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Whether you’re vegetarian, vegan, part of the global Meatless Mondays movement, or simply want a few plant-based meal ideas for your cottage getaway, we’ve got you covered. These 10 vegetarian lunches are delicious, healthy and, best of all, quick to whip up in a cottage kitchen.

1. Easy Chickpea Coconut Curry

Coconut: you either love it, or you hate it. For all the lovers out there, this chickpea coconut curry will fill the cottage with the most enticing aroma as it cooks, and then fill your senses with delight as you eat it. You can also make this in advance in the city, freezing and then transporting it with you in a cooler for a whizz-bang no-effort cottage lunch. (P.S. This one is gluten-free, too.)

How do you make it?

Heat 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then add 2 tablespoons red curry paste (or green curry paste; use your favourite) and cook for 2 minutes until fragrant. Add a thinly sliced red onion and red bell pepper plus 2 cloves crushed garlic and cook for 5 minutes until onion is slightly softened. Add a cup of chopped green beans or sugar snap peas, 2 cans of drained and rinsed chickpeas, and a 14-ounce can full-fat coconut milk. Simmer for 10 minutes, then serve with cilantro, rice, or naan. Serves 4.

2. Spinach, Cheese and Artichoke Strata

Strata is a layered casserole-type dish made with bread, eggs, and cheese, and is a perfect make-ahead lunch or brunch dish for the cottage. Put it all together and leave for a few hours or overnight then, when everyone is back from hiking or swimming, pop it in the oven to heat through. By the time your crew is showered and hungry, the perfect hearty vegetarian strata will be waiting.

How do you make it?

Thaw and squeeze excess liquid from a 10-ounce package of frozen spinach. Soften 1 large chopped onion in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large skillet, season with salt and pepper, then stir through spinach and 1 can drained chopped artichoke hearts. Using 8 cups cubed day-old Italian bread and 2 cups grated cheddar, Havarti, or Gruyere cheese, layer one third of the bread, one third of the spinach mixture, and one third of the cheese into a 3-quart baking dish, repeating twice more. Whisk together 8 eggs, 2 ½ cups milk, salt and pepper, then pour evenly over strata. Cover with plastic wrap and leave in fridge for at least two hours or overnight. Sprinkle over a little parmesan then bake at 350°F for 45 minutes, until golden. Serve 6-8.

3. Mushroom and Feta Risotto

On a cozy and rainy (or snowy!) day at the cottage, there’s nothing more therapeutic than slowly stirring together a big pan of creamy, thick, vegetarian mushroom risotto. If serving this to kids who find feta too strong, use cheddar instead and stir to melt it through.

How do you make it?

Sauté one small chopped red onion in 2 tablespoons butter over medium heat in a large pot. Add two cups chopped fresh mushrooms and cook until browned. Sprinkle in 2 tablespoons fresh thyme, then add 2 cups arborio (risotto) rice and stir for several minutes to coat rice evenly in butter and vegetables. Pour in ½ cup of white wine and cook until liquid has mostly evaporated. Working with half a cup of liquid at a time, gradually add 5 cups of hot stock, stirring between each addition and only adding the next ½ cup once the previous has almost completely absorbed into the rice. Just before serving, season with salt and pepper and stir through ½-3/4 cup of crumbled feta. Serves 4.

4. Stuffed Squash

Make the most of in-season squash in Fall by roasting small varieties until tender and then stuffing them with a vegetarian mix of seasoned rice, quinoa, or the grain of your choice. Try acorn squash, sweet dumpling squash, delicate squash, or whatever you find at the farmers market on your way to the cottage.

How do you make it?

Halve and deseed one small squash per person, then place face-down on an oiled baking dish and bake at 375°F until tender with pierced with a knife, about 30-40 minutes. Meanwhile sauté onion, celery, carrots, and garlic in oil until softened, then stir in cooked rice, quinoa, farro, or any grain you have leftover. Splash with a little soy sauce or season with salt, then stir in a few handfuls of chopped pecans or pine nuts, dried cranberries, and your favourite fresh herbs. Turn over the cooked squash and stuff with your grain mixture, then bake for another 10-20 minutes until heated through.

5. Spiced Red Lentil Soup

Soup is always a welcome lunch during late fall and early winter cottage days. Warm and comforting but light enough not to weigh you down during an afternoon hike, this red lentil vegetable soup is packed full of satisfying goodness.

How do you make it?

