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The holidays are busy, busy times. There’s so much to do – planning for big dinners, getting ready for friends and family to visit, decorating, and gift shopping – that there isn’t any time left for making long, time-consuming dishes. Even if you are having a big family dinner, every dish you serve can’t take hours to cook or you’ll be too exhausted to even eat. Luckily, there are many dishes that don’t take a lot of time to prepare but are still delicious and satisfying. There are also many dishes that can be made ahead and simply warmed up when it’s time to chow down. At holiday time, when everyone is so busy running around, it can be easy to not eat well but it’s also more important than ever to make sure you get your nourishment. Here are some ideas for plant-based holiday meals you can prepare with little time.

1. Make Soups


In the busy wintertime, soup can be your best friend. Make a big pot of soup and freeze it or keep it in the fridge. When you’re hungry and cold, all you have to do is warm it up and you have a dish that is not only warm and comforting but yummy and satisfying. Good soups to try include Matzoh Ball Soup, Hearty Barley-Lentil Soup with Potatoes, Curried Chik’n and Gnocchi Soup, Pasta e Fagioli, Portuguese Kale Soup, Warming Carrot Ginger Soup, and Winter Kale, White Bean and Potato Soup.

2. Make Casseroles


Casseroles are perfect dishes that can be made ahead, frozen and warmed up when ready to eat. They can also feed a crowd with just one pan. Dinner will be on the table in no time with this Sweet Potato “Rice” Casserole, Broccoli Mushroom Rotini Casserole, Vegan Tuna Casserole, The Best Fall Casserole, Tofu Pot Pie Casserole and this Butternut Squash, Portobello and Spinach Casserole with Vegan Sausage.

3. Make Italian Food


If any food can feed a lot of people in little time, it’s Italian food. Pasta tastes good hot, room temperature and cold so it’s always ready to be eaten. Dishes can be made ahead, frozen and warmed up but even fresh Italian dishes don’t take long to pull together. Make this Baked Penne with Spicy Rose Sauce, Pasta Puttanesca, Ooey-Gooey Baked Ziti, Creamy Pumpkin and Spinach Lasagna, Pumpkin Gnocchi in Spiced Butter Sauce with Lemon Cashew Cream, Gnocchi with Butternut Squash, Kale and Vegan Mozzarella and Butternut Squash Lasagna.

4. Make Stews


Stews are another type of dish that is a great time investment. You can make a huge pot of stew in little time and it will last all week. Stews are hearty, satisfying and everyone loves them. They can be all veggie or made “meaty” with tofu, seitan or tempeh. Serve up a big bowl of delicious with this Eggplant Garbanzo Stew with Polenta, Seitan Portobello Stew, Traditional “Beef” Stew, African Groundnut Stew, Veggie Cassoulet, Russian Root Vegetable Stew, Jamaican Ital Stew, Eggplant, Onion and Tomato Stew, South Indian Lentil Stew, Tzimmes and Greek Stew with Sausage and Peppers.

5. Make Latkes


For people who celebrate Hanukkah, the holiday meals must include latkes or fried potato pancakes. Every year I make dozens and dozens of latkes, traditional and creative kinds, and eat them all week long. Wrap the latkes in foil and keep in the fridge. When ready to eat, bring them to room temperature and reheat them in a skillet with just a touch of oil so they get crispy again. Alternatively, heat them back up in the oven. Try my Traditional Latke recipe for the simple deliciousness of potatoes and onions. Latkes are like a blank canvas onto which you can paint many delicious flavors. Use sweet potatoes instead of white potatoes to make these Sweet Potato Latkes with Chutney Sour Cream and Curried Apple, Onion and White Bean Topping. Add other shredded vegetables such as zucchini, carrots or yellow squash. Try these Harvest Latkes that are made with potatoes and rutabagas. Or you can leave out the potatoes altogether and make latkes out of zucchini, parsnips or my new favorite, Brussels sprouts.

Another way to play with latkes is to go global. I got ambitious a couple of years ago and made 5 different latke recipes, each with a different ethnic flavor profile and its own dipping sauce. My Global Latkes include: Italian Mozzarella Latkes with Marinara SauceChinese 5-Spice Potato Latkes with Plum-Hoisin Dipping SauceIndian Curry Potato Latkes with Cucumber RaitaSpanish Potato Latkes with Chipotle Sour Cream and Greek Spinach, Potato and Vegan Feta Latkes with Tzatziki Sauce. It’s like celebrating Hanukkah around the world!

6. Make “Meat” Loaf


When I think of a dish that tastes better as leftovers, I think of meat loaf. While it’s really good fresh out of the oven, it’s even more amazing the next day, on a plate or in a sandwich. Plus you can eat it hot or cold. It can be made even faster when you make mini-loaves as I do with my Vegan and Gluten-Free Mini Meat Loaves with Spicy Balsamic Glaze. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a small saucepan, bring 1 ¾ cups water to a boil and dissolve a vegan “beef-flavored” bouillon cube in it to create a broth. Place 2 cups TVP granules in a bowl and cover them with the boiling broth. Let them sit for 15 minutes or until the liquid is absorbed. In a mug or small bowl, combine 2 Tbs. flaxseed and 1/3 cup warm water. Stir and let sit for 10 minutes until it becomes a gel. This is your binder.

