A vegan Christmas

We had a great Christmas, even though it was a bit different from what we are used to. We talked to our families through phone and Skype, we met some of our friends at church, we got few but great gifts, and we had some great food.

The food is what this post is going to be about.

Here in Finland we have a bunch of typical Christmas dishes that people usually eat every year, such as different casseroles (“porkkanalaatikko”, “lanttulaatikko”), ham, different kind of salads, and so on. I have kind of found my way to make vegan versions of some of these, and have also added some other dishes that we didn’t necessarily have on the Christmas table when I grew up.

christmas table

So on our vegan Christmas table this year we had these dishes;

  • A vegan ham based on gluten, chickpea and soy flour
  • Porkkanalaatikko, or carrot casserole
  • Red beet salad with home-made mayonnaise
  • Marinated eggplant slices, a vegan version of herring (“silli”)
  • Mashed potatoes
  • Mushroom sauce
  • “Ris á la Malta”, which is a dessert based on rice porridge, with vegan whipped cream, oranges and pomegranatesaladdessert

Spicy bean soup (or stew)

This African-inspired bean soup (or stew) was introduced to us by our landlord – she and her husband are missionaries in Kenya. She made it for us once and since we liked it, she taught us how to make it. Unfortunately the recipe doesn’t have any exact measurements, it’s more up to your own taste and whether you like it to be more like a soup or a stew. The herb mix that we have been using lacks a full ingredients’ list, so I’m not sure exactly what is in it, but it’s a blend of salt, pepper, spices and herbs. Hopefully you can still find the recipe useful!

spicy bean soup

You will need:
Chopped onion
Finely chopped garlic
Herb mix
(Cayenne pepper)
Finely cut fresh tomato
Shredded carrot
Bell pepper, cut into small pieces
Mixed beans (ready to use)

Heat a little oil in a pan. Add onion and garlic and saute until golden brown. Add salt, herb mix (and if you like, a little cayenne pepper). Fry for a while, continuously stirring. Add a little water and let boil for a few minutes. Add the finely cut tomato and shredded carrot. Let boil for a little while longer, then add the bell pepper. Let the mixture boil until it becomes like a paste. Then add the beans and water (the amount of water depending on whether you like it to become a soup or a stew). Let boil for a few minutes for the beans to become warm, then take the pot off the stove.

We usually make this recipe as a stew and serve it together with pasta, which works really great!


What do vegans eat? #5: Beans, peas and lentils

Beans, peas and lentils are great! They are highly nutritious and can be used in almost any dish; casseroles, patties, soups, stews, spreads, baked goods etc.

Some beans, peas and lentils include:
Soy bean
Green bean
Kidney bean
Chickpea/Garbanzo bean
Mung bean
Black bean
Red lentil
Green lentil
Beluga lentil
Green pea


Learning to cook with beans, peas and lentils may take some time and practice. I’m still not great at it, but I learn more all the time. Some types pf legumes are easier to use than others, and since the flavors of the different legumes vary it’s also a lot up to your own taste.

You can choose to cook your legumes from scratch – buying them dried in bulk – which is definitely the cheapest way. You will need soak them in water for at least 4-8 hours, depending on the legume, and then boil on low heat for at least an hour. A list of soaking and cooking times for different legumes can be found here. Some lentils – such as red ones – don’t need soaking, and usually don’t either need to be boiled for that long time.

As a beginner when it comes to cooking with legumes it might be a good idea to start with canned ones. They are a bit more expensive, but much faster and easier to use if the soaking and boiling part seems too hard or time-consuming. When you use canned legumes, be sure to pour out the liquid that they have been preserved in and rinse the legumes, since this will make them easier for your body to digest.

Some legumes, mainly peas, can also be found fresh or deep frozen.

Some of my favorite dishes with legumes include; sweet potato and lentil soup, spicy bean soup, falafel, hummus, different types of patties and marinated beans. Recipes for some of these dishes are coming up soon!

Earlier in the “What do vegans eat?”- series:

#1: Tofu
#2: Plant-based milk & cream
#3: Ice cream
#4: Fruits and vegetables

Dinner invites

Every now and then me and R get invited to dinner by people who are not vegan (to be honest, the times I’ve been invited to dinner by someone who is vegan can be counted on one hand). These people all know that I eat only plant-based food, but they still want to cook for me. That’s really something I appreciate, that they are ready to step out of their comfort zone and try cooking something new, just so that they can treat me for dinner. Amazing people!

Non-vegan people are actually much more open to cooking vegan food than I used to believe. Sure, there are people who just say they don’t know how to cook vegetables and leave it at that, but most people are really willing to try. Even more when they have a reason to do so: a vegan friend. I’m honored to be that friend.

