Ho, ho, ho – Christmas time is here and it’s time to celebrate! I am excited to share my gala menu that’s perfect to serve to family and friends throughout this jolly season. My holiday motto is that festive food can be satiating, delicious and rich tasting — and still be healthy, too!
White Bean Cashew Dip is an appetizing appetizer that is certain to please even the most finicky party reveler. Yep, this is the dip to serve when you are looking to impress non-vegans. The cashews add richness, while the beans impart a creamy, smooth texture that magically takes the place of cheese. A pop of freshly squeezed lemon juice and a hint of cayenne pepper round out the flavor in this wonderful recipe. Serve this tantalizing dip with colorful carrot and zucchini sticks, along with Homemade Tortilla Chips on the side. These quick-to-bake tortilla chips are so crispy and tasty that you will not miss the oil or the extra calories found in most store-bought varieties.
Fancy Stuffed Peppers are the superstars of this merry menu. I have served these beauties at many seasonal gatherings and they always get raves! This tempting, hearty entrée is especially well-suited to wintertime parties, and the festive presentation will grace the table at any holiday celebration. I like using sweet red bell peppers when serving a Christmas meal. The quinoa and black bean stuffing is so hearty and substantial; it effortlessly and effectively takes the place of meat – making it a great choice when serving vegans and omnivores alike.
Sweet-And-Savory Kale is an easy, delicious and fancy way to serve greens. In this appealing side dish, brown sugar adds the sweet, while the tamari provides the savory. It is a beautiful dish that will enhance any meal — and a great introduction to cooking kale, as it takes the mystery out of preparing this fantastically nutritious leafy green vegetable. When preparing kale for use in any dish, make sure to remove the tough stem from the center of the kale first to insure that your finished dish will not be tough. One effective method to remove the stem is to simply fold the kale leaf in half, then run your chef’s knife closely along the edge of the stem and then remove it. (See photo below.)
For an extraordinary dessert, serve rich and creamy tasting Chocolate Mousse Ginger Pie — gorgeous to look at, delicious to eat and a delight to serve! This pie is super easy to prepare (under 20 minutes), making the perfect finish for any festive occasion.
Whether you are hosting a large elegant dinner party, intimate holiday supper or casual weekend get-together, this meal makes a wonderful “go-to” menu to serve throughout this very merry season. Happy, healthy holidays!
Ingredients (Serves 6 to 8)
- 1 can (15 ounces) white beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup raw cashews
- 2 tablespoons filtered or spring water
- 4 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 clove garlic
- ½ teaspoon sea salt
- ¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 2 tablespoons sweet red or orange pepper, diced
- Dill weed or fresh dill sprigs, for garnish (optional)
- Put the white beans, cashews, water, lemon juice, garlic, salt and cayenne pepper in a high-performance blending appliance and process until smooth and creamy. Do not overprocess.
- Transfer to a pretty bowl and fold in the diced pepper. Top with dill if desired.
- Serve with carrot sticks, celery sticks, zucchini sticks, tortilla chips or whole-grain crackers.
Ingredients (Serves 4)
- 2 whole-grain tortillas (see notes)
- ½ teaspoon chili powder
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper.
- Cut tortillas into chip-size portions. Put the cut tortillas, chili powder and salt in a large bowl. Toss to coat. Arrange the tortillas in a single layer on the prepared sheet.
- Bake 7 to 10 minutes or just until crisp and edges are slightly browned. Sprinkle with more salt, if desired.
Chef’s notes: For a gluten-free option, use brown-rice tortillas instead of whole-grain tortillas. Flavored tortillas, like spinach or chipotle, work well in this recipe.
Ingredients (Serves 6)
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly
- 2 cups vegetable broth
- 6 red bell peppers, any color or a combination of colors
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (optional)
- 1 jar (about 25 ounces) marinara sauce, as needed
- 1 can (15 ounces) black beans, drained and rinsed
- 6 ounces cremini or white button mushrooms, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- ¼ cup toasted wheat germ, plus more as needed
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- Put the quinoa and broth in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, until the water is absorbed and the quinoa is soft but not mushy. Let cool slightly. Transfer to a bowl, cover and refrigerate for 2 to 24 hours.
