‘It’s Really All About Your Seasonings’: Southern-Inspired Chef Puts Healthy Twist on Vegan Holiday Side Dishes

Thanksgiving dinner may look different this year as families and friends all over the world decide how to gather in the middle of a pandemic.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that families celebrate the holidays at home with the people they live with instead of visiting family and friends outside the home to cut down on spreading or contracting COVID-19.

Despite the pandemic, Lending Tree, an online marketplace, found that families will spend an average of $475 on their Thanksgiving meal this year compared to $310 that families spent in 2019.

But Chef Keith Loren of Pompano Beach, Florida, told Atlanta Black Star that there are some healthier, Southern-inspired vegan side dishes you can make that taste great and won’t break the bank.

“There are a lot of different ways you can enjoy your holiday meals, including healthier,” said Loren. “It’s really all about your seasonings; my grandfather taught me that I can inspire people to cook tasty meals on their own with a special mix of herbs.”

Loren said his great-grandfather Gene Johnson was an “unofficial” celebrity chef. “He cooked for some of the top performers in the ’40s and ’50s; people like Lucille Ball, Clark Gable. Rosemary Clooney would come, and his great food broke down racial barriers.”

Loren said his grandfather owned Gene Johnson’s Oyster Shack located in the St. Augustine community during a time when segregation was still in effect.

“My grandfather always used to say that no matter how tall a man is, he still has to sit down to eat,” said Loren.

Loren provided two recipes to go great with any holiday meal: Raw Marinated Collard Green Dish and a Roasted Beet Salad. Loren said the healthy items still taste great and are good for you. For example, beets are low in calories yet rich in vitamins and minerals. Studies show that the vegetable helps with blood pressure, according to Healthline.com

Loren is known as the Spice King and his seasonings can be found in your local Wal-Mart. For a complete list of Loren’s recipes you can visit his website: keithloren.com.

Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Vinaigrette:
4 roasted baby beets, (store-bought or canned)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
Squeeze of fresh orange juice
1 teaspoon orange zest
3-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon Spice King Seasoned Salt
1 teaspoon Spice King All-Purpose Seasoning
1 tablespoon sugar or more to taste
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 minced garlic cloves or 1 teaspoon garlic purée
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)
1 sliced red bell pepper
1 sliced tomato
1 cup chopped roasted walnuts
6 oz. goat cheese crumbles
Crispy wontons for garnish
2 large seedless oranges, zested
Segment 2 large seedless oranges

Instructions: Whisk together mustard, vinegar, oil, seasonings, sugar, orange juice/zest, garlic. Season greens and veggies lightly with additional Spice King seasonings. Drizzle and toss with dressing. Garnish with nuts, cheese and wontons.

Marinated Collard Greens:
1/2 cup olive oil
1/8 cup apple cider vinegar
Splash low-sodium soy sauce or Braggs amino acid sauce
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons Keith’s Collard Green Seasoning or All-purpose seasoning
1 teaspoon sugar
2 cloves garlic
1 tablespoon yellow mustard
2 tablespoons of each: chopped red bell pepper, chopped green bell pepper, chopped onion, plus some extra cut into thin strips for garnishing each plate
1 tablespoon chopped scallions
1/2 tablespoon minced parsley

Instructions: Wash and remove stems from collard greens; dry thoroughly. Prepare the dressing by cutting all vegetables in medium-dice fashion, and whisking remaining ingredients along with the diced veggies into a bowl until smooth.

In a large bowl add the desired amount of thinly sliced collard greens, and lightly drizzle enough dressing to coat greens. Marinate for 10 minutes up to 1 day before serving. Garnish with strips of colored peppers and additional marinade.

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