I love the holidays – the family gatherings, the decorating, the food, the shopping. All of it. I also love my mother. But she, bless her heart, has not figured out how to cook for a vegetarian. While everyone else dives into the turkey or ham, I’ll be staring at a plate of mushroom-stuffed ravioli from the freezer section at the grocery store.
In all fairness, I inherited my lack of love for cooking from my mom. This is where my husband comes in. He and I bring a dish or two that are both vegetarian-friendly and accessible to my family’s non-adventurous Midwestern palate. If you’ve ever found yourself wondering “What am I going to eat?” or “What do I make for so-and-so?” here are a few of my favorites that everybody can enjoy:
Really Easy Roasted Broccoli
My veggie du jour is roasted Brussels sprouts. Growing up, we NEVER had Brussels sprouts. I had absolutely zero exposure to them. I have since learned how amazing they are and as much as I would love to share that with my family, it’s not going to happen. Someday, though. Someday. In the meantime: broccoli. This recipe is based on one called The Best Broccoli of Your Life, and that’s not an exaggeration.
Ingredients (serves 4-6)
• 2 large bunches of broccoli, cut into florets (Important: IF you wash the broccoli, make sure it is THOROUGHLY dry before cooking)
• 3 Tbsp olive oil
• 1½ tsp reduced sodium salt
• ½ tsp fresh black pepper
• 6 cloves garlic, sliced
Preheat oven to 425° F. Toss broccoli, oil, salt, pepper and garlic on a cookie sheet and roast about 20 minutes, checking periodically. The original recipe says 20-25 min, but I’ve never cooked it the full 25. You want to brown the edges and end up with crispy broccoli, but you don’t want to burn anything.
At this point, I stop.
The original recipe adds more oil, some parmesan cheese, pine nuts, fresh squeezed lemon and fresh basil, but half the time I’m nibbling off the tray already. I’m in too much of a hurry to shove this in my mouth to bother dressing it up any more.
Caramelized Yam, Shallot & Coconut Soup
We discovered this recipe a couple years ago and it is to.die.for. Warm and rich and creamy and spicy, it is everything a Thanksgiving meal needs. This is not a quick process—give yourself at least 2 hours—but SO worth the time. The blog author goes into a discussion of the differences between “yam” and “sweet potato” in British and American English that’s probably only interesting to a word nerd like myself. What we get up here are generally Garnet yams. Their exterior is more potato-like than the woody-looking yams I've seen elsewhere. Either way, the soup turns out amazing.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
• Two large yams
• 1 teaspoon fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
• 1 teaspoon garam masala
• 1 teaspoon powdered cayenne (you can double or triple this if you want your soup spicy)
• Mild cooking oil (we used safflower oil)
• About a pound of shallots, thinly sliced (set aside one or two, depending on their size, for the garnish)
• 1 teaspoon reduced sodium salt
• 1 teaspoon sugar
• Quart of vegetable (or chicken) stock – watch the directions carefully: you won’t use this all at once (Swanson carries several bouillon options if you want to go that route)
• Pint of coconut milk
• Juice of ½ lemon (or 1 Tbsp lemon juice)
Roast the yams (in the skins) at 375° F for 60-90 minutes until completely soft.
While those are cooking, sauté garam masala, cayenne and ginger in 1 Tbsp oil until aromatic. Careful! Don’t burn the spices. Next, add the sliced shallots, salt and sugar. Stir to combine and reduce heat. Cook for 20-30 minutes until shallots are soft and golden-brown.
Something I’m learning as we get more adventurous in our cooking is what an awesome resource the local Asian market is. We have several here in town but our favorite one sells a humongous bag of shallots for the same price the grocery store charges for two or three individual ones. You can bet we’re using them liberally now.
Once the yams are done and they’re cool enough to touch (or you’re brazen enough to do it earlier), peel and add yams and about a pint of stock to the cooked shallots. Stir (or mash) to combine and simmer for another 20 minutes.
Transfer to a blender (remember to vent the lid for hot liquids!) and puree until creamy. Return to heat and add coconut milk and lemon juice. At this point, add more sugar/salt/spices to taste and more stock to adjust the texture if you want; otherwise, fry the remaining thinly sliced shallots in a little oil for a garnish and enjoy!
Finally, my husband makes a mean Eggplant Parm. This fall we were the overwhelmed recipients of an absurd amount of tomatoes from a friend's garden. As a result, we have a ton of homemade marinara sauce. The sauce you choose will be a significant variable when it comes to the nutritional stats for this recipe -- just something to keep in mind.
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
- 1 package dried porcini mushrooms
- 4 cups marinara sauce
- 1 large eggplant, cut into 1/2 inch rounds
- 1 1/2 tablespoons salt -- I know that sounds like a scary amount, but it pretty much all gets washed off. Stay tuned.
- 8 ounces ricotta cheese
- 6 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1 egg, beaten
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
- 4 tablespoons olive oil
Reconstitute the mushrooms according to the package directions. When they're ready, drain off any excess liquid, chop the mushrooms and stir them into the marinara sauce.
Sprinkle both sides of the eggplant slices with salt. This is to draw moisture out of the eggplant to help it stay firm when cooking. Place slices on cooling racks or in a colander with a tray or towel underneath to catch the liquid that drains off. Allow to sit for 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350° F.
Combine the ricotta, mozzarella and 1/4 cup of the parmesan cheese. Add in egg and basil.
Rinse the eggplant in cold water until all salt is removed. In a large skillet, heat 4 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Brown both sides of each slice of eggplant, using additional oil if necessary.
In a 9x13 inch baking dish, evenly spread 1 1/2 cups of marinara sauce. Arrange a single layer of eggplant slices on top of the sauce. Top the eggplant with 1/2 of the cheese mixture. Repeat for another layer: marinara, eggplant, cheese. Pour the remaining sauce over the top and sprinkle with remaining parmesan cheese.
Bake 30 to 45 minutes until sauce is bubbly.
How do you introduce new foods to reluctant friends and family? I'd also love to hear your go-to holiday recipes!
Broccoli: 4 servings = 252 cal (110 from fat), 12.2 g fat (zero trans fat), 0 chol, 357 mg sodium, 32 g carbs (11.9 g fiber, 7.8 g sugar), 13 g protein PLUS it's a great source of vitamins A and C, calcium and iron!
Yam soup: 6 servings = 290 cal (170 from fat), 18.9 g fat (zero trans fat), 0 chol, 407 mg sodium, 30.1 g carbs (3.6 g fiber, 3.5 g sugar). 4.3 g protein. Yams are a great source of vitamin C and potassium.
Eggplant parm: 8 servings = 383 cal (217 from fat), 24 g fat (zero trans fat), 53 mg chol, 799 mg sodium, 25.1 g carbs (6.1 g fiber, 12.6 g sugar), 17.7 g protein PLUS 39% of your daily calcium needs!