Finding vegan food when traveling: HappyCow

When we are traveling to different places I usually like to look up the available vegan and vegetarian restaurants before we go. If I can eat in a vegetarian environment, why wouldn’t I? Plus I like to try out different kind of vegan foods in different places.

happycow logo

To find the restaurants I usually use the site happycow.net, where you easily can search for vegan, vegetarian and vegetarian friendly restaurants, as well as stores, in a city or area that you are interested in, pretty much anywhere in the world. You just type in the city you are looking for in the “search”-field and click the search button. The different alternatives will show up on a list as well as on a map, distinguishing between the different types of places (vegan, vegetarian etc.). You can also filter the results according to the type of restaurant, price class and distance.

When you click on the restaurant’s name it will show you a short description of the place, its address and opening hours and its price class. It will also show you where it is located on a map. Most places also have reviews and pictures from people who have been there, which can be really helpful in choosing if you want to visit the place or not.

I suggest you try it out for your next trip, or even for finding new places in your own city! I have found a lot of places here in Helsinki through HappyCow, that I wouldn’t have found otherwise.

“Do you feel sorry for them?”

As I was having lunch with some of my work mates, they asked me – as so many times before – about my food and what it contains. One of them thought it contained fish, so I told her that I don’t eat fish. Her response was “Why? Do you feel sorry for them?”. I’m not really fluent enough in Finnish to properly explain to her my reasons for being vegan (which I have to admit frustrates me), but I told her that my decision doesn’t have to do with feeling sorry for someone, because that’s not what it’s all about.

This question, “Do you feel sorry for the animals?”, comes up quite often when you tell someone that you are vegetarian or vegan. It is a legitimate question, because you could choose not to eat animals just because you feel sorry for them, but for me – and for most other vegans out there – the choice is about something much deeper than just pity for the animals that get hurt. It’s about respect for them and their lives, not simply their right to be alive, but their right to a good life.

Seeing vegetarians and vegans as just people feeling pity for animals reduce the message that lies behind the choice to not consume them or their secretions, since that would mean you base your choices on emotion rather than rational thinking. Of course there are emotions involved – realizing how animals have to suffer every day for our selfish purposes can be very painful – but the choice to go vegan is usually based on a lot of research, discussions and rational thinking. It’s a choice you make because you come to the conclusion that not consuming animals or their secretions (of which you actually have no nutritional requirement) is the most compassionate way to live; not a decision based on naive emotions.

A visit to Copenhagen: Food

Something that we always do when we travel is to check out the vegan (and sometimes vegetarian) restaurants or cafes in the city or town where we go. Copenhagen has quite a lot of vegetarian places, and we did not visit all of them, but we did visit all the vegan ones (that I knew about), so here’s a post about vegan restaurants in Copenhagen. Enjoy.

Simple Raw Simple Raw

Simple Raw, Oehlenschlaegersgade 12
The place is quite small and truly simple looking. They serve raw food, juices and smoothies. Their menus were very inviting with nice pictures of the food, but text only in Danish (the guy working there – who turned out to also be the owner – was happy to translate for us, though). R had a plate of zucchini pasta, I had a tapas plate with different salads, hummus, crackers and some patties. We also had a smoothie each. The food was good, I do really like raw food and since I don’t have much experience of preparing it myself it’s nice to eat it in restaurants. The place was also calm and relaxing, not many guests at the time when we were there. The price was in the upper end, we ended up paying around 50 € for the food that we had.

 42 Degrees Raw 42 Degrees Raw

42 Degrees Raw

42 Degrees Raw, Pilestaede 32
Another raw place, located in the city center. We went there around lunch time and it was very busy, full of people and quite noisy. We waited in line for quite some time before we could order, and after that it still took quite long before our food arrived. R had a raw lasagna, I had pizza with a salad. For dessert we shared a chocolate cake. All together it cost around 26 €. The food was alright, it didn’t look that presentable but it tasted fine. Nothing special though. Eating in the restaurant was not that pleasant because of the amount of people and the noise from blenders and other equipment, but they also offer take-out, which I would recommend if you are planning to eat their food during rush hour.

Astrid och Aporna

Astrid och Aporna, Jaegersborggade 39
This is a small vegan fast-food place with a few options of mainly burgers and hot-dogs. We had a burger each and paid around 13 €. I liked the burger, the amount of times I have had a burger that I didn’t make myself since I became a vegetarian ten years ago can be counted on one hand, so it was nice. The place has both indoors and outdoors seating, we tried sitting indoors at first because all the places outside were taken, but it was just too uncomfortable, so as soon some quests left we transferred outdoors.

Woodah Café, Abel Cathrines Gade 1-3
Our hostel, Woodah, also has a cafe, like I mentioned in the earlier post. They serve breakfast, which is the same as the one for the hostel guests. When we were there it consisted of home-made bread with hummus, jam, butter or cheese, home-made muesli (with yoghurt if you wanted), fresh fruit and coffee or tea. Apart from breakfast they also serve snacks and a warm meal, as well as different kind of drinks.

Botaniq, Frederiksborggade 26
I had read good things about this place before we went to Copenhagen, so I really wanted to eat here. Unfortunately they were closed for renovation and don’t open again before in August. Thought I would mention the place here anyway, in case someone will visit Copenhagen in the future and would like to go there. If you do, please tell me about it!