12/19/2012 05:47 pm ET Updated Feb 18, 2013

Plant-Based Holiday Recipes Worth Celebrating, Part I (Gluten-Free)

Because I follow a whole-foods, plant-based way of eating, many people want to know if I eat turkey on Thanksgiving or at Christmas. My honest answer is that I do not. For Thanksgiving, I always go to my in-laws' on Cape Cod, and though they do cook a turkey and have their standard American fare (meaning potatoes with butter, apple pie and other desserts with dairy or with sugar), I (along with my husband and daughter) prepare my plant-based dishes. Providing these for any of my relatives who may want a combination of traditional American fare and what is now my traditional food, allows us to eat and enjoy each other's company without the food becoming an issue. We focus on one another and peacefully coexist -- just the way it should be during time together as a family. I guess I'm just comfortable doing what I do, now that I am celebrating almost 14 years of surviving advanced breast cancer with the help of a macrobiotic (or plant-based) diet!

I've been enjoying and sharing holiday feasts without meat for years. This year, I prepared my new favorite dishes -- including one that I usually eat at my favorite veg-friendly restaurant in Portland, Maine, The Pepper Club. Two years ago, when my friend and owner of the restaurant, Mary Ledue Paine, first started serving this dish she called it "Autumn Loaf" and it absolutely knocked my socks off! Since then, it has become known as "Harvest Vegetable Loaf," and I include the recipe here because though I have often heard that once you go plant-based you can't successfully make healthy, vegan versions of the meat-based dishes you once loved, I promise you this is the exception to that rule!

For a holiday meal as good as your mother's, serve up the Harvest Vegetable Loaf with Mary's recipe for Vegan Mashed Potatoes (with sweet potato) and my version of her mushroom gravy, below. With all this "comfort food," you'll never even miss the meat -- guaranteed!

Of course, I go all out on in both variety and number where vegetable dishes are concerned, so don't miss my next article, which will include more of my favorites -- an amazing squash recipe, a great recipe featuring Brussels sprouts (from my new friend, Abby Kingston) and my mother-in-law's delicious Fresh Kale and Cranberry Salad. I always make "Oh, So Happy Crisp" for dessert at our holiday meals -- don't want miss this delicious juice-andbrown-rice-sweetened version of the traditional apple-blueberry crisp that even my dad, who is a dessert connoisseur, absolutely loves!

All of the recipes below serve about eight to 10 people.

Harvest Vegetable Loaf

2 - 8 ounce pkgs. Tempeh
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
1/4 cup all-natural sweetener like maple or brown rice syrup (I used brown rice syrup)
1/2 pound of lentils (I used a combination of brown & red lentils)
1 sweet potato, cooked and mashed
1 1/2 cups (already cooked) brown rice
1/4 cup ground flaxseed
10 ounces of spinach, washed and coarsely chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
2 teaspoons of olive oil
1/8 cup dried marjoram
1/8 cup dried basil
1 tablespoon dried rubbed sage
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (I used Crazy Dick's Cajun Spice)

In a cast iron skillet or a Dutch oven, add oil and onion, sauté until onion is caramelized. Add carrots, celery, sea salt, herbs and spices and continue to sauté for 5-10 minutes. Add crumbled tempeh, sauté for 5-10 more minutes. Turn heat to low, cover.

In a separate bowl on counter, add cooked lentils, mashed sweet potato, cooked brown rice, ground flaxseed, chopped fresh spinach and mix well.

In small pan -- over medium heat -- combine brown rice syrup, gluten-free soy sauce, cider vinegar and stir until sweetener dissolves. Add this liquid mixture to bowl with the lentil mixture, stirring in a little at a time until blended together. Next, add this to the onion, celery, carrots, tempeh, sea salt, spice and herb mixture in the skillet on stovetop (I like to use a Dutch oven because the sides are higher making it easier to combine and stir the ingredients without spilling it over.) Taste and adjust for seasoning.

Can be served immediately or put into either two loaf pans or one larger baking dish to bake and serve later (even the next day).

Vegan Mashed Potatoes

4 large potatoes, cut into large pieces
1 large sweet potato, cut into large pieces
1/8 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon onion powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

In a large pot over medium high heat, boil potatoes and sweet potato in enough water to cover by one inch. Cook until fork tender, then drain, reserving 1 cup of liquid. Add oils, onion powder, salt, and pepper. Taste and adjust for seasonings before serving.

Vegan Gluten-Free Mushroom Gravy

1 medium yellow onion, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
20 button mushrooms, cleaned, trimmed and sliced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup gluten-free soy sauce
3/4 cup brown rice syrup
2 cups organic almond or rice milk
2-3 Tablespoons kuzu root powder (or arrowroot)
1 teaspoon Herbamare or other gluten-free all purpose seasoning
sea salt

In 2-quart saucepan, sauté onion in the olive oil for 2-5 minutes. Add seasoning, mushrooms and 1/4 cup water, bring to a boil, simmer for 5 minutes or until mushrooms wilt.

Add 1 1/2 cups of almond or rice milk, bring to a boil, simmer 2-3 minutes. Place remaining 1/2 cup of liquid in a separate bowl and add the kuzu root powder, stir until dissolved and no lumps. Keep stirring while adding to the saucepan on the stove, combining well.

Add the gluten-free soy sauce, the brown rice syrup and the apple cider vinegar to the saucepan and continue to stir, simmer for 5 more minutes.

Do you have any plant-based holiday favorites? Please share them here in my comments section!

Plant-Based Holiday Recipes Worth Celebrating! (Gluten-Free)

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