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vegetarian lunch for 12 including picky kids?

Looking for ideas for a lunch. My family is coming over to my apartment this weekend. The group will include:
-a couple of family members who prefer things to be 'fancy'
-5 kids, ages 6-14, including 2 picky eaters
-my wife and I are vegetarian, and I don't want to cook or serve meat
-My wife's allergic to mushrooms
-also, my wife and I aren't super into cooking, and we have a 10 month old so would prefer things that could be prepared ahead of time or something

So we kind of want to make maybe one or two things and buy the rest. I was thinking something fun like 'build your own taco' but maybe something a bit more interesting than that.

Any suggestions? We live in downtown Toronto so have access to basically any kind of catering/bakery/grocery/whatever.

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  1. I think the build your own taco idea is great. Make a big pot of lentil taco filling, then put out shells (or even good quality tortilla chips), lettuce, cheese, tomatoes (you can get good organic grape tomatoes that actually taste like tomatoes), sliced avocado, olives, sour cream or greek yogurt, sliced mango (delicious on taco salad), salsa, etc.

    It's a colorful spread that will please the "fancy" types, especially if you use good quality ingredients, but the picky ones can tailor it to their needs, even if that means just plopping the lentil filling on some chips, sprinkling on some cheese and nuking it like nachos. People who are on diets can make a taco salad minus the chips. Just make a nice vinaigrette so that will be an option for the non-taco eaters.

    1. Pizza maybe? Thinking if you had some par-cooked dough everyone could make there own.

      The other thought would be a Meditaranian spread... Grilled veggies, olives, cheese, good bread, hummus. Have some mild cheese for the kids... And pitted olives they can put on their fingers!

      1. Do you eat eggs and/or dairy? Is it still chilly?

        I love soup parties at this time of year. Three pots warming on the stove is a good choice, buy the soup if you need to. Make dessert.

        Vegetable won ton soup, minestrone with cheese tortellini, corn/potato chowder (perhaps with smoked paprika for flavor). People can try one, go back for a taste of another. You may need to wash bowls in between.

        Chocolate torte or almond cake with raspberry sauce for dessert. For those who want fancy, get out the good china bowls and the silver for the soup course, or your prettiest plates for dessert.

        1. What about make your own panini and soup? People can assemble their own, make it as fancy as they want--get some fun bread, cut fillings ready to go.

          1. I would put out a salad bar so everyone can make their own. Just a big bowl of mixed lettuce, then a platter with assorted cut vegetables (cucumbers, carrots, onions, tomatoes) and fruits (sliced mango or grapes) grated or cubed cheese and maybe some small bowls of croutons, nuts, seeds or dried fruit. Make a balsamic and olive oil dressing. Buy some bread or foccacia at the store. This is great if someone doesn't like the entree there are plenty of things to munch on.

            For an entree you could do a veggie lasagna or a plain tomato and cheese lasagna. Put it together earlier and bake before guests arrive.

            1. I make lasagna ahead of time for groups with vegetarians among them. I want to make sure they get some protein so they feel as if they've had a real meal, and by using no boil noodles (only Barilla, they're amazingly good), it takes no time to assemble and make ahead of time. If you use jarred sauce, you have only to mix a cheese and egg mixture (with drained, squeezed chopped spinach added, in my case) and assemble then bake. You could serve a side salad of pre washed mixed baby greens with grape tomatoes.

              IME, kids'll eat dirt if it has enough tomato sauce and cheese on it. Most folks like lasagna. Since you have a presumably active and time consuming baby (if memory serves about that age), the minimal prep time will allow you to enjoy the experience more.

              1 Reply
              1. re: mcf

                Lasagna is a great idea. Along those same lines I would throw in enchiladas, baked ziti, mac and cheese, etc. All things that can be made in advance and can be served with a salad.

              2. I think someone already said this, but how about something like a sandwich bar? Egg salad, tuna salad, a lovely variety of cheese (soft, spreadable and hard), arugula/watercress, tomatoes, tapenade/muffaleta spread, sun dried tomatoes, olives, hummus, peanut butter, another nut butter, jam, jelly, eggplant cutlets, olive oil, fixin's like mayo, mustard, etc, nice breads....

                1. taco bar is great.
                  another "bar" idea is baked potato/baked sweet potato... broccoli, cheeses, beans or lentils for protein, or bean based chili that you could do ahead in a crockpot, salsa, sour cream, chives, grilled onions, etc.

                  another easy make-ahead would be some variations on stratas or frittatas. potatoes or hash browns on the side with a salad and/or some roasted veggies.

                  1. Thanks so much for all the replies! I especially love the soup buffet and DIY potato bar ideas. Yum! Not sure what we're doing as of yet, but these are really great, thank you!!!

                    (and to answer the q's, yes we eat dairy/eggs and indeed it is still pretty chilly here!).