Roast Beast Is A Feast I Can’t Stand In The Least
You and me alike, Mr. Grinch! So, what does a vegan eat for Christmas dinner? Not tofurkey. At least not in our house, no one likes it. So, all of our dinner is homemade, and nothing with the intention of ‘replacing’ a turkey. Instead, the dinner celebrates the flavors and ingredients we associate with Christmas. Every bite is full of flavor from the pureed roasted yams to the phyllo pie and cranberry sauce.
I’m sharing my entire Christmas dinner menu here, with the exception of some greens dessert. I used to serve a side dish of sauteed greens like collards or kale, but in recent years I prefer having a fresh salad of mixed field greens, with some pomegranate seeds. As for dessert, I tend to switch it up year to year, but typically make something that can be prepared a couple of days in advance, such as homemade or specialty ice creams with sauces.
One note: As with any holiday meal, this menu requires a good deal of preparation. Make your lists, organize your time, and do some of the recipes in advance. The phyllo entree, mushroom gravy, and cranberry sauce, for instance can be prepped a day or two ahead of time. Also, consider sharing the work. I used to prepare all of these dishes myself. Then, after having children, my sister said “it’s crazy for you to do all this work with little ones”. I had to agree! So, now she prepares the gravy and phyllo pie, and brings them to our house along with drinks and Christmas crackers. I do the side dishes, ‘dressing’, and dessert, and prep components of these dishes the days leading up to Christmas. For more about this menu (as well as our “PJ Fairy” and ‘drunken turned clumsy’ Santa traditions) you can listen to my recent interview with the Toronto Vegetarian Association.
Spiced Mushroom Potato Phyllo Pie
This filling in this pie is fragrant and spiced just enough to gently infuse the potatoes and mushrooms. For an easier filling using phyllo pastry, try making strudels (as pictured below and as mentioned in my TVA interview), using my Rawesome Nut Dip from eat, drink & be vegan, recipe here.
2 tbsp olive oil (for sauté)
1½ cups red onions, chopped
¼–½ sea salt
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1½ tsp ground coriander
1 tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp tumeric
½ tsp ground fennel
fresh ground black pepper to taste
1½–1¾ cups (about ¾ lb) all-purpose potatoes, cubed
1–2 tbsp water
6 cups (about 1–1¼ lb) white button mushrooms, sliced
1½–2 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
1–1½ tsp lemongrass, finely chopped (see note)
1 tbsp arrowroot flour, dissolved in 1–2 tbsp water
1–2 tsp hoisin sauce
¼ cup fresh parsely, finely chopped (optional)
14–16 sheets phyllo pastry
3 tbsp olive oil (or oil spritzer) (to brush phyllo)
In a large pot, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, salt, fenugreek, ground coriander, mustard seeds, tumeric, ground fennel, and black pepper, and cook for a few minutes. Add potatoes and water, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and let simmer for 6–7 minutes. Stir in mushrooms, increase heat a little, cover and cook for 6–7 minutes. Stir in ginger and lemongrass, cover again and cook for a few minutes. Check potatoes; if they are not tender, continue cooking for another few minutes. When potatoes are tender, stir in arrowroot/water mixture until mixture thickens. Stir in hoisin sauce and parsley, and remove the pot from the heat. Allow mixture to cool before layering the phyllo.
Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly oil an 8”x12” baking dish. To layer the phyllo, take the full sheets of pastry and cut them in half along the longest side so that once cut, the half sheets will fit your baking dish. (If using another size dish, cut your phyllo sheets accordingly to fit your dish, keeping in mind that you may need more than 12 sheets.) Brush or spray a half sheet with a little of the 3 tbsp olive oil, then layer with another sheet and repeat process. Continue until you have 5 sheets layered (you do not need to brush the 5th sheet, since it will have the filling placed on it). Place layered sheets on bottom of baking dish. Distribute about ⅓ of cooled mushroom-potato filling over the layer of pastry. Prepare another layer of phyllo sheets, this time using 4 sheets, then layer with another ⅓ of filling. Repeat with another layer of 4 sheets, and finally the last ⅓ of filling. Place one sheet of phyllo on top of the last layer of filling. To top the dish, brush each last sheet of phyllo with olive oil. Gently bring the edges of each sheet together with your fingertips to make loose wrinkles. Place each wrinkled sheet on top of dish, filling the entire surface area. You should be able to fit 8–9 half sheets on top like this. Don’t worry about it being perfect, the idea is to have a decorative look, and the wrinkled sheets will look beautiful when baked. Trim around the edge of pie with a sharp knife to remove any excess phyllo, and sprinkle top with a little ground coriander if desired. Bake for 23–27 minutes, until the pastry is golden brown. (If refrigerating before baking, cover with plastic wrap; once chilled, your baking time will be a bit longer.) Makes 5–6 servings.
