Think Outside the Turkey and Ham!

HolidayThink Outside the Turkey and Ham!

Christmas dinner should be something to look forward to, not something to be feared because it’s a big heavy meal or the same meal year after year. It’s about reframing and potentially re-working your meal to create something you are excited about creating. What I am a big fan of, is working with the potential of lots of sides. Whether your main meal is turkey, fish, chicken, beef or tofu – that shouldn’t be the central focus. Instead, consider that all your sides together could make up an amazing meal. Better yet, consider that your meal could be entirely plant-based just for something different. Whatever you choose, think outside the ham and turkey for your next holiday meal and give other foods a chance to shine at the table.

The focus should always be on a balance of colour, texture and different flavor combinations. Together this will bring the whole meal together while making your plate look really good, even Instagram worthy! When you are stocking up on groceries, do a mental inventory of the rainbow and try to grab different items from each colour for different components of your meal. All you need to get started is some recipes to inspire you to get thinking about how this holiday meal can be made a little different.

Here are some of my favourite components to an incredible holiday meal!

Cauliflower And Pea Soup

This soup is truly so easy to make. The benefit of using dried split peas is that they don’t need to be soaked like other legumes and beans. They simply can cook directly in your soup pot. They need a good hour or so, but they will break down and will blend nicely into your soup. Why I also love this soup is because it is thickened up with cauliflower instead of potatoes, flour or any other thickener that would typically be called for or used in a soup. Cauliflower is adding in beneficial fiber, vitamins, and minerals. Not to mention that cauliflower protects against cancer and heart disease. The texture of this soup is like no other and it is quite filling and satisfying, which will help you balance out the amount you eat for the rest of your holiday meal.

What’s In It?

  • 2 1/2 cups green or yellow split peas
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 head of cauliflower, cut into small florets or try 1-2 small sweet potatoes if using yellow peas (to thicken and sweeten)
  • 2 celery stalks, chopped
  • Pinch of rosemary
  • Pinch of thyme
  • Fresh oregano
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large bunch of greens (kale, spinach or chard)

How It’s Made

  1. In a large soup pot, put 6 cups of water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add the split peas, onion, carrots, cauliflower, celery, and herbs. Stir and bring to a boil again.
  2. Reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the peas and vegetables are tender, about an hour. If you prefer a creamy soup, transfer half the mixture to a blender and blend until smooth. Return it to the soup pot and mix well to combine.
  3. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve immediately.
Quinoa with Porcini Mushrooms and Dried Cranberries

What I love most about this dish is its simplicity, yet it’s bold flavours. You have the tartness of the cranberries with the deep woodsy flavor of porcini mushrooms. This can be used as part of the main meal or as a stuffing or even side dish. It’s got incredible texture from the quinoa and some crunch from the addition of the nuts. I typically like to make extra of this dish so I have leftovers for a few days as it truly can be combined with anything.

What’s In It?

How It’s Made

  1. Rinse quinoa and place in large pot and dry toast on a low heat for a few minutes. Add 2 cups of water and bring to a boil with salt. Reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. Combine 1 cup of water with porcini mushrooms in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove the pan from the heat and let the mushrooms soak for 20 minutes. Then drain the mushrooms, reserving the mushrooms and the liquid separately. Roughly chop the mushrooms.
  3. Warm the olive oil in a medium pan over medium-low heat. Add the onions and celery and cook until the vegetables are soft, about 7 minutes.
  4. Add the reserved mushrooms, the garlic, and the cranberries and sauté until the cranberries are heated through about 2 minutes.
  5. Add the pine nuts, quinoa, salt and black pepper to taste, and the mushroom soaking liquid. Cook until the liquid has been absorbed, about 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped parsley and serve hot.
Baked Maple Acorn Squash

During the fall and winter months, squash is most definitely a go-to in my kitchen. When it comes to holiday meals, acorn squash is a family favourite. They are not only a delicious side dish but also a beautiful garnish all in one. Gorgeously golden, full of sweetness and you can even serve them as rounds or in slices. This recipe calls for maple and cinnamon making it a sweet addition to the meal. I would suggest leaving them in the oven a little longer letting them get extra crispy for a deeper flavor.

What’s In It?

How It’s Made

  1. Preheat oven to 350 F
  2. Place squash in shallow baking pan, cut side down
  3. Bake in preheated oven for 30 minutes or until tender
  4. Turn cut side up, season with salt and pepper, dot with glaze (maple-coconut mixture) and sprinkle with cinnamon.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes more.


  • Nancy

    Pea soup with cauliflower as a thickener. What a great idea.. Not to mention getting all the health benefits of the cauliflower in..
    Side dishes certainly can outshine the main course.
    Thanks for these ideas.

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