9 Vegan Holiday Recipes & Ideas for Non-Vegans

I’m lucky enough to have wonderful friends who make sure there’s something for me—the vegan—to eat at their holiday party or when I come over for dinner. Usually, they ask me what can I buy or make. People have asked me if peanut butter and tortilla chips are vegan (yes and yes). Honestly, it makes me happy that people ask!

I’d rather they ask me than have to eat a few bites of air and stare at my empty plate. Plus, I think it’s helpful for people to know that yes, there are tons of great vegan options.

So, I wanted to make a list of a few resources for the non-vegans that won’t be scary, like making you figure out what nutritional yeast is or understanding what the heck we can and can not eat.

1) Vegan Marshmallows
A friend was kind enough to include me in a s’mores station by picking up Sweet & Sara vanilla marshmallows for me at Whole Foods. Dandies are also great, too. Why aren’t marshmallows vegan? Regular mallows have gelatin in them, which is made from animal bones. Yeah, really.

2) Hummus and Crudités & Chips and Guacamole
These are the simplest appetizers that are also vegan. Really simple. Most grocery stores should have them. Same goes for chips and salsa.

3) Easy Vegan Recipes
One of my friends had me and Brendan over for dinner and simply Googled, “easy vegan dinner.” That night, she made soba noodles in a coconut milk sauce with stir-fried tofu. Yum! The number one question people ask me is where to find simple vegan recipes, so here are my favorite food blogs.

  • Healthy. Happy. Life. Kathy Patalsky makes everything look good and taste good.
  • Chef Chloe. Chloe Coscarelli’s Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls are such a hit every time I make them. She makes vegan cooking so easy.
  • Post Punk Kitchen. Isa Chandra Moskowitz is a badass who has great recipes on her site. Make them all!
  • Chocolate-Covered Katie. A non-vegan friend turned me on to this dessert-based blog. Everything is delicious. I’m a fan of her baked oatmeals and black bean brownies.

4) Yes, Chocolate is Vegan
Dark chocolate is usually vegan. Just check the ingredients to make sure there’s no milk. Oreos, Twizzlers, and candy canes are all accidentally vegan. Perfect for holiday parties!

5) Vegan Cookies and Pie
Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods have a nice selection of pre-made vegan goodies. No need to freak out about egg substitutions. Though, if you want some ways to sub for eggs, here you go.

6) Homemade Bread
There’s nothing like a loaf of homemade bread. At a recent holiday dinner party, I feasted on delicious bread. Who needs turkey when you have warm, doughy bread?

7) Vegan Cheese
Whole Foods now has a nice selection of vegan cheeses. My friend was kind enough to buy a block of vegan cheese, so I could partake of the cheese and crackers platter. You don’t know how happy this made me. Want some vegan cheese ideas? Here you go!

8) Seasonal Hot Drinks
Mulled apple cider or mulled wine is delightful. So Delicious makes a Mint Chocolate coconut milk drink and Nog just for the holidays, and Califa Farms has a vegan almond milk Holiday Nog.

9) Fruit Salad
Never underestimate the power of a fruit salad. It’s always vegan, healthy, and most people like fruit. It’s a win for everyone.

Above all else, we’re just happy that you’re considerate enough to make sure we have something to eat. Thank you!

Interview with Debut Nonfiction Author Alexis Coe

I first met writer Alexis Coe when I lived in the Bay Area and our mutual friend set us up to meet. I’m usually not expecting much on blind friend dates, but Alexis and I hit it off. (I think it also helped that we are both obsessed with our dogs.) Alexis wrote her first book, which was published in October, and she was kind enough to share about her writing process and how her first book tour went.

1) How did the idea for ALICE + FREDA FOREVER come about, and what was your process for getting a book deal with Zest, your publishers?

I read about the case in grad school, and carried it with me for years. Friends in publishing didn’t want it. Historical Societies and museums I was working in didn’t want it. Publications didn’t want it—until the Toast was born. Nicole Cliffe and Mallory Ortberg made me their in-house historian, and they gave me a space to share the many historic women I want to write about. From there, an editor in the Bay Area was circling, and basically gave me the opportunity to name my project. (There are some “I told you so” moments I’m going to resist.) I immediately knew that I wanted to tell Alice and Freda’s story, and exactly how I wanted to tell it. Once they agreed to allow me to include illustrated primary sources, I was in.

