Even with the joy of spending time with loved ones and eating as much as you want, the holidays can be stressful for vegetarians. Setting aside the extra attention at the table—ribbing about "crazy diets" and "picky eaters," well-meaning yet insane questions like "But poultry doesn't count, does it?"—it's sometimes tough to get into the spirit of things when the main event for so many others is that bird on the table. How do you come up with a dish that is equally festive and fall-inspired while eschewing animal products?
Best solution? Get some professional help.
No, not therapy. Pick up a quality cookbook by a chef who shares your principles, and just follow the directions. This year saw the publication of some truly outstanding ones, stuffed with innovative recipes and beautiful photography that reminds us why sometimes a cookbook is better than an online recipe search or even your go-to cooking blog.
A few guidelines: Maybe don't try to exactly replicate the "meat and potatoes" that your omnivore friends and relatives are eating. No offense to Tofurky fans, but who wants an imitation when they could have an original? A slab of tofu/tempeh/seitan or a portobello mushroom "steak" gives that traditional knife-and-fork feeling, but if you can wrap your head around, say, gnocchi or croquettes instead, you'll find that there are a lot more interesting autumnal flavors to be had out there.
In these books, you might find a dish that pleases everyone at the table, veg and non-veg alike–or you might find a dish so tasty and easy to prepare that you add it to your repertoire and serve it year after year. Holiday dinners are all about tradition, after all, and you have the power to build your own.
Vegan Holiday Cooking From Candle Café: Celebratory Menus and Recipes
Joy Pierson, Angel Ramos and Jorge Pineda | Ten Speed Press | Indiebound
This book is organized into multi-course menus for every holiday, so if you're feeling especially blank, you could just follow the breadcrumb trail.
Recipe pick: Maple-roasted kabocha squash with pickled lotus root
Green Kitchen Travels: Healthy Vegetarian Food Inspired by Our Adventures
David Frenkiel and Luise Vindahl | Hardie Grant Book | Indiebound
As much a travelogue and a coffee-table photo book as a cookbook, Green Kitchen Travels follows a world-traveling family of three on a delicious trip.
Recipe pick: Chermoula baked whole cauliflower
The Forest Feast: Simple Vegetarian Recipes From My Cabin in the Woods
Erin Gleeson | Stewart, Tabori & Chang | Indiebound
The Brooklyn-photographer-turned-NoCal-cabin-dweller translates her dreamy blog into an equally dreamy cookbook, replete with her signature hand-lettering.
Recipe pick: Yellow squash galette
Vegan Secret Supper: Bold and Elegant Menus From a Rogue Kitchen
Mérida Anderson | Arsenal Pulp Press | Indiebound
This one's kind of a cheat. It came out in 2013, not 2014, but it's absolutely stellar–an essential resource for sophisticated special-occasion vegan fare.
Recipe pick: Butternut squash and almond gnocchi sauteéd with sage garlic butter
Vegan Casseroles: Pasta Bakes, Gratins, Pot Pies and More
Julie Hasson | Running Press | Indiebound
It may not be the most beautiful cookbook of the bunch, but it may be the most useful: You'll never be without a potluck dish again.
Recipe pick: Green bean casserole
Afro-Vegan: Farm-Fresh African, Caribbean and Southern Flavors Remixed
Bryant Terry | Ten Speed Press | Indiebound
The chef and food activist is back, this time with a book celebrating the soul-food flavors of the South in cruelty-free (and way healthier) form.
Recipe pick: Crispy teff and grit cakes with eggplant, tomatoes and peanuts
Plenty More: Vibrant Vegetable Cooking From London's Ottolenghi
Yotam Ottolenghi | Ten Speed Press | Indiebound
Chef Ottolenghi's vegetable-based cuisine is rightfully revered for its vibrant flavors and lush textures, making it a great choice for holiday meals.
Recipe pick: Eggplants with crushed chickpeas and herb yogurt