Cooking for the holidays is enough to stress out anybody, and for new vegans, it can be especially nerve-wracking. Alternatively, more experienced cooks may find themselves in a cooking rut or feeling frustrated by the challenge to create restaurant-yummy meals at home.
Indeed, cooking can be a challenge for any new vegan, but the holiday meal is huge for everyone! On top of just wanting to serve a delicious feast that everyone will love, there are so many other things to worry about. Like, will people like this food or even be willing to try it? Will the holidays be the same without the traditional dishes you have eaten your whole life or is everything as you once knew it over?
This leads to the first tip:
#1 Don’t put a lot of pressure on yourself
that you have to be the world’s best cook and advocate for vegan dining.
It can feel like we have it on our shoulders to show people that eating a vegan meal is far from deprivation, but actually a celebration in color and flavor. Set yourself free from raising the bar too high, as doing this will help you relax, which in turn will save you from anxiety that usually wastes too much time and energy. This will enable you to get truly creative and to actually put together something exceptional without even realizing it!
#2 Plan a Menu
Things run smoother when they are organized. Plan what dishes you would like to make for the holidays. Do you want a vegan version of a turkey or other meat dish like pot roast? Do you want to make traditional dishes with a vegan spin? Does your holiday meal have to include mashed potatoes, stuffing, and pumpkin pie? Think about what your favorite dishes of the holidays are and plan a menu that you and everyone else will enjoy.
#3 Consider paring down the amount of dishes you need to be satisfied with the meal
While over the years we may have become accustomed to having 15 different dishes on a plate, there’s no reason that there has to be that much variety. Adjust your expectations and save yourself some headaches. It’s okay to just have three different things on a plate.
Think about what dishes just feel like Thanksgiving to you and make those. If I were to pare it down to only three things, I’d like mashed potatoes and gravy, some kind of stuffed roast, and roasted veggies. Pick out what will make a satisfying plate for you, and go with it.
#4 Prep, prep, prep!
Chefs from all walks of cooking can’t emphasize prep enough. It saves you time, makes cooking less hectic (especially during an already hectic time), and even allows you breathing room to clean up as you cook.
“The most time-saving device is reading recipes to their fullest before starting … That way you have time to start and sometimes finish certain instructions while others are in the works.”
—Emilie Bousquet-Walsh, Go Burger Bar and Grill, New York City
“Whether I’m cooking at home or in the restaurant, having a game plan is essential. Measure our all of your spices, chopped herbs, or vegetables and put them in bowls. Organize them in the order they will be used in the recipe … Once you have all of your tools and ingredients handy, you can get in the kitchen and really have some fun!”
—Emeril Lagasse, author of Emeril 20-40-60: Fresh Food Fast
#5 Collect Recipes
Look for recipes of vegan versions of the foods on your menus. There are recipes for just about every dish out there. Read through several recipes for each dish and see which ones appeal to you and which appear to be at your cooking level. You can also use your old family recipes and figure out what substitutions you need to make for the non-vegan ingredients.
Today, vegans have so many choices when it comes to food. When it comes to store-bought products, there is a vegan substitute for almost everything and if there’s something missing, I can guarantee you someone is working hard to develop it. There are vegan meats, vegan chicken, vegan fish, vegan hot dogs and sausages, vegan milks, cheeses and ice creams, vegan butter, and even vegan eggs. These incredible products allow us to make all our favorite dishes in a snap. Don’t feel bad about taking a little help from the store and buying some pre-made vegan products. While it’s possible to make your own vegan milk, cheese, butter and even your own tofu and tempeh, give yourself a break. Non-vegans don’t make all their own ingredients and you don’t have to either.
#7 Make It Pretty!
We eat with our eyes, too!
And this is an expectation we usually have for holiday meals!
“Go green: Just a small sprinkle of chopped fresh herbs or a few ribbons of green onion bring a freshness and vibrancy to the plate. For a fancier meal, microgreens — the tiny shoots of edible plants — instantly make a dish look restaurant-ready.”
“The odder the better: Things in even numbers look strange on a plate. So whether you’re putting scallops or dollops of sauce [on the plate], put three or five, not two or four.”
—Rick Bayless, Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Chicago
#8 Have Fun
The most important tip I can give you is to have fun. The holidays are supposed to be about joy and festivities. Find the fun in trying new recipes and new foods and introducing these new dishes to your loved ones. Imagine how satisfying it will be when everyone loves the food and can’t believe that cake doesn’t contain eggs or butter.
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