A Very Veggie Christmas

By J.E. Warren

Don’t let the carnivores have the one-up this Christmas. There’s a world of tempting, delicious and ironically healthy holiday meal alternatives for vegetarians. Dig into these tips and recipes and show ’em they’re not the only ones with a talent for good holiday taste.

It’s a sad fact that many people still aren’t clued into the fact that a well balanced vegetarian diet not only can provide you with all the essential nutrients you’d get from eating meat products, but it’s also much healthier. This holiday season would be a good chance to prove you’re not missing out on any of the fun, because an additional fact is that well crafted vegetarian meals are often easier to prepare and better tasting as well.

In fact, there’s so much that’s possible in the wide world of vegetables, I can’t even hope to scratch the surface here. So my first bit of advice is to experiment, experiment, experiment! Each vegetable holds its own world of possibilities and flavors. Since a good meal is always the sum of its parts, it’s nice to know you’ve got a nearly infinite — and mostly inexpensive — number of variations waiting at your local grocery store or garden. Pretend that your kitchen is your new laboratory and get creative. Don’t rely on articles and recipe books for everything! Do weird and crazy things to the veggies. They won’t mind!

Since Christmas is looming, start playing now. Mess around with some seasonal winter vegetables. Parsnip, swede, turnip, sprouts, leeks, cabbage… Slice ‘em, dice ‘em. Boil, steam, fry and bake away. Whatever suits your fancy.

Since you’ve got to crack open the recipe books sometime, check out some holiday-ish recipes that involve nuts. Nuts and Christmas definitely mix, and nuts are highly nutritious, being able to provide essential fatty acids, calcium, zinc and protein. Look for recipes like Pine Nut Risotto and Chestnut Bourguignon Pie. Anything with chestnuts will work. That’s what more than one Christmas song involves, after all.

When you’re ready to get your groove on with the grapevine, do it right. Vegetarian wine doesn’t contain stuff like gelatin and isinglass, which is made from the bladders of tropical fish and is often used in the making of wines. Look for the Vegetarian Society’s ‘V’ symbol, which guarantees the wine is vegetarian, or else ask your grocery store manager if they’ve got a list of vegetarian wines. If you’re the type who likes to plan ahead, it’s not a bad idea to plan for next morning’s hangover. A banana milk shake made from Soya milk, bananas, ground almonds and honey will chase it right away.

When everybody at the party begins standing around eating their mince pies and pointing righteously at you, don’t fret. You too can eat mince pies! Just be sure to get the vegetable suet variety or the joke’s on you, pal. Traditionally, suet uses animal fat, but more companies are switching to veggie suet. Be sure to check the label!

Or, maybe you don’t want any mince pie. Fine. Impress your guests with pastries instead. Canapés aren’t heavy or filling and make great holiday appetizers. They’re an attractive vegetarian alternative, especially when placed on nice ceramic plates or in baskets.

The fillings should be prepared in advance and covered in the fridge; the pastries should be stored in airtight containers if prepared in advance. Assemble them at the last moment to ensure they’ll be crisp at serving. Choose three or four different kinds of canapés and make sure there’s plenty there. They’re light and nearly bite-sized, so plan like you’re going to provide seven to twelve bits per person. Break them out before the main course, or serve a few with drinks at any time throughout the evening.

Whatever you decide to do, don’t forget the chocolate. It’s Christmas, for Pete’s sake! Go with the chocolate cream sauce. 125 grams of cocoa, one half cup water, one cup cream, two tablespoons butter and two-thirds cup o’ sugar. Throw the cocoa and water in a saucepan and cook slowly until mixed and smooth; add sugar and stir until dissolved. Just before serving, add, off the heat, the cream and butter and whip for two minutes. Voila!

J.E. Warren has worked as arts editor, associate editor and contributing science and technology writer for North Lake College’s The News-Register; and sr. research writer for a Dallas-based Web sector market research company.

In October 2001 he won an honorable mention from the Texas Community College Journalism Association (TCCJA) for an editorial, and over 2000 and 2001 he was nominated by The News-Register for several Texas Intercollegiate Press Association (TIPA) awards, including ‘best headline’, a few ‘best feature’ stories, a ‘best picture page’ and some ‘best news’ articles. In March 2002 he won second place at TIPA for a critical review of the film Waking Life.

You can find him at http://www.lettucethink.com/

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