Easter is a celebration of life. For many, it is a celebration of Christ being resurrected and living once more. It’s also a time of new life and birth at the beginning of springtime. That’s why I choose to celebrate this day peacefully and compassionately.
For me, that means to do so without serving on the dinner table, to friends and family, products that were taken from animals, like milk, cheese, and meat. Dairy and meat products might be a part of your regular diet, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t, on this day of reflecting on the sacredness of life, create a bountiful meal that doesn’t include these items.
Easter Sunday is the perfect day to try vegan or vegetarian food, if you have never committed yourself to including these things in your diet before. You can feel good this Easter by feeding yourself and your loved ones foods that harmed no one, and nothing, and are still delicious and plentiful. That, to me, is one of the perfect ways to celebrate life, Easter, and the miracle of Jesus living again.
Trying this for your Easter meal doesn’t have to be a life-altering commitment, and it doesn’t have to mean completely changing the meals you and your family are used to. It can mean that, just on this one day, you want to celebrate life by granting life to the animals spared by your decision to leave them off your plate. It can mean leaving even just one animal product that you would usually use out of your meal.
If you want to try just leaving one animal product out of your meal, the entree is a great part to make meat-free. There are many meat substitutes on the market today, such as tofukry and veggie ham. In some cases, cauliflower can be used as a meat substitute.
If you want to dedicate yourself more to having your Easter meal be animal product free, then here are some recipes for amazing vegan side dishes to have along with your meat entree replacement. (They are also great options for loved ones who follow a vegan or vegetarian diet.)
Vegan Mashed Potatoes
- 2 pounds Yukon potatoes
- 1 teaspoon garlic powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon vegan butter
- 1/2 to 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
In a large pot, add potatoes and cover with water by several inches. Bring to a boil and allow to cook until the potatoes are tender when poked with a fork, about 20-30 minutes. Turn the burner to low, drain excess water then place back on the burner.
Using a potato masher, roughly mash the potatoes. Add butter, 1/2 cup coconut milk, salt and garlic powder. Continue to mash until no large chunks are left. Using a large wooden spoon, whip the potatoes until smooth. Add more milk as needed and salt or butter, as desired. Serve warm with finely chopped chives (optional), and enjoy!
Vegan Avocado Strawberry Caprese
- 1/3 cup (80 mL) balsamic vinegar
- 1 cup (135 g) hulled and sliced strawberries
- 1 cup (160 g) grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 medium ripe avocado, pitted and diced
- 1/3 cup (8 g) loosely packed basil leaves, chiffonade cut
- 1 1/2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
- Pink Himalayan salt or fine sea salt, to taste
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- Toasted sesame seeds or chopped pecans, for serving
In a small saucepan, bring the vinegar to a simmer over medium heat. Once the vinegar starts to simmer, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for 6 to 10 minutes, uncovered, until the vinegar thickens, and reduces in volume by half. Set aside.
Meanwhile, add the strawberries, tomatoes, avocado, and basil into a large shallow bowl. Drizzle on the oil and gently toss until the veggies are coated. Season generously with salt and pepper and toss again just briefly. Scatter on your desired amount of toasted seeds or nuts. Drizzle on all of the balsamic reduction. Serve immediately. This salad is definitely best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for a few hours if necessary.
Vegan Dirty Rice and Black Eyed Peas
- 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 2 stalks celery, chopped
- 1 green bell pepper, chopped
- 4 strips vegan bacon of choice, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup long-grained white or brown rice
- 2 3/4 cup water
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
- Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups cooked black eyed peas
- Steamed greens for serving
Heat the oil in a roomy, deep skillet or medium pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, pepper, and bacon. Sauté for 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes, or until the garlic is fragrant, stirring constantly. If the mixture starts to stick, add a few tablespoons of water along the way.
Add the rice, water, both paprika, thyme, salt or bouillon, and both peppers to the pot. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes (white rice) or 30-40 minutes (brown rice), or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed. Remove the rice from heat and allow it to steam, covered, for 5 minutes. Stir in the black-eyed peas, then taste the rice and adjust the salt and pepper as desired. Serve with steamed greens and other accompaniments of choice.
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
- 2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 Tbsp baking powder
- 1/2 tsp baking soda
- 3/4 tsp sea salt
- 4 Tbsp non-dairy, unsalted butter
Preheat oven to 450 degrees F (232 C), and add lemon juice to almond milk to make “vegan buttermilk.” Set aside. In a large mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Add cold butter and use fingers or a pastry cutter to combine the two until only small pieces remain and it looks like sand. Work quickly so the butter doesn’t get too warm. Make a well in the dry ingredients and, using a wooden spoon, stir gently while pouring in the almond milk mixture (vegan buttermilk) 1/4 cup at a time. You may not need all of it. Stir until just slightly combined – it will be sticky.
Turn onto a lightly floured surface, dust the top with a bit of flour and then very gently turn the dough over on itself 5-6 times – hardly kneading. Form into a 1-inch thick disc, handling as little as possible. Use a 1-inch thick dough cutter or a similar-shape object with sharp edges (such as a cocktail shaker) and push straight down through the dough, then slightly twist. Repeat and place biscuits on a baking sheet in two rows, making sure they just touch – this will help them rise uniformly. Gently reform the dough and cut out one or two more biscuits – you should have 7-8 (as original recipe is written).
Next brush the tops with a bit more of melted non-dairy butter and gently press a small divot in the center using two fingers. This will also help them rise evenly, so the middle won’t form a dome. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until fluffy and slightly golden brown. Serve immediately. Let remaining biscuits cool completely before storing them in an airtight container or bag.
Vegan Green Bean Casserole
- 1 pound green beans (rinsed, trimmed and cut in half)
- Sea salt and black pepper
- 2 Tbsp vegan butter or olive oil
- 1 medium shallot (minced)
- 2 cloves garlic (minced)
- 1 cup finely chopped mushrooms (button, baby bella, or cremini)
- 2 Tbsp all-purpose flour
- 3/4 cup vegetable broth
- 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
- 1 1/2 cups crispy fried onions
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (204 C). Bring a large pot of water to a boil and salt well – it will help season the green beans. Add green beans and cook for 5 minutes, then drain and place in an ice water bath to stop cooking. Drain and set aside.
In the meantime, start preparing sauce. In a large oven-safe skillet over medium heat, add vegan butter or olive oil and shallots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and stir. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add mushrooms and season with a bit more salt and pepper. Cook for 3-4 minutes more or until lightly browned. Sprinkle in flour and whisk to stir and coat the veggies. Cook for 1 minute, then slowly add in veggie stock, whisking to incorporate. Add almond milk next and whisk to stir again. Season with a touch more salt and pepper and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to low to thicken. Cook for 5-7 minutes more, or until thick and bubbly. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed.
Remove from heat and add 1/3 of the fried onions (1/2 cup as original recipe is written – adjust if altering batch size) and all of the cooked green beans. Toss to coat well, and top with remaining fried onions.
Bake for 15 minutes, or until warmed through and bubbly and slightly browned on top. Serve immediately (handle pan carefully).
Allison Ervin, granddaughter of company founder Jay Lehman, is passionate about the powerless – children, animals and anyone in need. A freshman at Kent State majoring in international business with a minor in non-profit management, she has served in Indonesia and Central America, teaching English in daycare centers and orphanages. A committed vegetarian, when not studying or cat-cuddling, Allison enjoys painting, listening to the latest music, and thrifting (shopping at thrift and vintage stores).