Let’s face it, vegan food can be bland, weird, or just plain inedible.

Part of this mediocrity comes from (some) vegan chefs’ unforgivable penchant for using inappropriate foods to “substitute” for non-vegan components. For example, replacing protein-y eggs with completely unrelated substances like applesauce or cornstarch.

There also persists an equally enjoyment-defeating assumption that vegans want low-fat foods or sweets with whole-wheat flour. Sweets are for indulgence, not for health, I say!

Furthermore, vegans tend to be unreliable when it comes to recipes. Being desperate for food options, they’ll rave about sub-par fare.

So what kinds of holiday deliciousness can you make for vegans that actually tastes good enough that you don’t need to preface dinner with “it’s vegan, don’t judge me?”

I’ll leave you with a couple recipes below, and feel free to post your own, but here are some general rules for vegan cooking:

1. Always have a hearty, protein-rich course so your guests leave full. Use beans, lentils, tofu, tempeh, nuts, quinoa or whole grains (but not in pie crust).

2. The holidays are no time to skimp on richness, so use fats a-plenty. Olive oil is great (yawn), but why not think about mustard, coconut, peanut, or sesame oils? Use avocados, walnuts, sunflower seeds, pecans, macadamias, filberts, chestnuts. People who are allergic to tree nuts can usually eat peanuts or cashews, and vice versa.

3. Don’t reinvent the wheel. Some already-vegan foods – guacamole comes to mind – succeed without that extra shake of nutritional yeast or whatever.

Best Brussels Sprouts
Non-vegans always ask for this recipe. It’s a keeper.

Parsley-Caper Sauce (makes ½ cup):
Recipe adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone.

½ cup finely chopped parsley
2 tbsp small capers, rinsed
1 finely chopped shallot
1 large lemon
1/3 cup mild olive oil
1 tsbp white wine vinegar
Salt

Wash the lemon well, particularly if it’s not organic. Grate about 1 tsp of the zest, then cut lemon in half and squeeze out 2 tsp of juice. Combine zest and juice with remaining ingredients, stir vigorously, let sit for 10 minutes. Taste and adjust vinegar, juice and salt as needed. Set aside.

Sprouts:

1 pound of Brussels sprouts
1 cup of Walnuts, broken or loosely chopped
2 tbsp olive or vegetable oil

Trim remaining stems off the sprouts and slice into halves. Steam until bright green and nearly fully soft, perhaps 5 minutes. If don’t have a steaming device, just skip to frying them.
In medium-heat frying pan, heat oil, add steamed sprouts. When they begin to brown, add the walnuts, stirring periodically until all the sprouts are lightly browned.
Remove from heat, add sauce. Serve hot or room temp.

Cuneiform Bean Soup – feeds 6+
This is a variation on Italian bean soup, but with quinoa, which looks like tiny unreadable alphabet script.

Ingredients:
1/3 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil
1 white or yellow onion
2 1/2 tbsp fresh, loosely-chopped rosemary
4 whole, fresh sage leaves
2 large, chopped carrots
½ smallish celery root, peeled and sliced. Or two celery stalks, chopped
1 large potato (any kind, Russets are nice)
6 garlic cloves, loosely chopped
3/4 cup quinoa
10 brown mushrooms, sliced
1 ½ cups completely cooked beans: cannellini, navy, great northern, or mixed
Handful finely chopped parsley
1 cup chopped ripe tomatoes (canned are better than fresh if you can’t find ripe ones)
Salt, a lot, to taste
Pepper, to taste

Soup stock: In a large pot on medium heat combine 2 tbsp oil, onion, the sage, and ½ tbsp of the rosemary, stirring regularly until onions are translucent. Add carrot, celery, garlic, potato, 2 tsp salt, and 8 cups water. Bring to boil, lower to simmer 30 minutes uncovered. Strain, keeping only the liquid.

Meanwhile, rinse the bejeesus out of the quinoa. If you’re so inclined, you can actually boil it in a little water for 30 seconds and strain. This eliminates the bitter outer coating.

In a small frying pan, fry up the remaining 2 tbsp rosemary in 1/3 cup oil on low to medium heat until the leaves start to brown. Set aside to cool, then strain out leaves, retaining fragrant rosemary oil in a little pitcher or cup to use as soup garnish.

When the stock is complete and strained, add back in the quinoa, mushrooms, beans, tomatoes, and parsley into pot. Bring back to a boil, and then lower to simmer until the “tails” are sticking out of the quinoa. Add pepper and plenty of salt to taste.

Garnish after serving.

Check back tomorrow for brownies, and pie crust that doesn’t suck!

Do you have a favorite vegan holiday recipe? Email us, or post it below.