Holiday traditions vegan style

There’re only a few days left before the year ends and my kitchen has been bustling with the sounds and smells of the season! There have been lots of activities that have kept me on my feet non-stop. There is no time for complaining. It is time to execute! The oven has been in non-stop performance mode and the blender has kicked into high speed, baking and churning holiday goodies that will be shared with friends and family, while creating memories for my girls that will someday transition into family traditions.
As I sit and reflect, I fondly remember the late nights spent in the kitchen with my mother and brother, during this season, as we baked dozens of Jamaican Christmas cakes as gifts for friends and family. Everyone looked forward to my mom’s fruit cake and my brother and I looked forward to licking the cake batter off the wooden spoon. We would be up for hours until the wee hours of the morning ensuring that every cake came out perfect. I can’t help but smile at these memories that are now sometimes bittersweet, since my mom isn’t here to experience the impact of her unintentional family tradition and her labor of love.

All of this reflection got me thinking about my new normal and what holiday traditions will really look like, in the kitchen, for families that choose a plant-based lifestyle. In my book, it looks a lot like what I do now daily, veganizing all my favorite meals. Besides, there is a plant-based substitute for just about everything! So, the traditional eggnog may become carrotnog or pumpkinnog and that moist and full of white rum Jamaican Christmas fruit cake will be missing the eggs and dairy but definitely not the flavor! Luckily there are some holiday dishes that are already vegan, like the spicy sorrel drink that my family now enjoys year-round.
To help make your holiday kitchen tradition a breeze and fun for the entire family, let’s explore a few healthy, hearty vegan substitutes. Eggs are often found in many holiday dishes. In my experience, applesauce or flax eggs make the best egg substitute and when combined, they give the best results. 1 egg can be substituted for ¼ cup of applesauce or 1 flax egg which is 1 tablespoon of grounded flax seed soaked in 2 ½ tablespoon of water for 5 minutes. For a less dense and light fluffy cake don’t forget to add extra baking powder to give a little more rise and fluffiness!

Butter is one ingredient that gives most dishes lots of flavor. My go to substitutes are the equivalent amount of coconut oil or store bought plant-based butter made from olive oil or avocado oil. For soups and sauces, I do recommend coconut oil, especially if you are a fan of the coconut flavor. For baking, the store-bought plant-based butters work best.
For heavy cream substitutes there are so many options. However, my top pick here is full-fat coconut cream. You really can’t go wrong with coconut cream, especially when used in baked goods and soups. Another go-to for a heavy cream substitute is cashew cream and the best part is you can make it at home. The recipe is quick and simple. Cashew cream is used best in any sauce, baked goods, or soup recipes. Cashew cream can be made by blending/processing ¾ cups soaked cashew with ¼ cup of water.

Cheese substitutes have come a long way! There are so many options on the market that are meltable and have strong cheesy flavors, which means that there is not too much that you will miss indulging in these substitutes. If you prefer to have homemade vegan cheese there are several recipes that incorporate cashew nuts, almonds, or potatoes, with the star ingredients being nutritional yeast!
With a host of plant-based substitutes available, there is no need to worry about making the most delectable plant-based holiday spread. Now your focus can be on creating memories and building holiday traditions for years to come in the kitchen.
Speaking of traditions, here is the recipe for one of my family’s favorite holiday traditions, spicy sorrel drink. I grew up enjoying this drink during the Christmas and New Year holiday season. Now my family enjoys this drink year-round, since my girls love it so much! Cheers to the new year and a season of vegan traditions. Happy cooking!

Spicy Sorrel Drink

8 cups of cold water

4-8 whole cloves

1 cinnamon stick,  3-4 inches

2 tablespoon of ginger, grated

1 tablespoon pimento berries (all spice) ¾ cup sugar

Bring the water to boil in a large pot. Reduce the heat to medium and add the ginger, cinnamon, cloves, and pimento berries, followed by the orange peel. After 5 minutes add the sorrel and stir. Allow to simmer on low-medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove the pot from the heat, cover and leave to steep for a minimum of 4 hours, preferably overnight (recommended). Strain mixture with a cheesecloth and discard the excess sorrel, peel and spices. Sweeten to taste with sugar and serve on ice. Enjoy!

Previously published on the on January 1, 2024.

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