vegan holiday feast

(an abundance of warming foods to ward off winter’s chill)

photos by grace gao

Our relatives all live in England, so Christmas dinner was always a quiet affair – just the four of us, Mom, Dad, my brother and me. We looked forward with mouth-watering eagerness to Mom’s homemade-from-scratch, cooked-to-perfection dinners. I remember one year that was especially abundant. We spent the holidays at our rented chalet in the Laurentians and feasted on roasted turkey, as well as smoked turkey, with the traditional favourites, Yorkshire pudding, cranberry sauce, Brussels sprouts, roasted vegetables, gravy from scratch (Mom always used the cooking juices from the turkey and roasted vegetables, and the pan drippings she calls “glunk,” which are the secret to the richest-tasting gravy). There was always fruit cake, but not the dry boring kind. It was deliciously moist and soaked with rum.

When I discovered macrobiotics in late December 1984, I began making sweeping changes in my diet and lifestyle, and this was the last Christmas I had turkey. Soon afterwards I became a devout vegan, and as the months and years passed and I felt better and better, there was no reason to switch.

Having grown up on Mom’s gourmet cooking, it was not long before my taste buds were craving more taste, richness and sensorial pleasure than the macrobiotic cookbooks I was following offered. So being the purist extremist that I am, instead of having the occasional “normal food,” I’d try to recreate my favourites with vegan ingredients. It was never exactly the same as the “real thing” but it was close enough for me – I was feeling so light and vibrant on my new organic healthy diet and lifestyle, and had no intension of looking back!

Here are some of my favourites.

stuffed squash “turkey”

1 large winter squash (Hubbard is ideal, or Buttercup)

1 cup canola or sesame oil
2 T toasted sesame oil
1 large onion, diced small
2 celery ribs, diced
1/2 lb. mushrooms, diced
1 pkg tempeh or 2 cups seitan, ground
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 t each: marjoram, poultry seasoning, sage, thyme
2 t sea salt, or to taste
1/4 t pepper, or to taste
6 cups whole-grain bread cubes, toasted until light golden
2 cups roasted chestnuts, chopped
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, chopped (optional)
1 cup water or stock


prepare squash:

  1. Preheat oven to 350º F. Bake whole, washed squash 30 minutes to soften.
  2. Cut a round hole about 3–4 inches wide in the squash and remove the seeds and loose pulp.

prepare stuffing:

  1. Heat a skillet with the oils and sauté the onion, celery and mushrooms with a sprinkle of the sea salt and pepper until tender.
  2. Add the tempeh or seitan, water or stock, herbs and remaining salt and pepper, and cook covered for 5 minutes.
  3. Add the bread cubes, chestnuts and walnuts (if using), and adjust seasoning.

Fill the squash with the stuffing and bake with the squash lid on for 21/2–3 hours* – depending on the size – until the squash is tender throughout and the stuffing is cooked through. Serve with Red Wine Gravy.

Karen Claffey is a gourmet vegan, macrobiotic and Ayurvedic chef/cooking teacher; and yoga teacher and therapist.

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