♥ For 6 servings, per serving: Calories: 403; Total Fat: 13.6 g (Sat. Fat: 1.8 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 60.9 g; Fiber: 4.6 g; Protein: 9.1 g.
Note: The lemongrass adds a distinctive flavor, but if you are unable to use it, substitute lemon zest.
1½ tbsp olive oil
1 cup red or white onion, finely chopped
3–4 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt to taste
fresh ground black pepper to taste
2½ cups white mushrooms, sliced
½ tsp dried savory
½ tsp dried oregano
¼–½ tsp dried thyme
2 cups vegetable stock, cool or just warm
2 tbsp arrowroot flour
1½–2 tbsp whole wheat pastry flour (or unbleached all-purpose flour)
1–2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce (to taste) (see sidebar)
1–1½ tsp molasses
In a saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add onions and garlic, a pinch of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper, and sauté for 4–5 minutes, until the onions start to soften. Add mushrooms, savory, oregano, and thyme, lower the heat to medium-low, and sauté for another 4–5 minutes. Meanwhile, add a few tablespoons of vegetable stock to a small bowl. Stir arrowroot flour into the stock, blending well. Mix this back into the vegetable stock, and set aside. When mushrooms are soft, add in the whole wheat pastry flour and stir a few minutes to cook the flour. Then, stir in vegetable stock/arrowroot mixture, tamari, and molasses. Cook slowly, stirring continuously, until gravy reaches a boil and thickens, then remove from heat. Season with additional salt and pepper if desired, and serve. Makes 5½–5¾ cups.
♥ For ½ of gravy (just under 1 cup): Calories: 87; Total Fat: 3.5 g (Sat. Fat: 0.5 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 11.3 g; Fiber: 1.2 g; Protein: 2.6 g.
Note: For a darker gravy, use a dark soy sauce instead of the tamari, or a little extra tamari; the gravy will darken as it reaches a boil. Keep in mind, however, that this will increase the saltiness of your gravy.
Roasting turnips takes a little time but the taste is well worth it! The natural flavors and sugars are retained beneath the skin and intensify during the baking process.
2 lbs turnips (yellow turnip, also known as rutabaga, see note)
2–2½ tsp olive oil
½ tsp pure maple syrup
¼ tsp sea salt
few pinches cinnamon
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce turnips a few times and place whole on upper rack of oven, with tin foil on lower rack to catch drippings. Bake for roughly 1¾–2 hours until turnips are very tender when pierced (baking time will vary depending on the size of turnips). Remove from oven and let cool slightly before peeling the skins. Transfer flesh to a bowl or food processor and add remaining ingredients. Using a hand blender or in the food processor, puréeuntil smooth (you could also mash well by hand). Season with additional sea salt and black pepper if desired. Serve immediately, or return to oven on low heat to keep warm. Makes 4 servings.
♥ For 4 servings, per serving: Calories: 94; Total Fat: 3 g (Sat. Fat: 0.4 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 14.7 g; Fiber: 4.1 g; Protein: 2 g.
1) Rutabagas are often confused with turnips. Turnips are actually slightly different than rutabagas (often known as yellow turnip), with turnips being smaller and lighter in color (rutabega have more of a yellow flesh and the skin has a yellow and purple color, whereas turnip has a whiter flesh with a purple/white color). Rutabagas are sweeter than turnip, and preferable in this recipe.
2) Another super way to roast turnips is to peel them, cut into 1” chunks, and toss with the seasonings listed. Place in a baking dish and bake covered for about 30 minutes at 400°F. Remove cover and continue baking, tossing occasionally, for about 40–50 minutes, until tender and golden brown in spots. The turnips will be caramelized with intense, earthy flavors.
2½–3 lbs yams
2–3 tsp olive oil
⅛–¼ tsp fresh grated nutmeg
¼ tsp sea salt, or more, to taste
Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce yams a few times. Place on upper rack of oven, with a piece of tin foil on lower rack to catch drippings. Bake for 50–60 minutes, until very tender when pierced (baking times will vary based on size of yams). Remove from oven, and let cool long enough to handle. Peel skins and in a bowl or food processor, add yam flesh, olive oil, nutmeg, and sea salt. Using a hand blender or food processor, puréeuntil smooth (you could also mash well by hand.) Season with additional sea salt and pepper if desired. Serve immediately, or return to oven (on low heat) to keep warm. Makes 4–5 servings or more.
