When the holidays come, everyone focuses on the big dinner. People plan and prep for the main meal for weeks and that’s understandable. But don’t forget everyone has to eat other meals every day throughout the holiday season. There Is no reason that special care and planning shouldn’t go into those other meals. If your big holiday dinner is going to be rather traditional, my suggestion would be to make your other meals, such as lunch, as untraditional as possible. Go global with lunches that follow an ethnic culinary theme. Since holiday dinners tend to be heavy and filling, go lighter for lunches. Here are 5 ideas for plant-based holiday lunch menus that will please any guest.
1. Chinese Lunch
Everyone loves Chinese food; I know I could eat it every day. Chinese cuisine gives you lots of options for every course – rice, noodles, vegetables, tofu, and so much more. Start the meal with these amazing Spring Rolls with Spicy Dipping Sauce. Then warm everyone up with my Garlic and Ginger Soup with Noodles. In a large saucepan, combine 2 vegetable bouillon cubes and 6-8 cups water or add 6-8 cups of vegetable broth over medium-high heat. Add ½ of a chopped onion, 3 sliced carrots, 3 chopped celery stalks and 4 oz. sliced mushrooms to the broth. Mix in 4 cloves of minced garlic, 1 Tbs. fresh minced ginger, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. kelp or dulce flakes, ½ tsp. celery seed, ½ tsp. dried dill, ½ tsp. ground turmeric, and ½ tsp. black pepper. Bring soup to a boil and then reduce the heat to low and cover the pot. Let the soup simmer about 15-20 minutes to develop its flavor. Right before eating, return the soup to a boil and add 8 oz. noodles to the pot. Let cook according to the package directions or until the noodles are al dente. Taste the soup for seasoning adjustments and serve while hot. After soup, serve this refreshing Spicy Asian Cucumber Avocado Onion Salad.
Offer more than one entrée so people have choices. My picks are this General Tso’s Tofu with Steamed Broccoli and 5-Spice Brown Rice and Pomegranate Sweet and Sour Tempeh. For side dishes, I know I want Steamed Vegetables with Garlic Sauce for something light and of course, there has to be Vegetable Fried Rice with Tofu. Don’t forget a light dessert. This Mango Sorbet with Banana and Pineapple is just the thing to end the meal with. For more tips, read How to Make Your Own Chinese Food at Home.
2. Indian Lunch
Next to Chinese food, my second favorite cuisine to have for lunch is Indian. Indian food is always warm and comforting with so much variety. As an added bonus, Indian cuisine is really healthy. Start the meal off with a couple of incredible dips and some flat bread to dip into them. Try this Indian Saag Dip and this Indian Baigan Bharta – Char Roasted Eggplant Dip. For flatbreads, this Herb Roti is a great choice. Follow those rich dips with a soup that is as healthy as it is delicious. Ayurvedic Spinach Mung Detox Soup is light and perfect for this menu. Offer a satisfying salad with tons of protein; this Sprouted Green Lentils and Peanut Salad is just the thing.
For the entrée, everyone will love this Seitan Vindaloo with its meaty texture and spicy flavors. Another option without the gluten is this Healthy Vegan Tofu Tikka Masala. On the side, have some rice and veggies with this Vegetable Biryani. Once you serve this Curried Potatoes and Cauliflower with Green Peas, no one will ever think veggie dishes are boring again. End the meal with this exotic drink, a Mango Lassi. It’s light and refreshing which is perfect for a light lunch. For more recipes, see How to Make Your Own Indian Food at Home.
3. Italian Lunch
Given that I ate Italian food more than any other cuisine while growing up, I certainly have to include it here. While it’s true that Italian food can be rich, it doesn’t have to be heavy. It is easy to make an Italian lunch that is light but filled with flavor. Start with a vegetable dip – this Spicy Eggplant Caponata is rich in flavor from the roasted eggplant. Follow it with a light Minestrone Soup that also has lots of healthy veggies. Celebrate the fresh fruits of Italy with this Raw Massaged Kale Salad with Fresh Figs and Oranges.
