Thursday, November 19, 2009

Veggie Might: Thanksgiving Tips, Part II—The Sides

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

Last week, my CHG lovelies, we discussed hosting and main dishes for a vegetarian/vegan-friendly Thanksgiving. This week it’s all about the Side Dish.

The side dish is a vegetarian’s best friend. When you’re just starting out on the veggie path, loading up on sides is an easy way to eat out or eat at someone else’s house with minimal hassle. And at Thanksgiving, let’s be honest, the side dishes are the best part of the meal.

So let’s take a look at a few classic Thanksgiving sides and how easy it is to make them vegetarian or vegan—and healthier too! (Most of the recipe renovations below are vegan. You can sub dairy butter or milk in most cases.)

Dressing—Traditional stuffing (goes in the bird) and dressing (goes on the side) contains meat bits and stock. But you can easily and tastily fix that. Start by replacing the bits with celery, onion, and garlic. Then switch the turkey stock with vegetable stock and you’re good to go. If you’d like to add a fat, use olive oil or butter (dairy or non); then go crazy with the sage and thyme. It’ll be the dressing of your dreams.
VeganYumYum’s Chestnut Stuffing (scroll down, you’ll see it)
Wild Mushroom Stuffing from Serious Eats

Gravy—Gravy doesn’t need those drippings to be savory and delicious. It just needs flour, salt, vegetable stock, spices, and a quick flick of the wrist.
I Can’t Believe It’s Vegan Gravy from VegWeb
Vegan Gluten-free Gravy from Cupcake Punk

Mashed Potatoes—Wait. Mashed potatoes are vegetarian, right? Well, that depends. Sometimes people use chicken stock to add flavor. Vegetable stock will substitute nicely. If you have vegans on the way, substituting nondairy milk will still make your taters rich and creamy.
Jinxi Boo’s Easy & Creamy Vegan Mashed Potatoes
Kale and Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes from 101 Cookbooks

Sweet Potato Casserole—Sweet potatoes are so nearly perfect on their own, and yet, every year, we slather, smother, and cover them with cream, eggs, and marshmallows until they’re barely recognizable. If you’re having vegetarians, they might excuse the eggs and cream, but the marshmallows will still be a deal-breaker. Try a pecan topping instead. To lighten it up, make it vegan and keep the flavor: replace the eggs and cream with nondairy milk and butter *. I promise: your omnivore guests will NOT know the difference, especially with all those delicious pecans on top.
Sweet Potato Casserole from Fat Free Vegan
Nikki’s Sweet Potatoes from 101 Cookbooks

Green Beans or any other green vegetable—My grandmothers, Midwest and South, never put a vegetable on the table without bacon or ham in it. But believe me when I tell you, vegetables do not need meat to taste good. Olive oil, a little vegetable stock, maybe some garlic, slivered almonds, lemon juice... SALT and PEPPER. I could go on and on. Vegetables, if they’re fresh—hey, even if they’re frozen—are delicious and vegan all on their own.
Martha Stewart’s Green Beans and Almonds
Green Beans with Lemon and Pine Nuts from Epicurious

Green Bean Casserole—Now this one is trickier. I tried green bean casserole once unsuccessfully with mushroom soup from a carton and soymilk. Not. The. Same. It was before I cooked regularly and knew about things like “thickeners” and “comparable replacements.” It was a liquidy, bland mess with fried onions on top. But don’t let my failure stop you from experimenting or trying one of these amazing-looking renovations.
Vegan Green Bean Casserole from Fat Free Vegan
Columbus Vegan’s Green Bean Casserole

Cranberry Sauce—Most cranberry sauce, whether from a can or homemade, is vegan from the start: just cranberries, sugar, and water (though canned will likely have HFCS). However, some folks like to tart up their cran with gelatin, making it a no-no for vegetarians and vegans alike. If you want to get creative, try adding other fruits or add spices like ginger and clove.
Spicy Cranberry Sauce with Pinot Noir from Simply Recipes
The Pioneer Woman Cooks’ Homemade Cranberry Sauce


Maybe your holiday gathering is less traditional or you just want to try new things. There are thousands of fall side dish recipes out there—from the simple to the gourmet—to give your wind to creative wings. Here is a sampling:
Sweet Potato, Corn, and Jalapeño Bisque from everybody likes sandwiches
Cauliflower with Lemon Brown Butter and Sage Salt from the New York Times
Browned Butternut Squash Couscous from Chow
Dan Barber’s Kale Salad and Creamy Parsnip Rice from NYT’s Well Blog

And here’s a bonus recipe from my kitchen to yours, in case you haven’t had enough squash (or kale). This delicious, colorful dish would make an eye-popping Thanksgiving side. It can also be served as a main course with a grain.

Do you have any favorite vegetarian recipe renovations you’d like to share? A terrific side we just have to hear about? Let us know in the comments.


If you enjoyed this post, you might enjoy


Roasted Winter Squash and Kale
Serves about 6

1 medium butternut, acorn, or kobacha squash
6 cups kale, stems removed and torn into small pieces
1 red bell pepper, diced
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
30 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 tbsp olive or canola oil
1 tsp sea salt

1) Preheat oven to 425 degrees.

2) Peel, deseed, and chop squash into cubes. Toss in a bowl with 1/2 tbsp of oil, 1/2 tsp salt, and 2/3 of the chopped sage leaves.

3) Spread evenly on a baking sheet and place in oven for 10–15 minutes or until squash is tender.

4) In a large sauté pan or cast iron skillet, heat remaining oil. Add onions and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic, red pepper, and sage and, stirring, cook for 3 more minutes.

5) Add kale and salt. Cook until kale is wilted and tender, about 7–10 minutes.

6) Remove from heat and toss in roasted squash.

7) Serve at your Thanksgiving dinner or anytime you want to impress a crowd.

Approximate Calories, Fat, Fiber, and Price per Serving
108.5 calories, 2.4g fat, 3.3g fiber, $0.57

1 medium butternut, acorn, or kobacha squash: 252 calories, 0g fat, 12g fiber, $1.25
6 cups kale: 198 calories, .36g fat, 6g fiber, $1.74
1 red bell pepper: 51 calories, 0g fat, $1.13
1 small onion: 20 calories, .1g fat, 1g fat, $.25
2 cloves garlic: 8.4 calories, 0g fat, 0g fiber, $.024
30 fresh sage leaves: 2 calories, 0g fat, 1g fiber, $.20
1 tbsp olive oil: 120 calories, 14g fat, 0g fiber, $0.08
1 tsp sea salt: negligible calories, fat, and fiber, $.02
Totals: 651 calories, 14.5g fat, 20g fiber, $3.42
Per serving (totals/6): 108.5 calories, 2.4g fat, 3.3g fiber, $0.57

(Horn of plenty photo from Flickr member bkwdayton.)

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