Healthy Holidays with Maggie Green

If you’re in charge of preparing holiday meals this year, the time to plan the menu may be quickly approaching. But wait, you just found out someone is coming to your table who doesn’t eat meat, or who’s allergic to dairy. Does this mean you have to forgo the turkey, sweet potato casserole, or mashed potatoes? Of course not.

I always vote for the traditional recipes that the family enjoys throughout each and every holiday season. After all, some recipes, like turkey and stuffing, may be only prepared once a year. Cook them. Eat them. Enjoy them. No matter who is a guest. But, with plant-based guests in mind, (or for those who just want to add some new flavors textures, or dishes to the menu) look no further than your pantry!  All it takes is some simple grocery store ingredients, some readily available fresh produce, and these recipes can add plant-based flair to the holiday feast.

-Maggie Green, RDN, LD 

Olive Spread

*Makes 2 cups

This gluten-free olive spread can be made several days in advance, and is a tasty, flavorful spread for when you need a bite to eat with a glass of wine or pre-dinner cocktails. Serve on bread, crackers, or as a dip for celery sticks, zucchini spears, thin bread sticks.


  • 3/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • 3/4 cup pitted green olives
  • 1/4 cup sliced almonds
  • 1 clove garlic, sliced
  • 1/4 cup fresh parsley or basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon water


1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

2. Mix until all ingredients are blended but still chunky.

3. Serve at room temperature

Kale Green Onion Pesto

*Makes about 2 cups

This pesto is good as a pre-meal dip, or toss with roasted sweet potatoes as in the recipe below, for a show-stopping entree. I like to make this pesto in the fall in winter when fresh basil is less abundant, and kale more prolific. Pesto can be made up to 5 days ahead. Store pesto spoon it into a container to store. By pouring a thin layer of olive oil on the top of the pesto, you can keep the herbs from turning dark.  


  • 2 cups baby kale
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 2 thin green onions, white part, and 2 inches of the green part, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt


1. Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender.

2. Pulse until well blended.

3. Use as desired.

*To store, place the pesto in a storage container. Pour a thin layer of olive oil over the pesto. Cover and refrigerate. The thin layer of oil keeps the pesto bright green by blocking exposure to air.

Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Pesto

*Serves 4 as an entree, or 8 as a side dish

Garnish this dish with pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries for seasonal color, tastes, and texture. Pumpkin seeds are the edible seeds of pumpkin and other varieties of squash. The flat, oval seeds are light green in color. Just like any other seed, they add crunch to a dish. To preserve texture, sprinkle on top of the dish just before serving.


  • 1 1/2 pounds sweet potato, scrubbed and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 6 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 1/2 red onion, peeled and cut into 1-inch chunks
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kale Green Onion Pesto, page 44
  • 2 cups cooked brown rice, quinoa, or wheat berries
  • 1/4 cup roasted pumpkin seeds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries


1. Preheat oven to 425°F.

2. In a bowl, toss together the sweet potatoes, garlic, onion, thyme, salt, pepper, and olive oil.

3. Pour vegetables onto a rimmed baking sheet.

4. Cook for 25 to 30 minutes or until browned.

5. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of pesto and toss gently to coat the potatoes with the pesto.

6. Spread the cooked wheat berries or rice on a large plate or small platter.

7. Spoon the pesto-dressed potatoes on top of the cooked grain. Drizzle with more pesto if desired.

8. Sprinkle with pumpkin seeds and dried cranberries before serving.

Barbecued Lentils

*Serves 4 to 6

Want a protein-rich plant-based entree that you can make ahead of time - look no further than these Barbecued Lentils. Cook two days ahead and store in the refrigertor. All you have to do is reheat and the plant-based eater can enjoy them alongside other side dishes, or on a dinner roll for a mini-lentil-”Sloppy Joe”.


  • 1 cup brown lentils
  • 4 cups water
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 medium onion, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
  • 3 tablespoons brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon onion powder
  • 1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1 cup tomato sauce


1.Rinse lentils to remove any dirt and debris.

2.Place in a large saucepan.

3. Add water and bring lentils to a boil. Cover and reduce heat to low. Cook about 40 minutes until lentils are tender. Drain.


1. In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil.

2. Add the onion and cook for about 6 to 8 minutes to soften and cook the onion.

3. Add the brown sugar, vinegar, chili powder, smoked paprika, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, and cayenne pepper to form a paste.

4. Stir in the tomato sauce and bring to a gentle boil.

5. Reduce heat to medium-low and let cook for 5 minutes.

6. Add the cooked lentils and stir gently to combine with the sauce. Let cook over low heat for 5 minutes to combine well.

The Essential Plant-Based Pantry

For your veggie and vegan loving needs find all these recipes and more in The Essential Plant-Based Pantry, by Maggie Green.

After years of working as a personal chef, Maggie decided to transfer her knowledge by working as a cookbook editor and writer serving on several nutrition panels discussing cookbooks and food writing. Maggie is a professionally trained chef and Registered and Licensed Dietician and is extremely sought after for her knowledge and expertise. Now, she has decided to share some of her secrets with the world in the form of healthy, simple, and delicious recipes. Learn how to utilize everyday staples to create new flavors, delve into the world of plant-based eating, and take your cooking skills to the next level with Maggie's latest cookbooks: The Essential Plant-Based Pantry and The Essential Pantry.