Next time around, it’ll be different. I don’t want that much control or responsibility. Writing a book is hard enough! Editors can approach me, but a deal will likely come out of a proposal my agent sends out.

2) Your book is based on a true story. To quote your book blurb, which sums up your novel nicely: “Nineteen-year-old Alice Mitchell planned to pass as a man and marry seventeen-year-old Freda Ward, but when their love letters were discovered, they were forbidden to ever speak again.” How did you research the story? What information did you gather to piece together their romance and history?

I’m so glad you called it a “novel,” because that’s something I’ve noticed people say, but it isn’t fictitious. Alice and Freda were real people in 1892 Memphis. That being said, I think people call it a novel because it reads a bit like one, which is the GREATEST compliment you can give a nonfiction writer. (I can’t pretend that I didn’t love when the New Yorker said that . . . ) Writing an engaging narrative that never strays from the facts was a real challenge!

I collected old newspaper articles for a few years, which allowed me to get a lay of the land. By the time I started the book in earnest, I knew most of the players and their motivations. From there, I read A LOT of nonfiction books about the period and different themes, like American modernity, all of which are listed in the extensive bibliography. There’s also a section in there about archives, which speak to the other primary sources I used, from courtroom proceedings to patient rolls.

3) ALICE + FREDA FOREVER is beautifully illustrated. How did you find the right illustrator, and what was the collaboration process like for you?

I contacted four artists I knew one way or another, and asked them to submit a sample cover. Pulp (the imprint they started for my book) offered their input, but the decision was up to me. After the artists turned in their work, it was clear to me that Sally Klann was the perfect woman for the job. I went to grad school with Sally’s older sister, Mary. I’ve had the privilege of watching her grow as an artist, both through commissions and exhibitions.

I wrote a draft and highlighted sections I wanted Sally to illustrate, with more specific ideas placed in comments. For the first dozen or so illustrations, there were several exchanges. It was fun to have someone so involved who also felt like a confidante. After the first dozen, I wanted just a few things altered here and there, but for the most part, Sally either met or exceeded my expectations, and I’m in awe of her.

4) What have you learned through the process of writing your first creative nonfiction book?

I can’t stress this enough, second readers are so important. They don’t have to be writers; it might be better if they work outside the field completely, or work in a field related to your book. I had four second readers, and I’m indebted to them: Mary Klann (Sally’s sister), Daniel Jacobson, Emily Clement, and Avi Steinberg.

5) You just came back from a book tour. Where did you go? Most importantly, how did Rosie (your pup) handle you being gone for a month?

I did half dozen events in Memphis, made my way to Nashville for the Southern Festival of Books, came back to CA, and then had a very busy week and a half in NYC. It was wonderful. I was really nervous going into it, and in a cruel and wonderful turn of fate, the first stop on my book tour was a 7am live television appearance. After that, I felt relatively prepared to experience anything, and let go off all attachment to my known, everyday life. It was all different, and I had to adapt. By the end of that day, which also included a couple of signings, a radio interview, and my first big reading, I felt ready for just about anything. I must confess, I like being in conversation with someone onstage more than reading excerpts (though I often do read them even when I’m in conversation), and I suspect the audience does, too.

Oh, Rosie! She wasn’t very happy about any of it, from the attention writing the book took away from her to the tour. When I came home, she went nuts for an hour, and then fell asleep. She holds no grudges. I aspire to be like her.

You can follow Alexis on Twitter at @Alexis_Coe and on her Facebook page.

rare pub date selfie

Cookbook Review: Vegan Casseroles + a BlendTec Blender Giveaway + Recipe

Photo: juliehasson.com

I admit that I love cookbooks! I can’t get enough of them! I was a fan of Julie Hasson’s Vegan Diner cookbook and I make her super simple Greek tofu scramble, veggie chili, and chocolate chip cookie pie pretty regularly. I’ve fooled several omnivores with her dishes, so when I had a chance to review her latest cookbook, Vegan Casseroles, I jumped at the opportunity.

