Veganism may seem like a huge commitment, especially during the holiday season. During this time, there are always family get-togethers or dinner parties, which may put you in a difficult situation to find a healthy and hearty meal that suits your dietary needs and preferences. Vegans can still eat a large variety of food, as long as they do not contain animal or animal by-products; simply put, that means no meat, eggs or dairy products. There are several benefits to going vegan; it not only protects animal rights, but it also reduces environmental impact, and even benefits one’s health.

Whether you are a vegan or not, for the upcoming holiday season the UTSC Sustainability Office Team encourages you to try a healthy and delicious vegan meal. We know that finding a simple vegan recipe can be a daunting task, but do not fret, for we have found a recipe for you!cmyk_vegan_holiday_elizabeth_liu

The following is a recipe for a Vegan Shepherd’s Pie (serves six people):

Ingredients:

  • 4 large or 6 medium potatoes
  • 1 tablespoon Earth Balance or other vegan buttery spread
  • ½ cup unsweetened non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 2 medium carrots peeled and sliced
  • 2 cups very finely chopped cauliflower or broccoli
  • ½ to 1 cup chopped brown or white mushrooms
  • 1 cup frozen peas thawed
  • 1 cup cooked fresh or frozen corn kernels (thawed)
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh dill (optional)
  • 2 teaspoons salt-free seasoning blend (Mrs. Dash is a good option)
  • 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast (optional), and salt and ground pepper to tase.

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400º F and peel and dice the potatoes.
  2. Place in a saucepan with enough water to cover. Bring to a simmer, then cover and simmer until tender, about 20 minutes.
  3. Drain and transfer to a small mixing bowl. Stir the buttery spread into the potatoes until melted, then add the non-dairy milk and mash until fluffy. Set aside until needed.
  4. Heat oil in a skillet. Add the onion and carrots. Sauté over medium heat until the onion is golden.
  5. Add the cauliflower (or broccoli) and mushrooms along with 1/4 cup of water. Cover and cook until the vegetables are tender.
  6. Add the peas, corn kernels, parsley, seasoning blend, and optional dill. Cook until the mixture is well heated, and then stir in 1/2 cup of the mashed potatoes and the optional nutritional yeast.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Lightly oil a shallow 2-quart casserole dish. Pour in the vegetable mixture and pat in evenly. Spread the mashed potatoes over the top and pat down lightly. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the potatoes begin to turn golden and slightly crusty.
  9. Let stand for 5 minutes, then cut into squares or wedges to serve.

If there is one thing you could do to save animals, protect the environment, and benefit your own health, it can be done by going vegan. If you are not a vegan, the thought of becoming one may seem overwhelming; however, you do not have to go full vegan all at once! Start small, as even a small change can make a big difference. How about trying a new resolution for the coming New Year? You could try ‘Meatless Mondays’!

Adopting a vegan lifestyle means that you can contribute to saving animal lives by reducing harmful farming practices. It has been found that in a year, a vegan can potentially save more than 100 animals from the slaughterhouse!

Veganism also helps protect the environment, as the meat industry causes tremendous water and air pollution. In terms of the production of emissions, estimates on how much animal agriculture contributes to total global emissions range anywhere from 14 to 50 per cent. Animal agriculture also causes a large wastage of resources, from water to transportation costs that accompany providing space for livestock and their feed. Not only can you be more eco-friendly by going vegan, your health also receives great benefits as well. For example, having a meatless diet can help unclog your arteries by lowering your cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease.

If you wish to learn how to cook more vegan recipes, you can join the Sustainability Office during their Food Discussion Cafes (FDCs) held each month. Sign up with your friends on the Intranet, and start off the New Year with a more sustainable diet!