A Cruelty-Free Christmas

This blog post was something I wrote last year for a different blog. Just moving it over here to keep everything in one place. Happy Festivus!


One of my goals this holiday season was to bake with compassion, cook meals that were consistent with my values and eat as cruelty-free as possible. I work toward these goals most of the time anyway, but I specifically wanted to try to get thru the holidays keeping this in mind. It's very easy to get caught up in the excitement of the season and loose track of our ideals. Our society seems hell-bent on doing everything possible to get us to stumble - by heavily marketing products in order for us to buy more stuff we don't need, and by pushing baked items, cheese balls, and meat trays on us everywhere we go. Just about everywhere you turn during this time of year you run into something that screams of wastefulness and lacking compassion. So annoying. And one of the many reasons the holiday season has moved to the bottom of my Favorite Time of Year list. It's become more about survival than actual enjoyment. Surviving the house-guests, surviving the trips to the mall, surviving the gastro-intestinal hell we put ourselves thru...ugh.

Sadly, I can't say I completely avoided getting caught up a buying frenzy, however I can say I never stepped into a mall (or a Wal-Mart for that matter), shopped local when possible, handmade all the gifts for friends and family, have only handmade ornaments on our tree, strung our own cranberries, and tried to keep the plastic toy binge-buying under control. Could I do better? Absolutely. A lot better. But it's a start.

So here are a few things we did this year to make our holiday season as cruelty-free as possible:

I baked many different kinds of cookies and muffins, from snickerdoodles, to gingersnaps, to decorated sugar cookies to apple-bran muffins - all with only cruelty-free products. Any cookie, cake, muffin, pancake, waffle, cornbread, or any other recipe that I followed that called for butter was replaced with a non-dairy version. I used only almond, hemp, rice or coconut milk if a recipe called for milk. If a recipe called for cream I used soy yogurt mixed with some water or I used hemp or almond milk. In my cream cheese dips and cookies I used a non-dairy cream cheese, and if regular cheese was consumed it was made from goat-milk or was of the vegan cheese variety. For guests who will only eat veggies with ranch, you can make ranch dip with tofu and hemp milk (blended with the spices) or you can just buy dairy-free sour cream to mix spices with.

I made chicken n dumplings one night for visiting family using veggie protein patties instead of chicken. My meat-eating guests couldn't tell a difference. I followed the recipe straight from the Betty Crocker cookbook, making exceptions when necessary. For Christmas day we had a curried chickpea stew, quinoa salad, oatmeal bread and homemade hummus. Did we miss having meat?

Not even a little.

One day we made these little tofu cuties. It's basically pressed tofu cut into shapes, dipped in batter (which was made with ground up cheerios) and baked in the oven.

I guess my point is, it's tough to visit other people's homes and eat consistent with your values when so much of what is served during this time of year is made with some sort of animal product. Having recently become lactose intolerant I'm learning daily how incredibly hard it is to avoid lactose in this country. And I'm consistently shocked at how dependent our country is on products that specifically come from cows: milk, cream, butter, cream cheese, sour cream, heavy cream, ranch dip - just about every recipe I picked up called for some version of it. It's out of control and so unnecessary - and so not good for us. I hope next year, and throughout 2012, you'll consider at least replacing some of your baking ingredients with items that are cruelty-free. It's really not hard. Initially it might take a little extra effort, and yes, you do have to get used to things tasting at least somewhat different, and maybe having different textures, but I can promise you the pigs, turkeys, chickens, and cows - especially the dairy cows - greatly appreciate your efforts.
Be wrong in all the right ways...

Happy Holidays!

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