One inquisitive omnivore’s journey towards healthier and more compassionate eating…

(Click here for why I started)

(MEATLESS HOLIDAYS/VEGETARIAN-VEGAN RECIPES) Well, I made it through my first turkey-free Thanksgiving and survived. More than survived, it was delicious. I had all of my Thanksgiving favorites—stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes—and didn’t miss the turkey one bit. This got me thinking.

With Hanukkah upon us and Christmas only a few weeks away, we have lots of parties and family gatherings coming up. Is it possible to stay healthy and meat-less throughout the holiday season? Thankfully, with so many healthy vegetarian and vegan recipes out there, the answer is YES!

Here’s a sampling of some of my favorite vegetarian and vegan appetizer recipes:

1. SAVORY MUSHROOM CUPS — My friend Lisa gave me this recipe years ago, and I love it! It’s a bit labor-intensive (especially if you don’t have a food processor), but so simple, and always a huge hit with everyone I’ve made it for.

Savory mushroom cups are a hearty and scrumptious meat-free appetizer./Photo credit: whilehewasnapping.com
Savory mushroom cups are a hearty and mouthwatering meat-free appetizer. Photo credit: whilehewasnapping.com

Ingredients:

  • 4 tbsp butter (unrefined coconut oil)
  • 3 shallots minced
  • 1/2 lb mushrooms, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 1/2 cup cream (coconut milk)
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1/8 tsp cayenne
  • 2 tbsp grated Parmesan cheese (non-dairy shredded cheese alternative)
  • 1 pkgs mini fillo shells

In a large frying pan, melt butter over medium heat. Add shallots and cook until softened but not browned for about two minutes. Add mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally until nearly all the liquid has cooked away (10 to 15 minutes).

Sprinkle flour over mushroom mixture and cook, stirring, 2 minutes. Increase heat to high and stir in cream, mixing well. Cook until mixture comes to a boil for about three minutes. Remove from heat and stir in chives, parsley, salt, lemon juice and cayenne. If made in advance, store covered in refrigerator three days.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Mound about 1 tbsp of mushroom mixture in each fillo cup and top with 1/4 tsp grated Parmesan cheese. Bake until tops are golden and mushroom mixture is bubbling, about 10 minutes.

*I’ve included the vegan alternatives in parentheses. Unfortunately, I’m not sure how they’ll taste since I’ve never actually prepared the mushroom cups that way. If you decide to try it, definitely let me know what you think.

 

Hummus is a healthy holiday appetizer rich in protein and heart healthy omega-3's./Photo credit: talkhealthytome.com
Hummus is a healthy holiday appetizer rich in protein and heart healthy omega-3’s. Photo credit: talkhealthytome.com

2. HUMMUS & PARMESAN PITA TRIANGLES — Hummus is perfect during the holidays for dipping almost anything; vegetables, breadsticks and these Parmesan Pita Triangles below (vegans can skip the parmesan.)

Hummus:

  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 2 cups canned chick peas, rinsed & well drained
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/3 cup tahini
  • Juice of 2 fresh lemons
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Blend all of the ingredients (I used my NutriBullet) until well combined but still coarse. Add more seasonings as needed. Transfer to bowl and serve or cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for later.

Parmesan pita triangles are a delicious alternative to chips./Photo credit: oneshetwoshe.com
Parmesan pita triangles are a delicious alternative to chips. Photo credit: oneshetwoshe.com

Parmesan Pita Triangles:

  • 6 six inch diameter pita breads
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cut each pita bread horizontally in half. Brush disks with olive oil and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cut each disk into six wedges. Arrange pita wedges in single layer on large baking sheets. Bake until pita wedges are golden and just crisp for about 12 minutes.

 

3. CRISPY SWEET & SOUR SEITAN WRAPPED IN PEA PODS — I discovered seitan for the first time at a Thai restaurant in New York. I loved the dish so much I went back the next day and ordered it to go. This is as close to the recipe as I could find. The pea pods were actually inspired by my friend Lisa’s sesame chicken wraps. I just switched out the meat and it’s a delicious vegan appetizer.

Crispy Sweet & Sour Seitan is a savory and delicious plant-based appetizer. With its texture and high protein content its a great meat alternative./Photo credit: veganyumyum.com
Crispy Sweet & Sour Seitan is a savory and delicious plant-based appetizer. With its texture and high protein content its a great meat alternative. Photo credit: veganyumyum.com

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz Seitan, chopped into strips (a loose 2 cups after chopping)
  • 1 tsp Ener-g Egg Replacer
  • 1/4 Cup Cornstarch
  • 1/4 Cup Peanut Oil
  • Steamed Broccoli
  • Sesame Seeds
  • Pea pods

Sauce:

  • 3 1/2 tbs seasoned rice vinegar
  • 2 tbs + 2 tsp Sugar
  • 1 tbs tamari
  • 1 tbs ketchup
  • 1 tsp molasses
  • 1/4 tsp ginger powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/2 tbs cornstarch + 2 tbs water

Blanch pea pods in water until just tender, for about two minutes. Take out of water and immediately put in an ice water bath to stop cooking process and refresh bright green color. Set aside.

Add all the sauce ingredients except for the cornstarch and water into a small saucepan and heat on low until sugar dissolves. Mix cornstarch with 2 tbs water and add to sauce. Turn up heat to medium-high and whisk until sauce thickens. Sauce should be moderately thick, but not so thick it’s gel like. Add more cornstarch to make thicker if needed, or water to thin it out. Take off heat and set aside.

