How to Plan a Tasty Vegetarian Thanksgiving

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving at your house and are expecting vegetarian guests this year, don’t worry about preparing one large meat eating meal, and another separate vegetarian meal. Most vegetarians do not require a ‘meat equivalent’ at Thanksgiving. Yes, traditionally Thanksgiving has largely about the food. But more importantly it’s about family, togetherness, happiness and peace. And if this is your first Thanksgiving after transitioning to a vegetarian lifestyle, try some of these ideas to incorporate healthy food preparation into your meal that your vegetarian guests, and you as host, will be thankful for this Thanksgiving:

– Bake some stuffing outside of the turkey for your vegetarian Thanksgiving.

– Make a small portion of vegetarian gravy.

– Keep cooking utensils separate to prevent “cross-contamination” between meat foods and vegetarian foods.

– When recipes are adaptable, use substitutions like vegetarian broth, soy margarine (the formulations without whey are suitable for vegans), soy milk, and kosher marshmallows which are made without gelatin.

– Use vegetable oils instead of animal fats for frying, and vegetable shortening like Crisco for pie crust.

– Read ingredients lists carefully on pre-packaged foods, being aware of terms like gelatin, whey, and “natural flavors” that can be animal-derived.

– Prepare plenty of vegetable and fruit side dishes, but leave them plain.

– Offer plenty of breads, beverages, fresh fruits, and non-gelatin desserts, which are suitable without modification for most vegetarians.

– Invite your vegetarian guest(s) to prepare a “Tofurky” or vegetarian ‘turkey equivalent’ entree to share with you the rest of your guests, or if you’re hosting Thanksgiving, prepare a small one. Your meat-eating guests might just be curious enough to want to try it!

– Ask your vegetarian guest for help, tips, or recipes for your vegetarian Thanksgiving. You may find that your guest offers to help out in the kitchen or bring a dish from home. Please don’t take a dish from home as an insult to your cooking; take it as a desire to share traditions at Thanksgiving. Even meat-eating homes can benefit from a healthy, nutrient-dense vegetarian recipe idea any time of the year!

– Most importantly – make TONS of new, delicious (not overly cooked) vegetables that are perfectly in season like squashes, sweet potatoes, and green beans, etc.

how to host Thanksgiving

Hosting Your First Thanksgiving Dinner: 5 Tips to Make it a Success

If you are new to the cooking world and are hosting a dinner party for Thanksgiving or for the holidays, it can be a bit intimidating if it isn’t something you are accustomed to. Starting a relationship or marriage can thrust you into a role you weren’t anticipating. So here are some helpful tips for feeding a crew.

Plan Ahead
I’m a big believer in planning and planning. Get as firm a commitment as you can from those who will be attending your dinner. Make a list of everything you plan to feed to your guests. Then, make a list of all the ingredients you will need. Shop for non-perishable items about a week before. The days leading up to Thanksgiving are a frenzy in grocery stores. You only want to be shopping for essentials on those days.

Prepare Ahead of Time
When planning your menu, think of things that can be prepared ahead of time. Butternut Squash, for example, is a seasonal favorite. You can prepare the entire soup ahead of time and reheat it on the stove the day of Thanksgiving. Or, roast the squash and puree it, so it is ready to go into the pot on Thanksgiving, which means it is about 75 percent done. Also, cranberry sauce can be prepared the day before and taken out of the fridge for Thanksgiving guests. The bottom line is you don’t want to be overwhelmed by everything there is to do, especially when it is your first year hosting.

Take a little help when necessary
Do you have a guest who has offered to bring wine or dessert? There’s no shame in taking them up on it. Really. Some people are fabulous cooks, but not so when it comes to baking. So, if you have a guest who has a talent that you can use – go for it. Your other guests will appreciate your sharing their talents with others. Does your favorite restaurant make some superb stuffing or a sweet potato dish that knocks your socks off? Pick this item up and share it with your guests. There is no rule you have to make everything you serve from scratch.

Do a Dry Run
When entertaining, this isn’t the time to try out a new dish. I’ve had dishes go drastically wrong. Ovens vary. Cooking times vary. Taking 20 minutes longer on the stove to cook than the recipe says could throw your entire menu off. After all, you only have so many burners, right? If you haven’t tested a recipe out by two weeks prior to Thanksgiving, put that on your list to make next year.

Don’t Forget Décor
You don’t have to be Martha Stewart, but do think about what dishes, wine glasses, decanters and silverware to use. As you start to think about this, you’ll know if you need to borrow any of these supplies from a friend. Does your table cloth need ironing? What kind of tablescape will you have? Also allow enough time to make sure your walkway is cleared of leaves and that you have time to tidy up a bit before guests arrive.

Hopefully, these tips will allow the new host to be unfrazzled during the Thanksgiving holiday or any dinner party you have. And by following these tips and planning ahead, this will free up time to spend with your guests instead of slaving away in the kitchen.