It is that time of year when the air smells crisp and the shirt sleeves are long, when time is spent with those one loves most. However, those warm and fuzzy feelings do not extend to feathered friends. Thanksgiving alone prompts the slaughter of an estimated 46 million turkeys in the United States each year, and for Christmas, another 22 million are killed. The meat industry accounts for 60 percent of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere and the holidays only exacerbate this statistic. Catalyst staff writer and first-year Alexandra Levy, a three-year vegan and professional veggie lover, experimented with simple, plant-based recipes that can be healthy and environmentally sound alternatives for a holiday feast.
Creamy Butternut Squash Soup
Gather round, it’s soup season. Soup is hearty, warm and perfectly embodies the holiday spirit.
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Slice one butternut squash, one yellow onion, three Roma tomatoes, one garlic clove and add to a lined baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and seasonings measured with love or by spoon: one tsp paprika, one tsp garlic powder, one tsp Italian seasoning, salt and pepper.
Roast for 30 to 40 minutes or until the squash is soft. Add the roasted vegetables to a large pot along with one can of rinsed white beans and three cups of vegetable broth. Next, either add the soup to a blender or use an immersion blender and blend until creamy. Pour in a half can of coconut cream and stir. Serve topped with chives, more black pepper or a piece of bread on the side.
Sweet Potato Soup
This one pot, festive, fall-flavored soup provides the perfect combination of comfort and class. The total time for this soup is 30 minutes with a prep time of 10 minutes and a cooking time of 20 minutes. The equipment needed is a blender, a large pot and a stove.
Begin by heating 1½ tablespoons olive oil in a large pot. Once the pot is hot, add one chopped white onion and two chopped carrots and fry for three minutes. Sprinkle in two cloves of grated garlic, one inch grated ginger, one teaspoon ground cumin and one pinch red pepper flakes and fry one more minute. One can also measure with the heart or add any spices of their liking.
Add four cups vegetable broth, two pounds peeled and diced sweet potatoes, one large peeled and chopped apple, one teaspoon salt and two twists black pepper. Cover with a lid, bring to a boil, then crack the top open and let simmer on medium heat for 20 minutes or until the sweet potatoes are fork tender.
Turn the heat off and either blend the soup in the blender or use an immersion blender directly into the pot. Stir in ⅓ cup coconut milk and two tablespoons apple cider vinegar and simmer for five minutes. Garnish with cilantro, chili oil, cinnamon or any extra flavors to spruce up one’s new favorite soup.
This autumn classic is cruelty-free and especially delicious with dipped fresh bread. The soup acts like scented candles with the warm aromatic spices and herbs that greet one’s most special people at the door.
Lentil Shepherd’s Pie
This protein-packed main dish is a great substitute for turkey at the Christmas or Thanksgiving table. The recipe seems quite labor intensive, but by prepping the vegetables and lentils the day before, the process will be less arduous.
Place and submerge 2 ½ pounds of peeled and quartered russet potatoes and six peeled and chopped parsnips in a large pot of cold salted water. Bring the water to a boil and then reduce to a simmer and cook the potatoes and parsnips for about 25 to 35 minutes, or until both vegetables are fork tender. Drain the water and add ⅔ cup plant-based milk, two tbsp olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Mash with a potato masher using the stress and slight anger of hosting the in-laws over the holidays. If more milk is needed, add about one-third cup. Set the vegetables aside.
In another pot, bring 1 ½ cup of lentils to a boil in three cups water. Reduce the heat and simmer until the lentils have absorbed all liquid and are soft, usually about 30 or 35 minutes. Set the lentils aside.
Heat two tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add one large diced yellow onion and two cloves minced garlic (or three if one is planning on watching Twilight) and cook until onions are translucent and golden, which should be about 10 minutes.
Add two large diced carrots and two diced celery ribs and cook until both vegetables are tender, for about eight minutes. Add six ounces sliced baby bella, cremini or button mushrooms and cook for another three minutes before adding the lentils, one tsp dried rosemary, ¼ tsp dried thyme and ½ cup vegetable broth. Allow the mixture to simmer and stir well. When everything is warm and well mixed, season to taste with salt and pepper.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and in a large dish layer the lentil and vegetable mixture. Spread the mashed potato-parsnip mixture evenly on top and bake for 20 minutes, or until the top browns. Garnish with extra rosemary or other herbs and serve.
No Bake Pumpkin Pie Bars
This sweet, spice and everything nice dessert is made for nine people but one can double or triple the recipe, depending on how many guests will be forced or granted the pleasure of vegan dining.
To create the crust, add one cup pecans, ½ cup shredded coconut, nine pitted dates, ½ tbsp coconut oil (or any neutral flavored oil) and a pinch of salt to a food processor. Pulse together until the ingredients are well combined. Squeeze the crust ingredients and if it clumps together, then one has a good crust. If it doesn’t clump together, add a little bit more coconut oil and a few more dates. Transfer the crust to a parchment-lined baking tray and press firmly into the pan using one’s hands or a spatula.
To create the filling, add one cup canned pumpkin puree, ½ cup coconut cream, two tbsp maple syrup , ¼ cup granulated sugar, 2 ½ tbsp cornstarch, a splash of vanilla, and sprinkle in one’s desired amount of cinnamon, allspice, ginger, nutmeg and salt. Blend until creamy and smooth.
Transfer the filling to a pan over medium heat. Cook the mixture for several minutes, until it starts to thicken. Pour the filling on top of the crust and use a spatula to even out the filling.
Refrigerate for more than six hours or overnight. Then cut the bars and top them with optional coconut whipped cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon.
Here Alex shares her family’s best holiday side dishes to go with stew or tofurkey.
Josh Levy, Alexandra’s father, has been condemned to a life of vegan cooking. His grilled Brussels sprouts are a classic in the Levy household.
Chop as many as desired Brussels sprouts in thirds and place in a large mixing bowl. Heat olive oil in a high heat pan and allow oil to get very hot. Once the oil is ready, turn down the heat and add Brussels sprouts. Sprinkle salt, pepper, thyme and other desired spices. Add apple to the pan and stay vigilant, keep turning the sprouts and apple to prevent any burning.
Alexandra Levy’s mother, Nicole’s, maple syrup carrots are delicious, comforting and the only concoction she can muster up other than cereal.
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Peel desired amount of carrots and slice into halves. Parsnips can be added too. Spread on a tray sprayed with olive oil, then pour maple syrup, turning vegetables lightly to coat evenly. Sprinkle thyme and rosemary. Allow carrots to roast for 30-45 minutes in the oven to preferred softness.