Welcome the 2020 Holiday Season with Elegant Vegetarian and Vegan Dishes

As the end of a remarkably unusual year draws to a close, My Cooking Magazine’s family and friends are planning to celebrate the upcoming holidays in new ways. One thing that has not changed is the food we will prepare and serve with pride to our loved ones. Of course, we might be sharing our culinary skills via Zoom or Facetime, but we will continue the tradition of sharing our love and admiration for others by creating and serving special dishes. They may be time honored, closely held family recipes. Or we might take this opportunity to expand our repertoire by experimenting with a new recipe or two.

Chances are one of your dinner guests this season will be vegetarian or vegan. Wouldn’t it be nice to include something more substantial than a salad or pasta on your holiday menu? Here are some recipes that will delight the vegetarians and vegans at your table. And do not be surprised if the omnivores also ask for seconds!

What about those family members and friends who cannot join us? This season we are all about sending homemade treats to our loved ones. Small, sturdy treats ship best. Make and ship these “UPS-friendly” bars and balls, being sure to save a few for those at home to enjoy as well. Tuck in a few packets of fancy hot chocolate and a handwritten holiday greeting and you are guaranteed to become someone’s favorite elf!

Mushroom, Goat Cheese, and Butternut Squash Wellington

Ingredients:

4 T olive oil, divided

1 lb peeled and cubed butternut squash

Time Saving Tip: many grocers carry peeled and cubed butternut squash in the produce section

¾ t Pink Himalayan Salt

½ t freshly ground black pepper

1 t fresh thyme, snipped

1 t fresh rosemary, finely snipped

1 T maple syrup

½ cup pine nuts, lightly toasted

1 lb fresh portabella mushrooms, sliced

½ medium yellow sweet onion, minced

2 medium cloves garlic, minced

¼ cup dry white wine

1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed (about 9 ounces)

Flour for rolling out pastry

1 cup goat cheese, crumbles

1 egg, beaten with ½ t water

Directions:

Thaw the puff pastry overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat oven to 400F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Toss butternut squash in 2T olive oil and spread evenly on pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for 20 -25 minutes until squash is soft and just beginning to brown. Remove from oven, transfer to a large mixing bowl. Add pine nuts, maple syrup, thyme, and rosemary. Combine gently.

While squash is roasting, heat remaining 2 T olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Sauté mushrooms for 7-10 minutes until browned, turning down heat as needed. Add onions and continue to cook for 2-3 minutes; add garlic and cooked another 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Add the white wine and cook down until all moisture evaporates, about 7 minutes.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Unwrap the puff pastry and roll out one sheet to a 16 x 14-inch rectangle on a lightly floured surface.  Transfer the pastry sheet to the center of lined pan. Turn the pan so the long side of the rectangle is facing you. Pierce the pastry with a fork all over to promote a crisper crust and prevent a soggy bottom. Spread an 8-inch-wide line of mushroom mixture lengthwise down the middle of the puff pastry, leaving a 3-inch border on each of the long sides and a 2-inch border on the ends. Top mushrooms evenly with crumbled goat cheese. Finally, layer the butternut squash mixture on top of the goat cheese.

Fold the long side of the pastry sheet closest to you over the filling away from you, almost completely covering the filling. Brush with beaten egg. Then fold the other long side of the pastry sheet over the first layer, bringing it toward you. Seal the seam, then pinch the short ends of the rolled pastry together and brush all exposed pastry with egg wash. Lightly score the top with a sharp knife in diagonal lines to create a decorative finish. Do not cut through both layers of pastry.

Bake at 375F for 30-35 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes, then slice and serve.

Variations:

  • To make this elegant entrée even fancier, cut out shapes such as leaves and berries or flowers from an extra sheet of puff pastry and decorate the top of the Wellington before placing in oven.
  • Serve with cranberry sauce or port wine reduction on the side.
  • Substitute walnuts for pine nuts, acorn squash or sweet potatoes for butternut squash, a puree of leeks or chickpeas for mushrooms.

