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Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Vegetarians, Vegans and Thanksgiving

When faced for the first time with the prospect of preparing Thanksgiving dinner as a vegan or vegetarian (or for vegan or vegetarian guests), many people feel slightly overwhelmed. After all, preparing a regular Thanksgiving dinner is daunting enough - or so conventional wisdom would have you believe. When you think about it a bit more, however, this problem is almost as odd as the common question, "What do vegetarians eat, anyway?" Considering that Thanksgiving is a holiday celebrating the (vegetarian) harvest, the question of which Thanksgiving foods are inappropriate is actually much easier to consider. The answer, of course, is Turkey, and anything with Turkey in it. While most vegetarians or vegans would be very happy with a traditional selection of vegetable "side" dishes, there are some entree options you should consider. The ubiquitous Tofurkey may sound a little funny, but it's actually quite delicious if you or your guests enjoy meat substitutes. If you're looking for a slightly more elegant solution, this pumpkin stuffed with wild rice sounds unique, seasonal and appetizing. When it comes to side dishes, most standards can be suitable for both vegans and vegetarians, provided that they are not prepared with turkey broth or baked in the turkey (or, in the case of vegans, prepared with milk, cream, butter, cheese, eggs, or honey). When you shop for your dinner, make sure to pick up some soy milk and creamer (or oat milk if you are concerned about soy), vegetable broth or vegetarian "chicken" broth, and non-hydrogenated soy margarine such as Earth Balance. You can easily substitute these ingredients into most recipes with little change in flavor. On the other hand, if you prefer to stick with whole ingredients, just use a good olive oil instead of butter to dip bread, enrich mashed potatoes, and top vegetable dishes. When it comes to dessert, most choices are suitable for vegetarians. For vegans, consider an apple pie prepared with oil or soy margarine instead of butter, or try a tofu pumpkin pie if you're feeling adventurous. Of course, vegetarians and vegans all have their own standards and preferences, so for the last word in meal planning, check with your own family and guests. (Creative Commons photo by Alice Popkorn)

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