Our holidays revolve around meat – and lots of it. There’s Christmas prime rib, Easter ham, and, of course, the Thanksgiving turkey. It’s great to celebrate our holidays by at least acknowledging and celebrating the meat at a meal, but for us vegetarians, feeling satisfied after Thanksgiving dinner is not one that we are familiar with. Filling our bellies on a variety of side dishes that just happen to be vegetarian – green beans smothered in butter and cheese, mashed potatoes – does not make for a wholesome meal, let alone a healthy one.
If you are vegetarian and end up hosting guests for Thanksgiving, it’s easy to get stressed out for all the usual reasons – shopping, making sure everyone makes it to your place, kids screaming, running out of ingredients, etc. Compound these issues with the fact that you’re vegetarian and want to make a delicious feast for your omnivorous friends, and the pressure can mount quickly.
Here are some points you may want to consider while planning your perfect holiday meal.
To Turkey or Not To Turkey?
This is largely a personal choice. If you’re having guests over who are meat eaters and are used to the traditional Thanksgiving turkey, give this some consideration. Your family and friends are depending on you to fulfill their traditional norms, and cooking a turkey would be seen as a great token of friendship. If you don’t feel completely disgusted with cooking a turkey on Thanksgiving, my advice is to go for it. You can also consider asking a friend or family member to come over early in the day with a turkey, and have them be in charge of that side of the operation.
If you do decide to make a turkey, be sure to make a substantial vegetarian entrée for yourself and any other vegetarians at the table.
If you cannot stand the sight, smell, and presence of a turkey, than skip it. No biggie, you can definitely make it work. You will need to consider the main dish – the vegetarian turkey, so to speak. There are lots of recipes out there that you can consider, that fall under both categories of vegetarian food and traditional American cooking. Marinated tofu, for instance, might work if your friends and family happen to be open-minded and health conscious. Most likely, though, they’re not. You can try a vegetarian potato lasagna, but chances are you’re going to have more than enough potatoes with the meal. When great substitute for any meat is mushrooms – they have a meaty texture and flavor, and cook up in a similar fashion. Try marinating the mushrooms in smoky sauce, and stuff them with a variety of savory vegetables like kale, onions, and garlic, and pile the cheese on top. This is sure to be a hit. You can also try stuffed acorn squash or a galette.
One dish that you do not want to prepare is Tofurky, or fake meat. It doesn’t taste like the real thing, for one, and the meat eaters at the table will surely notice. It also just doesn’t taste great for a meal that should be one of the best of the year. Get creative if you don’t want to have a turkey, and cook up something delicious.
Whatever your main dish turns out to be, make sure it is hearty – very much so. Don’t feel guilty throwing a pound of butter, cream, cheese, and sour cream into a single dish, as you’ll make up for some of this decadence with some healthy side dishes. People can eat smaller portions of
The sides will be important for your vegetarian Thanksgiving. Since your main dish will either be meat or a hearty vegetarian entrée, lighten things up a bit with some sides that are heavy on the vegetables, light on the fat. There is, of course, the mandatory mashed potatoes, cranberry sauce, and stuffing (which should be made vegetarian), but everything else is up to you.
Cooking up fresh vegetables in a simple manner will yield a variety of side dishes with relatively little effort. The following recipes can be made in any quantity you like, and are easily improvised in just a few minutes.
Baked Root Vegetables: Chop up in-season turnips, potatoes, sweet potatoes, broccoli, kale, garlic, and whatever else suits your fancy. Place this in a large baking dish, coat generously with olice oil, salt, pepper, and spices and – presto – you’ve got yourself a significant, delicious side dish.
Asparagus Spears: Chop off the hard base of your asparagus spears, and sautee in olive oil for 5 minutes on high, or until they begin to brown on the outside. Salt, pepper, and add freshly grated parmasean cheese (optional) and serve hot!
Baked Brussel Sprouts: Click here for a great recipe offered on our site.
Baked Sweet Potato Fries: A healthy, simple, delicious way to cook up sweet potatoes. Makes for a great appetizer. Click here for our baked sweet potato fries recipe.
Simple Kale: Lightly sauté fresh kale in olive oil. Delicious unto itself.
Garlic Green beans: Lightly sauté fresh garlic green beans olive oil for 2 minutes on high. Add green beans and cook for another 3 minutes – not browned, but just lightly cooked. Add a splash of soy sauce, and pepper to taste.
Remember not to stress out too much, and be sure to enjoy yourself. Cooking up a big meal involves a lot of pressure, but, ultimately, it should be a joy to put together all this food for your loved ones. Pop a bottle of champagne, and enjoy the cooking experience!