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Healthy and hearty Easter recipes

Hot cross buns, an essential Easter recipe, can be made healthier by replacing butter with olive oil. (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Although traditional Easter foods may include a leg of lamb or roasted ham, there are many vegetarian and vegan options that highlight simple ingredients such as herbs and legumes. Inspired by a combination of healthy standards and Easter classics, these recipes could stand alone or work as a side for your traditional meat dishes.

Rice, peas, mint and feta salad

This fresh side dish combines the peas’ light sweetness with the feta’s slightly salty tang, delivering a refreshing salad. In addition, this dish packs in vitamin a and iron in the peas, as well as calcium in the feta. A go-to dish all around.

1 and 1/4 cups vegetable broth
3/4 cup instant brown rice
1 and 1/2 cups frozen peas (6 ounces)
3/4 cup sliced scallions
1/4 cup finely crumbled feta cheese
1/4 cup sliced fresh mint
– Freshly ground pepper

Directions: Bring the vegetable broth to a boil over high heat. Add the brown rice to the broth and let it simmer, then cover and reduce to medium-low and let it cook for four minutes. Add in the peas, letting it return to a simmer over high heat. Cover and reduce the heat to medium-low, letting the peas and rice cook for around six minutes or until the peas are hot and the rice has absorbed the majority of the liquid.

Remove from heat and stir in the scallions, feta and mint, adding pepper to taste. Cover and let it sit for three to five minutes, or until the liquid has fully absorbed.

Healthy Hot-Cross Buns

Hot-cross buns are often a staple at Easter feasts, but with butter and white sugar thrown into these sides, they aren’t the healthiest habit. These rolls reduce the amount of white sugar and use olive oil instead of butter, nixing the dairy while maintaining a tender and moist texture.

– About 4 cups of plain flour
2 teaspoons of white sugar
Pinch of salt
Sachet of instant yeast
3 tablespoons olive oil
About 1 and 1/2 cups of warm water
– About 1 packed cup of raisins
– Slightly less than half a cup of brown sugar
3 teaspoons mixed spices
2 tablespoons candied peel
Small piece of pastry dough (for the crosses)

Directions: Make a mound with the flour, white sugar, salt and yeast. Dig a hole in the middle of the mound and pour in the warm water. Mix the flour, white sugar, salt and yeast into the water, then knead the mixture into a sticky dough. Add the raisins, brown sugar, candied peel and mixed spices into the dough, continuing to knead it for another eight minutes. Place the dough in an oiled bowl and cover it, allowing it to rise for around 90 minutes or until it has doubled in size. Flatten the dough and cut it into 15 pieces, shaping them into buns.

Put the buns onto an oiled tray and allow them to rise for an additional 45 minutes. Cut the pastry dough in strips and lay out in a cross shape on top of the buns. Bake at 450 degrees Fahrenheit for around 15 minutes. While the buns are baking, dissolve equal parts sugar into water and brush on top of the buns as soon as they’re done baking. Cool on a rack.

Vegan lentil shepherd’s pie

This main dish delivers all of the heartiness of traditional Easter fare without meat or dairy.

1/2 pound lentils, cooked and drained
1 onion, diced
1/2 tsp crumbled fresh sage
1/2 tsp minced garlic
Pinch of dried oregano
1 tsp salt
Dash of cayenne pepper
3 large potatoes, cooked
1/2 to 1 cup of hot soy milk
– Margarine to taste

Directions: Mash the cooked lentils in a bowl with the onion and spices. Place the mixture in an oiled casserole dish.
Mash the potatoes in a separate bowl and add the hot soy milk, margarine and salt. Beat by hand or with an electric mixer until the potatoes look fluffy.

Gently spread the mashed potatoes on top of the mashed lentil mixture and bake at 400 degrees Fahrenheit for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are dry on top. Place the pie under the broiler to brown on top. Serve warm.