By Jen Shragge

It happens every year. We host a little holiday gathering in early December and ask everybody to bring a dish. I often see the panic and fear in the eyes of my friends right away. What can they bring? They don’t cook vegetarian or vegan, so they ask what on earth should they prepare.

So let’s break this down. First and foremost, while my son and I don’t eat meat, the vast majority of our guests do. So, if trying to prepare a meatless dish causes you to break out in cold sweats, just don’t do it. However, if you are up to the challenge, here are some very easy ways to vegetarian-ize or vegan-ize some holiday favourites that are always big crowd pleasers.

Quick and Easy:
• Hummus or other bean dips with veggies, chips and/or crackers
• Edamame (steam on site and sprinkle with salt, what could be easier!?)
• Cheese and cracker plates (If you really want to wow your friends, try making a nut cheese!)
• Spinach dip in a bread bowl (to vegan-ize, una se a good vegan mayo like Follow Your Heart or Vegenaise)
• Veggie Piggies in a Blanket (amazingly, many store bought pastry doughs are vegan, not healthy, but vegan nonetheless, and veggie dogs are easy to find of course)

Less Quick and Easy but Impressive:
• Meat-less balls (like these ones)
• Veggie Samosas or Pakoras (and who are we kidding, these are very easily purchased at your local grocery store, just check that there is no animal fat in the pastry)

• 7 Layer bean dip (just use or make vegan sour cream and a good quality vegan cheese like Daiya) with home made baked tortilla chips
Avocado salad (there are hundreds of options out there, but this is one of my favourites since it is just so easy)
• For a Hanukkah party, consider potato latkes. They are really easy to make and can handle being reheated or kept in the oven on warm for quite some time. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.
Gourmet Greatness (Desserts are what holiday parties are all about so here are some piece de resistance options)

Vegan chocolate brownies
Vegan cheesecake bites
• Vegan gingerbread men
Vegan peanut butter cups
Keep in mind that good vegan butter alternatives are readily available these days. Egg substitutes can be purchased or made and everybody loves dessert. You really can’t go wrong. Happy holidays and happy eating!

What is your go-to meat-free recipe for entertaining or holiday parties?