'Tis the season of festive indulgence. But if your family is like mine, not everyone's mouth is watering for the same holiday flavours. Vegetarians and vegans are sprouting up everywhere, and the dinnertime landscape can be a confusing place to navigate for all members of the family (Grandma is still muttering curse words over my Tofurkey incident of 2008).
But there is no reason why meat-eaters and vegetarians/vegans cannot dine in harmony gathered 'round a holiday feast. Alison Kent, Special Publications Food Editor and author of Canadian Living: The Vegetarian Collection: Creative Meat-Free Dishes that Nourish and Inspire (Transcontinental, 2010), knows that integrated mealtime can be tricky but there are options to leave us all satisfied. "There are plenty of great recipes that can appeal to both omnivores and vegetarians like the Rustic Spinach Galette with Whipped Sweet Potatoes [from my vegetarian cookbook]." Yum!
So with a little good will and dinner pre-planning anything is possible, right?
How to feed a vegetarian/vegan this holiday season
If your goal is to maintain family tranquility this holiday season, here are a few tips to avoid anyone going hungry.
1. Check the label
Avoid carnivore rookie mistake number one: Just because you didn't get it at the deli counter, doesn't make it vegetarian. It sounds basic enough but you'd be surprised where you'll find meat or animal byproducts once you start looking. "Some products and ingredients you might take for granted as being meat-free are not (Worcestershire sauce comes to mind)," says Kent. Skip awkward moments and empty stomachs by reading labels carefully.
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2. Communication, communication, communication!
Open up the floor and ask questions if you're not sure what everyone's dietary needs are. "If in doubt, ask your guest to provide a list of off-limit items ahead of time," advises Kent. Veggies, don't be afraid to share your hopes and dreams for mealtime. Speak now, or forever hold your peace!
3. Get those vegetarian hands dirty
This one's for you, my non-meat-eating compadres: get in the kitchen and help. Plan a menu or offer to bring a dish. Your relatives will appreciate the load-off. Get younger vegetarians/vegans involved by having them spearhead the prep work for meatless dishes.
4. Step outside the box.
I know holiday meals are all about tradition, but it doesn't mean that adding a little variety has to be blasphemy. Get creative with your holiday spread. This year my family will be trying a Thai-themed dinner. But if that’s too far out of your comfort zone, try a twist on the traditional, like adding mushroom gravy to the menu, or sampling some vegetarian stuffing. "Laying out a variety of dishes as a buffet allows everyone to customize their plate," says Kent. Who knows? Maybe you'll start a new tradition.
For some fresh vegetarian options to get you started check out these recipes below.
Roasted Carrots with Mustard Vinaigrette
White and Wild Rice Pilaf with Spinach and Walnuts
Puree of Roasted Potatoes and Pears
Winter Vegetable Pasta Salad
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