In a large pot over medium heat, sauté one chopped red onion and 2 crushed garlic cloves until onion is softened. Add several sprigs of fresh thyme or rosemary, one teaspoon each of chili powder, smoked paprika, and cumin, and sauté until fragrant. Add a 14-ounce can of fire-roasted diced tomatoes, 5 cups of vegetable stock, and 1 cup of rinsed red lentils. Bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes. Add several handfuls of chopped vegetables (such as green beans, zucchini, or broccoli, and simmer for another 10 minutes until cooked. Serve with garlic bread or fresh rolls. Serves 4.

6. Tacos

Kids love tacos, and adults do too. Tacos are a perfect vegetarian lunch for a crowd, as all you need to do is lay out the different ingredients then let everyone build their own tacos from the “taco buffet”.

How do you make it?

Create a taco buffet of different vegetarian options and let everyone build their own taco. Try the following: taco shells, soft corn and wheat tortillas, refried beans, tofu sautéed in chili powder, black beans, shredded lettuce, chopped tomatoes and red onions, grated cheese, sour cream, guacamole, and jalapeno peppers. A little sangria on the side wouldn’t hurt either!

7. Clean-Out-The-Cottage Stir Fry

If you’re coming to the end of your cottage vacation and find yourself with a carrot here, some broccoli there, half a packet of marinated tofu in the fridge and some noodles or rice in the cupboard that you’d rather not ferry back home, whip up a quick and easy vegetable stir-fry for lunch. No one will know that your Clean-Out-The-Cottage Stir Fry wasn’t planned from the beginning!

How do you make it?

To make this Clean-Out-The-Cottage Stir Fry, all you need to do is fry up some onion with crushed garlic and ginger, throw in whatever vegetables (chopped) that you have hanging around, starting with those that take the longest to cook, and then some sort of vegetarian protein like tofu, beans, or even leftover vegetarian sausage or hot dogs from last night’s cookout. Splash in some soy sauce and honey to taste, or a premade stir fry sauce if you have some, and serve over rice, noodles, or with bread.

8. Pita Pizza

Everyone loves pizza, but it’s not as easy to order home delivery from your family’s favourite pizzeria when you’re in the backcountry! If you aren’t one to whip up pizza dough from scratch (don’t worry, we aren’t either), then make sure to take some pita bread with you to the cottage. Pita makes for super easy and delicious individual pizza bases, which means everyone can build pizzas with exactly the toppings they want.

How do you make it?

Give everyone a large pita to start with, then lay out a selection of vegetarian pizza toppings. Pizza sauce, sliced bell peppers and onions, mushrooms, olives, spinach, artichokes, pineapple, mozzarella, and some shredded cheese are good starting points. If you have vegans in your midst, there are good vegan cheese alternatives out there now, so check your local supermarket or health food store before leaving the city. Once your pita pizzas have been built, bake in a 450°F oven for 8-12 minutes until base is crisp and cheese is melted.

9. Campfire Baked Potatoes

S’mores aren’t the only things that taste best when cooked over a campfire; throw some foil-wrapped potatoes in the hot coals and, an hour later, you’ll have baked potatoes. Top with cheese and sour cream and these may be the best baked potatoes you’ve ever eaten.

How do you make it?

Poke medium-sized baking potatoes all over with a fork, then wrap in two layers of heavy aluminum foil, sealing well. Place over warm coals, but not directly in the flames. After about an hour check potatoes for doneness, then split them open and serve topped with butter, cheese, sour cream, refried beans, vegetarian chili, chives… or anything that sounds good!

10. Tortellini Pasta Salad

As much as from-scratch meals can make cottage getaways more magical, there are times when the most important thing is being outside, reveling in the crisp fall days and squeezing in as much swimming, hiking, and exploring before winter hits or you’re back in the city. Make a big batch of pasta salad from storebought tortellini and bring it outside at lunchtime so that everyone can scoop a plate and fuel themselves for an afternoon of playing.

How do you make it?

Cook and drain 2 x 8-ounce (1 pound total) packages of cheese tortellini, then dunk in an ice bath or place in fridge to cool. Once cool, combine with one chopped red bell pepper and finely diced red onion, one cup each cooked shelled peas and corn kernels, 4 cups baby spinach leaves, and a handful of toasted pine nuts (if no one is allergic). Make a dressing of 1/3 cup good-quality red wine vinegar and 3 tablespoons good-quality olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and toss dressing through pasta salad, garnishing with parsley, chives, and feta or goat cheese if desired. Serves 6-8.


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