Healthy Celebrations

We look forward to holiday feasting–yet our anticipation may be mixed. Experience taught us that it takes a lot of exercise in the New Year to shed bulges added in December. Some ask how we can feast while following dietary guidelines for heart disease, diabetes, or cancer. We might wonder how to create festive menus for groups that include vegetarians, nonvegetarians, and/or people with food sensitivities.
Can foods be celebratory, healthful, and taste great? Yes!  Often the menu or recipe adjustments needed are slight. Here are examples. Our fare might include stuffed squash, lentil or nut roast, \’tofurky,\’ candied yams, delicious vegetables, and cranberry sauce.

Traditional foods can be prepared without dairy products, eggs, or other animal products. Mashed potatoes can be made with margarine and a nondairy milk (soymilk or Rice Dream). Glaze carrots with margarine and brown sugar.

Gravy can be cholesterol free and vegan. (Vegetable stock can be purchased readymade or made from powder or cubes.) Roast 1/3 cup whole wheat flour over low heat until it starts to smell nutty; remove from heat. In another pan, sauté 1/4 cup chopped onions and 3 sliced mushrooms in 2 tablespoons oil. Add roasted flour; stir or whisk occasionally as it cooks over low heat for 5 minutes. Add 2 cups vegetable stock or water; 1 teaspoon thyme; 2 teaspoon marjoram or rosemary; 2 tablespoons soy sauce, tamari or Bragg’s; and 1/2 teaspoon minced lemon peel (optional). Simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, whisking every few minutes as it thickens. Add salt and pepper to taste.

To make stuffing, choose a base such as rice (for those with gluten sensitivities) or breadcrumbs (check the labels to find vegan bread); then be creative. Add what you like from this list: nuts or seeds; herbs (thyme, rosemary, sage, or parsley); salt; pepper; sautéed garlic or onions; chopped celery, cranberries, sliced water chestnuts. Bake your stuffing mix in a well oiled, covered pan at 350 degrees for 1/2 hour.
Pies (apple, pumpkin, pecan) or tarts can be made with vegetarian ingredients.

Blueberry Mince Tarts

Makes 7 1/2 cups filling; 20 large tarts

Two of BC’s delicious fruit crops (blueberries and cranberries) are combined in these mouth-watering and refreshingly light tarts. You’ll have no flour on the countertop afterwards if you roll the pastry between 2 clean plastic bags. Cut each bag down 2 sides and open it flat.

Recipe from \”Cooking Vegetarian\”


1-1/4 cups         sultana raisins
1-1/4 cups         golden raisins
1/2 cup                dried cranberries
1/2 cup                 brown sugar
1/3 cup                candied mixed peel
2 tbsp                    fruit juice or brandy
1 tbsp                   lemon juice
1 tsp                     grated lemon rind
1 tsp                     ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp                each ground cloves, ginger and nutmeg
4 cups                 fresh or frozen blueberries


1-1/2  cups       whole wheat pastry flour
1-1/2 cups        unbleached or all-purpose flour
1 tbsp                 baking powder
1/2 tsp              salt
1/2 cup            safflower, sunflower, canola or corn oil
1/2 cup             ice water (made with ice cubes in glass of water)

  1. Combine raisins, cranberries, sugar, peel, juices, rind, cinnamon, cloves, ginger and nutmeg in a large bowl. Stir in blueberries and set aside.
  2. Pre heat oven to 400.
  3. In a bowl, mix flours, baking powder and salt with a whisk or fork. Stir in oil, tossing mixture with fork until small balls form. Sprinkle ice water gradually into mixture, tossing with fork until all flour is incorporated. Gather dough into 2 balls.
  4. Roll out each ball between plastic bags or sheets of waxed paper. To cut out tarts, use a 4-inch diameter jar lid or glass. Lift dough circles with an egg lifter and place in lightly oiled or non stick muffin tin.
  5. Place slightly more than 1/4 cup blueberry filling into each tart shell. Leftover filling can be stored in refrigerator or freezer.
  6. Bake for 17 to 20 minutes or until crust begins to brown. Cool before removing tarts from tins.









Vesanto Melina, is a Registered Dietitian and co-author of nutrition classics that make excellent gifts: Cooking Vegetarian; The New Becoming VegetarianBecoming Vegetarian; Becoming Vegan; the “Food Allergy Survival Guide“, and Raising Vegetarian Children. Vesanto consults from her home office in Langley. Web: www.camd58.sg-host.com  Phone: 604-882-6782.


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