Prioritize plants for healthy holiday cooking

By putting veggies front and center, everyone benefits — including the environment

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Vegetarian Shepard’s Pie

This dish makes a beautiful centerpiece, with its top layer of bright, orange sweet potatoes. The filling of chickpeas and vegetables gives the pie a nice “bite,” making this recipe a top contender for any holiday gathering.
Ingredients (serves 6-8)
1/2 lb. chickpeas, dried
2 bay leaves
1 lb. turnips
1 10-oz. container cremini or button mushrooms
2-3 medium carrots
1 large or 2 medium leeks
2 large stalks of celery
2 medium cloves garlic
3-4 sprigs sage
2 sprigs rosemary
4-6 sprigs thyme
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 teaspoons tomato paste
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
2-4 cups homemade vegetable stock
5 lbs. Yams or sweet potatoes
4 egg yolks
4 Tablespoons olive oil
kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
For the chickpeas:
Soak chickpeas overnight lightly salted water to cover. Or bring to a boil, then turn off the heat and let them sit for about 2 hours.
Combine the chickpeas, soaking liquid, and bay leaves in a soup pot, bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for a little over an hour, or until the chickpeas are tender. Strain the chickpeas and set aside.
For the carrots, turnips, and mushrooms:
Wash everything, and cut into evenly-sized 1/2” pieces. Heat an oven to 425 degrees. Combine vegetables, and divide into batches so the baking sheet isn’t overcrowded.
Toss each batch in olive oil, season with kosher salt, and place on baking sheet. Roast each batch in the oven until browned and cooked through (10-20 minutes). Set the roasted veggies aside when finished.
To complete the filling:
Cut the root off the leeks and remove the dark green leaves, keeping only the very light-green and white parts. Take off the outer layer. Cut the leeks into a small dice and soak in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, then lift them out (don’t pour them out) and place them in a colander to drain. Cut the celery into a small dice, and mince the garlic. Mince the herbs.
Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a 2-quart pot over medium-low heat, and add the leeks, celery, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt. Sweat the veggies for 5-8 minutes until translucent. Add the herbs, black pepper, and tomato paste, and cook for 3-4 minutes, stirring constantly.
Add 4 tablespoons olive oil to the pot, and then the whole wheat flour. Stir the flour and continue to cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring constantly. Slowly add the vegetable stock while stirring, starting with about 2 cups. Turn the heat up to medium-high and bring to a simmer, then add more stock if necessary to bring the sauce to a thick stew-like consistency. Season with salt to taste, and then remove from the heat.
Mix together the chickpeas, mushrooms, turnips, carrots, and filling base. Add a little at a time until you get to the desired consistency — rich and fairly thick, not soupy. Season to taste with kosher salt.
Heat oven to 350 degrees. Wrap each yam/sweet potato in aluminum foil, place on a baking sheet, and roast in the oven until completely soft (50 minutes). Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
Scoop out all of the flesh from the sweet potatoes/yams and put in a mixing bowl with the olive oil and black pepper. Mash with a big fork or potato masher. Season with kosher salt to taste. Whip the egg yolks with a little kosher salt until smooth, and add to the bowl. Mix until everything is combined.
To assemble and serve:
Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Spread the filling in the bottom of a 9×11” casserole dish. Spread the mashed sweet potatoes/yams evenly on top. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, or until the top is lightly browned.

When it comes to holiday meals, meat is usually the star of the show — with starches playing a supporting role. This year, consider turning tradition around and prioritize plants. You’ll wow guests with the variety of colors and flavors, all while serving them nutritious, vegetable-filled fare with minimal meat – better for both you and the environment.

Not sure how to host without a roast? The Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has created nourishing dishes that add up to one healthy holiday meal bursting with delicious flavor. These recipes can also be made in advance, helping to make your holidays less hectic.

