The holiday season is a time for sharing with loved ones. For most of us, this means sharing food – and lots of it! Whether you are new to a plant-based lifestyle or have been eating this way for years, it can sometimes be difficult to take part in family food traditions without making completely separate plant-based holiday dishes. Many traditional holiday dishes are meat or dairy-based with veggies limited to side dishes.
Although more and more Canadians are choosing to follow a plant-based lifestyle, there is a significant generation gap. Those under 35 are much more likely to describe themselves as plant-based (either vegetarian or vegan) than the older generations, aged 49 years and up. The holidays and family get-togethers present an opportunity to introduce older loved ones to some delicious plant-based holiday dishes.
You may find that many of the dishes your family loves can be fully plant-based with a few tweaks. The following dishes represent a sample of “beginner” plant-based holiday dishes for those who are new or not used to plant-based eating. These dishes are creamy and satisfying for cold weather, without the use of dairy or meat!
Plant-Based Holiday Soups
Blended soups with a vegetable base, such as butternut squash soup, are very easily adapted to plant-based. It can be simple with steamed squash, vegetable broth and salt and pepper for seasoning. You can also get creative and add coconut milk for a creamier taste, and curry and ginger for a different flavor. Try adding a cooked apple or applesauce for a bit of natural sweetness.
Minestrone is a heartier soup for a cold day lunch or supper that can easily be made plant-based. This Italian classic can be made with extra beans instead of ground meat or cheese. Chickpeas and cannellini beans provide satiating fiber and protein. Be sure to add lots of winter and root veggies like onion, turnip and cabbage.
Plant-Based Holiday Dishes
Easy to make with no hard-to-find or intimidating ingredients, grain-based dishes are great plant-based meals for the whole family. Risotto, a slow-cooked rice dish, gives a creamy taste and texture without the use of dairy. Veggie broth or water is added to rice slowly while stirring, breaking down the texture of the rice into a creamy dish.
Chopped veggies like mushrooms or squash, or leafy greens like kale or spinach can be added for a boost of color and nutrients. Simply replace the parmesan cheese with a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast for a vitamin B12 boost!
Meat-free pasta is another way to provide a hearty winter meal. Keep it simple with sautéed veggies, beans and bite-size pasta or exercise your culinary skills with a homemade pasta like gnocchi. Gnocchi is a simple yet hearty, dumpling-shaped pasta made with mashed potato or sweet potato, water and flour. It can be a stand-alone dish with flavored olive oil and herbs, or served with your favorite plant-based pasta sauce.
Plant-Based Holiday Appetizers and Sides
If you are the only person in your family eating a plant-based diet, you are probably familiar with eating many meals consisting of just sides! Getting creative with salads is a great way to impress guests and challenge their expectations of the boring side salad. Skip the iceberg lettuce and try more colorful vegetables like a beet or carrot salad. Add texture and boost protein with nuts or seeds. Make your own healthy and colorful dressing by blending olive oil with berries, vinegar and herbs.
Look to Middle Eastern foods for some flavorful and delicious plant-based appetizers. Hummus with crackers or fresh vegetables is a lighter way to start a holiday gathering, and can be customized with different beans or fresh herbs. Baba ghanoush is a less familiar eggplant dip packed with flavor. It can be made creamy and smooth with tahini, or chunkier with chopped tomato and pomegranate. Both are delicious served with pita bread, and are a creamy, plant-based alternative to chips and dip.
What plant-based dishes do you bring to family events? Any strategies for introducing family members to plant-based eating? Let us know in the comments below!
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