Navigating holiday food can be hard enough when you’re making a lifestyle change, as those of us who are vegan know intimately well. The same goes for anyone taking on a change for their own health reasons, whether it’s gluten-free, keto, paleo/pegan, anti-candida, etc., etc., etc….
Then there’s the challenge of potlucks and worrying if you’ll find anything to eat that falls within the parameters of your new habits. Cue filling up on grocery-store veggie platters (sans dip), fruit trays, and steamed veggie sides… and when things get dire, lots of chips. It can be pretty easy to fall off the health-wagon in the face of both temptation and minimal “safe” offerings.
So what can you do? My top 3 strategies are:
- Notify the host of the party of your dietary needs. You may not be the only one who needs accommodation. Ask the host if they could make sure that they and their guests are able to name the ingredients in their dish. If you’re hosting, don’t be afraid to tell your guests to try to make their dish something that most people can enjoy, including you as the host. I’ve hosted many a potluck where I’ve reminded my guests that I’m vegan and that many of my friends have allergies, and to try to accommodate us when making a dish. Your caring friends and family may surprise you with their willingness and ability to bring something awesome.
- Offer to share some of your favourite potluck-worthy recipes. If your friends and family are stumped for what to bring that you’ll enjoy, get in touch and share some ideas. Point them to some of your favourite recipe sites, or simply give them helpful search terms to plug into Google. If they’re not into cooking and are more about the grab-and-go contribution (i.e. that aforementioned veggie platter), reminding them that there are many “regular” foods that are “accidentally safe” for vegans (or your plan-of-choice) can help reduce their stress and yours. Easy ideas: hummus and pita/bagel chips to go along with the veggie tray; coconut whipped cream or even raw almond butter to offer as dip for fruit; dark chocolate truffles (advise to watch for milk ingredients); avocado and cucumber “bento” sushi trays; pasta with pesto (watch for cheese) or marinara sauce… [Grab some recipe inspo here!]
- If it’s too late to help your host and guests with ideas, prepare to bring something to share that will also fill you up if it turns out that it’s among the only things you can eat, like the Italian Stuffed Mushrooms recipe I’m sharing below. Add lentils, chickpeas, pumpkin seeds, sliced almonds, quinoa, cashew cheese, tofu/tempeh, or even vegan meat to your dish. Keep an extra protein- and fat-rich snack (or easy-to-prepare entree if that’s what you need) in your bag to balance out an overabundance of carb-heavy sides. Examples: roasted chickpea snacks like Good Bean; vegan jerky; tempeh strips; veggieballs (Ikea has surprisingly delicious ones!) or loaf/pate; a portion of legumes like lentils or black beans that you can throw into a salad.
While it’s amazing to be able to go to a holiday event where you don’t have to worry about what you’ll eat, it’s just not always going to happen. Planning ahead and having strategies in place so you won’t be hungry all night helps everyone enjoy the party.
So what can you bring that will fill you up while others enjoy it too?
I brought these Italian Stuffed Mushrooms to a family function over the weekend as an appetizer/side, but they also served as my entree. They took less than 45 minutes to assemble and bake, and I went home with an empty tray! Here’s how to make them:
Italian Stuffed Mushrooms
Makes about 40 pieces, depending on size of mushrooms
- 3 packages small/medium white (button) or brown (cremini) mushrooms, cleaned, stems and gills removed (optional: chop up stems and add to stuffing mix)
- 1/2 Tbsp. avocado or olive oil
- 1 small/medium green zucchini, chopped into tiny pieces
- 2-3 green onions, chopped into tiny pieces
- 1 oz. white wine (I used sauvignon blanc)
- 1 Italian-style vegan sausage*, such as Field Roast or Tofurky, crumbled into tiny pieces
- OR substitute 1 cup cooked green lentils, and add seasonings: 1/4 tsp. sea salt or 1/2 Tbsp. mashed capers, 1/4 tsp. oregano, 1/2 tsp. basil, pinch crushed chili flakes or cayenne; or Italian seasoning blend
- grated/shredded vegan cheese (or equal parts nutritional yeast and cashews, pulsed together in a blender or food processor), enough to cover mushrooms (approx. 1/3 to 1/2 cup)
Preheat oven to 375°F. Place mushroom caps on a baking sheet, cavity-side up.
In a hot skillet or frying pan over medium heat, heat the oil and add the zucchini, onion, and wine. Cook until zucchini pieces start to soften and turn translucent, about 7-8 minutes.
Add the sausage/lentils and continue to saute, breaking up sausage pieces if necessary, until heated through, about 3-4 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to cool a little before handling.
Using a small spoon and clean fingers, start scooping stuffing into the mushroom caps, pressing it in gently as you go. You may have extra filling when you’re done.
Sprinkle cheese over stuffed mushrooms. I used Earth Island parmesan-style shreds, but frozen and grated cashew cheese like Zengarry would work as well (use sparingly as it melts more readily with heat).
Bake for 15 minutes on a middle rack, or 10 minutes on a top rack, until cheese has melted and mushrooms have softened a little.
If you are not serving them right away, and/or need to transport them, allow to cool a little and transfer gently in a single layer to a Pyrex tray (or other oven- or microwave-safe vessel). They’re good cold, but better warm. Reheat prior to serving in the oven at 350°F for 5-10 minutes, or in the microwave for 45-60 seconds.
What are some of your favourite plant-powered potluck ideas?