Fuss free Christmas food: wholesome recipe ideas

By Lisa Brant | 14th December 2015
A photograph of two red cups filled with a delicious pear crisp recipe.

Fuss free food that is healthy and tastes great – that’s what we want for our Christmas day! It’s a day to spend with family and friends, not slaving away in the kitchen. Here we give you some ideas for a traditional style Christmas meal (plant-based of course) and also alternatives if you fancy eating something different. Click on the links (shown in pink) for full recipes or more ideas.

Traditional

If you are spending the day with relatives or friends who like the traditional turkey-with-veggies style meal, below are some tasty plant-based options that everyone will be happy with.

Starter

A flavoursome soup always makes a great starter. Carrot and coriander is wonderful and tasty, or how about Roast Squash soup (which we sent out last month)? Soups are so easy to prepare in advance and just need reheating, meaning you have more time with your loved ones (and less time in the kitchen).

Main

  • Tofu bake

I don’t know about you, but I get fed-up with the standard vegetarian alternative to turkey – nut roast. So how about a tofu bake? The trick to making tofu really tasty is the marinade. Cut your tofu into chunks and place in a bowl. Cover with the marinade: 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp soy or tamari sauce (brings saltiness to the dish), juice from ½ lemon, 2 tbsp water, large handful fresh parsley (finely chopped), 1 tsp sage, 1 tsp basil or oregano. Leave the tofu in a fridge (covered) for two hours. Meanwhile, cook some leeks and courgette in a pan, until they are soft and starting to brown (use water instead of oil to “fry” the veggies). Then place the tofu in your food processor or blender – pulse until the tofu has broken down. Stir in the cooked veggies and taste. Add a little more lemon juice or fresh herbs as required. Then place the tofu into a lined bread tin, and place in a medium oven for 30 minutes. Once cooked, remove the tofu from the oven and turn the tin upside down onto a plate, remove the tin and decorate the top with some toasted walnuts and some sprigs of holly. Serve with plum sauce or a red onion relish, plus side dishes.

  • Carrot side

Carrots are abundant at this time of year and are so versatile, they are great to include in your meal. We love our long stew carrots with tarragon. Peel and chop the carrots into large chunks (you can do this the night before and keep in water overnight – drain the water off before cooking). Place the carrots in a pan with a little water and cook over a medium heat, until the carrots start to brown – this adds colour to the carrots and takes maybe 10 minutes. Then cover the carrots with water, add in a tablespoon of tarragon, and bring to the boil. Once the water has reached boiling, cover and turn the heat to very low and leave to cook for 90 minutes. For more recipe ideas with carrot click here.

  • Carrot and swede mash is a lovely alternative to a side dish of potato mash.

Boil or steam chopped carrots and swede. When soft, mash them together, adding a dash of freshly ground black pepper and a teaspoon of turmeric.

  • Courgette with garlic, herbs and lemon.

Cut your courgette into large chunks and place in an oven-proof dish. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon, 1 tbsp. water, 1 tbsp. olive oil, and 2 cloves of garlic (sliced or crushed). For more courgette ideas click here.

  • Roasted veggies – even include those Brussel sprouts!!

Try sweet potato instead of usual potatoes for a lighter meal. Cauliflower is a great veggie for roasting as it crisps up beautifully – much better than the soggy water boiled version. Parsnip is a lovely seasonal root veggie and also roasts well. Fresh herbs bring additional flavour – consider sprinkling with chopped sage and thyme. Or maybe create a dressing with seeded mustard, herbs and a tablespoon of oil to drizzle over before roasting. Use a minimum amount of oil to keep the calories low; sprinkle instead with water. You can cover the veggies with silver foil for half of the cooking to make sure the veggies are soft and remove the silver foil half way through so that the veggies can crisp up. This is an easy one pot dish – if you use an oven-to-table roasting dish it even reduces your washing up!

  • Creamy leeks in a béchamel sauce

Decadent and creamy and oh so easy. Slice and clean your leeks. Blanch them in hot water for a couple of minutes and then place in an oven-proof dish. Meanwhile make a béchamel sauce (corn flour and soya milk, with a bay leaf and herbs added for flavour). Pour the béchamel sauce over the leeks and place in a medium oven for 45 minutes – you are looking for the top to start going brown.