- When ready to assemble the stuffed peppers, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Slice off the top ½ to ¾ inches of each pepper and set aside. (These tops will be used to “cap” the peppers later.) Seed the peppers.
- Stir the optional oil into ½ cup of the marinara sauce. Spread the mixture in the bottom of a deep casserole large enough to hold all the peppers snugly so they remain upright during baking.
- Set aside ¼ cup of the remaining marinara sauce. Mix the quinoa with the beans, mushrooms, onion, wheat germ, garlic, basil and half of the remaining marinara sauce. Stir until well combined, adding more marinara sauce, a couple of tablespoonfuls at a time, until the mixture is moist but not soupy. If the mixture does get a little soupy, simply add more wheat germ.
- Spoon one-quarter of the mixture into each pepper, mounding it if need be. Spoon 1 tablespoon of the reserved marinara sauce over each pepper, then top with the pepper tops. (The stuffing will peek out between the pepper tops and bottoms.) Carefully position the peppers in the casserole so they will remain upright while baking.
- Cover and bake for 45 to 60 minutes, until the sauce is bubbly and the peppers are slightly tender but not mushy. Serve immediately or let cool for 15 minutes before serving. Put the sauce that has accumulated at the bottom of the casserole in a gravy boat or small bowl to pass at the table.
Chef’s note: To make this dish gluten-free, simply use gluten-free cracker crumbs or gluten-free toasted breadcrumbs in place of the wheat germ.
Ingredients (Serves 4 to 6)
- 1 large bunch kale, stemmed, washed and very thinly sliced
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 teaspoons brown sugar or Sucanat
- 2 teaspoons reduced-sodium tamari, plus more as needed
- 4 teaspoons unsalted (or salted) roasted sunflower seeds
- Steam the kale until wilted and quite soft but still bright green, 15 to 18 minutes.
- Transfer to a medium bowl. Put the oil, brown sugar and tamari in a small bowl and whisk to combine.
- Pour the mixture over the kale and toss until the kale is evenly coated. Sprinkle the sunflower seeds over the kale and toss lightly. Taste and add more tamari, if needed. Serve warm.
Ingredients (Serves 8)
- 2½ to 3 cups broken vegan ginger cookies (enough to make 1¾ cups crumbs)
- ½ cup vegan margarine, melted
- ¾ cup vanilla-flavored nondairy milk
- 14 to 16 ounces soft regular or silken tofu, drained and broken up
- 2 bars (3.5 ounces each) vegan dark chocolate (snack bars, not unsweetened baking chocolate), finely chopped
- ½ vegan dark chocolate bar, cut into curls (see note)
- 10 to 15 raspberries (frozen raspberries work well for this)
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the cookies in a blender and process into coarse crumbs. Put 1¾ cups of the crumbs in a medium bowl. Add the melted vegan margarine and stir to combine. Press the crust into an ungreased 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 10 minutes. Put the plate on a wire rack to cool.
- Meanwhile, heat the nondairy milk in a small saucepan over medium-low heat until steaming hot but not boiling. Put the tofu in a blender and then add the vegan chocolate pieces. Pour in the hot nondairy milk and process until completely smooth, about 1 minute. Pour the mousse into the prepared piecrust and smooth the top with a soft spatula.
- Refrigerate for 4 hours or until set. To serve, garnish with chocolate curls and raspberries, if desired.
Chef’s note: To make chocolate curls, slice a vegan chocolate candy bar into small “curls” using a carrot peeler.
Fancy Stuffed Peppers and Sweet-and-Savory Kale: © 2011 Laura Theodore, Jazzy Vegetarian: Lively Vegan Cuisine That’s Easy and Delicious. Used by permission. Publisher: Book Publishing Company.
Chocolate Mousse Ginger Pie, Homemade Tortilla Chips and White Bean Cashew Dip: © 2013 Laura Theodore, Jazzy Vegetarian Classics: Vegan Twists on American Family Favorites. Used by permission. Publisher: Ben Bella Books. For more recipes and information, visit JazzyVegetarian.com.