From snowmen-shaped shortbread cookies to whole hams on platters, the worst part of the holiday season is getting stuck at a party with no savory veg nibbles in sight, no refuge at the dessert table, and nothing in your belly but resentment for the jolly cocktail waitress making the rounds with trays of pigs-in-a-blanket. Heck, even eggnog, the seasonal drink of choice, doesn’t fit the bill. To guarantee that you, too, get to stand around the water cooler complaining about gaining the traditional five pounds this holiday season, simply host your own delicious, veganized ho-ho-holiday party.
Planning a dinner party for a few friends? No problem. But a dinner party for a few friends, their dates, your whole office, your family, and the lone neighbor you invited in the elevator? Not so easy. To delight thirsty gourmands, start the evening with cozy and soothing wintertime standards like Holiday Nog and Cran-Apple Cider—both tasty with or without splashes of alcohol. Once guests are happily sipping on drinks, the next step is offering up hors d’oeuvres to nosh. Create a seasonal color palette by serving Pesto Crostini and Sundried Tomato Hummus with veggie snack trays and pita bread. For a classic holiday main course, look no further than savory, stick-to-your-ribs Lentil Loaf with Portobello Gravy, or, turn tradition on its head and prepare a rich Tofu Ricotta for layering in a lasagna. Then comes the most anticipated course: dessert. If evening appetizers and a hearty main course leave dinner guests too full for cake and pie, serve Chocolate Pudding—just make sure a can of soy whip is nearby. Or, since holidays stir nostalgia, opt for a return to childhood with a Build-Your-Own-Ice-Cream-Sandwich Bar. Stick with basic ice cream flavors or get into the holiday spirit by making homemade peppermint, mint chocolate chip, or gingerbread ice cream. Outfit the toppings bar with shredded coconut, chocolate chips, and crushed candy canes.
Okay, okay, so you want to add a little holiday pizzazz to your event space (aka your living room). No problem! But before you deck the halls, consider this startling eco-stat: according to the EPA, household trash in the US increases by 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day, from 4 million to 5 million tons. Don’t feel like contributing to the landfill problem? Try these eco-friendly ideas for dressing up a space in a low-impact way.
For decor that’s as stylish as it is sustainable, Kimberley Nolder of Eco-Event Planning in Adamstown, Pa., suggests asking your local Christmas-tree farm for branch trimmings (you can usually get these for free). String twinkly holiday lights on the fragrant greenery and use it to frame doorways. When the party’s over, “you can even recycle live trees and use in mulch piles,” says Nolder. For table decor, Nolder suggests dressing your prettiest decorative plate with candles, followed by walnuts, cranberries, and sprigs of greenery. Steal an idea from the ’70s and add sweet-smelling orange-and-clove pomanders by poking whole cloves into an intact orange or tangerine. Nolder recommends using recycled paper (such as holiday gift wrap or greeting cards) to create simple origami birds to add to a centerpiece, hang from the ceiling, or tuck into that inventible holiday gift: the poinsettia plant. Not feeling crafty? Scale down your carbon footprint with a bonsai tree strung with a simple strand of cranberries.