Entrees don’t have to be heavy dishes filled with pasta, creams and cheeses. Skip the carbs and serve this Zucchini Pasta with Creamy Cheese Sauce where the noodles are made of vegetables. Keep the veggie theme going with this amazing Cauliflower Piccata where cauliflower steaks are cooked with a white wine lemon sauce with capers. On the side, Spicy Lemon Sauteed Broccolini is the perfect dish to get your greens and add a touch of spice. Finish the meal like they do in Italy with fresh fruit. Macerated Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar and Basil is a light and delicious dessert. Get more ideas and recipes by reading How to Make Your Own Italian-Style Food at Home.
4. Mexican Lunch
Mexican food is always fun and since it’s filled with so many veggies, it can be a great choice for lunch. You could go buffet-style and set up a taco or burrito bar, offering lots of different fillings and toppings. Or you could make this menu: start off with some tortilla chips and a few dips. My choices are this creative Knock-off-a-mole (Guacamole Made with Fresh Green Peas) and this Black Bean and Corn Salsa. Whole grains make this Toasted Quinoa Mexican Soup filling and satisfying. Follow it with a light salad. No one says a salad has to have lettuce and this Tremendous Papaya Salad proves that point deliciously.
Raw food is always a good choice for lighter lunches and other meals. If you know anyone who isn’t convinced that raw food can also be amazing, serve this Raw Vegan Enchiladas with Chunky Salsa, Cheesy Sauce and Spicy Nut Meat and they will change their minds. For a cooked option, I vote for these Butternut Squash Tacos with Tempeh Chorizo. On the side, serve this Cilantro, Lime and Black Bean Rice dish that has bright citrus flavor. End the meal with ice cream but not just any ice cream. Serve up this Margarita Ice Cream for a sweet and exotic dessert. Check out How to Cook Veggies Mexican-Style for more ideas and recipes.
5. Light and Lovely Lunch
For my last menu, I will skip the global theme and just go for some incredible dishes that will make any person love lunch. Start with this Sweet Potato Bruschetta for a bite that is creamy and crispy at the same time. For a lower-carb choice, serve these fun and healthy Super Flax Green Bean Fries. Since it’s winter, I am choosing a warm soup but one that is also light. This Warming Carrot Ginger Soup is just the thing. Again, I am skipping the lettuce and traditional salads and choosing something a little different and unexpected. This Roasted Veggies with Buttery Garlic and Spinach Salad is warm, sweet, garlicky and satisfying. Another option is this lighter Snap Pea Salad with Almonds in an Herbed Vinaigrette.
For the entrees, make my Spinach, Artichoke and Mozzarella Tofu Frittata. Frittatas can have whatever veggies you like best, vegan sausage or bacon and your favorite vegan cheese. This is a perfect dish for breakfast, brunch, lunch or dinner. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Grease a 9 inch pie pan with cooking spray. In a large mixing bowl, crumble a block of pressed and drained extra-firm tofu into very small pieces. It should look like gravel. Add ¼ cup nutritional yeast, 1 tsp. Dijon mustard, 1 tsp. onion powder, 1 tsp. garlic powder, 1 tsp. dried oregano, 1 tsp. dried basil, 1 tsp. black salt, ½ tsp. black pepper and ½ tsp. turmeric and mix well. Take 15 oz. of artichoke hearts and make sure they have been squeezed of their excess moisture before you chop them. Add them and 4 cups chopped spinach to the mixing bowl. Add ½ cup vegan mozzarella shreds and mix everything well with a spatula or your hands. Transfer the tofu mixture to the pie plate and pack it in tight. Press it down into the plate with your hands or the spatula. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the top is browned and the frittata is firm. Remove from the oven and let sit for 10 minutes. This will help the frittata release from the pan. Place a plate over frittata and holding both plates, flip the frittata onto the dinner place. Slice and serve.
A light pasta option is this Carrot Beet Angel Hair Pasta with Spicy Pine Nut and Pistachio Pesto where the noodles are made from vegetables. On the side, indulge with some crispy Zucchini Fritters with Lemon Basil Cashew Cream and get your veggies in with these Roasted Vegetables with Lemon-Cannellini Sauce . Finish it up with a dessert that is light yet wintery warm. This Raspberry Apple Crisp is filled with healthy berries and apples and just enough topping to add some crunch.
A lunch menu can be anything you want it to be but don’t leave it as an afterthought. Give it some consideration with all the other holiday plans you’re making. It will make lunch really something to celebrate.
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Lead image source: Rhea Parsons