Ah, Thanksgiving and the holiday season is upon us. Of course that includes the Big Meal, the one and only day of the year where Americans and Canadians celebrate the tradition of the annual harvest by eating all day long.
Because the main highlight of this festive pig-out session happens to be a dead, roasted turkey, it is simultaneously one of the most loathed days for vegetarians and vegans everywhere. With all the talk about vegans lately, we're sure you have a few family members that have made the compassionate decision to go animal-free for Thanksgiving -- and you're now tasked with preparing an entire meat and cruelty-free menu just for them. No problem. Just follow these simple guidelines, and you'll be able to whip up a meatless holiday dinner for a tasty -- and peaceful -- celebration.
To help, this Thanksgiving Peta2 -- the youth division of the world's largest animal rights group -- has compiled a check-list for shopping, and will also be awarding one lucky family with a free vegan tofurky roast.
When it comes to a vegetarian or vegan Thanksgiving, for many it's not about the food. It's a stand against animal cruelty. Aside from a table spread with dishes that revolve around dairy and meat, the turkey centerpiece is a reminder that each year of the 247 million turkeys raised in 2013, one in three will be eaten during the holiday season. And it's not pretty. Sadly, turkeys -- along with other poultry -- are not protected by the federal Humane Slaughter Act, and are frequently killed under brutal conditions. That means a painful death for the estimated 45 million turkeys that will be killed for Thanksgiving dinners this year.
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Here, watch Peta2's "Thanks!," Thanksgiving video where a turkey headed for the slaughterhouse saves a young boy that accidentally gets sent on a wild ride through the slaughterhouse conveyor belt.
So...now that you're considering offering a few vegan options on Thanksgiving, lucky for you there's an easy vegan alternative to pretty much every dish the holiday is best known for, including:
- Turkey -- Instead of roasting a bird try an alternative like Tofurky Roast (packaged with stuffing, wild rice and cranberry dumplings); Field Roast's Celebration Roast; or Gardein's Savory Stuffed Turk'yor Holiday Roast available at retailers like Trader Joe's, Whole Foods and Publix. Or make your own with a recipe like this one from The Chef in You.
- Milk -- Instead of milk in your mashed potatoes, use soy or almond milk to make them creamy and fluffy. Try these saffron mashed potatoes from The Shiksa in the Kitchen.
- Butter -- Try making your green bean casserole like The Detoxinista with coconut oil, or Earth Balance and Smart Balance Light Original Buttery Spread. They're all dairy-free and the Earth Balance even includes flax for a nutrition kick.
- Meat Stock -- Duh! Use vegetable stock cubes to flavor stuffing and other dishes, instead. Here's a great vegan gravy recipe for those looking.
- Eggs -- Swap bananas or applesauce to add moisture to any baked goods you're making. Use one mashed banana or ¼ cup of unsweetened applesauce to replace one egg.
- Cream -- Use coconut milk in place of cream for the same texture. This vegan pumpkin pie recipe from Oh She Glows with a sweet and salty spiced pecan crust looks better than the real thing.
If all this doesn't make you want to give up turkey for Thanksgiving, maybe a free Tofurky Roast giveaway will sweeten the deal. To enter, visit the Peta Thanksgiving Tofurky Giveaway page and fill out the online form with your mailing address where you plan to spend your holiday.
Follow Nicole Danna on Twitter, @SoFloNicole.