By Lenora S. Dernoga

The holidays are here, and that means parties, entertaining and family get-togethers — all of which may center around food.  If you’re trying to scale back on or even eliminate dairy products ingredients for health, environmental or ethical reasons, you don’t have to sacrifice any deliciousness. You can still enjoy decadent desserts by putting a plant-based spin on most of your traditional holiday foods.

More Than Java Café, on Main Street, makes plant-based holiday entertaining easy with its delicious vegan desserts. If cookies are your thing, check out its chocolate chip, coconut, oatmeal raisin and peanut butter treats. The café also offers apple or peach cobbler, and a creamy banana pudding. The shop’s  goal is to provide fresh, vibrant, high-quality food in a warm, comfortable atmosphere. It also offers other vegan alternatives on the menu, along with plant-based milks for teas and coffees. You can order online for delivery, takeout and catering. For more information, call 301.490.3200.

Ragamuffins, also on Main Street, offers some scrumptious vegan options, including morning glory muffins, cranberry orange scones, mini gluten-free apple cider muffins and three varieties of bagels. The café also offers almond, soy and oat milks for its beverages. Ragamuffins’ goal is to provide a comfortable space where people can gather over handcrafted coffees and teas. The shop aso offers music, yoga and coffee-brewing classes — and more.

Even as a vegan charcuterie board sounds like an oxymoron, considering charcuterie means cured meats, you can make a delicious and impressive one. The key is to include a range and balance of foods including items that are salty, sweet, savory and spicy.  

Salty offerings can include olives, pickles, tapenade or pickled veggies. Sweet includes chocolates, candied nuts, fruit, dates and jam. Savory and spicy items could be vegan cheeses, hummus and a lively dip, along with crackers, bread or veggies. Artfully arrange everything on a large cutting board, and place it as a delectable centerpiece at your next party. 

When it comes to plant-based baking for the holidays, consider swapping out butter for a plant-based alternative, like Country Crock plant butter or Myoko’s Creamery vegan butter. You can use a mix of flaxseed and water in place of eggs (three tablespoons ground flax mixed with one tablespoon water—let stand for 15 minutes to thicken), and swap  dairy milks and creams for non-dairy milks and coconut creams.  

Here are a few recipes  to get you inspired: 

Almond Oatmeal Cranberry Cookies:    Chock full of almonds, oats and cranberries, these scrumptious, festive-looking morsels contain healthy fats, fiber and just the right amount of sweetness.

Easy Vegan Eggnog:  Made with a blend of creamy, dairy-free milks and naturally sweetened with maple syrup and subtly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg.

Cranberry Orange Bread:  Perfectly moist, naturally sweetened and made using wholesome ingredients.