What to eat when the star of the traditional holiday meal does not appear on the table?
Not all vegetarians feel pressured to sculpt mock turkeys out of tofu or even eat Tofurkey products. Being a vegetarian is more than enduring gobs of green beans and loads of lettuce. In fact, you might be surprised to know that being vegetarian is less about rabbit food and more about expanding options, not reducing them.
When my husband developed Type 2 diabetes, I decided to make some radical shifts in our menu. We removed flour and grain, white potatoes, pasta, and all refined sweeteners. I was the sole cook and a vegetarian and chose to join my husband on his journey to wellness. Rather focusing on what we couldn’t have, we made the most of what we could have and it turned out to be a lot.
Maintaining a vegetarian diet almost incites one to experiment with new foods.
Vegetarians do not eat meat, or meat products (like chicken, beef or bone broth). Lactovegetarians allow for dairy products, Ovo-vegetarians allow eggs, Lacto-Ovo includes both and Pescatarians eat fish. A Vegan-vegetarian enjoys only plant-based foods, (while a vegan lifestyle avoids all animal products including but not limited to clothing and cosmetics). I lean heavily toward Vegan and we sometimes prepare low glycemic grains. But, plant-based food means far more than leaves.
Beautiful, Delicious and Filling
The holidays became an excellent opportunity to give tradition the heave-ho. Think smorgasbord. Think brightly colored feast. Think of the conversation starters. My friends don’t expect meat at our table (his friends could be persuaded).
Celebration meals begin with soup, a savory roasted pumpkin, butternut squash blend with fresh rosemary, garlic and vegetable broth of my own making. Super greens salad is made of sturdier leaves like kale, collards, and various cabbages have made our salads more interesting and “nutrient dense.” They’re surprisingly filling.
We offer flax seed and millet crackers or nut-thins. They can be added to soup or used to scoop roasted pepper hummus or garlicky baba ganouj. Sometimes we make thin crepe-like bread with fermented ground lentils and (low-glycemic) buckwheat. These can be folded and filled with various yummies. By pairing two of them my husband uses them to make a “sandwich” he can live with.
A vegetable tray of the usual suspects looks pretty normal, but we make a “sour cream” based dip with soaked and ground sunflower seeds. It can also be dolloped on baked sweet potatoes stuffed with balsamic marinated mushrooms pan-fried in olive oil (We have eaten entire boxes of mushrooms this way).
Oven roasted beets and butternut squash (both peeled) make a visually stunning presentation topped with pumpkin seeds and surprises the palate. We enjoy unexpected flavor combinations. Brussel sprouts come into their own when roasted and sprinkled with toasted pine nuts (or those mushrooms)! Crustless, bleu cheese, and zucchini quiche bites can be made ahead and served at room temperature. Our relish tray contains various olives and fermented radishes, pickles, cauliflower, and carrots. These add another exotic dimension of flavor while introducing beneficial bacteria to boost your immune system (Think beneficial like yogurt).
Vegetarian Doesn’t (always) Mean Tofu.
India boasts the highest population of vegetarians at a stunning 500+ million. Their complex and delicious cuisine flavored with simple and exotic spices is a constant source of new taste experiences. A favorite main dish is a vegetable and tofu curry, (tofu optional). Use carrots, cauliflower eggplant, zucchini, and chickpeas stewed in a creamy sauce made with tomatoes and coconut milk. The bright yellow sauce is striking served over black rice.
Versatile lentils become veggie burgers or can be made into soups. Simply soaked and/or sprouted they add a satisfying crunch to salads or add-in for our “crepes.”
Although we do not use refined sugar, for holidays, we use honey or maple syrup. Dessert is usually pumpkin pudding, nut butter based fudge, or brownies so delicious, you wouldn’t believe they’re flourless and made with black beans (Totally worth the shocked looks).
Plant-based eating has opened our eyes to the endless possibilities. When my husband eats this way, his blood sugar numbers improve. My weight stops escalating. We feel better. Sleep better. Do you know how many side dishes fit in an oven not being used to roast a turkey? (All of them)
We no longer struggle with:
- Finding freezer space or thawing or stuffing a turkey.
- Dinner delays because the turkey isn’t ready.
- Dry turkey.
- Trying to figure out what to do with all that leftover turkey.
As one who formerly spent all day in the kitchen, celebrating without meat has been freeing. As a bonus, with all the vegetable leftovers, meatless Monday’s dinner is already made!
Here’s to hosting a vegetarian holiday!