What I’ve always loved about Julie’s cookbooks is that her recipes are easy to follow and they turn out pretty damn tasty. As a vegan who cooks a lot for omnivores, I’m always looking for recipes that satisfy everyone.

I tried out two recipes—Very Veggie Pot Pie and the Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce—and they were perfection.

Very Veggie Pot Pie from Vegan Casseroles

Very Veggie Pot Pie from Vegan Casseroles

As a fun part of reviewing, I’m allowed to share the recipe for the Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce with my readers—SEE BELOW. During the months of October and November, I’m all about pumpkin everything, so this dish is ideal for a weeknight dinner.

AND THAT’S NOT ALL!

Running Press, the publishers of Vegan Casseroles, are hosting an awesome Grand Prize giveaway for 1 BlendTec 725 Designer Blender. Five runners up will receive a copy of Vegan Casseroles. 

CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY!

(Details: Giveaway ends on December 11, and it’s only open to US residents.)

Baked Penne With Pumpkin Cream Sauce from VEGAN CASSEROLES (Running Press). Photo credit: Felicia Perretti.

Baked Penne With Pumpkin Cream Sauce from VEGAN CASSEROLES. Photo credit: Felicia Perretti.

Reprinted with permission from VEGAN CASSEROLES © 2014 by Julie Hasson, Running Press, a member of the Perseus Books Group.

Baked Penne with Pumpkin Cream Sauce

Pumpkin is always a fall favorite, although you can enjoy this dish anytime of the year. The sauce has a hint of sweetness from the pumpkin but also a nice savory flavor from the sage and onions. I think this dish has become one of my daughter’s favorites.

Serves 4 to 6

12 ounces dried penne
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sweet onion, cut in half and thinly sliced
3 large cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 1/2 cups plain unsweetened soymilk or almond milk, plus more as needed
1 (15-ounce) can puréed pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
5 tablespoons nutritional yeast flakes
1/4 cup raw unsalted cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours and drained
1 1/4 teaspoons fine sea salt
1 teaspoon dried rubbed sage
3/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 recipe Buttery Crumb Topping (see below), prepared without nutritional yeast flakes

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Grease an 8-inch square glass or ceramic baking dish.

In a large pot of lightly salted boiling water, add the penne and cook according to package directions until al dente. Don’t overcook the pasta, especially if you’re using one that is gluten-free. Drain the pasta well and transfer to a large bowl.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce. In a large cast-iron skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat and sauté the onion until soft. Add the garlic and cook a few more minutes. Remove from the heat.

In a blender, purée the onion mixture, soymilk, pumpkin, nutritional yeast, cashews, salt, sage, and nutmeg. Blend until the mixture is super-smooth and velvety, and no traces of nuts remain. If the sauce is too thick to blend, you can add up to an additional 1/2 cup of nondairy milk.

Add the pumpkin sauce to the pasta, stirring until the pasta is well coated. Add salt and pepper to taste. Scoop the mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle the crumb topping over the top of the casserole. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the casserole is hot and the top is lightly browned. Remove from the oven and serve hot.

Tip: If you’re using a high-speed blender, you can skip the soaking step for the cashews and just use them dry. Add a little extra water to blend if needed.

Variation: Substitute fresh or dried rosemary for the sage.

Gluten-Free: Use a gluten-free pasta, such as brown rice, as well as gluten-free panko breadcrumbs in the topping. My favorite gluten-free pasta for this recipe is brown rice penne.

Buttery Crumb Topping

A nice buttery crumb topping is my husband’s favorite part of a casserole. It is especially good on everything from mac and cheese to vegetable casseroles, as it adds a nice rich, garlicky crunch. Crumb toppings are also open to a number of variations, depending on how you season them.