Heat 1/4 cup of peanut oil on HIGH in a large non-stick pan. Place chopped seitan in a large bowl. Sprinkle with egg replacer powder and mix well. It should dissolve from the moisture of the seitan. Add cornstartch and toss seitan until it’s completely coated.

Test oil with a piece of seitan. If the oil bubbles up immediately when you drop a piece in, you’re good to go. Add seitan to oil in one layer, you might need to do batches depending on how big your pan is. Fry on high for 5-7 minutes, stirring and turning the pieces often, until crispy and golden. Drain oil out of pan.

Put the pan back on the stove with the seitan in it, but NOT over heat. Wait a sec for the pan to cool down, then add sauce. Toss to coat seitan, top with sesame seeds. Wrap each seitan strip in a pea pod and pierce with toothpick to hold together .

 

4. MANGO SALSA — I’m not always a big fan of tomato-only salsas, so adding the mango really gives it that nice blend of sweet and zesty.

Mango salsa and is a colorful and healthy way to ring in your holidays./Photo credit: mommysmodernkitchen.wordpress.com
Mango salsa is a colorful and healthy way to ring in your holidays. Photo credit: mommysmodernkitchen.wordpress.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 large mango, peeled, pitted, and diced
  • 1 medium tomato, seeded and diced
  • 1/4 cup diced red bell pepper
  • 1/4 cup diced white or red onion
  • 1 tsp. minced fresh cilantro
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

Combine ingredients in a medium-sized bowl and mix well. Cover and chill in refrigerator for at least 30  minutes. (Salsa will stay fresh in the refrigerator for up to two days.) Serve with chips.

 

5. BRIE BITES — These are so easy to make, and I once again have my friend Lisa to thank. The cheese, brown sugar and nut mixture is a scrumptious combo that everyone loves (if you don’t like brie or want to save a little money mozzarella is a good substitute, and vegans can use any soft, non-dairy cheese alternative.)

These delectable bites perfectly combine the sweetness of brown sugar and the savory richness of brie cheese./Photo credit: ezrapoundcake.com
These delectable bites perfectly combine the sweetness of brown sugar and the savory richness of brie cheese. Photo credit: ezrapoundcake.com

Ingredients:

  • 1 sheet of puff pastry, thawed
  • 1/2 lb brie (non-dairy cheese alternative)
  • brown sugar
  • sliced almonds

Preheat oven 350 degrees. Roll out puff pastry until it is approximately 1/4 inch thick. Cut pastry into two-inch squares. Mold each square into a mini muffin tin. Add a slice of brie, about the amount you would put on a cracker. Sprinkle with a little brown sugar, and garnish with a few sliced almonds. Bake in oven until edges are lightly browned, approximately 15 minutes.

 

6. ONION, SPINACH & ARTICHOKE DIP — This is a nutritious and easy dip I make with my NutriBullet. Pair it with vegetables, chips or the Parmesan Pita Triangles (see recipe above) for a tasty AND healthy appetizer.

The Artichoke is a low-calorie, antioxidant-rich vegetable that not only tastes delicious, but is a great source of fiber,  vitamin C, folate and magnesium.
The Artichoke is a low-calorie, antioxidant-rich vegetable that not only tastes delicious, but is a great source of fiber, vitamin C, folate and magnesium. Photo Credit: Stock photo

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 medium onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 3/4 cup fresh spinach
  • 2/3 can artichoke hearts, drained
  • 1 cup non-fat plain Greek yogurt (soy yogurt)
  • 1/2 teaspoon chives
  • Fresh cracked pepper to taste
  • Sea salt to taste

Heat olive oil in non-stick pan for one minute. Add onions and saute until carmelized, about 5-10 minutes. Add garlic and saute for one minute. Add spinach and cook for two minutes until just wilted. Allow to cool for five minutes.

Add the mixture to the NutriBullet/blender, pulse until minced. Add yogurt, chives , salt and pepper. Pulse another two or three times until vegetables and dairy are fully mixed. Serve room temperature or chill in the refrigerator until eating.

 

Edamame with Chile Salt is a healthy and delicious high protein snack for any occasion./Photo credit: MarthaStewart.com
Edamame with Chile Salt is a delicious high protein snack for any occasion. Photo credit: MarthaStewart.com

7. EDAMAME WITH CHILE SAUCE — Edamame is such a healthy, low cal way to get your protein, but sometimes I find it a little bland. I decided to spice it up a bit with this Martha Stewart recipe and found it gave the edamame that extra zing, perfect for a party.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red-pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon coarse salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 pound frozen edamame in shells

Pulse red-pepper flakes in a spice grinder until finely ground. Mix with salt and sugar in a small bowl.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add frozen edamame and cook until bright green and heated through, about 4 minutes. Strain, and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with chile-salt mixture, and serve.

 

8.  TOMATO & BASIL BRUSCHETTA — So easy and tasty! Need I say more?

Bruschetta is an easy holiday appetizer, when topped with tomatoes and basil is the perfect vegan treat./Photo credit: savoring today.com
Bruschetta is an easy holiday appetizer, when topped with tomatoes and basil is the perfect vegan treat. Photo credit: savoring today.com

Ingredients:

  • 12 slices French or Italian bread, lightly toasted
  • 3 large tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

Combine tomatoes, oil, basil and salt in a covered bowl and let marinate at least four hours (do not refrigerate; tomatoes will lose their flavor). Use a slotted spoon to layer on to bread. Serve immediately.

I hope you enjoy these apps as much as I do. And please share with us any of your must-have holiday recipes—I’d love to try them!

— Lisa Singer, exclusive to Global Animal

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