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      Having a vegetarian holiday is easier than you think

      Hold the ham, hold the turkey. Over seven million Americans, 7.3 million to be more exact, are vegetarians, so it's no surprise that this holiday season, many are cooking up meat-free dishes for dinner. Fortunately, it's not that difficult.

      "I think the word vegetarian scares a lot of people because they think that means preparing something that is very outlandish with strange ingredients, but that certainly isn't the case," said Natasha Lantz, education and outreach director for the Marquette Food Co-op.

      Our friends at the co-op say start small.

      "I tend to go with all of my favorite sides; you know I TMm going to be looking at soups and salads and many side dishes and vegetables and fruits," Lantz said.

      If you shopped for veggies but don't know what to do with them, our Facebook fans have some pretty mouth watering suggestions.

      Kelly Lynn Sunshine suggested tomatoes or green peppers stuffed with spinach and cheeses. Amber Van Karsen posted a recipe for mushroom tofu pecan stuffed squash she found on

      Many meat lover favorites can be adapted for vegetarian diets, including hearty dishes like casseroles and pastas. A great substitute for a heavy main dish would be proteins and grains like quinoa.

      "Quinoa is the only grain that is a complete protein; it's very tasty," Lantz said. "And you can certainly pair it with things like cranberries which, of course, for the holidays to make it festive."

      And who says a vegetarian Christmas isn't festive...remember the favorite Christmas carol, "The Christmas Song," which sang, "chestnuts roasting on an open fire?" Roasting chestnuts are a delicious way to gather the family on a cold winter night.

      Overall, making your meal meat-free isn't all that complicated as long as you have good recipes.

      Here are a few good vegetarian recipe websites: