A THANKSGIVING dinner menu is already a complicated prospect. Add vegans (every extended family seems to have one), plus, this year, Hanukkah, and you might wonder whether it's even doable.

It is. Probably the highest-profile guidance can be found at the blog Kveller.com, in a post by Mayim Bialik, star of TV's current hit "The Big Bang Theory" and formerly of "Blossom."

Bialik is an outspoken advocate of both veganism and Judaism, but it's her mother who's the T-day host, sketching out and sending off an exhaustive (and theme-stickered) plan for a vegan "Thanksgivukkah" dinner that Bialik promptly posted on the blog with her own annotations.

In addition to Pumpkin Squash Kreplach and vegan chicken soup, the menu includes "One Large Rolled Gardein 'Bird,' " to which Bialik adds, "No friggin' clue how large it is, if it's shaped like a bird, and what it's rolled in or with."

Also on the menu, of course, are latkes.

"She was going to make another potato dish and serve baby latkes as the appetizer," Bialik told me in a phone interview from her Los Angeles home, but "I told her no, the only potato I think there should be on the table at Thanksgiving is a latke.' "

While her starch theory is strict, Bialik didn't have much to say about the "big protein" portion of the meal. "Honestly, if there's latkes, that's all my kids are going to eat, and that's fine."

There are also vegan sweets, of course.

"My mother requested that I make sufganiyot" - Hanukkah jelly doughnuts - "and I did hear that some people are filling them with cranberry jam, which I think is a great idea for Thanksgivukkah," Bialik chuckled. "But we happen to like them not filled, just with powdered sugar."

Watch for the recipe in Mayim's Vegan Table, a new cookbook coming from Da Capo this spring.

Gratitude for all

Whatever the dinner-table particulars, this confluence of cozy family holidays is a chance to amplify the gratitude inherent in each.

"We give thanks for the bounty of fruits, vegetables, grains, legumes and spices - all we need to thrive," said Jeffrey Cohan, executive director of Jewish Vegetarians of North America. "And as veg advocates, we are shining light in the dark places where farm animals are suffering."

Cohan noted that "the two themes of the combined holiday deeply resonate with us, as they should with all vegetarians and vegans."

One expert in holidays resonating through food is Nava Atlas, whose 2011 Vegan Holiday Kitchen (Sterling) veganizes many standard nonvegan dishes, grouped by their associated holiday. With a bounty of recipes for both Hanukkah and Thanksgiving, this collection is a trove of familiar dishes modified for all to enjoy.

Holiday dining should make everyone in your family - however you define it - feel welcome. Yet not every host, or guest, is an impassioned, skilled cook; some may be pushed out of their culinary comfort zone.

Bialik told me how her mother-in-law "had to make revisions to literally every single thing on the table" due to the prevalence of animal products.

Rachel Klein, of South Philly's Miss Rachel's Pantry, said she's lucky that "my Gram will make vegan latkes [without eggs]. But not everyone has that option."

Klein, an established catering and food-delivery maven, has a solution for hosts expecting vegans, or for vegan guests who want to bring something dazzling to the table. She's offering delicious individual meals and platters to share, too. "We've taken the traditional holiday protein and veggie sides and made them completely vegan so no one feels left out of the feast," she said. (Order by Saturday at 215-798-0053 or eat@missrachelspantry.com.)

Making the table a welcome place for all can be tricky, Bialik noted, "because there's this notion of what holidays 'have to be.' "

But there's a flip side, she added: "For those of us who value not eating animals, or the by-products of animals, we get to set a whole new set of traditions."

Adapted from Vegan Holiday Kitchen, this mildly sweet noodle pudding is a classic Jewish comfort food, always welcome at celebrations such as the Jewish New Year and Hanukkah.


8 to 10 ounces ribbon-style noodles*

8 ounces soft tofu

8-ounce container vegan sour cream or vegan cream cheese

1/4 cup agave nectar or maple syrup

2/3 cup dark or golden raisins

1 medium apple or pear, peeled, cored and cut into small, thin slices

1/4 cup Earth Balance buttery spread, melted

1/2 cup natural granulated sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cook the noodles according to package directions, then drain.

Cut the tofu into 3 or 4 slices, then blot well between layers of paper or clean tea towel. Transfer to a large mixing bowl and mash until finely crumbled. Stir in the sour cream or cream cheese and agave nectar or maple syrup.

Stir in the cooked noodles and all the remaining ingredients. Transfer the mixture to an oiled, shallow round or rectangular 2-quart casserole dish.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top begins to turn golden. Let stand 15 minutes before serving. This is also good served at room temperature. Serves 8.

*Note: This is traditionally made with egg noodles, but look for other soft ribbon noodles like quinoa ribbons, or flat, soft rombi pasta.

Find more vegan recipes from Nava Atlas at VegKitchen.

Vance Lehmkuhl is a cartoonist, writer, musician and 12-year vegan. "V for Veg" chronicles plant-based eating in and around Philadelphia.

VforVeg@phillynews.com or @V4Veg on Twitter.