Happy Herbivore Blog

December 21, 2013

This Week's Q&A: Holiday Special Edition!

Like Thanksgiving, I get a lot of holiday-related questions from Herbies.

This year I went straight to source by asking on Facebook what questions YOU had.

Here are some of the most popular and common:

1. What kinds of HH cookies could I decorate with my little girl? I have fond memories of decorating gingerbread men and sugar cookies and would like to carry that on.

You should try the Sugar Cookies recipe on the blog. Have fun :)

2. Any suggestions on how to store/transport baked goods for holidays. Like how long things can keep, what kinds of things might ship most easily (for sending homemade baked goods to far-away friends and family), and so on.

There's no easy answer. It depends on how you're traveling. For example soups travel fine in a car, but can't go on a plane. Similarly, pies are usually fine in a car or train, but not on the airplane, even if you take them on board. You also have to think about travel time. If you're traveling for a long time, you might need to keep your food in a cooler, unless the truck stays quite cool.

How perishable something is also depends on the ingredients. For more info, read my post on food storage.

3. How do I handle the challenging questions on why I'm not eating what my family and guests are eating? I don't want to offend anyone, and I am bringing my own food, but I'm worried about people "ganging" up against me.

I answered this in the Thanksgiving Q&A, but it's definitely worth repeating.

First of all, remind yourself why they are being hostile. See this post: "Dealing with Negativity from Family and Friends".

Second, don't let them get a rise out of you. I mean it. End the conversation by saying "I prefer not to talk about this right now, but I can send you some articles/websites later if you'd like to know more." You're not going to change their mind that day in that conversation, so don't waste the emotion.

4. How do I stay strong and avoid fried bar foods during holiday happy hour with friends?

Social situations can be difficult, especially during the holidays.

Why not say, "Sorry I had a late lunch and I'm pretty stuffed!" (this works great against peer pressure!) and skip the unhealthy fare. Or tell your friends, "Hey, I'm trying to stay healthy during the holidays, and I'm doing so good, but please feel free to enjoy yourself. I'm here for the socializing." Maybe your friends are doing the same!

As for alcohol, try ordering a fun non-alcoholic drink like fizzy water with a splash of cran and pineapple garnished with fruit. Remember you're going for the socializing, not the booze :) You can also elect for lighter drinks like flavored vodka and sparkling water instead of a frozen daiquiri. Or just have one drink and avoid all the greasy bar food.

5. What other appetizers can I serve besides veggie platters?

If you don't want to make a beautiful and healthy fruit or veggie platter, there are plenty of suggestions on the holiday menu.

6. How do I feed visiting relatives who are used to eating meat & fish?

This is one of the most common questions I get.

Here is my advice for feeding skeptical omnivores (and meat eaters in general): Serve something that is familiar and inherently vegetarian -- Don’t go for tofu or meat substitutes or any kind of dish that’s pretending to be meat.

Anytime I go to a party where the food is vegan but not all of the guests are, I notice the omnivores (especially those totally new to vegan fare) tend to huddle around things like fruit salad, bean dip, chips and salsa, hummus and veggies. That's because these are "safe" foods. Some might dare label them "normal" foods. Point is, they are foods we're all familiar with.

It doesn't even really matter about the whole vegan vs. non vegan thing. Most people are pretty timid about trying something new so serve up a dish they already know and love.

Not only will this create a harmonious meal time, it'll open up their eyes to how awesome vegan fare can be and help dissipate the notions that vegans subsist on weird foods, iceberg lettuce salads and smelly boca burgers.

If relatives are staying for an extended time, you can never go wrong with Mexican food or pasta! Vegetable casseroles are also generally well received, along with soups and stews. Even bean chilis tend to go over well, especially when they are served with cornbread.

I've complied a list of all the dishes I've served my rather skeptical family and friends (you know who you are!) in hopes that it will help you feed yours.

Top 10 Dishes to Feed Skeptical Omnivores:

  1. Sweet & Spicy Butternut Soup (HHC, p. 59)
  2. BBQ Wrap (HHLL, p. 95) or BBQ Salad (HHLL, p. 133)
  3. Chili Sans Carne (HHC, p. 81) & Cornbread (HHC, p. 49)
  4. Chickpea Tacos
  5. Quick Burgers (EHH, p. 81)
  6. Vegetarian Delight
  7. Cheater Pad Thai (HHC p. 117 & HHA, p. 178)
  8. Hawaiian Chickpea Teriyaki
  9. Tamale Casserole (HHC, p. 167)
  10. Chickpea Noodle Soup

7. What can I do with tons of leftover cranberry sauce?

Have you tried making the Ruby Chocolate Muffins in Happy Herbivore Light & Lean yet? Herbies have been raving about them since the book came out! I also made them live on the Happy Herbivore Cooking Show, so be sure to watch the recorded video.

If you want more ideas for leftovers, see "12 Creative Ways To Use Leftovers".

8. Any ideas on what to buy a Herbie for the holidays?

I mentioned tons of ideas in the Happy Herbivore Gift Guide for Herbies and Minimalists, but you can never go wrong by giving the gift of health with meal plans!

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