10/08/2012 12:04 EDT | Updated 12/08/2012 05:12 EST

A Very Vegan Thanksgiving

Chronicle Books

For me, becoming vegetarian has been a slow journey of personal discovery and growth. An obliging carnivore as a child, I favoured meat and potatoes over most other vegetables. In my early twenties, I developed gluten and dairy allergies, and found myself paying closer attention to the food I was putting into my mouth.

With this newfound awareness as my guide, I considered alternatives to the traditions I had been raised on. My passion for yoga held an increasing influence over me both on and off my mat, and I began to feel strongly about following a vegetarian diet. One of the founding principles of yoga is Ahimsa, or non-violence, and eating meat suddenly seemed at odds with the lifestyle I was choosing.

On paper my path seemed clear: teach yoga and embody the yogic principles, ahimsa included. In reality, altering my way of thinking and abandoning my diet was not going to happen overnight. Turkey dinner at Christmas and at Thanksgiving was one of the final carnivorous traditions I held on to, before considering myself vegetarian. I could avoid meat all year it seemed, but on these particular holidays I gave in and celebrated "turkey day" with the rest of my friends and family.

It wasn't until a few years ago that I was finally able to stick to my convictions and enjoy the holidays without eating meat. I started by politely refusing the main dish, instead heaping my plate with sides. Becoming a little more comfortable with my new lifestyle choices, but not quite satisfied by a plate of peas and root vegetables, I began pre-making my own holiday meals.

I perfected a casserole of hearty mushrooms, roasted with fresh herbs and vegan gravy. The mushrooms satisfied my taste for something substantial, and made for a more than adequate replacement for the traditional turkey. Respectfully alerting my host in advance, I brought my little dish with me when I was invited to festive gatherings at the homes of friends and family.

This year I plan to try something new and start my own tradition. I'm calling it A Very Vegan Thanksgiving, and I'm inviting my friends and family to give thanks and celebrate with vegetarian fare. I'll be serving a variety of roasted veggies, steamed greens, mushroom gravy and savory baked tofu, with gorgeous, gluten free, vegan pumpkin pie for dessert.

After we eat, I'll be taking my baby boy to visit our local farm. Seeing the animals up close reminds me why I made the choice to follow a vegetarian diet, and sharing that experience with my son reminds me of the true meaning of the approaching holidays: thankfulness, gratitude and joy.