The holidays are all about being indulgent—endless feasting, shopping and time with your favorite people. It's also a time when rules are broken and health goals become afterthoughts until the New Year.
But the good news is you can still treat yourself to delicious eats and incorporate more veggies in your life—and that's whether you're a devout vegan, considering becoming one, or just trying to fit into your skinny jeans. For help, we're looking to the expert: Bay Area chef and Instagram food darling Marie Reginato, whose plant- and seafood-based recipes have been featured everywhere from MindBodyGreen to Food52.
Reginato swears by hearty veggie-laden dishes—think pumpkin curry, stews, one-pot pastas and grain bowls—that "do a phenomenal job at keeping you energized and full throughout the day." Her new cookbook, Alternative Vegan, shatters the notion that eating has to be a binary choice and that food and diet is not one-size-fits-all.
"This book gives you the wiggle room to stick to a healthy lifestyle long term," Reginato says. "It makes plant-based cooking more accessible with two sections dedicated to incorporating seafood and eggs into your diet whenever you'd like."
The book is chock-full of mouthwatering recipes that will also do the work of impressing your friends and fam during holiday meals. Check out five irresistible side dishes plus a snack for the road, as well a few tips from Reginato on how to stay healthy this season.
Crunchy Asparagus, Snow Peas and Quinoa Over Arugula Pesto
(Photography by Marie Reginato)
Serves 3–4. Vegan and gluten-free.
Ingredients for the salad
- 1⁄2 cup (110 g) black quinoa or black rice
- 1⁄2 bunch of asparagus
- 2 small carrots
- 1⁄2 cup (75 g) snow peas or sugar snap peas, cut in half
- 1⁄3 cup (50 g) frozen peas
- 1⁄2 tsp sea salt
- Handful of hazelnuts, chopped, for topping (optional)
Ingredients for the arugula pesto
- 1 cup (115 g) walnuts
- 3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
- 3 cups (60 g) arugula
- 1 cup (30 g) spinach
- Juice of 1 lemon
- 2 tbsp (30 ml) water
- Sea salt
Start by cooking the quinoa by following the instructions on the box. Add in a 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt to the pot of water.
In the meantime, prepare the veggies for steaming. Cut the bottoms off the asparagus and discard. Keep the tops of the asparagus and then slice each stem into thirds at an angle (as in photo). Cut the rest of the veggies in this manner, except the frozen peas.
Add the asparagus, carrots, snow peas, frozen peas and 1⁄2 teaspoon of salt to a medium-sized sauté pan on high heat and fill the pan with just enough water to cover the veggies. After the water starts to boil, cook for 3 minutes. Fill a bowl with cold water and put the veggies in to stop them from cooking. This process of blanching keeps the veggies vibrant in color and crisp in texture. The veggies rest in the cold- water bath until the quinoa has finished cooking and then are drained.
As the quinoa cooks, make the pesto. Start by placing only the walnuts and olive oil into the food processor and blend for about 25 seconds. Breaking down the nuts first makes for a very creamy pesto. Then add in the rest of the ingredients and blend until smooth. Taste the pesto to see if you'd like to add more salt or lemon juice.
Once the quinoa has cooked, add a few scoops to a serving bowl and mix in half of the veggies with a few dollops of the pesto. Mix well so that the pesto coats all the veggies. Top with the chopped hazelnuts.
7x7: As people are traveling for the holidays and prone to catching colds, what are some good ingredients to help boost immune systems?
MR: I'd say start with an immune-boosting morning tonic, which sounds fancy but, in reality, we're just mixing pantry staples to create a delicious yet nutritionally dense drink. To make the tonic simply mix 1/2 cup hot water, 1/3 cup warm nut milk, ½ tsp. turmeric, dash of cinnamon, a crack of black pepper and a spoonful of honey. It's absolutely delicious and nonetheless a great way to start your day.
7x7: What are your favorite spices or condiments to jazz up healthy holiday meals?
MR: Caramelized medjool dates in savory recipes work every time. Roast up some rosemary-honeyed carrots and throw in a few dates for crispy bites of caramelized sweetness. This is one of my favorite dishes to serve to friends who might not be sold on the plant-based eating experience. It's a food rainbow, highlighting how delicious a plate full of veggies can taste when roasted with an array of fresh herbs.