Healthy plant-based holiday recipes

When you think of “healthier food” you might also think “tasteless” which is certainly understandable with all the dismal low fat products on the market. This year will mark our 4th holiday season without turkey or other animal products and while at first I could not imagine I would still enjoy food, we have discovered so many wonderful and varied plant based recipes that a slice of turkey or ham seems positively boring by comparison. A plant-based menu can be far from tasteless, and much healthier. But even if you keep the “roast beast” on the table, consider adding more plants to your ingredient list as substitutes, or as delicious side dishes you may want to add. Below is just a sampling of the possibilities:

Traditional favorites adapted with substitutes:

  • Green Bean Casserole. Who didn’t grow up with this dish on the table? This is a similar recipe to the traditional one that calls for a can of Campbell’s cream of soup (yuck!) but uses thickened almond milk and of course keeps the crispy fried onions.
  • Creamed corn.  This version uses coconut milk instead of heavy cream. The spices keep the coconut flavor at bay.
  • Sweet Potato Souffle. For whatever version of your recipe for this must have dish for Thanksgiving, try using coconut milk or Silk Soy Creamer instead of heavy cream as in this example.
  • Southern Style Collard Greens. You can skip the ham or bacon and use smoky spices to keep the familiar taste. This recipe is a slow cooker version.
  • Scalloped Potatoes. The best part of this dish is the cheesy flavor, but we could all do without the extra saturated fat! Finding a plant based option works well with blended cashews. I wouldn’t use them every day since they are pricey, but it is worth indulging on holidays.
  • Mac and cheese. We always included this for our kids who used to be pretty limited on the vegetables they would eat. But now we use non dairy versions. Visit my page on cheese substitutions for a variety of options for this traditional kid fare dish.
  • Pumpkin Pie (without the evaporated milk!) I was so glad to find this recipe from a colleague at work, who had never tried vegan recipes until trying to do so for a guest.

Here are some new side dish recipes you may want to add to your menu (or if you are the guest bringing a side dish). I won’t repeat the recipes I listed earlier on this site, but feel free to check out that page as well.

Finally, I will offer 2 of my own vegetable recipes:

Recipe #1 is simply roasted vegetables. I make these all the time, as the basis for my method of adding more plants into my diet without a lot of extra work. I thought I would add it here because sometimes I go the extra mile, using colorful vegetables, a basting oil and roasting them on the grill using a grill skillet we got at BB&B. When I really take the time, this becomes a wonderful meal or side dish for any occasion. I sometimes add beans or mock meat, but just alone they are delicious. 

Hint: many winter squashes can be peeled before cutting. Others take some work to get them cut up, but it is worth the effort to cut all veggies to about the same size–1 square inch. It takes some time, so I cook a large amount. If you can’t get them all in one roasting pan, wrap up the cut veggies and do it another time.

Here are the veggies that look and taste wonderful roasted together:

Purple potatoes

Sweet potatoes


Chioggia beets

Butternut squash

Delicata squash

Buttercup squash

Basting oil:  Blend about ¼ to ½ cup grape seed oil (or broth) with dried or fresh herbs. I use rosemary, oregano, basil, and thyme. If you like a little hotness, blend in a jalapeno pepper as well. Mix into the veggies and grill. If you have to use the oven, put veggies in a large tin roasting pan in pre-heated oven at 380 degrees. Roast for 30 minutes and check if they are done to your liking. Serve over brown rice.

Recipe # 2 is chickpea and veggie patties.

I stumbled into this recipe with having a lot of leftover roasted veggies using my method! I had a lot of root vegetables on hand from my winter CSA share and was looking for new ideas to use them after initially cooked. I also had heard about an egg replacement “aquafaba,” which is the liquid from a can of chickpeas. It worked really well to bind the veggies so they did not to fall apart when cooked, which is what has happened with my previous attempt at veggie burgers.  I am adding them here, because they make a nice addition as an appetizer,  side dish, or snack during the holidays when extra food is handy for entertaining. Here is the recipe:

1 15 oz. can chickpeas, with liquid

4 cups cooked vegetables (roasted root vegetables are best)

1 cup fine bread crumbs or oatmeal

¼  nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon each dried basil, oregano and parsley

salt and pepper.

Open chickpeas and pour into a large bowl. Mash with a fork until all the chickpeas are broken into smaller pieces.

Chop the vegetables until chunky and add to the chickpeas. Add the breadcrumbs, nutritional yeast, and seasonings and blend well.

Lightly grease two cookie sheets. Shape mixture into patties and put on cookies sheets. I usually make them “cookie” sized, but a bigger size is nice also to eat them as a veggie burger.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes. The bottoms should be browned. Turn over and bake another 15 minutes until the other side is browned. Serve with a sauce of your choice (guacamole, vegan sour cream, hot sauce, ketchup, etc.), or as a veggie burger. This makes a large amount and the left overs can be put in the freezer for a quick meal. Just heat up in a toaster over or microwave.


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