peace! There are hundreds of great recipes (some are linked above) and a TON of options for the main meal that are meatless including Tofurkey and Field Roasts (great baked ham replacement). You can also make your own out of tofu or seitan! Trust us making an all vegan dinner for either holiday will benefit both you and your curious family members.

One last piece of advice is to try not to sound preachy, these being the holidays everyone wants to relax and enjoy themselves. They will likely shut you out if you do this! So indulge and appreciate your family, even if they drive you nuts! Happy Vegan Holidays from AP!

-Gina Williams

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This week’s vegan recipe is another great party dish or backyard cookout item: Spinach Dip. This item is not often offered to vegans and you will surprise any guest vegan or non vegan with its authentic American taste!

Vegan Spinach Dip

Prep Time: 15-20 Minutes Cool Time: 2 Hours

1 Container of Sour Cream Substitute (we suggest Tofutti Sour Supreme or Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet)

1 Cup of Mayonnaise Substitute (we suggest Follow Your Heart Vegenaise)

1 Can of drained Water Chestnuts

1 Package of Thawed Frozen Spinach or 1 Bag of Fresh Spinach Chopped and Steamed

3 Green Onions Finely Chopped

A Clove of Garlic Finely Chopped

1/2 a Cube of Vegan Bullion Flavoring

Salt and Pepper to Taste

A Couple Finely Chopped Carrots (optional)

1 Large Sourdough Round

In a large bowl mix all wet ingredients and the bullion flavoring. Next add all the vegetables and spices and mix! Let the mixture cool for up to 2 hours before serving. Scoop out the sourdough round into a bread bowl. Take the extra bread and cut into cubes. When ready to serve, scoop the dip into the bowl and serve!

If you don’t want to use the bread, we suggest serving crackers or other veggies to dip! Another great idea is to cut large chunks of beets, cucumbers, and peppers and place small amounts of dip on each veggie! This makes a great appetizer for any meal or party!

Now that summer is upon us and the celebration of all things American arrives in just two days, our meals make their way outside. Whether you are hosting a vegan party or need to cater to a special diet guest, the following will be your guide to a vegan summer cookout.

Fake Meat

If you are looking for meat substitutes for your bbq, there are many options that can be found at most health food stores, co-ops, and even health food sections at chain grocers. For just your basic hot dogs, try Tofu Pups or Tofurkey Franks. For a German Sausage twist we suggest Tofurkey Sausages, especially the Kielbasas and Beer Brats. If you are interested in replacing the good ol’ American Hamburger, your best bet is Gardenburger’s GardenVegan or Boca Original Vegan. If Chicken patties are your thing, indulge in Gardenburger’s Chik’n Grill or Breaded Chik’n. Finally, for those of you who go for the BBQ Ribs, try Gardenburger’s BBQ Ribs.

Grilled Veggies

If substitute meats aren’t exactly your thing or would like a side dish with the “meats,” here are a few suggestions. We personally love to make and serve vegan shish kabobs! Usually we like to marinate Tofu chunks overnight in a combination of soy sauce, peanut oil, scallions, and garlic. Next chop up veggies into large chunks. A few good ideas for veggies are Green or Red Bell Peppers, Tomatoes, Onions, Mushrooms, and Pineapple. If you place the tofu, veggies, and fruit on a table with the skewers close by, it is fun and entertaining for the guests to make their own kabobs. Also, veggies straight to the grill are always a good standard, especially Corn on the Cob, Onions, Artichokes, and Asparagus. If you don’t like your veggies grilled plain, try soaking them in balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

Salads and Side Dishes

A great addition to any grilled food is salad! Some American favorites are Potato Salad or Macaroni Salad. Also, a favorite salad of ours is the Simple Sweet Summer Salad. And of course you can always serve any variation of green salads using your favorite veggies and fruits. Other side dishes you might like to include would be Spinach Dip, 7 Layer Bean Dip, vegan breads, and biscuits. Or if you want more suggestions, check out all our vegan recipes!

Desserts

The easiest and possibly healthiest dessert you can serve at any cookout is fruit. The best summer fruits that won’t spoil outside too quickly are Watermelon, Cantaloupe, Pineapple, Strawberries, Blueberries, and Cherries. But if you are feeling a bit more ambitious you may want attempt cupcakes or cakes. Check out the hundreds of vegan recipes for both on VeganCupcakeRecipes.com. You’ll be sure to find something you’ll favor in that long list of choices!

We hope these vegan bbq tips will help you plan your holiday cookouts or for future use. So watch those fireworks on a full stomach and make sure you wear sunscreen!

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