Guest column: Stress-free holiday cooking

“It’s the most stressful time of the year.”

How many of us have sung along to the holiday classic using these words? I know I have – especially when it comes to food. And I’m sure that’s how many people feel when family members get together to celebrate.

There’s the vegan uncle, the gluten-free sister, the lactose-intolerant cousin, the nut-allergic neighbor, not to mention the meat-and-potatoes traditionalists. Whatever reasons we all have for eating the way we do – health, ethics, religion, environment, habit – we want everyone to have a seat at the table. But when we’re not sure who’s going to eat what, we might just throw up our hands in exasperation and exclaim, “What the hell am I going to do!?”

I’m writing this in hopes that I can give you a few solutions and make your vacation a little less stressful when it comes to food.

First, I would like to share that in the majority of traditional American side dishes, the butter and milk can be replaced with any of the plant-based oils (check ingredient labels for possible allergens) and plant-based milks found in our local stores. Also, vegetable stock can replace chicken stock in stuffing and sauces. As far as cheese goes, if you need a dairy-free melting cheese, try the VioLife brand. Even dairy-free cream cheese and sour cream are available, such as the Kite Hill brand. With a few easy changes, we can serve all kinds of allergen-free side dishes, including mashed potatoes, stuffing, and green bean casserole.

For main courses, we can buy a festive tofurki or similar plant-based “roast” as Dr. Feinzinger mentioned in his previous article. Or the Internet is full of delicious recipes, such as Mushroom and Lentil Wellington ( One year I put this dish on our holiday table for vegans and vegetarians to enjoy, and it turns out the omnivores loved it too. (Note: phyllo dough and puff pastry are not gluten-free, but they are nut- and dairy-free).

Saving the best for last – which is always dessert, right? How on earth can we make these cookies, cakes and pies for everyone to enjoy? As mentioned above, milk and butter are easily substituted 1-to-1. Bob’s Red Mill brand sells a very good gluten-free 1-to-1 mix for cakes and pies. Butter can be replaced with applesauce. Allergen-free egg substitutes are numerous: One egg is equivalent to half a mashed banana, or ¼ cup applesauce, or 1T ground flaxseed + 3T water, or 1 teaspoon baking powder, or ¼ cup silken tofu, blended; you can even find a box of egg replacer in the baking aisle of the grocery store. And for whipped cream, you can find dairy-free TruWhip in the freezer section near Cool Whip.

As our holiday parties and celebrations begin, I’d like to share this delicious pumpkin pie recipe that is free of all of the top 9 food allergens: milk, wheat, tree nuts, soy, fish, shellfish, eggs, peanuts, and sesame. For more allergen-free recipes of all kinds—including mashed potatoes, green bean casserole, and stuffing—please visit

Pumpkin Pie for Everyone (

Gluten Free Pie Crusts

  • 1 ¼ cup (200 g) all-purpose gluten-free flour
  • ¼ teaspoon sea salt
  • 6 tablespoons (85 g) cold soy-free vegan butter
  • 4-6 tablespoons of ice cold water

Pie filling

  • 1 15-ounce can of pumpkin puree
  • 1 13.5 fluid ounce can coconut milk
  • 1 cup (225 g) organic cane sugar
  • 6 tablespoons (65 g) cornstarch
  • 2 tablespoons of vanilla extract
  • ½ teaspoon sea salt
  • 2 tablespoons pumpkin pie spice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly grease a 9-inch pie pan.

To make the crust, add the flour, salt and butter to a food processor or bowl. Pulse or use a pastry cutter to cut the butter into the flour until the mixture has a crumb consistency. Add water – 1 tablespoon at a time – and mix or stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms. You may not need all the water. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate.

In a blender or food processor, combine the pumpkin, coconut milk, sugar, cornstarch, vanilla, salt and pumpkin pie spice.

Prepare the dough for rolling out the pie crust. If the dough is too stiff to roll at first, let it sit at room temperature until it becomes pliable. Place the dough between two pieces of parchment paper and roll out to ¼ inch thick and large enough to fit in the pie pan. Remove the top layer of parchment paper and invert the crust into the pie pan, peel the other piece of parchment off the crust. Carefully shape the crust into the pan, using your hands to create a flat, even edge along the top of the crust around the pie pan.

Add the pumpkin filling to the prepared pie pan and bake for 60 minutes, until the center is no longer wobbly. Allow the pie to cool completely and then refrigerate for at least 3 hours or overnight.

Laura Van Deusen is a licensed Food for Life instructor with the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine. She teaches whole grains, plant-based nutrition and cooking classes throughout Garfield County. She can be reached at [email protected].

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