Festive Dishes to Prepare Quickly

By Chef Nancy Berkoff, RD, EdD, CCE

Are these scenarios familiar?

4:00 pm: Door bell rings: It's Aunt Ethel, Uncle Ralph, and the kids... "We were in the neighborhood, finishing up some holiday shopping... and we thought we'd just stop by for a visit."

7:00 pm: Phone rings: "Hey... we heard you were home catching up on your work before the holidays and figured you needed some company, so... we're headed over to your place...We'll be there in about 15 minutes."

3:00 pm: You are at work... the phone rings, "Hey, sweetie, we just got invited over to Joe and Sally's. They're having a last minute holiday get together... about 20 people. I said we'd bring dessert."

Company's coming... right now! You can handle this. It just takes a bit of planning, some anticipation, and a deep breath. For example, during the holiday season, if you order take-out food at a veggie restaurant, order extra...

  • steamed brown rice
  • vegetable fried rice (without egg)
  • crispy noodles (sometimes called chow mein noodles)
  • veggie spring rolls
  • pizza (with or without vegan cheese)
  • pasta with sauce
  • Italian bread
  • steamed or grilled veggies

And then you can:

  • Toss the rice together with the fried rice in a baking pan, heat it up in the oven, garnish with some thawed, microwaved, heated frozen, or leftover cooked veggies and have a fast hot entrée.
  • Toss the rice together with the fried rice in a baking pan and heat it up in the oven. While the rice is heating, carefully slice the spring rolls in thin slices, wrap in foil and heat in the oven, or microwave. Top the rice with the spring rolls, and you have a fast hot entrée.
  • Before you put leftover pizza in the freezer, allow it to cool, cut off the crust, (and save for a snack). Cut each pizza slice in half the long way and roll up — instant pizza rolls! Place in freezer. These can be reheated in the oven or microwave as needed.
  • Freeze leftover Italian bread. When company appears, take bread out of freezer, spread with tomato paste, drained canned tomatoes, and shredded vegan cheese. Heat in the oven for fast appetizers.
  • Leftover pasta with sauce can be tossed with leftover veggies, tossed into a heated sauté pan, and tossed, heated, and served as a hot entrée, topped with a sprinkle of nutritional yeast or shredded vegan cheese.

Or, when you cook at home, prepare extra...

  • pasta shells, rotini, or other interesting pasta shapes
  • baked white potatoes
  • baked yams or sweet potatoes
  • white beans or lentils

Have in the pantry...

  • canned navy or kidney beans
  • cut corn
  • assorted pickles and olives
  • hearts of palm
  • prepared salsa
  • canned fruit
  • assorted nuts
  • carob or vegan chocolate chips
  • shredded coconut
  • maple syrup
  • nutritional yeast

And then you can:

  • Toss the cooked pasta with an assortment of beans and lentils and salsa or sauce, heat in the oven or toss in a sauté pan for a fast entrée.
  • Prepare a fast 'relish' tray with hearts of palms, olives, and pickled veggies.
  • Make a very fast chili with assorted canned beans and cut corn.
  • Whip up a fast dessert by tossing canned peaches or apricots with coconut, nuts, and vegan chocolate or carob chips.

Have in the refrigerator...

  • vegan sour cream
  • vegan cream cheese
  • soft silken tofu
  • soy yogurt
  • shredded vegan cheese

Have in the freezer...

  • assorted veggie mixes
  • sorbet or vegan frozen desserts
  • assorted frozen fruit, such as cubed mangos, blueberries, strawberries, or peaches
  • frozen vegan cake, cut into cubes
  • vegan waffles
  • frozen bagels

And then you can:

  • Toss your canned fruit combo with silken tofu and mix with maple syrup.
  • Toss your canned fruit combo with soy yogurt and dabs of cream cheese.
  • Mix salsa with vegan sour cream to create a creamy veggie dip.
  • Thaw frozen fruit and create a dessert platter with vegan sour cream, vegan cream cheese blended with maple syrup, cake cubes, and toothpicks for dipping the fruit and cake.
  • Top vegan waffles with cream cheese, maple syrup, and a fruit mixture.
  • Create a bagel platter with toasted bagels, vegan cream cheese, bean dip (purée canned beans with sour cream), salsa, and shredded vegan cheese.