Nina’s Tips & Techniques: The Holidays featuring Plant Powered Meals

I am trying to eat less meat and more plant-based foods. This holiday season I really want to serve an exciting, gorgeous meal that is all vegetarian, but I’m worried my meat-eating family members will not be satisfied… what can I serve that will get everyone excited about plant-based food AND fill them up?

I feel like the most common mistake people make when trying to go plant-based on a holiday is attempting to recreate “classic” dishes that usually contain meat. While some people love vegan roasts, for meat-eaters they tend to just not do the trick. Same with a vegan gravy, etc. When we start substituting it gets messy. When you replace one ingredient for another it changes the flavor composition of the dish and then you need to be able to adjust for those changes. If you’re an experienced cook this can be a fun challenge, but for many home cooks it can become overwhelming. My best suggestion, if you really want to knock it out of the park, is to serve a meal that is intentionally plant-based – maybe an ethnic meal or a collection of dishes that bring in exotic flavors from another part of the world. For example, completely vegetarian meals are very common in India, so it is easy to find plant-based dish ideas where no substituting is necessary. This is also true in many parts of the Middle East and Africa. These dishes also fill your home with amazing aromas that instantly make your guests hungry when they walk in. If they smell something new and exotic, they will be excited to eat it – if they smell something they think is turkey and gravy, and then it’s not, they might feel disappointed. Plant-based ethnic meals can be exciting to cook and to eat, and they incorporate lots of plant-based proteins like tofu, beans, lentils, and other legumes. This leads me to my other tip for making a memorable, filling plant-based meal…make sure there is a good balance of protein, whole grains or starches like potatoes and sweet potatoes, and vegetables. Think about using filling grains like wild rice, farro, etc. And always make sure there is protein – tofu, seitan, tempeh, chickpeas, beans, lentils, nuts and seeds are all great sources! Meals like this are so fun for me because I get to break out my cookbook collection and try something I’ve maybe never done before.

Featured Recipe: Moroccan Vegetable Tagine with Stewed Fruit