Family gatherings, celebrations, and meals shared around the table are some of my greatest joys.
For those of us who are the cooks in the family, this can mean a lot of time spent preparing in the kitchen. The good news is that with a bit of planning and some menu tweaking, you can prepare many items ahead, while also keeping your feast sustainable and planet friendly.
The recipes below are some of my favorites to serve at family celebrations, but they also make fantastic meals any day of the week. They are packed with nutrients, have a smaller impact on the planet, and are quick and easy to make.
Pasta is always a crowd pleaser. I like to make a selection of pasta from traditional wheat to chickpea and beyond; there are many great pasta options to please kids and adults alike. Two of my favorite planet-friendly sauces are sunflower seed Alfredo sauce and marinara with vegan meatballs. I substitute the dairy in the Alfredo sauce with creamy blended sunflower seeds and make my “meatballs” using lentils and chickpeas. I often wait until my family tells me they love the dishes before revealing any healthy changes that I’ve made. Both of these tasty sauces can be prepared the day before and refrigerated. When you are ready to serve your meal, simply boil the pasta, toss, and enjoy!
I love serving a variety of delicious salads. My Hearty Rainbow Salad looks pretty and inviting, and the Creamy Vegan Caesar Salad is the perfect pasta pairing. Both are packed with many nutritious ingredients and can be made the day before. Prepare all the ingredients, including the dressings, but keep them separate from the salad. Place the veggies in a large covered bowl in the fridge overnight. When you are ready to eat, drizzle with the dressing and serve.
Green beans are some of my favorite go-to veggies. Their flavour is mild enough that they’re always a hit, and their versatility means they complement almost any meal. My Sweet Spicy Green Beans recipe is an exciting addition to any meal. I recommend preparing the ingredients for this recipe beforehand but cooking them on the same day. Green beans are a fragile vegetable, and they can quickly become soggy and limp if prepared too far in advance.
Desserts are often the crown jewel of any gathering. After a beautiful meal, desserts allow us the time to unwind and sit together over a cup of coffee or tea and a delicious slice of something that’s almost as sweet as each other’s company.
We can bake desserts the day before to allow the flavours to settle into each other and eliminate more work before dinner. I make the doughnut frosting with cashews, which are planet friendly, and they add a delicious, creamy texture and balance the sweetness with heart-healthy fats. Prepare the frosting separately and assemble the doughnuts a few hours before serving.
Making a few simple changes to traditional recipes is easy. With this menu, you’ll be able to feel good about the food you serve your loved ones, as well as reduce your impact on the planet. Planning and preparing in the days leading up to your feast will mean you can spend a wonderful day enjoying the company of your family and friends.
For recipes, or to buy Karlene’s cookbook This Kitchen Is for Dancing, go to karlenekarst.com