As requested, some ideas to please the Vegetarians (and even some carnivores) on Thanksgiving!
When your guests arrive, you’d like to have something for them to nosh on. A crudite platter (vegetables & dip) is nice, or a cheese plate with some nice crackers. If you want something warm, stuffed mushrooms are always a hit – but make more then you think you’ll need! I would, however, avoid anything too fussy if you plan to cook your entire meal on your own.
A nice touch is to have a pot of mulled apple cider for the guests to drink. I’ve linked to a simple recipe, or you can just heat up some apple cider from the farmer’s market (if available) in a pot with some cinnamon and nutmeg. The warm drink is a welcoming touch.
The Main Course
Thanksgiving is all about the turkey. I know that. Everybody does. Back when I hosted a Vegetarian thanksgiving party of my own, I served a stuffed zucchini. Yes, really. I went to a farmer’s market and found the biggest zucchini I could. I then modified used a recipe from the Moosewood cookbook. You can actually stuff any squash. I used a zucchini because I like them, but any of the nice winter squashes you can find at this time of year would work too. The sweetness of a butternut might be a nice complement. If you are having a turkey, some small zucchini boats would be nice for your vegetarian guests, so they don’t feel like they only get side dishes.
In our family, however, We don’t serve dairy and meat at the same meal, so this recipe wouldn’t work for us. If this is the case, or you are looking for vegan options, I would suggest something that would fit in with the rest of the meal. This lentil roast sounds lovely. I’ve made a similar one before – it was a bit dry, so I served it with a nice gravy, and it was delicious.
Other then the turkey, it’s all about the sides. I’m a traditionalist. Mashed potatoes & gravy, stuffing, that carrot dish that I never eat, sweet potato pie. These things can very easily be prepared meatless. But I’m always one to do things just a little differently as well.
Mashed potatoes. These are a staple, you cannot ignore them. Sure, you can do a nice roasted potato in the oven, but it doesn’t have the warmth and friendliness of the mashed potato. I don’t use milk in my potatoes. Instead, I mash them with a bit of broth (and I NEVER use the cooking liquid – makes them too starchy and pasty, in my opinion). For flair, I will often add some garlic. A nice variation is to saute some chopped mushrooms and onions with some garlic in olive oil, and then mix them into your potatoes. Yum.
If mashed potatoes are not your thing, a simple roast potato would be nice. Take small potatoes, toss them with some olive oil, garlic and your favourite spices, and roast them in the oven.
Stuffing. People are divided on stuffing. Some are firm believers in putting it in the bird, and some, like me, believe it should be cooked on its own. I suppose that makes it more of a dressing then a stuffing. Here is a basic bread stuffing recipe. Personally, I would leave out the nutmeg and cloves and add some garlic, and loads of sauteed mushrooms (I like mushrooms). Oh, and use multigrain bread – it is so much healthier!
Vegetables. This part is often considered boring and the selection uninspired. Don’t overlook the value of a lightly steamed broccoli, for example.
My mother always made a sweet potato pie, that she covered with marshmallows. She would make this here at home, and take them with her for the drive to the US where we would go for thanksgiving. People always loved this pie. I have to be honest, though – I never ate it. The thought of marshmallows, and pie? Ick! Then again, I don’t eat any kind of pie, so we will just overlook my opinion. This isn’t my mother’s recipe, but it is very similar. The topping she made was simply big marshmallows arranged on top and browned in the oven for the last 5 – 10 minutes of baking.
Salad. Don’t overlook the salad. To fancy up a green salad, add craisins (dried cranberries) & sunflower seeds when you toss it. Or you could try this cabbage & tofu salad that sounds good.
Other. Don’t forget the gravy! If you are going completely vegetarian, a mushroom based gravy is the way to go. Add a plate with sliced pickles, some olives and other pickled delights.
Don’t forget dessert! I’m not a baker, so I don’t have any recipes to suggest, but simple desserts would go best. If you like pies, then a selection of fruit ones are nice, and perhaps some cookies (chocolate chip are always good). Don’t forget actual fruit as well!
Regardless of what you serve, the pleasure of thanksgiving is the company. Set a festive table. Include place cards, and mix the guests up a little bit. You can have the traditional “what are you thankful for” presentation from each guest as well. A fireplace, if you have one, should be lit, and football should be on the television (i hate it, personally). Our thanksgiving dinner was always served around 3 or 4 in the afternoon, which is perfect if you have children, too.
Enjoy, and happy thanksgiving!