Dessert

  • Festive spiced poached pears with nut crunch topping

This is one of our new desserts here at the retreat and is similar to apple crumble. Peel and core your pears, slice into quarters and place in a large pan. Cover with water. Then add 2 tsp cinnamon, 2 tbsp rice syrup, the juice from ½ lemon, the juice and zest from ½ orange, and the segments from the other half of the orange. (Last time we also added 1 tbsp loose-leaf rooibos tea, which was lovely!). Bring everything to a slow boil, then reduce the heat, cover and cook for 15-25 minutes – until the pears are soft. Drain and place the pear pieces in a large serving bowl (or to make individual portions into ramekin dishes). The topping is made by coarsely mixing the following ingredients in your blender: 2/3 cups toasted walnuts, 2/3 cup toasted cashews or almonds, 1/4 cup flaxseeds, 1 tsp vanilla, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp nutmeg and 1/2 tsp ginger powder. Pour the topping over the pears and then gently warm under a grill. Serve with some natural soya yoghurt and some warmed berries.

Alternative meal ideas

Sometimes you might want to do something a little different to the “meat with two veg” style meal. The recipe ideas below are bright and tasty, as well as being really quick to cook.

Starter

  • Green Pea pate

We love our bright green pea pate. Serve with veggie and seed crackers, or veggie sticks (celery, red / yellow/ green peppers and cucumber for colour). Follow the recipe for pea dip, but make it a little thicker by reducing the amount of water that you add.

  • Garlic mushrooms – two ways!

Buy large flat field mushrooms or wild mushrooms for added flavour, or go exotic – supermarkets have plenty of mushrooms on offer at this time of year. Wipe or peel the mushroom skin, chop off the end of the stem and then slice into large quarters. In a large pan, add 2 tbsp water together with 2 garlic cloves (sliced thinly or crushed) and cook for one minute. Add the mushrooms and saute lightly for a couple of minutes. Squeeze over the juice from half a lemon and add a large handful of fresh parsley. Stir well and serve hot. You can also add in a few handfuls of shredded fresh spinach (add one minute before serving, so that the spinach has time to wilt but retains all its goodness and flavour). To make a creamy version, you can make a béchamel sauce separately, and pour over the mushrooms when serving. Adding a tablespoon of nutritional yeast to the béchamel sauce will make it taste more cheesy and boost its nutritional value.

Mains

This is another simple recipe that you can prepare in advance and simply reheat when you are ready to eat. Serve with herby rice or millet.

Cut your tofu into pieces and place in a bowl. Cover with your marinade: try juice from half a lemon (or one lime), 1 tbsp ginger juice, 1 tbsp soy or tamari sauce, 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 tsp paprika (and ½ tsp cayenne pepper if you want some heat!), 2 tsp ground coriander, large handful of fresh chopped coriander and a few tablespoons of water. Leave in the fridge to marinade for a few hours before cooking the tofu in the marinade in a frying pan. Put the tofu with other veggies (mushrooms, onions, courgette, pepper) onto a kebab stick and heat under a grill or in the oven.

Dessert

  • Banoffee pie

This recipe is really simple and tastes divine. We love making individual portions (using a ramekin dish, or maybe you can use a festive tea cup to serve), or you can also make a family sized portion. Make the base from energy balls and instead of rolling into balls, press the mixture into the bottom of your ramekin dish (or round bowl if making a family size portion). Then add on top of this some slices of banana, then top with cashew nut cream and a dusting of cocoa powder or grated dark chocolate on the top. You can make the base and cashew nut cream in advance (store in the fridge), then assemble just before eating to make sure the bananas stay yellow. Dust with a sprinkle of grated dark chocolate.

Serve with our wonderful strawberry daiquiri.

Alternative snacks and drinks

An alternative snack or sweet nibble for during the day whilst watching the movie (or when you are taking a post lunch walk around the area) – raw energy balls. Roll in grated chocolate or raw cocoa powder to make them look like chocolate truffles. Or why not go festive and roll the balls in a mix of roasted walnuts and finely chopped cranberries. Yumminess and a great omega boost for your body rolled up into one!

An alternative festive pick-me-up hot-toddy is herbal tea, with ginger, cinnamon, cloves, lemon and rice syrup (for sweetness), wonderful after you have completed your post Christmas dinner walk?

Whatever you decide to make for your Christmas meals, we hope you enjoy yourself. Why not let us know on our Facebook page what you are planning to cook? Feliz Navidad (Happy Christmas) from the kitchen here at La Crisalida Retreats.

Headshot of Lisa Brant - Founder of La Crisalida Retreats
Lisa Brant

Lisa has been working in the field of health for over twenty years, first as an epidemiologist and now following a more alternative route! She is a therapeutic hatha and yin yoga teacher and also teaches mindfulness meditation. Lisa is a nutritionist so designs all our menus, as well as running the retreats. She is also qualified in NLP and hypnosis. Over the years Lisa has overcome her own health challenges with severe endometriosis and is happy to share her story.

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