So, you’re hosting a vegetarian for your holiday dinner? Or maybe you’re a vegetarian and simply want to create some shareable dishes for a potluck.
Don’t feel like the vegetarians are relegated to guacamole and chips, or hummus and crackers. There are TONS of appetizer and main course options for the holidays.
This year we’re hosting our omnivore family for Thanksgiving, but of course, I still want to create a meal that’s special, festive and delicious. My goal is to never let our guests leave feeling deprived or thinking the food was “weird.” I want them to feel they enjoyed something delicious, maybe a new twist on the familiar or a dish they didn’t realize was made plant-based.
Recently I made chili for ten friends who happened to be in town for a concert. Some of the guests I knew quite well and others I barely knew at all. I decided on chili because it’s one of the easiest “accidentally” vegan options out there.
I made a big pot of vegetable-heavy chili with Beyond Meat crumbles, corn, peppers and beans. I normally swap in quinoa for the crumbles but for when cooking for a new group, I prefer to stick with crumbles because I find people barely notice a difference from regular ground beef.
I provided a fixin’s bar with tortilla chips, onions, hot sauce, crackers, avocado, Sour Supreme, Daiya cheddar shredded from the block (again, texturally it’s closer than the pre-shredded kind. Everyone loved it and there was seriously nothing left after second helpings all around (not even the shredded Daiya). I had a couple people say they couldn’t believe it was all vegan.
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When I cook for guests I find a couple important tips help keep the crowd happy:
- I obey the Shannon’s advice about cooking for non-vegetarians. Cook items that are familiar, which usually means meat-like foods and naturally vegetarian options. It’s not quite as healthy as making everything from scratch and using whole, non-processed foods, but when people are “easing into” vegetarian/vegan foods tempe and even tofu can be a little weird.
- I like to offer customizable options. For example–a build your own sandwich bar, burger bar with lots of fixings, sloppy joes, taco bar, or a selection of several soups. This allows everyone to try several different dishes and “make it their own.” Somehow, people simply like food MORE when they get to play a part in the creation.
- Offer at least one super crowd-pleasing item. Oreo cookies, a yummy cupcake, Ben & Jerry’s non-dairy ice cream, etc. I have yet to be told ANY vegan dessert is gross.
- Lean on carbs. Most people are comfortable with pasta, bread and carbohydrates. This means there’s a familiar, simple item that’s filling and delicious. Now, obviously I like to include some gluten-friendly items as well, because not everyone is a carb lover. Still, offering rolls, bread, or chips seems to keep everyone full and happy.
- Have fun and don’t force it. If someone is freaked out by non-dairy cheese, don’t make them try it. It’s not for everyone. No one is ever convinced by force or bullying. Just move on.
Following these guidelines, I thought I’d share our Thanksgiving menu with you guys so you could get some ideas for your family gathering–whether you’re the host or the travelling vegetarian.
This is what we’ll be having this Holiday:
Made by my Mother-in-Law. Last year she made it in a cute turkey design with carrots, peppers, celery, broccoli and olives, with a hummus dip. I like to ask guests to bring something like a salad, veggies, beverages, or an item that’s “accidentally” vegan, so they don’t have to stress out about finding nutritional yeast at a Walmart in Wabeno, WI.
Most bread is accidentally vegan already, so it’s another easy item for a guest to bring. There happens to be a fantastic bakery in New London where my in-laws live, so they’ll pick up some vegan rolls from Bult’s Quality Bake Shop.
I’m making a cheese tray with figs and some crackers (Ritz and Triscuits are both vegan in most flavors). I’ve been making almond ricotta lately, which is SO delicious. I’ll pick up some farmhouse blocks of Daiya Smoked Gouda and Jalapeno Havarti style. Treeline makes an amazing Cracked Pepper Aged Nut Cheese. Then we’re rounding it out with Field Roast’s Chao Tomato Cayenne. I’m also using my raspberry freezer jam on my cheese tray that I made this summer with my mom.
Dressing is made from day-old (or dried) bread, caramelized onions, celery, spices such as sage, rosemary and thyme. I use veggie broth and ramp it up with Better Than Bouillon No Chicken.
Green Bean Casserole
I make my own cream of mushroom base, by sauteing diced onions and mushrooms. Then I add a roux of flour and oil, and thicken with almond milk and a few spoons of sour-supreme. To the soup base, I simply follow the “regular ol’” recipe for green bean casserole, including using frozen green beans and canned French fried onions.
Roasted Brussels Sprouts & Squash
Oven roasted brussels sprouts are sweetened with the addition of butternut squash, dried cranberries and maple syrup. I opted to skip out on sweet potato casserole this year (too heavy) but this is the ultimate sweet-and-savory Thanksgiving dish!
This is a polarizing topic. Some people prefer a cranberry chutney or salsa rather than the jellied stuff in a can. However, the Ocean Spray “jellied” variety doesn’t contain gelatin (in fact, it’s pretty much just corn syrup, water, cranberries and more corn syrup). The natural pectin in the cranberries acts as a gelling agent. So, depending on where you fall on the cranberry sauce spectrum, it’s not exactly health-food, but it’s veg-friendly.
Thanksgiving isn’t complete without potatoes, of course. I prefer to use Yukon Gold. I normally don’t peel potatoes but since it’s a “fancy” occasion I do for the holidays. For my mashed potatoes I steam the potatoes and I get the creaminess from Sour Supreme and a splash of almond milk. I use Earth Balance to add butter flavor. I always use caution NOT to over-mash which makes potatoes gluey.
Last year we used Field Roast’s Celebration Roast and we were HOOKED! This seitan roast is so good! I’ve tried Gardein and Tofurky as well, both of which make a stellar faux-turkey too (and I can’t wait to try the new Tofurky “Ham”!), but the “meat” to stuffing ratio on this one is perfect. It’s juicy and delicious. My entire family seemed to love it and this year we’re making two (so we have plenty of leftovers for sandwiches. This is super easy to make–follow the instructions on the box, bake as per the recipe. It turns out like a turkey roulade.
The Field Roast Celebration Roast comes with a gravy packet which is a delicious porcini mushroom gravy. I get anxious about having enough gravy (because, really, can you ever have enough gravy?!?). I usually make an additional mushroom gravy so there’s plenty. This year we’re trying Imagine Wild Mushroom Gravy. I plan to attempt a red-eye gravy with the Tofurky “Ham” at Christmas.
My sister-in-law usually brings dessert. She works in the restaurant industry and has some delicious connections to score yummy vegan pies. Because we like to keep some extra treats in the house I’ll probably make some pumpkin chocolate chip cookies–just to be safe. We wouldn’t want a dessert shortage (of course)!
So, what’s on your holiday menu this year? Stay tuned for our upcoming quick veg-friendly shopping list (for those who are hosting and need some yummy ideas)!