In a skillet over medium high heat, heat 2 Tbs. of oil. Add 1 small minced onion, ½ cup chopped mushrooms, 1 finely diced bell pepper and 3 minced cloves of garlic and saute until the veggies are tender and the mushrooms are browned, about 7 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Wipe out the skillet so you can use it again. Add 1 ½ cups cooked black beans to a large bowl and mash them. Add ¼ cup oats and 2 Tbs. arrowroot to the beans and mix. Mix in the cooled veggies and then add ½ cup ketchup, 2 Tbs. balsamic vinegar, 2 Tbs. vegan Worcestershire sauce, 2 Tbs. fresh chopped parsley, 1 tsp. each dried oregano, dried thyme and kosher salt, ½ tsp. black pepper, and ½ tsp. paprika and combine using a rubber spatula or wooden spoon. Add the TVP and the flaxseed gel to the bean mixture and mix until everything is well combined. Add up to 1 cup bread crumbs, ¼ cup at a time, mixing it in with the spatula or your hand until the meat loaf mixture is at a consistency that feels like it is holding together. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes. When you are ready to make the meat loaves, remove the mix from the refrigerator and score the mixture into 9 equal portions. Shape each portion into a small football shape until you have all the mini-meat loaves on a plate. Heat 1 Tbs. vegetable oil in the skillet over medium-high heat. Add the mini-meat loaves to the pan and let sear on each side. Cook until each side is browned and getting crisp. You will have to do this in batches to fit them in your skillet. While they are cooking, combine ¼ cup of ketchup, ¼ cup of balsamic vinegar and ¼ tsp. red pepper flakes in a small bowl. Place the seared mini-meat loaves on the baking sheet. Brush the glaze over the tops of the loaves with a pastry brush or the back of a spoon. Bake for 25 minutes or until the meat loaves are browned and cooked fully through. Let the loaves sit for 10 minutes before serving so they can set.

Other vegan “meat” loaf recipes include Diner Style Vegan Meat Loaf, Lentil Loaf, Country “Meatloaf” with Gravy, and Lentil “Meatloaf” with Smoked Paprika Glaze.

7. Make Satisfying Salads


It takes barely any time at all to put together satisfying salads that are more of a meal than a side dish. Adding protein to a salad in the form of nuts, beans, tofu, or tempeh can really boost the nutritional value and heartiness of the dish. These salads can be eaten on a bed of greens or put into a wrap or sandwich. Try this Chickpea “Tuna” Salad, Tempeh “Tuna” Salad, Mock Chicken Salad, Potato Chip Encrusted “Chicken” Salad Sandwiches, Baked Falafel Salad with Two Creamy Dressings, Sesame Tofu and Broccoli Salad, and Simple Vegan BLT Salad.

8. Make Wraps


There are many times when I’m hungry but don’t feel like cooking. That’s when I turn to wraps. Whether you make the wrap with tortillas or large collard green or cabbage leave, wraps are fast and easy to make. You can fill them with whatever makes you happy – salads (as above), tofu, tempeh, roasted veggies or raw veggies. My favorite wraps to make have raw carrot and celery strips, raw greens, vegan mayo and hot sauce wrapped inside a tortilla that I heat up in a dry skillet for a few minutes. Try these Grilled Artichoke and Quinoa Lettuce Wraps, Spinach and Almond Feta Breakfast Wrap, Raw Zucchini Wraps, Hummus Collard Wraps, and these Healthy Black Bean Wraps.

9. Make Scrambles


Whenever I get home late and don’t have a lot of time to cook or just don’t feel like it, I turn to my go-to meal of a tofu scramble. To me, nothing is as fast and easy to make that is also hearty and nourishing. Read my 7-Step Guide to Making the Beat Tofu Scrambles and then try this Tofu Scramble with Broccoli Noodles, Summertime Tofu Scramble, Mexican-Spiced Tofu Scramble, Curried Tofu Scramble, Southwestern Tofu Scramble with Greens, and Paneer “Bhurji” – an Indian Tofu Scramble.

10. Make Quick Desserts


Rich and indulgent desserts don’t have to mean slaving away in the kitchen or even turning the oven on. Choose desserts that are no-bake or almost no-bake, raw or quick “throw a few ingredients together” types of dishes. My favorite no-bake dessert to make is my No-Bake Super Creamy Peanut Butter Cream Cheese Pie. Try these Raw Carrot Cake Cupcakes with Cream Cheese Frosting, Popped Quinoa Crispy Chocolate Cakes, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Bites, Delicious and Mostly Raw Lemon Cream Pie, Whipped Coco Cream Tart with Fresh Berries, Raw Triple Berry Cheesecake and these Super-Healthy Vegan Berry Fruit Tarts with Chia Seeds.

There is so much to do around holiday time but cooking long-involved dishes doesn’t have to be one of them. Cook up a few dishes that you can make-ahead to serve later or choose recipes that don’t take a lot of work or time. That will leave you more time to actually enjoy the holiday festivities.

Lead Image Source: Baked Penne with Spicy Rose Sauce

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