How to Cook for the Modern Holidays

Ah, the holidays are here.
Pass the cranberry sauce, please, but only if it’s sugar-free and produced from sustainably harvested cranberries.
And, only if it’s prepared with a special probiotic booster.
And, only if the sweetener used to take away the berries’ tartness is organic agave nectar or if you can guarantee no Canadians were harmed in the maple syrup harvesting process. (Oh, you were going to use plain ol’ sugar? Tsk, tsk. Know better, do better.)
This is absolutely exactly how polished my Thanksgiving dishes look…..(riiiiight)
But, wait! From the other side of the bargaining—ahem, Thanksgiving table—what’s that sound? Grumbling tummies? No, it’s angry rumblings from the other dinner faction that the only TRULY traditional cranberry sauce is gelatinous and cylindrical with ridges in the side, just like the Pilgrims used to make it.
Whatever the holiday, food prep can add new levels of stress to a season that’s already fraught with gift decision-making, event calendar-scheduling, and a general overdose of merriment.
In my own extended family, we run the gamut from vegan to vegetarian keto to low sugar, and throw in a handful of nut and fruit allergies on the side. That’s in addition to family members who crave meat and potatoes and chips and pasta and ALL. THE. CARBS. And, then, we’ve got a spicy-averse toddler and a purée-eating baby for good measure.
So, what can we eat?
When you’ve got a wide variety of lifestyles to consider, holiday menu planning can be challenging, to say the least.
Think you’ve spotted the perfect blend of cashews and denatured yeast for a vegan queso substitute? (Spoiler: you haven’t. When it comes to queso, there is no substitute.) Gotta call up the sister—or at the very least, Google—to see if yeast is keto-compliant.
Ready to offer your guests an appetizer platter? Been planning a splendiferous charcuterie plate in your dreams? (OK, just me? Humor me; I love hosting and also live an exceedingly boring life.)
Well, make sure the prosciutto doesn’t touch the cheese for the vegetarians and that the cheese doesn’t touch the fruit for the vegans and that the fruit isn’t too high in sugar for those watching their glycemic index. (You see where I’m going here?)
So, what’s the solution?
I was (and am) delighted to be hosting. I love breaking out the china and crystal and spending the day cooking with my family. And, I have the best family in the world.
However, because we don’t see them nearly as often as we would like, I had honestly considered splurging and ordering the meal from a restaurant or a grocery store to give us all more time to socialize and catch up and play board games and let me dominate everyone in Catchphrase. 
Then I checked the menus at my favorite spots, and you guys, there was not ONE. SINGLE. DISH. everyone could eat. The turkey was out for the vegetarians; the sweet potatoes and cranberry sauce were packed with sugar; even the green bean casserole (with a milk-based sauce) would be a hard pass for the vegans.
What’s a holiday-loving girl supposed to do?
Under no circumstances would I resort to reading goop and using Gwyneth’s pretentious-meets-hot-mess recipes for macrobiotic jade eggs and steamed…oh, wait, totally wrong section of the website. [Insert wide-eyed emoji about things that just might ruin Thanksgiving, and everyone’s appetite, forever.]
But, wait! A voice of reason sounds across the holiday clamor. A voice that promises a savior for the holiday season.
No, it’s not Jesus. It’s cauliflower!
Cauliflower – the holiday chef’s gift that keeps on giving

That blessed vegetable. Is there any dietary quandary its fluffy white goodness can’t fix? It’s like the vegetable kingdom’s clapback to sour cream. It works in everything.

Cauliflower stuffing? Check.
Cauliflower mashed “potatoes”? Check.
Cauliflower garlic breadsticks? Check.
Roasted cauliflower as a substitute for turkey? (Yeah, that’s a real thing—Pinterest it.) Check!
Cauliflower chocolate pudding? Ch—wait a minute. Just no to this. There is a line, internet recipe fiends, and cauliflower pudding has just crossed it. In no way, shape, or fashion is cauliflower chocolate pudding crossing my lips or sitting in a place of honor next to my cauli-fried rice and cauli-tots. We have some standards here.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I’ll just be off preparing for the Thanksgiving feast and making brownies the way God and PETA intended them…with unsweetened cacao nibs and black beans.
Happy holiday cooking, everyone!
Natalie comes from a long line of Texans and has been slowly working her way down I-35, with stops in Waco to earn a degree in public relations/journalism at Baylor, and in Austin for work. She and her husband Will plan on making San Antonio the last stop on the trans-Texas tour, especially after last year’s big event: welcoming the world’s most delightful daughter, Noelle, to their family right here in the Alamo City. Natalie enjoys using her marketing and PR brain to build her husband’s law practice; keep snacks on the table and craft beer in the fridge; and generate new ideas for ACMB and her own blog To Drink and Write.


  1. Love it…….so true about the Holidays and families everywhere!
    Let’s all just Enjoy Thanksgiving and Enjoy Giving Thanks!

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