Vegetarian Dish

10 Fabulous Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meals

This recipe is an easy make ahead vegetarian main dish that can be served with a side of rice. It's perfect for those busy days when you don't have time to cook, but still want something healthy and filling.
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Sometimes we need to go way beyond traditional meal-planning and actually make everything in advance to freeze or refrigerate. At those times, having a handful of make-ahead vegetarian meals that we love is what we need. As improbable as it sounds, I’m having surgery next week for a spinal fusion. Crazy, right? To have surgery now, of all times? But as the country re-opens, I’m concerned about spikes this summer. So this might be the best time for this surgery for awhile. And frankly, I may as well rehab now while things are mostly closed down anyway. Right?

The Need for Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meals

So part of my planning over the next few days is to cook up several make-ahead vegetarian meals for me. My husband is a strictly warm and serve kind of guy, and he’ll have enough to do while I recover. There are a number of reasons for making meals several days ahead. Your week ahead might be super-busy. OK, probably not right now. But once things get back to (more) normal, we’ll all be busy again. Or maybe you plan to be gone all day, and won’t return until dinner-time. Maybe your child is ill, and you don’t want to stress over making dinner. Or you have a Zoom cocktail party planned, and you want to be able to eat right afterwards. Whatever the reason, we all need warm and serve meals at times no matter how much we enjoy being in the kitchen. Here’s my list of make-ahead vegetarian meals I plan to have on hand when I get home from the hospital, along with condiments I love to have on hand that can be easily mixed and matched with lots of foods. Examples are soups, stews and curries. Casseroles, pasta dishes and veggie burgers are other great options. And I like to have rice and bean dishes on hand that can be easily augmented with cheese, greens, balsamic roasted tomatoes or topped with a fried egg.

S O U P & C U R R Y

Let’s start with soups and curries. These are usually pretty easy to make and freeze very well.

SWEET POTATO and CHICKPEA CURRY

GLUTEN-FREE EASILY MADE VEGAN READY IN 30-ISH MINUTES Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This curry comes together in about 30 minutes and can be refrigerated for several days or frozen up to 6 months. I won’t add the halloumi until I’m ready to eat it. Vegetarian Note: Halloumi, a firm Greek briny cheese, grills and sautés well due to its high melt point. Traditional halloumi is not vegetarian, but vegetarian ones are out there. Check to see if the cheese uses an animal or vegetable rennet. Paneer can also be substituted, which is traditionally doesn’t use any rennet. Vegan Note: Eliminate the cheese. I am not aware of a vegan cheese that is comparable in texture. Serving suggestions: I’ll have rice on hand already cooked up – either traditional rice or this Cilantro-Lime Cauliflower Rice.

BLACK BEAN SOUP WITH TOMATILLOS AND CORN

VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This is a hearty black bean soup with tomatillos, corn, and tomatoes, and topped with avocado, lime, cilantro, and (optional) chipotle sour cream. Except for roasting the poblano chile, this soup only requires about 10 minutes of prep and cooks for less than 30 minutes. Vegan Note: Eliminate the sour cream or use a vegan one. Serving suggestions: This is a hearty bean soup, and I plan on only salad to go with it. If I have time, though, I’d like to make some tortillas ahead to go with it. They keep great in the refrigerator for a week or more.

VEGAN BARLEY SOUP WITH POTATOES LIME AND MINT

VEGAN READY IN 30-ISH MINUTES

Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This is another soup that requires very little prepping. Just 10 minutes plus 25 minutes of simmering. I don’t have any barley on hand, and will use farro in place of it. The two grains are very easy exchanged for each other. Don’t nix the mint, it totally elevates this soup to a new level!, but also don’t add it until you’re ready to serve it.

B U R G E R S & S U C H

What’s the “Such”? I include falafel and fritters in this group. They all keep very well in the refrigerator for several days.