Three-Green & Wheat Berry Salad with Mushroom “Bacon”

Skip processed meats and try our mushroom “bacon,” used here in combination with three different types of greens and wheat berries.
Ingredients (serves 4-6):
1 large bunch rainbow chard (or Swiss chard)
1 large bunch kale (any kind)
1 lb. Brussels sprouts
1/2 lb. shiitake mushrooms
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1 teaspoon chipotle powder or smoked paprika
1 teaspoon cracked black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/2 cup dried wheat berries
2 oz. fresh goat cheese
kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
a few grinds of cracked black pepper
pinch of kosher salt
2 tablespoons raw honey
1/4 cup sherry vinegar (or cider vinegar)
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Wash the kale and chard thoroughly. If either is too tough to eat raw, wilt slightly in a pan with a little olive oil and kosher salt. Dry the leaves well. Tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces and set aside.
Quarter the Brussels sprouts, removing any tough outer leaves. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large saute pan over high heat. Right before the oil is about to smoke, add the Brussels sprouts to the pan in an even layer. If you can’t add them all in one layer, do them in batches. Sear the Brussels sprouts, flipping around occasionally, until dark brown and roasted. Add more olive oil if needed. Right before you take them off, season with kosher salt. Set aside to cool.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a small soup pan over medium heat. Wash the wheat berries and drain off the excess water. Add the wheat berries to the pan, and toast them in the oil, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes. Add a pinch of kosher salt, the bay leaf, and cover with about 2” of water. Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer them until tender, 30-40 minutes. They should begin to pop open a bit. When you taste one, it shouldn’t feel hard, but it should still have a good bite to it. When the wheat berries are done, strain and set aside to cool.
For the mushroom “bacon”:
Heat an oven to 400 degrees. Trim the stems off of the shiitake mushrooms. Toss the caps in olive oil and kosher salt, and spread on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.Bake for 8-10 minutes until they start to get brown and roasted. Remove from the oven and allow to cool slightly. Mix the maple syrup, chipotle powder/paprika, and black pepper, and toss the mushrooms in the mixture until evenly coated. Return the mushrooms to the oven for 2-3 minutes until they start to crisp up again, then remove and set aside to cool on the baking sheet.
For the dressing:
Cut the shallot into a small dice (1/4”). Heat 1 Tablespoon olive oil in a small saute pan over medium-low heat. Add the shallot to the pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the shallot is golden brown and caramelized, about 12-15 minutes.
Add the shallot, mustard, black pepper, salt, honey, and vinegar to the blender, or to a cup just big enough around to fit a hand blender. Blend until fully combined. While the blender is running, slowly add the oil in a thin stream until fully incorporated. Add water if needed to thin out the dressing.
To finish
Add the goat cheese, Brussels sprouts, mushrooms, wheat berries, and about 2-4 Tablespoons dressing to a large mixing bowl. It’s better to start with less dressing and add more later. Add the greens and a pinch of kosher salt, and toss the ingredients together until everything is coated with dressing and mixed well. Add extra dressing as needed.

Butternut Squash Soup

Using a vegetable stock as the base, this hearty golden soup is flavor-filled with leeks, parsley, and thyme, topped with a balsamic glaze and roasted pumpkin seeds. It’s surprisingly light yet satiating at the same time.
Ingredients (serves 6-8):
One 3.5-4 lb. butternut squash
1 medium leek
1 small yellow onion
1 medium shallot
3 medium cloves garlic
1 medium carrot
2 tablespoons honey or maple syrup
6 cups homemade vegetable stock
black pepper
kosher salt
extra virgin olive oil
3-4 sprigs parsley
2-3 sprigs thyme
10 whole black peppercorns
2 bay leaves
small bunch of chives
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds
Heat an oven to 350 degrees. Cut the neck off of the squash and set aside. Cut the base in half through the root and scoop out the seeds. Put 1-2 sage sprigs in each half, lightly rub in olive oil, put on a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet and roast until very tender, 45-60 minutes. Cool the squash down, discard the sage, and scoop out the flesh and set aside.
Peel the next of the squash and cut into 1/2” pieces. Cut the root off of the leek(s) and remove the dark green leaves, keeping only the very light-green and white parts. Take off the outer layer. Cut the leek(s) in half vertically, then into half-moon slices about 1/2” wide. Soak the leek pieces in a bowl of water for 5 minutes, then lift them out (don’t pour them out) and place them in a colander to drain. Cut the onion, shallot, and carrot into a 1/2” dice. Smash the garlic cloves and roughly chop. Wrap the parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and peppercorns in a bundle of cheesecloth and tie with a string. If you don’t have cheesecloth, omit the peppercorns, and tie the parsley, thyme, and bay leaves in a string bundle.
Add 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil to a dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the leeks, shallot, carrot, garlic, and a pinch of kosher salt, and sweat for 5-8 minutes until translucent. Add the diced squash and cook for 4-5 minutes more. Add the honey/maple syrup and cook for 2-3 minutes more. Add the stock and herb bundle, turn the heat to high and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat until the water is barely at a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes until the squash pieces are tender.

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