Stringing up multicolored lights and decorating the house for the holidays just puts me in a good mood. I guess that’s because I like throwing holiday parties and having the chance to cook for friends and family. We all have a lot to be thankful for, and there’s nothing better than good food and good conversation to underscore that theme.
As much as I love to concoct all kinds of delicacies in my kitchen though, it’s getting trickier and trickier to plan a menu for my holiday parties. Lately, everyone seems to be on a different food wavelength. I have a brother-in-law who is a strict vegetarian. One of my good friends is allergic to wheat. And I’ve come to expect that at least a few of my guests will be dieting or embracing some new food fad of the moment. Instead of agonizing about these culinary quirks and differences, I’ve learned to make appetizers, entrées, and desserts that suit many tastes and preferences. A vegetarian dish that is made with tofu and tempeh might not appeal to the masses, but a vegetarian-style roasted stuffed mushroom or vegetable loaf might. The key is to keep the flavors rich and varied so that no one thinks about what is missing but instead revels in the flavors that are already there.
My goal this year is to try to make all my party foods fit a holiday theme without screaming “special diet.” So for an appetizer I’m serving stuffed portobellos full of cashews, rice and nutty- flavored fontina cheese. Luckily, they’ll double as a perfect entrée for my friends who avoid wheat and gluten. For the main course I’m making a roasted vegetable loaf. It’s shaped with brown rice, nuts, cheese, breadcrumbs, herbs and roasted vegetables, so it’s packed with a lot of flavors that should suit both my vegetarian and meat-eating guests. I’ll probably dish up sides like garlic mashed potatoes and lemony green beans to go with the loaf. Dessert for everyone includes the traditional holiday pumpkin, but it comes as part of a vegan, dairy-free cheesecake. It’s sure to be a crowd pleaser with its rich, creamy blend of pumpkin and tofu dusted with a crunchy streusel topping. Happy Holidays!