I had so many delicious vegan dishes for Christmas this year! I’m just going to dive right into it because it’s all so exciting. However, it needs to be said that I didn’t make any of this stuff. December is really busy for me at work and otherwise, so I knew ahead of time that I would have zero time to be busy or creative in the kitchen. Luckily, there are so many great vegan places in Ottawa that I could turn to for delicious holiday meals! The main thing I took away from this Christmas feast was that eating vegan at Christmas feels exactly the same as eating the regular, omnivore dishes. The flavours and textures are there and the warmth. You do not miss out at all!
First off, the main event – a TOFURKY. What I actually wanted was a Gardein Holiday Roast because I had heard via this vegan Facebook group in Ottawa that they were by far the best. There seemed to be a very strong consensus, and people were also posting about where to purchase them. Whole Foods seemed like a reliable place so I planned an evening to head to the location at Lansdowne. I believe I ended up getting there on the 14th. To my horror, the Gardein roasts were totally sold out – they even checked in the back, they were GONE. I was so disappointed but also in the back of my mind, I had been mentally preparing for this possible outcome. So I took the Tofurky they had because I had never tried it before anyway. No one on the Facebook group said it was terrible, all of them just preferred the Gardein roasts.
I cooked the Tofurky at my parents’ place on Christmas Eve in order to have it the next day at my grandparent’s place – the big Christmas dinner with the whole family. I wanted to avoid taking up oven or kitchen space there and instead just reheat something for my sister and myself. It was fairly simple to put together. You unwrap it, place it in a baking dish surrounded by some veggies (I picked onions and carrots) to flavour it. Then you baste it; they have a baste recipe and instructions on the packaging. It takes almost two hours in total with prep and cooking but that’s much less than an actually turkey, so big WIN for the vegans! The first half of cooking, it doesn’t really smell because it should be very tightly covered by foil or a lid. But the last ten minutes when it’s uncovered, it smells heavenly. I of course had to taste test it as soon as it was done and I loved it. It had all the right flavours and the texture, I was relieved and excited. With gravy, stuffing, potatoes etc. on Christmas Day, it fit in perfectly.
On Christmas Eve for dinner, I cooked a pre-made tourtiére that I picked up at Strawberry Blonde Bakery in Westboro the day before. You cook these from frozen for almost an hour, they are SO easy and so delicious!! It was almost scary how close it looked to the St Hubert tourtiére my parents were eating. They tried ours and really liked it, they said you could barely tell the difference if someone served you both. Great job, Strawberry Blonde! We had a salad with the tourtiére and it was a perfect Christmas Eve meal.
Also on Christmas Eve we had a traditional Yule Log or Bûche de Noël, as it originated in France and is still very popular there and in Quebec as well. We ordered this from Thimblecakes and picked red velvet for the cake inside. It was very good, the icing was especially delicious! Our parents also loved the yule log, that was the only dessert we had that night. I was really impressed because sometimes the icing at Thimblecakes is a bit too buttery for me, but this one mostly tasted like cocoa and sugar, it was perfect.
On Christmas Day at the big family dinner, my sister and I had plates that looked like this:
So from the top and clockwise, we had:
- A white bun (with Earth Balance butter)
- Tofurkey with cranberry sauce & veggies
- Potatoes & turnips (made with Earth Balance)
- Cabbage salad (made with Vegenaise)
- Stuffing from Strawberry Blonde Bakery
- Gravy (made from a package, blehhh)
As I said, the Tofurky was really good in my opinion. It was even better with cranberry sauce and some mediocre gravy on it! Normally I would make my own gravy, but there were literally too many cooks in the kitchen that day so we made one that could just be microwaved with water. You get out of it what you put in, that was definitely true for this gravy water! It didn’t ruin the meal luckily, in fact it was still nice to have something warm and flavourful to add to the plate. The potatoes and turnip were great – our family is cool and set some aside for us to add in our own vegan butter. The cabbage salad is something my mom makes at home, she set out some of the mix for us to add vegenaise to as well. The stuffing was good – nothing amazing, and I prefer the stuffing I made for Thanksgiving from Minimalist Baker, but it was still a yummy substitute. All the flavours and textures were there once some gravy and cranberry sauce was added. Nothing to complain about at all! It was just like a regular Christmas dinner, only completely cruelty free so it felt good 🙂
During dinner, there was very little discussion about our plates. People in our family are mostly just curious and sometimes they try a bite or two of things we make and tend to like it. Although only my parents tasted the Thanksgiving bowls I made at Thanksgiving, my whole family saw pictures and were really impressed. We barely talked about what Nadine and I were eating at Christmas dinner, I think maybe because it looked so similar and we were clearly enjoying it as much as everyone else enjoyed their food.
Overall, I felt like this was a really successful holiday season for me as a vegan. Last year at this time, my sister and I had just made the decision to be vegans in October. I was still struggling near Christmas and while I ate no meat at Christmas, I believe I did eat stuffing from the turkey and things that contained butter and cheese. This Christmas, there was no way I would have been able to do that. It inspires me to carry on because even though it’s a long process, it is really happening! My cheese addiction is completely GONE (that’s the one I have trouble even believing is true because man, I loved cheese!) and I rarely think about eating any other dairy products. Being free from the addiction to cheese and other dairy has to be my favourite outcome of becoming vegan. It’s true that you really don’t realize how far gone you are until you’re out of it.
However, I’ve recently encountered a problem: seeing meat, either at the grocery store raw in the refrigerators or cooked on people’s plates nearby, is starting to make me feel nauseous. I’m not sure if this is just a psychological phenomenon or not, but it’s definitely a recent development – I’d say just the past few months really. I think there are ways I can avoid the meat section in the grocery stores, but many people close to me eat meat regularly and I would absolutely never ask them not to, it’s definitely not my place.
For now I’m just going to suck it up, because for example at Christmas when people had plates full of different kinds of foods, it didn’t bother me at all. It seems to mostly be a problem when meat is the ONLY thing on the plate – counter example, when people were eating hamburgers in front of me and nothing else. Even thinking of that now makes me feel sick because I remember feeling sick at that time. Maybe it’s really all in my head, I certainly hope so because I’d like to get a handle on it soon. But again, it just shows me that there are big changes happening in my body and mind as well, that are manifesting themselves physically and that’s extremely interesting.
My next big challenge for 2017 is to become a healthier vegan. I think to be truly successful in veganism, you have to be truly healthy and currently I’m not. Whether this is related to how I handle stress in my life (often with food) or the things I’m choosing to eat regularly, I will address it all and make the most of this plant-based lifestyle. That term says it all – I need to focus more on the plants and less on processed or convenience foods. I’m really excited to get started, 2017 will be a fantastic and healthy year 🙂
Oh, I forgot about this so I’ll just add quickly down here since I never post about desserts; I made some vegan sugar cookies and got a little carried away with decorating them late one night and well, this was the outcome…I did have fun though 🙂