Vegan Cranberry Meatballs

Perfect as a hearty appetizer or a main dish, these tasty orbs are sure to be a crowd pleaser. Bonus…they are easy to make!

Ingredients:

Vegan Meatballs

1 cup walnuts, lightly toasted

½ lb fresh mushrooms, finely chopped

¼ cup ketchup

3 T tamari

2 T dried minced onion

1 t dried tarragon

½ t salt

¼ t freshly ground black pepper

6 T liquid egg replacer or 1 T powdered egg replacer (see Notes below)

1 ¼ cup breadcrumbs

Cranberry Sauce

1 16-ounce bag fresh cranberries

2/3 cup sugar

1 T lemon juice

Zest of ½ orange

1 T sweet chili sauce

Fresh parsley for garnish

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place all meatball ingredients EXCEPT breadcrumbs into a food processor and process until combined. CAUTION – do not overmix; that will cause the meatballs to become gummy. Transfer mixture to a large bowl and stir in breadcrumbs.

Roll mixture into evenly sized balls, using about 2 tablespoons per ball. Space them equally apart on parchment lined baking sheet and cook for 20-25 minutes. You are looking for a crispy brown exterior.

While the meatballs are baking, prepare the sauce. In a medium saucepan over medium heat combine all sauce ingredients. Cook for 15-20 minutes until cranberries pop and sauce begins to thicken. Turn heat down to medium low for last 5 minutes.

For a shiny glaze on your meatballs, strain the sauce. For a chunkier presentation, leave the sauce as is. Toss meatballs in the sauce of your choice of sauce. Garnish with fresh parsley and serve immediately.

Notes:  Vegan substitutes for eggsare plentiful. There is a liquid egg substitute you can find in the refrigerated dairy aisle. Powdered egg substitutes made of tapioca and potato starch are convenient. Flax and chia “eggs” are made from their seeds and hot water.

Festive Veggie Sausage Loaf (or Muffins?)

I created this recipe when looking for a holiday main dish that did not contain lentils. Don’t get me wrong. I love lentils. But I am not wild about lentil loaf and I have made a lentil Shepherd’s pie for Thanksgiving the last several years in a row. This dish reminds me of a perfect marriage between my mother’s meatloaf and my grandmother’s cornbread dressing. It can be baked in a loaf pan, a decorative ring pan, or in muffin tins for individual servings of deliciousness.

Ingredients:

1 T olive oil

½ red onion, finely chopped

4 large or 5 medium carrots, chopped

2 stalks celery, chopped

3 medium cloves garlic, minced

16 ounces fresh mushrooms, chopped

1 t fresh thyme, finely snipped

½ t ground or freshly grated nutmeg

Two 14-ounce packages of veggie ground “sausage” (see Notes)

½ c pine nuts, toasted

2 ½ c panko breadcrumbs

½ cup dried cranberries, roughly chopped

¾ to 1 cup unsweetened, plain cashew milk

2 eggs or equivalent egg substitute

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350F. Choose your baking pan: either a loaf pan, decorative tin, or muffin pans and spray lightly with olive oil.

Sauté onions in olive oil until softened. Add garlic, carrots, and celery and continue to cook over medium low heat 3-5 minutes. Add mushrooms, thyme, and nutmeg and cook another 3-4 minutes. Transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl. Add all remaining ingredients EXCEPT cashew milk and mix with your hands until thoroughly combined. Slowly add cashew milk until mixture is moist but not too wet, like a meatloaf consistency.

Fill loaf pan, decorative tin, or muffin pans with mixture. Bake muffins for 30-35 minutes, loaf pan or decorative tin 55-60 minutes or until beginning to brown on top. Cool for 5 minutes and then serve.

Notes:

  • Choose bulk veggie sausage when possible, not links or patties. It will mix more easily.
  • Egg substitutes include refrigerated liquids, powdered blends of tapioca and potato starch, and flax or chia “eggs” made with their seeds and warm water.
  • Any variety of mushrooms are fine; choose the best looking, firm ‘shrooms and wipe clean with a damp paper towel.
  • Ground nutmeg is just fine. If you’re a diehard foodie and have whole nutmeg to grate, kudos!
  • I love to accompany this dish with either gravy or cranberry sauce…or both!