Makes about 1/2 cup, enough to top an 8-or 9-inch casserole

1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons nonhydrogenated vegan margarine, melted
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 clove garlic, pressed or finely minced
Pinch of salt

In a small bowl, mix together the panko breadcrumbs, margarine, nutritional yeast, garlic, and a pinch of salt. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Tip: You can substitute olive oil for the margarine, if desired.

Variation: For an herbed-garlic-flavored topping, add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh herbs. For a richer topping, increase the margarine to 3 tablespoons.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free panko breadcrumbs. My favorite brand is Ian’s, which is also egg-free and dairy-free.

5 Tips for Submitting Your Writing

 

As someone who pitches editors, and also reviews literary submissions for a local theater, I am both the one submitting my work and reviewing work that’s sent for submission. My husband, who is a TV writer, and I talk about how important it is to present your writing as if your submission were going on an interview. If you’re serious about getting your work published or landing a TV writing job, it’s so important to think of your writing samples as little representations of you. Think of a sloppy script as a person showing up half an hour late for a job interview, not having showered and wearing sweatpants. Here’s some tips for making your submission job-worthy.

1. If your submission has a title page, put your contact info on the page.

If you’re submitting a play or a TV pilot script for review, please put your name, email, phone number, and mailing address on it. Some contests ask for blind submissions, so follow those rules, but if the contest doesn’t stipulate blind submissions, please make sure it’s easy to contact you. I’ve had to hunt people’s info down about their work. Make it easy.

2. Follow the submission guidelines.

This may seem like a no-brainer, but I can’t tell you how many people don’t read the submission guidelines. They are there for a reason. Send in what’s required and don’t send in more than that. Just read the rules and follow them.

3. Format your script accordingly.

There’s a reason Final Draft (even if it drives me nuts) exists. It makes it easier to format a play, screenplay, or TV script. If you just type it haphazardly in Word, it’s very hard to read. And you want the person reading your writing to be able to read it without getting a headache by trying to follow dialogue that’s all over the place. If you really want to be a script writer, then invest in some software.

4. Don’t use wacky fonts, pictures, and hyperlinks.

We’re here to evaluate your writing, not your ability to put together a designed document. Just keep the font simple, clean, and clear.

5. Please proofread at least twice.

Typos happen, but just read it twice just for grammar, spelling, and errors. If you’re terrible at proofreading, have a trusted friend who has an editor’s eye to find those mistakes for you. There’s nothing more irksome than someone who clearly hasn’t proofread their own work. If you haven’t done your homework, why should I read your entire script?

 

What I’ve Learned From My Gratitude Project

Before October started, I made a list of 31 people I wanted to write thank you notes to express my gratitude for them being in my life—friends, family, mentors, even our pets’ veterinaries. Each day, as part of My Gratitude Project, I wrote what I was thankful for that this person brought into my life. Some times it was thanking someone for reading my writing, which I’m so appreciative of, or thanking someone for welcoming me into their home for a good meal. Other times, it was deeper, like thanking my mom for teaching me how to save money and how to be an independent woman.

It’s funny. In both November issues of Real Simple and O, The Oprah Magazine (two of my favorite publications), there are feature stories about the power of gratitude. Real Simple is even offering a Gratitude Challenge during the month of November. A regular practice of gratitude, as noted by Real Simple‘s feature “Why Gratitude is Great,” can make you feel happier, healthier, more resilient, boost your energy levels, and improve your relationships. Not too shabby, huh?

Mid-way through the month, I went through a health crisis that threw me for a loop. I was really sad, but even through it, I wrote my notes. You know what? These moments of gratitude got me through the next few weeks when I was deeply sad. There was something meditative about thinking about making someone else smile. Friends would email or post on Facebook that my notes made their day. Honestly, these moments gave me the strength I needed to see the bright side of a bad situation.

My Gratitude Project taught me that gratitude heals. Gratitude brings others happiness. Gratitude has the power to change.

This experience isn’t just a monthly experiment now. It’s now my new habit. I’ve ordered more thank you cards from Etsy, and I’m ready to dole them out.

Thank you for reading, and I hope you pay it forward by saying thank you to someone in your life!

