December 19, 2012

Natural Foodie: May your days be merry and ... meatless

Holiday gatherings don't have to be all about gravy and roasted meats.

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Kids Gone Raw chefs Elizabeth Fraser, left, and Maggie Knowles show off their holiday dish, maple Dijon papaya steaks.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer

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Smoky roasted sweet potatoes with black beans and cashew cream.

Courtesy photo

Additional Photos Below

Toni Fiore shows how to create Mushroom Pate in this video.

With an ever-growing number of people looking for health-conscious food, parties offer the ideal opportunity to share dishes that emphasize the healing power of plants with your friends and family.

To help you craft a holiday menu that includes a healthy dose of plant-based dishes, I contacted local chefs and cooking instructors who have a reputation for preparing meals that combine great taste with loads of nutrition. Here they share their favorite vegan and vegetarian dishes perfect for any festive table.

You'll notice the use of superfoods -- including sweet potatoes, cranberries, mushrooms, nuts and beans -- is a common theme in these recipes. While these recipes range from hearty, savory main dishes to sweet, decadent desserts, all are based around plants.

This means you don't need to give up flavor to gain proven health benefits this holiday season.


From Maggie Knowles and Elizabeth Fraser, owners of Kids Gone Raw,

Here is an amazing recipe that looks exactly like a grilled salmon but is papaya. We cover it with a dijon honey sauce. It is so elegant and our new favorite dish to surprise people with at a party. This is inspired by Alissa Cohen's papaya steak recipe.

Serves six

1 papaya, peeled, seeded and carved to look like fish/salmon

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup coconut aminos (soy sauce)

1 to 2 tablespoons mustard (see mustard recipe below)

2 teaspoons chopped sage and rosemary

Arrange carved papaya on a platter. Whisk together maple syrup, coconut aminos and mustard and pour over papaya. Sprinkle herbs on top of papaya and place in a dehydrator. Dehydrate at 105 degrees for 3 hours, basting the steaks with the sauce approximately every half hour. Add a little more coconut aminos if needed.

Sweet and spicy mustard:

Makes 16-oz. jar of mustard.

1/2 cup mustard seeds

3/4 cup cashews

4 pitted dates

2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 cup water or more as needed

Place all ingredients in a high-speed blender and blend until smooth and creamy. Stores great in a jar in the fridge for three weeks.


From Lisa Silverman, Five Seasons Cooking School,

A sweet-and-sour crimson cranberry glaze complements the nut-like taste of tempeh in this main dish. Tempeh is made from whole, cooked soybeans.

Serves eight

Four 8-ounce packages tempeh

3 cups fresh cranberries

4 cups unfiltered apple juice 

1/2 teaspoon salt

Four pieces of 1-1/2 inch orange peels studded with cloves

1/4 cup maple syrup

2 tablespoons shoyu (soy sauce)

2 tablespoons fresh grated ginger

1 tablespoon mirin

1/2 teaspoon allspice

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

Pinch cayenne

Fresh rosemary sprigs for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Steam tempeh for 20 minutes.

While the tempeh steams, wash cranberries and place them in a small saucepan with apple juice, salt, orange peels, maple syrup and shoyu. Bring to a boil and simmer for 20 minutes.

In the last 5 minutes add ginger, mirin and the spices. Take out orange peels and blend the rest of the ingredients together.

Slice steamed tempeh into triangles. Place in baking dish and pour cranberry glaze over tempeh. Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.

To serve, arrange tempeh on a platter and garnish with rosemary.


From Chris McClay, Modern Vegan Cooking School,

Mix up the varieties of squash. The more interesting looking, the better.

Serves six

Six squash 6 inches in diameter, such as carnival, kabocha or bora bora

2 pounds portabello mushrooms, halved, then sliced 1/2-inch thick

(Continued on page 2)

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Additional Photos

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An individual portabello bourguignon stuffed squash.

Courtesy photo

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Toni Fiore's mushroom pate.

Courtesy photo

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Crazy Dick's sweet potato crunch.

Courtesy photo

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