Meal Planning Monday ~ Vegetarian Options for Holiday Gatherings

This week’s post is by Casey Lindberg-Coghill of Veggies & Glitter.

I’ll never forget my first Thanksgiving as a vegetarian.

While my family heaped their plates with smoked ham and oven-roasted turkey, my holiday meal consisted of pumpkin pie, brown sugar sweet potatoes, and several yeast rolls. Ironically, I had become a vegetarian for purely nutritional reasons, yet my feast was anything but nourishing. I knew that something had to change if I was going to successfully stick with this new lifestyle through the holiday season each year.

Since then, I have collected an arsenal of recipes that I can make and tote along to social gatherings from Thanksgiving to Christmas. Not only do I now have healthy options at holiday parties, but my friends and family have grown to look forward to these dishes as much as the meat-laden ones they have been devouring for years.

These five plates will brighten any holiday potluck spread, but they can also be served up as main entrees at home on busy weeknights. Whether you’re accommodating a strict vegetarian or just looking to lighten up on the amount of meat you consume yourself, these easy recipes will leave you feeling satisfied this season.

Monday: Butternut Squash and Wild Rice Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of The Vegetarian Times

Yes, planning a holiday meal is stressful, but I would argue that generating healthy meals during a busy week of school or work is just as taxing. Because half of this vitamin-rich recipe is prepared ahead of time, this salad is the perfect meal for a particularly manic Monday when ordering pizza seems like the only viable option.

Preparing the rice mixture on a leisurely Sunday and chilling it in the fridge overnight will make it possible for you to have an antioxidant-loaded meal on the table in less than a half an hour. To save yourself even more weekday work, also dice up the butternut squash and store it in the fridge one day prior to devouring this salad with your family!

Access the full recipe here: http://www.vegetariantimes.com/recipe/butternut-squash-and-wild-rice-salad

Tuesday: Roasted Sweet Potato Salad

Image and recipe courtesy of Whole Foods Market

I’ll be the first to admit that I only thought of the sweet potato as a dessert component until I had reached adulthood. After all, I had only ever tasted it when it was topped with marshmallows, smothered with brown sugar and butter, or incorporated into a pie. It never struck me that it was also a savory root vegetable packed with a slew of vitamins and nutrients, such as vitamins A and C, as well as iron and potassium.

Sweet potatoes are combined with fresh baby arugula and naturally sweetened with honey in this recipe, which is full of flavor without all of the processed junk that is often included in sweet potato dishes.

Access the full recipe: http://www.wholefoodsmarket.com/recipe/roasted-sweet-potato-salad

Wednesday: Quinoa Stuffed Acorn Squash

Image and recipe courtesy of Sayyes.com

Vegetarians obviously won’t be indulging in the main protein source (turkey, of course!) in which most people indulge on Thanksgiving. But that doesn’t mean that “tofurkey” has to be at the heart of a meatless feast. Even as someone who is enthusiastic about sampling a wide array of meat alternatives, I’ll be quite honest that the idea of faux turkey sounds revolting to me.

This delicious recipe will undoubtedly appeal to both vegetarians and meat lovers alike, and it will save you from having to resort to noshing on “tofurkey” this Thanksgiving.  Quinoa is often thought to be a grain because it’s frequently used as a replacement for rice, but it’s actually a seed that can sprout into a leafy vegetable if harvested in a certain way. Like leafy greens, it’s also packed with protein. Served in half of a roasted acorn squash and topped with pumpkin seeds, it will leave you feeling more satisfied than turkey ever could.

Access full recipe: http://sayyes.com/2013/11/quinoa-stuffed-acorn-squash.html

Thursday: Spinach and Cheese Strata

Image and recipe courtesy of Annies-eats.com

A vegetarian strata recipe is ideal to have on hand over the holidays due to its versatility. Not only would you be hard-pressed to find someone who wouldn’t love to indulge in such a decadently rich dish, but it can also be served virtually any time of day. While this dish was a hit when I served it to my family at a Thanksgiving weekend brunch, I also enjoy making it on cool fall evenings when it’s just my husband and me together at home.

Even though this dish is not for those who are counting carbs, it’s also loaded with protein-rich eggs and fiber-filled spinach. It’s certainly a healthier “comfort food” option than most others you will find this holiday season!

Access the full recipe: http://www.annies-eats.com/2010/03/15/spinach-and-cheese-strata/

Friday: Roasted Apple Pumpkin Soup

Image and recipe courtesy of Eating Well Magazine

 One of my favorite things to do during the fall months is to go apple picking with loved ones. Regardless of how many times I tell myself to take it easy, I always come home with more apples than I can physically consume before they rot! This recipe is one of my personal favorites because it combines tart apples straight from the orchard with pumpkin, one of my other favorite seasonal flavors.

Because it makes a large batch of leftovers that will last for up to three days in your refrigerator, this recipe is ideal for a busy holiday weekend when you want to have an easy, healthy option on hand. Just remember that in order for this to be a truly vegetarian dish, you must use vegetable stock rather than that made with chicken.

Access the full recipe: http://www.eatingwell.com/recipes/pumpkin_apple_soup.html

In addition to running her wellness blog Veggies and Glitter, Casey Lindberg-Coghill is a freelance writer based out of Charlotte, NC.  Aside from being  a writer, Casey is also a huge bookworm and fashion enthusiast who has rather  unhealthy obsessions with Justin Timberlake and anything pumpkin-flavored.