How to incorporate vegetarian and vegan dishes into your holiday celebrations

Flavorful alternatives to replace animal products

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How to incorporate vegetarian and vegan dishes into your holiday celebrations

Courtesy of Ocean Spray official Facebook page

Courtesy of Ocean Spray official Facebook page

Courtesy of Ocean Spray official Facebook page

Courtesy of Ocean Spray official Facebook page

By Nicole Bates, Collegian Staff

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The holiday season comes with lots of brilliant light displays, family fireside charades and holiday media on every screen you turn to, along with an abundance of meat, potatoes and sweet treats.

It is a season of celebrations and a season of pomp and excess. The store aisles feature shelf after shelf of plastic Christmas décor and box-set items to give to your family members and friends. In the celebration of excess, food fits right in.

What would a jolly holiday season be without an overwhelming assortment of cookies, candies, holiday snacks and sides? Food is an essential part of holiday festivities, but there is a way to be more conscious of the impact of the foods you are serving and throwing away.

For a holiday meal, most families likely indulge in some type of main meat, whether it be turkey, chicken, ham or another option. For most, it is challenging to eliminate meat entirely from the picture when it is such a big part of family traditions. To compensate, you could try to focus on making mostly vegetarian or vegan appetizers and side dishes.

Whenever you attach the word vegetarian or vegan to something, many people automatically pass a judgement on it. However, there are so many things you can do with vegetables to make flavorful dishes people will love, regardless of their dietary habits.

Here are a couple vegetarian and vegan sides I have tried personally and believe would be a wonderful addition to your holiday meal:

The Best Vegetarian Stuffing

This is a delicious vegetarian stuffing that could easily be made vegan by substituting the butter for a vegan butter alternative. The tart flavor of the apples with the lovely softness of the bread complements the flavorful mushrooms and hearty chestnuts. It is an exquisite medley of flavors.

Brussels Sprouts with Pistachio and Lime

Brussels sprouts are a contentious vegetable, but when cooked right, they can be a guest favorite at any holiday meal. This dish has a kick to it with the tangy lime and a crunch from the pistachios, making it a sustainable and filling side.

If you are more of a simple cook, you could toss some halved Brussels sprouts in a pan with some olive oil and perhaps a nut of your choice, and that would be equally flavorful and filling.

Roasted New Potato Salad with Lentil and Herb Dressing

This is a personal favorite and would be best served as an appetizer at a holiday party. The herb dressing has a rich flavor but does not overpower the natural flavors when drizzled over the lentils, potatoes and wilted spinach.

Chocolate Peppermint Crinkle Cookies (Vegan)

These are great to make for your holiday cookie party or for a simple dessert. The recipe produces cookies with just the right balance between soft and crunchy. Roll them in a little granulated sugar and this chocolate-peppermint snack becomes a Christmas carol in your mouth.

These are just a few standout recipes that may enhance your vegetarian and vegan holiday experience. But there are always simple things you can make that don’t require a recipe.

If you go down to a local grocery store and buy all the fresh vegetables you can find, then chop them up and toss them in the oven in a pan with a little olive oil and seasoning, you have a roasted vegetable side dish ready to go. There are also endless possibilities of what you could make with potatoes. There are several vegan alternatives for regular mashed potatoes that use non-dairy alternatives for butter and milk — great for your eco-friendly friends and anyone who may be lactose intolerant. There is also the delightful sweet potato, which can be roasted, baked, fried or made into a casserole (easily conducive for vegan ways of preparation).

Around the holidays, it is easy to block out everything going on in the world and allow yourself to indulge in carefree life for a couple days, and the holidays should be that way. Unfortunately, we are facing a major environmental crisis, and the holidays are repeatedly a setback in progress because of the abundance of waste that they produce. This holiday, try to be mindful of what you consume and what you throw away. You can still have an extremely hearty and tasty holiday meal without as many animal products on your plate.

Lastly, be extremely mindful of the food you waste. Regular food waste usually amounts to Americans throwing away about 40 percent of their food, but during the holiday season, an average of five million pounds is added on to that. Try to make dishes that can last: put them in your fridge, make leftover sandwiches or send each of your friends and family members home with something they can eat! Then we can all have an environmentally, guilt-free and happy holiday season.

Nicole Bates can be reached at [email protected]