CRISPY MEXICAN BLACK BEAN BURGERS

GLUTEN-FREE (WITHOUT THE BUN) Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

These veggie-burgers take a little more prep – 30 minutes – but very little cook time. And trust me, they’re worth it. I have a version of these in my cookbook Simply Vegetarian too, and I regularly hear from readers about how much they love these crispy burgers. Serving suggestions: We almost always have bags of Alexia Frozen Sweet Potato Fries on hand to bake in the oven. Or you can make your own. They would go great with these burgers, and I’m thinking some roasted broccolini too!

BAKED FALAFEL

VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This falafel is baked (yay!!) and topped with a fabulous sauce that I likely won’t have time to make with everything else I need to do. Instead, I plan to make this easy Red Pepper Aioli. As a note, because this falafel isn’t fried, it doesn’t have the super crispy skin you get with the fried version. These can be fried, if that’s your preference. Serving suggestions: Almost any roasted vegetable, rice or salad goes wonderful with falafel.

ZUCCHINI FRITTERS WITH QUINOA, POTATOES AND FETA

READY IN 30-ISH MINUTES Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

I make these a LOT in the summer, but frankly here in the mountains I’m totally craving warm weather. They’re forecasting SNOW for tomorrow. I love mountain living, but seriously?? Serving suggestions: Corn on the cob and a huge salad of kale, butter lettuce and avocado is PERFECT with this. I don’t know about your markets, but I just saw fresh corn in Reno last week! For the meat eaters: Shrimp scampi is wonderful with this.

If you want to move to a more vegetarian diet, but not sure the best steps to take, join the Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge. Each month I’ll post some tips – great plant protein sources, must-haves for the vegetarian pantry, ways to build flavor, and more. Additionally, we tackle 1 – 3 seasonal recipes tied to the theme that month. Subscribe to Monthly Vegetarian Meals Challenge here.

P A S T A D I S H E S

Pasta defines comfort. And sometimes, that’s just the ticket.

CAULIFLOWER TETRAZZINI

Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This is an incredibly satisfying dish. Make it as it is with blistered poblano peppers or nix them and add curry. I have that version in my cookbook, and it’s a current favorite here. Serving suggestions: Garlic bread and a salad, because they go great with everything. And you won’t want much more than that with this dish.

TROFIE PASTA WITH CREAMY POBLANO SAUCE (ESPAGUETI VERDE)

Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

I plan only to make the creamy poblano sauce ahead for this pasta. It’s a pretty easy sauce to make, but you will need a bouillon cube or Better Than Bouillon. As I wrote in this post on 10 ways to add umami depth to vegetarian (and vegan) dishes, this ingredient is very important to the overall satisfaction of this dish. Serving suggestions: If you can find some good tomatoes, a tomato, corn and avocado salad is great with this dish.

M O R E B E A N S

I admit it. I eat a lot of beans. I absolutely love them, and they’re such a great source of protein and fiber. I make fresh batches every week on the stove, in my slow cooker or my new favorite way – in my Instant Pot, to have on hand during the week. Of course, lentils cook up so fast, you really don’t need to cook them ahead. Cook times depend on the type of lentil.

CHICKPEA SPREAD FOR AVOCADO TOASTS

VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

This is a fabulous spread to have on hand anytime. Take it to work for lunch or make it for a picnic in the country. Follow the recipe as is, add pesto to the toast, or sliced tomatoes. Or add some pickled red onions. It’s all good, and this is a very flexible spread that can be served as part of a salad. Gluten-Free suggestion: Use gluten-free bread. Serving suggestions: If you can find some good tomatoes, a tomato, corn and avocado salad is great with this dish.

MUJADARA WITH BALSAMIC ROASTED TOMATOES AND GREENS

VEGAN GLUTEN-FREE READY IN 30-ISH MINUTES Get the recipe here.

Make-Ahead Vegetarian Meal Plan:

Lentils and rice are a wonderful combination. I mix up chickpeas and rice a lot too. Serving suggestions: Either roasted broccolini or broccoli, finished with lemon juice, is great with this dish. Or pair it with roasted asparagus. Serve alongside this pilaf, or mix it into the dish.

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