Thursday, November 17, 2016

Vegetarian Thanksgiving 2016: We've got answers!

It's on everyone's minds now: Thanksgiving is almost here! We can't wait to try to help you figure it all out, at least the what-to-cook and what-to-eat parts of it. For the rest, we just wish you patience and an open heart. Enjoy the holiday! :)

But first, it was an honor this week for one of our recipes to be featured by The Washington Post as the dish for vegetarians this holiday. As though that wasn't enough for us to rejoice about, then there was a great video and then our very first 'Free Range on Food' live chat on You can read how it went and what people asked HEREWe're grateful for the help in spreading the word about how we cook and why we do what we do. Being vegetarian at Thanksgiving isn't a sad, missing-out, left-out sort of thing; it's actually pretty awesome, or it can be if you know how to prepare for it. 

Here's a quick guide for people who may be just beginning to figure out the whole no-meat situation, and we wanted to help the people around them who are silently freaking out about how to accommodate them. Here goes…and please feel free to ask us anything else about Thanksgiving in the comments!

1. "What might be something vegetarian I could make that rivals the turkey and has a nice presentation?" 

Our vegetarian centerpiece this year is the 'Roast Beast' from our new cookbook, The Chubby Vegetarian. The Roast Beast features an array of vegetables like portobello mushroom caps, eggplant slices, onions, and roasted red peppers, all flavored with pesto and cheese and then threaded onto a spit. It's like making one huge vegetable kabob. The result is roasted on the grill or in the oven for about an hour. It's spectacular when presented to the table and will give any turkey a run for its money. The best part is that it's so easy. Another favorite is Stuffed Acorn Squash, but we think a nice, big lasagna can bring happiness as well.  

2. "What should be on my list if I'm shopping for a meal that'll involve folks with special diets?"

In the spirit of being inclusive, it's nice to consider everyone at your table when preparing the classics. Vegan (and consequently, vegetarian) marshmallows for topping your sweet potato casserole are readily available now at places like Whole Foods, and simply swapping vegetable stock in for the chicken stock in things like dressing will keep everyone happy and going back for seconds. Gluten-free pie crusts (we like this one) have come a long way recently, so if you have a guest with a gluten allergy, it's a breeze to feed them dessert. We like to think about who's vegan and who's gluten-free as we plan for Thanksgiving, and we always offer separately prepared dishes without nuts for those with allergies. 

Most of all, just be open with your guests and ask them about allergies or preferences beforehand. You'll be surprised at how understanding people can be. They may even offer to help by bringing a dish that works for them to share.

3. "How can I be a good Thanksgiving Day guest?"

It's good to try to be a fountain and not a drain when attending any gathering. Bring everything you'll need for serving your dish, and that'll really help your host's stress level. If your dish needs to be hot or cold, bring it in an insulated casserole carrier. It's best not to require oven or fridge space since your host probably has both at full capacity. We often pack hot items in a cooler, too, for the short drive over to someone's house. (And we're happy to help clear the table, but we've learned not to jump in and start doing the dishes unless we're directly asked to do so! Even though it's so tempting just to go for it and get it done! No one likes this, even if we all feel they should appreciate it so very much at the time.) 

We've done all of these wrong in the past but have somehow learned to do better along the way! 

4. "I don't really like to cook. What in the world am I going to bring to the table?"

If you want to make something easy that has a a big impact, make an easy cranberry sauce from scratch. We often flavor ours with oranges, and it's something we always make since sometimes good cranberry sauce is kind of seen as unnecessary but actually is amazing.

5. "I am tired of pumpkin. What should I make for dessert?"

Definitely a spicy chocolate tart from our first cookbook, The Southern Vegetarian (Thomas Nelson, 2013).

6. "I'm going to a Thanksgiving potluck. How can I make sure my dish stands out?"

One recent Thanksgiving potluck featured no less than six sweet potato dishes! This elicited a heated critique of each person's creation and and a ranking by one person of favorite iteration to least favorite, and well, it led to some mildly crestfallen feelings at the table. If you are going to use classic Thanksgiving ingredients, do something different so your dish stands out. Use sweet potatoes as grilled slices mounded with buttery almonds, lemon zest, and fresh parsley. We call it Sweet Potato Almondine.  

Also, don't be afraid to go outside the bounds of traditional Thanksgiving food. There are plenty of dishes that are in the spirit of Thanksgiving classics but feature international flavors. In The Chubby Vegetarian cookbook, we have a curried acorn squash salad with apples and raita dressing that would be a great starter. 

7. We have a question for you. What do you eat for breakfast on Thanksgiving? That's always a tough thing to figure out. Give us some ideas in the comments!


Unknown said...

I enjoyed your chat with the Washington Post yesterday. An easy dish that I have taken to Thanksgiving dinners for years is Cranberry Chutney:

Cranberry Chutney

2 cups fresh cranberries
½ cup water
½ cup seedless golden raisins
1 small onion, sliced
1 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 (8 oz) can pineapple tidbits, drained

Combine first 9 ingredients in a Dutch oven; stir well. Cook over medium heat, uncovered, 10 to 15 minutes or until cranberry skins pop. Stir in the pineapple.

Reduce heat to low; cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Serve warm or chilled.

Yield: about 2 ½ cups

I can't remember where I found the recipe.

The Chubby Vegetarian said...

Bev, that sounds amazing! We're going to have to try it.