Many of us look forward to the holiday season because it brings friends and family together at the table. However, when meat-eaters and vegetarians are gathered for a feast, making a holiday meal that pleases everyone can be a real challenge.
This year, you can create new traditions. What’s new today will become tomorrow’s tradition so showcase traditional foods with a vegetarian twist. There’s no need to scrap all of your favourite holiday foods just because they are not vegetarian. Many of them can be made over, often resulting in a healthier, more delicious version.
Replace gelatin with a vegetarian sea vegetable called agar-agar. It comes in clear bars and white flakes. Unlike gelatin, agar-agar needs to be cooked with other recipe ingredients, brought to a boil and then simmered. It will give dishes like your sweet cranberry relish a terrific texture.
Cutting back on the number of eggs in a recipe can be difficult. My favourite substitute is ground flax seeds. 1 tablespoon (15mL) finely ground flax seeds whisked with 3 tbsp (50mL) water is a wonderful substitute for 1 egg. When it comes to baking, divide the egg amount in half and use ground flax for the other half. Try this tip when you make pumpkin pie; you’ll love it!
Use ingredients that are closely associated with the season being celebrated, like corn, squash, sweet potatoes, apples, nuts, cranberries, chestnuts and pumpkin.
All too often during a turkey dinner, vegetarians have eaten “around the bird,” filling their plates up with all the trimmings. This never makes for a truly satisfying meal. The old way of viewing vegetarian meals lacks a culinary centrepiece, some sort of meat-free dish that has the same star appeal as the big bronzed bird.
One of my favourite recipes to serve with all the traditional trimmings is a huge squash, filled with a whole grain bread stuffing made with chestnuts, wild rice, mushrooms, Vidalia onions and barley cooked in vegetable stock. This recipe has its own carving ritual, requiring skilled slicing into proper portions. It also pairs very well with many traditional side dishes.
Savoury dishes are very satisfying. For the holiday season, Ricotta and Asiago Stuffed Portobello Mushrooms are an elegant main course to serve that still use a lot of familiar and traditional ingredients. This may remind you of lasagna, with large grilled mushroom caps used in place of the noodles.
Some holiday recipe suggestions:
Warm Mushroom Arugula Salad
Apple Chestnut Stuffing
Kale with Cream Cheese Sauce
Maple Mashed Sweet Potatoes
Snap Pea and Brussels Sprout Sauté
Wild Rice Pilaf
Cranberry Apple Bran Muffins
Creating a gorgeous centrepiece by arranging fruits, vegetables, and herbs is a great way to establish a warm and inviting vibe at your holiday gatherings. A successful arrangement relies on balance and variety, so group similar colours together, break up horizontal pairings with vertical objects such as jarred jams and pickles, and create a focal point by including a tall vase filled with leafy branches, stalks and fruits. Get creative!
Chestnuts, figs, squash, pears and cabbages alongside herbed oils and vinegars can provide a stunning backdrop to your table or entrance. Using seasonal ingredients to create your centrepiece will be well reflected in the meal you serve.
What is a kugel? The word means ‘pudding’ in English (think bread pudding with potatoes, noodles or cheese). They are either sweet or savory. My new-age version pairs tofu with cottage cheese, and is delicious hot or cold.
11×7 inch baking dish, lightly greased
Preheat oven to 350° F
Makes 6-8 servings
8 oz rinsed soft tofu
1 lb 2% cottage cheese
? cup pure maple syrup
2 Tbsp almond nut butter
2 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
½ tsp grated orange zest
½ tsp ground coriander
3 medium apples, peeled and thinly sliced
2 cups raspberries or blueberries
½ cup thinly sliced toasted almonds
¼ cup shredded coconut
1. Blend tofu, cottage cheese, maple syrup, nut butter, lemon juice, cinnamon, vanilla, zest and coriander in a blender or food processor until smooth. Transfer to a large bowl and stir in apples, raspberries and almonds. Turn into prepared pan and sprinkle with coconut.
2. Cover and bake for 35 minutes or until set. Let stand 10 minutes before serving.
Ricotta & Asiago Grilled Portobellos
Stuffed mushrooms can be served in a bun, open faced or between a crusty roll. The meaty, earthy flavour combines so well with classic Italian ingredients. Just a hint of classic lasagna ingredients, replacing noodles with large grilled mushroom caps.
Makes: 6-8 servings
8 large Portobello mushroom caps
3 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper
2 cups ricotta cheese
1 cup grated asiago cheese, divided
? cup diced green olives
2 tbsp diced basil
2 cups tomato or marinara sauce
1. Preheat gas grill, medium-high heat.
2. Lightly brush mushrooms, both sides, with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place mushrooms, gill side up, on the grill. Cook for 8 minutes or until softened, turning once. Transfer to a rimmed baking sheet gill side up.
3. Combine ricotta, ½ cup asiago, olives, and basil.
4. In a small pot, heat tomato sauce for 3 minutes or until hot.
5. Spread ¼ cup tomato sauce into each mushroom cap, gill side up.
6. Place ¼ cup ricotta filling on top of tomato sauce. Sprinkle with remaining asiago cheese.
7. Transfer the entire baking sheet onto the grill.
8. Grill for 5 minutes or until asiago cheese has melted and filling is hot and bubbling.
Nettie Cronish is a Natural Foods Chef, Culinary Instructor and Cookbook Author. She is a vegetarian and has 3 children who want to eat meat. Her latest cookbook, Everyday Flexitarian, is about cooking one meal 2 ways.