Cookbook Review: Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen

I’m a big fan of Chloe Coscarelli’s previous cookbooks—Chloe’s Kitchen and Chloe’s Vegan Desserts. Everything I’ve ever made out of those cookbooks turns out delicious. I made her pumpkin cinnamon rolls of Thanksgiving dinner last year where I was the only vegan, and the omnivores raved about the cinnamon buns, begging to take some rolls home.

As some of you know, I love Italian food. Lasagna, pasta, ravioli, eggplant parmesan, you name it. It’s part of the reason I loved Garfield so much. He understood the power of lasagna.

So when Chloe, a bonafide Italian, came out with Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen, I was overjoyed. I bought it while on vacation in Portland at Herbivore and have been drooling over it ever since.

I want to make every single recipe, but I started with the Pizza Margherita.

Pizza from Chloe's Vegan Italian

 

My father-in-law was in town, and he’s notoriously picky about food. He loved this pizza! The mozzarella cheese sauce was easy peasy to make, and we added our own toppings. (I must confess that I bought the dough from Trader Joe’s!). We had leftover mozzarella sauce so we added it to a marinara sauce to make it deliciously creamy. Put it on sandwiches. We basically ate it on everything.

Among the recipes I want to make next:

  • Pumpkin Soup with Crispy Brussels Sprout Leaves
  • White Wild Mushroom Pizza
  • Pizza Burgers with Avocado Pesto
  • Chloe’s “Nutella” Cinnamon Rolls

These are the recipes you want to make to impress omnivores, and they’re super simple to make. Grab a copy here.

Buon appetito!

Interview with Debut YA Author Shari Green + Book & Starbucks Giveaway

1. Your debut YA book—FOLLOWING CHELSEA—just debuted on October 17th. Can you tell us about your road from starting the story to getting it published?

It was a long and winding road! (But that’s probably true of many stories.) I wrote FOLLOWING CHELSEA in 2008, signed with an agent and worked on revisions with her, but then ended up parting ways with the agent. I shelved the story while I wrote other things, but came back to it a couple times over the next few years. Then Evernight Teen put out a call for submissions, and FOLLOWING CHELSEA seemed like it might be a good fit. Turned out, it was! I’m thrilled it found a good home.

2. As a debut novelist, what advice would you give to YA writers who are hoping to get their first book published?

Keep reading, keep writing, find good critique partners, and don’t let the waiting get you down. ☺

3. I love this one-sentence description about your book: Walking in the footsteps of a dead girl isn’t easy. What did you learn in the process of writing this particular story?

I learned a lot about revising, for sure, but maybe one of the most helpful things was the importance of knowing the “story kernel,” the heart, the one thing that your story boils down to, even if you end up cutting or changing almost everything else. With FOLLOWING CHELSEA, that one-sentence description was something I could keep coming back to, and it would bring me back from wandering down tangents, keeping me on track with revisions.

4. What are some recent YA reads that you’ve loved?

  • Leila Sales’ THIS SONG WILL SAVE YOUR LIFE
  • Cat Hellison’s HOUSE OF SAND AND SECRETS
  • Jeri Smith-Ready’s THIS SIDE OF SALVATION
  • Tess Sharpe’s FAR FROM YOU
  • Eagerly awaiting A.S. King’s GLORY O’BRIEN’S HISTORY OF THE FUTURE (which I’m including in this list because I know I’m going to love it, lol . . .  I love all her work!)

5. Now that your first book is out, are there plans for a second book in the works?

Nothing under contract yet, but I’m working on another YA, and I have a MG verse novel that I’m kind of in love with—hoping it finds a home soon!

Shari has a great giveaway for readers. Thanks so much, Shari!

Giveaway: FOLLOWING CHELSEA’s main character, Anna, seriously loves her morning coffee. I suspect she’s not alone in her caffeine addiction, so I’m giving away a $10 Starbucks card along with a FOLLOWING CHELSEA e-book and signed postcard swag. Enjoy a latte-and-reading break on me! CLICK HERE FOR THE GIVEAWAY.

YA author Shari Green

YA author Shari Green

You can find Shari Green on Twitter at @sharigreen and her website.