Category Archives: Parties

A Vegetarian Thanksgiving: The Real Deal

As requested, some ideas to please the Vegetarians (and even some carnivores) on Thanksgiving!

Starters

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.

The Sides

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.

Some suggestions:

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.

For me, though, thanksgiving makes me think of tzimmes, a sweet carrot dish.  Strange, I know.  This recipe for carrot and sweet potato tzimmes is an interesting variation.

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!

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A Vegetarian Thanksgiving: Prelude

Here in Canada, Thanksgiving does not hold the same significance as it does in the United States. it’s in October (Columbus day to you Americans), and it’s on a Monday. It is not preceeded by the busiest day of the year in the airports, and it is not followed by the biggest shopping day of the year. It is, quite simply, another day off.

However, having parents who are from the US, Thanksgiving was significant to me growing up. Every year after we moved to Canada, we would pile ourselves in the car and drive down to New York (not the city) to spend this glorious holiday with our family. Sometime after I went away to University, I stopped regularly joining in on this annual pilgrimage, participating only occasionally, as my schedule would allow.

Before I got married, oh so many years ago, I hosted a thanksgiving party for a bunch of my friends. At the time, I was completely vegetarian, and therefore my thanksgiving party was as well. My friends thought I was a bit crazy, but everyone had a great time, and enjoyed the dinner.

I’ve had a request (Hi Lylah!) to post some ideas for a vegetarian thanksgiving party. I will be posting my suggestions in a separate post later today or tomorrow.  Be sure to come back and see!

Drop in parties

So I have had a request for menu planning for a drop in party. Around here, we actually love the drop in party. In fact, before the kids were born, we had a New Years Day open house every year. For me, it’s a fall back to the open houses my parents did when I was a kid. We like this type of party, because it’s easy, and people feel less pressure. As well, since we had it spread out throughout the day, we had the time to sit and chat with our guests. A winning combination.

That being said, people come, and you have to feed them. Since our parties were during the day, we didn’t worry about alcohol, but that might be an issue for you, depending on your crowd.

So here are some suggestions for a menu.

Go with finger foods. You want things that people can pick up and eat easily, without the need for lots of cutlery. This saves you time (if you wash the cutlery) and money (if you use disposable). As well, you avoid too much waste (disposable cutlery is a poor environmental choice). As an aside, if you do need cutlery, plates, cups, etc and you don’t have enough of your own, one economical way to avoid disposable is to rent them. The price is not that high, and for the convenience of someone dropping off clean items and picking up the dirty ones, you cannot go wrong!

Don’t worry about a main course. People are coming to see you, not to have a meal. And if they are hungry, a varied assortment of appetizers and desserts will fill them up quite nicely.

Suggested Menu

Appetizers

  • A nice assortment of cheeses on a pretty plate. Don’t forget the cheese knife. Add in a variety of crackers.
  • Bruschetta. This dish of tomatoes and onions is nice and light, and wonderful on top of crusty bread or thick, breadlike crackers.
  • Cut up vegetables and a simple dip. Really, the best dip is simply sour cream (you can use low fat) mixed with onion soup powder. Always gets compliments.

It’s always nice to include something warm. Preferably, that can be eaten at room temperature as well, but it’s nice to bring things out of the oven periodically. Choose several varieties, or keep it simple and elegant.

  • Mini quiches (buy premade mini crusts, or go crustless and use a muffin tin);
  • Egg rolls (you can get nice ones in big boxes at the grocery store. We use vegetarian ones, but you don’t have to).
  • If you have a Costco, they have big boxes of premade mini appetizers. We don’t use them, simply because they have meat in them, but they are really nice, and not too expensive.
  • Stuffed mushrooms. Always a hit, and REALLY easy.

Desserts

I’m not a huge dessert fan. Or, at least, I’m not a huge fan of making desserts. Of course I love to eat them – who doesn’t! I’ll be honest – I often pawn off the desserts on my friends or family. But I do have a few suggestions, so don’t worry!

  • Fruit platter. Don’t forget the fruit platter. You can cut up your own fruit, or for a few additional dollars, pick up a premade platter from your local grocery store. Yes, it costs a bit more, but the time is absolutely worth it. And you’ll usually get a nice variety of fruit. This will require forks, however, so be forewarned.
  • Cookies. Lots of them. If you are so inclined, go themed, and decorate like crazy. Be sure you include things with chocolate, and things without. Not everyone binges on chocolate like me. Chocolate or Chocolate chip, oatmeal and shortbread or butter are a nice variety. You can bake, or buy.
  • Squares. Some people love ’em, some people hate ’em. Brownies or nanaimo squares are always a good choice if you have chocoholics on your guest list. Both can be bought at a bakery or grocery store. I don’t know how to make Nanaimo squares, but I do have a brownie secret: Choose a good mix, then substitute concentrated orange juice for the liquid. Yum!
  • Cake? Pie? Torte? Go with your preference. Not necessary, but a nice touch. Again, you will require forks for this item, so be warned.