No Bake Fruit and Nut Rice Crispy Bars…and they’re Vegan!

Ingredients:

½ cup brown rice syrup or 1/3 cup maple syrup

½ cup peanut butter or almond butter

2 cups puffed brown rice cereal

¼ cup toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds

¼ cup sesame, chia, or hemp seeds

2 t vanilla extract

½ cup dried cranberries or raisins

¼ cup unsweetened shredded coconut, optional

Decorations:

White drizzle icing made with ¼ c confectioners’ sugar and 1-2 T milk

Small hard candies to use as ornaments

Thin candy-coated pretzel rods

Assorted food colorings, all natural (Watkins is a popular brand)

Sparkling sugar, assorted colors

Directions:

Lightly grease an 8-inch square or 9 x 13-inch baking pan with coconut oil or vegan butter.

In a medium saucepan combine brown rice or maple syrup and nut butter. Heat over medium low to a slow simmer, whisking to combine.

Remove from heat and add remaining ingredients. Stir well.

Here is where you can get creative! Use food coloring and cookie cutters to cut into shapes of your choice.

To make Christmas trees add several drops of green food coloring to the cereal mixture and stir well. Spread into a 9 x 13 baking pan and use a cookie cutter to cut our tree shapes. Drizzle with white icing and decorate with hard candies. Candy coated pretzel rods make perfect trunks.

Make candy canes by coloring half of the cereal mixture red and leaving the other half plain. Cut cereal bars into long thin strips. Take one red and one plain stir and twist together, then curve top to form a cany cane shape. Drizzle with white icing and sprinkle with sparkling sugar.

For traditional bars, skip the food coloring and transfer mixture to prepared pan and press firmly, pressing mixture to all four corners. Cut with a knife into 9 squares or 8 bars.

Cool thoroughly for at least 2-3 hours. If shipping, wrap in parchment paper and pack securely in a sturdy container. Otherwise, refrigerate until ready to serve. Let come to room temperature for 10 minutes before serving.

Winifred’s Pecan Sandies

This recipe has been a family tradition since I was a young girl and our neighbor’s daughter Winifred, shared their family recipe. I have shipped these cookies to my son from Florida to Massachusetts where he attends college and they arrived intact!

Ingredients:

1 cup unsalted butter

½ cup confectioners’ sugar plus ¼ c additional for rolling cookies after baking

2 c all-purpose flour

1 c finely chopped pecan

1 t vanilla or almond extract

Directions:

Cream butter and sugar with an electric mixer. Add vanilla or almond extract and blend. Then add flour ½ cup at a time, blending well after each addition. Stir in chopped pecans.

Chill dough for at least two hours, overnight is best.

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Remove dough from refrigerator and let soften for about 5 minutes. Scoop large tablespoons of dough and toll between palms quickly to form uniform balls. Place onto prepared cookie sheet.

Bake until lightly golden, about 12 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool to touch. Roll in confectioners’ sugar.

Cool completely. If shipping, layer between sheets of parchment paper in a sturdy container such as a metal cookie tin. Include several candy canes in the package for a festive touch.

Lori Rodgers – Lori’s passion for food and fine dining began at an early age. She started reading Gourmet at 8, and was fortunate to have a father who included her in his travels to cites across the US, often frequenting restaurants she had read about in the magazine. After studying hotel and restaurant management at FSU for two years and thoroughly enjoying the summer program in Switzerland, she graduated with a degree in International Business with a minor in Spanish. Lori owned and operated the family business, Bert Rodgers Schools of Real Estate for 25 years, indulging her cooking hobby by whipping up meals for family and friends on the weekends. She has two teenagers who have adopted a vegan lifestyle, adding a new challenge to Lori’s cooking repertoire. Lori recently sold the business and is embarking on a new chapter and new career, returning to her true calling, cooking and exploring the multifaceted world of food!
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