♥ For 5 servings, per serving: Calories: 349; Total Fat: 3.2 g (Sat. Fat: 0.5 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 76 g; Fiber: 11.2 g; Protein: 4.2 g.
Note: In addition to being part of the a holiday menu, these yams will add taste and substance to a variety of meals. They are absolutely delicious as the base for a stir-fry, or as an alternative to rice or couscous. Think about having them in a meal where you might otherwise have mashed potatoes: a great change from the old standby!
“All Dressed” Squash
This is not your traditional stuffing. It’s not even called stuffing! I grew up in Newfoundland, and our ’stuffing’ is called dressing, and it is made with breadcrumbs, a hefty dose of dried savory, and onions. I add apples and dried cranberries for a sweet/tart flavor dimension. This dressing is very moist, and can even be baked in a covered dish if doubling the recipe (as I need to every year)!
1 winter squash, 9-10 lb (buttercup, kabocha, sweet dumpling, or butternut) (or 2 at 5-6 lb)
2 tbsp olive oil (for sauté)
2 cups onions, diced
½ tsp sea salt (for sauté)
1 cup celery, minced
5 cups good quality breadcrumbs
½–¾ cup apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice, fresh squeezed
⅓–½ cup apple, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp lemon juice, squeezed
⅓–½ cup dried cranberries
⅓ cup dried savory
2–3 tsp fresh thyme or oregano, chopped (optional)
¼ tsp sea salt
fresh ground black pepper to taste
¾ cup vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
Preheat oven to 400°F. Place whole squash on upper rack of oven (place tinfoil or liner sheet on bottom rack to catch drippings) and bake for 40–50 minutes (less for two smaller squash), until a skewer or knife easily pierces the flesh. Remove from oven and let cool enough to handle. In the meantime, prepare other ingredients, leaving the apple last. In a skillet, heat the 2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat, and sauté onions and ½ tsp sea salt for 2–3 minutes, then add the celery and continue to sauté for another 2–3 minutes, until the onions soften. In a large mixing bowl, combine onion/celery mixture with breadcrumbs. Toss apple in lemon juice and mix in, followed by cranberries, savory, optional thyme or oregano, remaining ¼ tsp sea salt, and black pepper to taste. Combine well, drizzle in stock and remaining 2 tbsp olive oil, and toss. The dressing should be fairly moist in spots, but not soggy or crumbly; if extra moisture is needed, add additional tbsp or two of olive oil and/or stock. Next, cut the top off of the squash (but don’t discard) and scrape out seeds and stringy flesh, scraping into flesh a ½ inch or so (see sidebar). At this point, place squash in a baking dish that will encase it well, to stabilize it when you are moving it in and out of the oven. Scoop dressing into squash, patting it in lightly, and stuffing it very full. Replace top of squash and place back in oven and bake for another 35–45 minutes, until squash is very tender and the dressing is moist and fragrant. Makes 6–8 servings.
♥ For 8 servings (including dressing) per serving: Calories: 437; Total Fat: 9.5 g (Sat. Fat: 1.5 g); Cholesterol: 0 mg; Carbohydrate: 75.6 g; Fiber: 13.3 g; Protein: 12 g.
Note: For a great tasting, moist dressing, use regular good quality whole grain breads, even in combination with good quality white breads. The texture and taste of the stuffing depend a great deal on the bread itself. If you don’t eat much white bread, you can enjoy a little here in this wonderful stuffing!
Note: If using butternut squash, cut a lengthwise “top” off so it can lay flat. There are fewer seeds in butternut squash, so cut into the flesh to create a hollow large enough for stuffing (or bake extra dressing in a covered dish).
Traditional Cranberry Sauce
1½ cups fresh cranberries, rinsed (see note)
½ cup pure maple syrup
¼ tsp sea salt
1 tsp balsamic vinegar (optional)
In a pot on medium-high heat, combine ingredients and bring mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Once boiling, reduce heat to simmer for 10–15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until cranberries have broken down. (Reduce heat is sauce is sticking or is simmering too rapidly.) Once sauce has thickened, taste test, and add balsamic vinegar for a touch of sourness if desired. Serve warm or chilled. Makes about 1 cup.
Note: Frozen cranberries can also be used; just continue simmering until cranberries break down into entire mixture thickens and becomes deeper in color.
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays everyone!