Holiday Meal Planning For Unconventional Diets

Planning a holiday meal takes quite a bit more effort these days as family members increasingly have dietary restrictions, allergies and sensitivities.  And most gatherings will find they have at least one vegetarian, vegan or pescetarian(a vegetarian diet that also includes fish and often eggs and dairy) at the table.  To keep things really interesting, chances are better than average that someone is also following a paleo diet which focuses on vegetables, meats, nuts and fruits while avoiding grains, sugar, dairy and legumes. With so many challenges in the kitchen, how does a grandma preparing dinner for a large family accommodate everyone?

Cooking plenty of vegetable side dishes is one sure bet to please even the most selective diners at your table.  Ask in advance exactly what restrictions each guest may have and suggest everyone brings a favorite dish to share.  It’s not too demanding to replace butter or milk in the mashed potatoes with olive oil and vegetable broth and simple alterations to a family favorite can really help everyone feel included.  To further keep the peace, nix any attempts to criticize or analyze unorthodox diet choices.

It’s not easy but you can find dishes that meet the requirements of both vegan and paleo palate’s alike.  Here’s one to try:

Potato and Mushroom Gratin (Vegan)


4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1 ¼  pounds Portobello mushrooms, gills scraped off, halved and thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 pounds Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and very thinly sliced (a mandolin is kind of essential)
¼ cup chopped flat leaf parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme
½ teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat 2 T. oil in a large skillet.  Add the mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 2 minutes more, until mushrooms are tender.
  2. Mix the potatoes with the remaining oil and the herbs, and season with salt and pepper. Place a third of the potatoes in an oiled gratin dish or 8×8” square ceramic baking dish. Top with half of the mushrooms, removing them from the skillet with a slotted spoon. Repeat layers, ending in potatoes.  Pour any liquid from the skillet on top.
  3. Cover tightly with foil and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover and bake an additional 20 minutes.

Serves 6