This year I convinced my mom to break away from tradition and to lessen her load a little bit. I got to make our Christmas Eve dinner!
I could see the hesitation on her face when we had the conversation – my mom loves Christmas and having the family at her house, especially around the table. My mom has some mad skills in the kitchen, so you can understand her hesitation to let someone else make one of the more coveted meals of the year.
For some context, my family is comprised of stereotypical Albertans who plans their meals around the type of meat that they have in their fridge. The holidays are obviously no exception. We are a family who has both turkey and ham for Christmas most years. To somewhat of their dismay, I have been making an effort the last few years to eat a more plant based diet. Say the word Vegan in their presence and I’m pretty sure that they think you’re making a joke. I am certain that they picture a hippy sitting in a field eating a block of dry tofu when I start talking about my food choices. To get them to try something new, you’re better off telling them how good something tastes and saving the “it’s completely plant based” comment for after they’ve finished eating.
I wanted to use this opportunity to show them just how delicious plant based eating can be, and how much better they can physically feel having consumed so much nutrients without weighing themselves down with meat and dairy. I knew full well that I couldn’t just throw some buddha bowls at them or introduce them to flavours that they hadn’t really experienced before. I went ahead and decided that an easy option with a lot of variety would be a must. I realized that meal should be a faux plant based take-out dinner.
I thought about the dishes that we usually order in and realized that I already had some amazing recipes that I could use. There are great meat alternative products on the market here in Canada that would make it really easy to pull off. With five people to feed and everyone with different preferences, I knew that we’d need options. I drafted up my menu and came up with the following list:
“Beef” and Broccoli
At first I wasn’t sure if I’d be able to create a plant based version of this dish. Luckily, I spotted Gardein’s beef tips. I’ve had these before and knew they’d work great in place of real beef, this ended up being a simple one to make and it is simply delicious. I substituted the sauce that comes in the package for a beef and broccoli sauce. Of course, there was steamed broccoli in there too. The packaged sauce wasn’t the greatest when it came to flavour but it was a solid and quick alternative.
This one was a bit more difficult to get creative with. I couldn’t decide how to incorporate a protein that wasn’t straight up tofu. I then realized that there are beans in my vegetable medley, so the protein was already there. To add an extra texture, I added cashews as well. In hind sight, I am not sure why I was worried about protein.
One of my favourites, and it is very similar to ginger beef. Because of my mom’s sensitivity to peppers I adapted the recipe a bit. I made this one ahead of time so that there was less to do the day of. I use a recipe that was suggested by Erin Ireland (you need to check out her Instagram is you aren’t already following) but penned by Lord Byron . It is so delicious that I made a double batch to ensure leftovers. I used Gardein’s veggie ground for this one. It is my favourite brand to use. It is the closest texture to ground beef that I’ve come across thus far. I highly recommend it if you’re seeking an alternative.
I took a short cut here by buying Green Giant’s vegetable friend rice to save myself time and stress. It was probably my least favourite of all of the dishes. If I were to redo everything, I would’ve taken the time to make my own fried rice. It’s a good dish to make in advance.
Torn between salad rolls and lettuce wraps, I wasn’t sure which one to make. I asked my dad if he had a preference and he said “both”. Given the long list of items I had already settled on, I opted on the one that would take the least time to make. Sorry dad! I used more veggie ground, a mixture of frozen and fresh veggies, peanut sauce and crunchy chow mein noodles. Everyone really seemed to like them.
Everyone needs a rice base for take-out, don’t they? I usually take the easy route of Minute Rice but have started dabbling in various types of rice. Turns out they aren’t that difficult to make after all! I don’t know why I waited so long. I got the President’s Choice brand, made the whole package and it was ready in a jiffy. I give it two thumbs up.
Once we sat down to eat, it took a while to get any feedback from the group. My dad had a lot of questions about what everything was. The awkward silence was killing me, but once they had finished eating, there was definitely positive comments. The Korean beef was by far the favourite in the group, followed by the lettuce wraps. The beef & broccoli got mixed reviews (they compared the texture of the fake beef to real beef) and the fried rice they could’ve done without. Overall I was glad that they stepped outside of their box and gave it a try. I take that as a win. Hopefully next time I will remember to take more pictures too. Oops!