By Barbara Kessler
Green Right Now
If T-Day at your house always means Thanksgiving, and never “Turkey Day,” then there’ll be no roast beast, only nut-, tofu-, grain- or vegetable-based bird substitutes.
Veteran vegetarians who’ve been cooking up animal-free feasts for years, will have undoubtedly have their strategies for going against, or rather, with the grain once again this year. But newcomers, or those of you trying to (finally) please your veggie friends, may need some help with the alternative holiday dinner.
Here are a few ideas to help assure it’s as delish as it ever was:
If you plan to build the meal around a roast, you’ll want an alternative turkey. So you’ll want to make sure it’s a good one, otherwise your veggie fete could fall as flat as old champagne. We’d recommend two that we’ve tried, and also are well-rated by others:
- Field Roast’s Celebration Roast, with hazelnut-cranberry stuffing. Simply, yum. This comes from a Seattle company that excels at making grain-based meat substitutes. Their sausages are delectable and come in several variations. They’re also making ballpark “franks,” though we’ve yet to try those. The holiday roast, carefully cooked, is moist and flavorful with a firm texture that will definitely work for those who don’t care for the softness of some tofu “meats”. At the same time, it’s not disturbingly chewy like seitan can sometimes be.
The only hurdle may be finding these Field Roast gems, which aren’t sold in just any grocery. Use the company retail finder here.
- Tofurky. This standby also comes out firm and around here its texture ranks from excellent to tolerable (where our non-veg son places it). It’s made from a tofu-wheat blend. We have nearly always made it with the suggested oil-and-soy sauce basting formula that comes on the package. That zips it up and helps create the roasted crust. Those who feel comfortable in the kitchen could experiment and come up with other ideas for creating an herbed crust. The stuffing goes a long way here to make this non-bird a tastier treat. For the tofu averse or weary, you might want to whip up a vegetarian gravy that mimics a poultry gravy. (Using No-Chicken broth or one of those gravy mixes. Tofurky also sells a holiday gravy.) Gravy or no, the Tofurky people know what they’re doing.
Tofurky’s website also offers a store finder.
There’s nothing saying you must have a substitute turkey. If the idea doesn’t appeal to you, move on. There are plenty of vegetable options to weigh down the holiday table and make everyone feel appropriately stuffed.
Squash, for example, is a hearty, healthy seasonal treat. Fall squashes, like Acorn, Butternut and Delicata, among about a dozen others that you can find at markets in the fall, are typically great sources of beta carotene, with Vitamin A and potassium.
Now’s the time to whip squash, literally even, into a casserole or a selection of roasted vegetables. There are dozens of possibilities for savory entrees or sweet side dishes here.
Here’s a main dish from Food.com that mixes up squash and fennel flavors for a European style entrée
All Recipes.com offers this Moroccan-Style Stuffed Acorn Squash, a dish that involves cooking a squash half with a filling of couscous, garbanzo beans and raisins. (Just substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth in the recipe.)
Chili lovers might like this peppy Butternut squash dish featured on Meatless Mondays. It’s low fat, high protein.
BRANCH OUT WITH LEAFY GREENS
If there’s ever a right time to carb-out, it’s Thanksgiving, and those of us who consider whipped potatoes, sweet potato casserole and stuffing to be requisite dishes likely won’t get an argument from family and friends. As Tevye said, it’s tradition!
But leafy greens still have a place at the table, and they’ll be a welcome hedge against all that heaviness. If you like to leave dinner refreshed instead of needing a nap, include greens, salads even. If you’ve got a fall or winter garden, or know someone you can filch from, you may have this covered already. Spinach, turnip greens and mustard greens can all be sautéed for just a few minutes in olive oil (try garlic with any of this or ginger with mustard greens). These dishes are so simple and full of flavor. Pick your own variant. Any of the greens, including kale, which needs a little more prep, will help counter to starch assault and pack into the meal folate, Vitamin A, Vitamin C and a host of phyto-chemicals, including lutein, which is good for your eyes.
We’ve got a favorite creamed spinach recipe derived from Mark Bittman’s Everything Vegetarian cookbook. It couldn’t be easier: Blanche a pound of spinach leaves in boiling water for 1-2 minutes, chop them up with a chef’s knife and return them to simmer very gently with a cup of organic half-and-half (or soy milk for vegans) and two tablespoons of a vegetable spread.
Kale tops the list of super green foods for the nutrients it offers. If you’re wanting more-involved side dish, check out the Kale suggestions at Epicurious, which include Kale Slaw, Kale Cannelini Ragout and Kale with Pan Fried Walnuts.You may have to rescue some of these recipes from the needless addition of anchovies or bacon.
We’ve focused on heated dishes, but obviously a chilled green salad can bring greens to the mix. Whole Foods offers a Thanksgiving salad recipe that provides some of the tang of the season with raspberries, fennel and balsamic vinegar. It seems like the right direction.
With a seasonal, interesting mix of dishes, you might find guests won’t even miss Mr. Turkey.
(Ideas we should add, send them to Barbara Kessler, editor, GreenRightNow.com.)
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