Recipes for Special Occasions
Gathering all your friends and family around the table for a special occasion is one of life’s simple pleasures.
When you’ve got something to celebrate, nothing brings people together quite like a delicious home cooked meal.
From birthdays and anniversaries, to seasonal celebrations like Easter or Christmas, we love an excuse to push the boat out a little and create an extra special menu for the occasion.
But a fancy three course meal doesn’t have to mean falling off the healthy eating wagon completely.
While special occasion food can often be rich, indulgent and packed with calories, a few clever swaps can help you to make lighter versions of your favourite dishes.
So, if you’ve got a celebration on the horizon and fancy planning a slimming friendly slap-up meal, here’s a few of our favourite recipes for special occasions.
Classic starters for celebrations
It’s totally possible to create a celebration meal without having a starter, but there’s something about this extra course that really makes dinnertime feel like an event.
If you were to go out for a three course meal rather than cooking your own at home, it could become difficult to make healthy choices.
Restaurants often cook with lots of oil and butter – but it’s definitely possible to create vibrant, rich flavours without adding all those extra calories.
A light, slimming friendly starter can set the tone for the whole meal.
When planning your menu, you can stick to a theme or particular cuisine if you prefer, or just mix and match dishes you know your guests will enjoy.
It’s your special occasion so anything goes!
Why not start with these Garlic Chilli Prawns?
Inspired by Mediterranean flavours, they bring subtle heat from the garlic and chilli, with a good squeeze of lemon juice cutting through the rich tomato paste.
At just 111 calories per serving, they’re perfect for the start of a meal.
They’ll get your taste buds tingling, without filling you up so much that you don’t fancy your main course.
If you don’t mind getting a little messy, ribs make for a great starter – especially if you’re serving a Chinese inspired menu.
These Salt and Pepper Ribs aren’t the lowest calorie option, but they’re still far healthier than a restaurant or takeaway version.
Cooked low and slow, the meat gets so tender and melt-in-the-mouth.
You can prepare them in advance and then leave them cooking in the oven while you get your other courses ready.
Some of the ingredients might seem a little strange (yes, you really need diet coke and orange juice!) but, trust us, the flavours are unreal!
Serving up an Indian inspired feast? A platter of these Samosas is guaranteed to go down well with your guests while they wait for their mains.
We’ve used filo pastry to keep them as light as possible, while still keeping that traditional crunch and familiar triangular shape.
Serve them alone, or you could add some Sweet Pakora Pakoras and Onion Bhajis too.
Soup is another classic starter, and perfect for a celebratory meal.
It’s light enough to not fill you up, but it’ll take the edge off your hunger while the main event is in the oven.
Why not try serving a smaller portion of this Roasted Red Pepper and Feta Soup to whet your guests’ appetites?
Sweet from the peppers and salty from the feta, it’s packed with flavour and so easy to make in advance.
Main courses to impress
With the starter out of the way, it’s time to impress with the main course.
No matter how much experience you have in the kitchen, it’s a chance to show off your skills and wow your guests.
Many of our recipes are fuss free and beginner friendly, so even novice cooks can nail the main course.
Italian themed dinners are always great for special occasions.
Often creamy and indulgent, they feel and taste luxurious, and are guaranteed to please everyone on your guest list.
A timeless classic, it’s hard to beat Spaghetti Carbonara. It’s creamy, it’s cheesy and it’s just so comforting.
It’ll strike the perfect balance between fancy enough to impress your mates and not so extravagant that fussy eaters might complain.
Our version has that restaurant quality taste, just without all the calories. It’s a winner every time.
Sticking to the Italian theme, you can’t go wrong with a risotto.
You can make our Garlic Mushroom Risotto in a Tefal Actifry, if you have one – that way, you don’t even have to worry about stirring it.
It can also be made on the hob, though you’ll need to stay close by while you’re adding in the stock.
This recipe is perfect if you’re inviting any vegetarians – just remember to use a veggie friendly cheese.
How about serving up a plate of Katsu Chicken Curry?
This looks so impressive when it’s plated up nicely, and once everyone tastes it, they won’t believe you made it at home.
Coating the chicken breasts in crunchy tortilla chips helps them to get really crispy in the oven.
You’d never guess, but the fragrant curry sauce is actually made from blended carrots and potatoes.
This makes it so much better for you than a restaurant version.
Serve with some fluffy basmati rice and enjoy!
Celebrating doesn’t always have to be about dinner – how about a special occasion breakfast or brunch?
These Bacon and Maple Blueberry Pancakes are such a treat for a birthday brunch or a congratulatory breakfast.
They feel totally indulgent and are guaranteed to start off your day of celebrations on the right foot.
Versatile side dishes
If you’re celebrating with a feast, side dishes are essential.
Plates of vibrant veggies, crispy potatoes and tempting breads will make your table come to life.
You might think Fondant Potatoes sound too fancy to make at home, but ours are incredibly easy and every bit as impressive as ones we’ve had in restaurants.
They’re almost impossible to mess up – just get them nicely brown on each side in the pan and allow plenty of time for them to soften in the oven.
They go with almost everything!
If you prefer your potatoes a bit crispier, you’ll love these Parmentier Potatoes.
Where they’d traditionally be swimming in oil, we’ve cut back and just added some low calorie spray and plenty of seasoning.
The result is beautifully herby, crispy potato cubes that are much lighter in calories than you’d expect.
We love to see a dinner table full of colourful side dishes.
That burst of green from some fresh veggies like these Garlic Green Beans is always a welcome sight if you have guests who are trying to eat a little healthier.
Packed with flavour, these go with practically everything, adding extra vitamins to the side of your main meal.
Sometimes all you need is a lovely fresh salad to add a little green goodness to your plate.
This Very Green Zingy Kale Salad is pleasing to the eye and to the palate.
Zesty and refreshing, it can be a side dish, a starter or even a vegetarian main meal.
Is garlic bread the ultimate side dish?
Especially if you’re serving an Italian inspired main course, we think it’s a tough act to beat.
Crunchy, cheesy and as garlicky as you like, our recipe is easy to make while you put the finishing touches to your other courses.
Your guests are sure to gobble up this Cheesy Garlic Bread as soon as you put the plate on the table!
Fancy dessert ideas
A special occasion calls for a special dessert.
Round off your celebration menu with a sweet treat that’ll leave your guests smiling.
You can’t go wrong with chocolate, and these Black Forest Desserts have the perfect balance of rich cocoa and sweet cherries.
They’re ideal for making in advance, so you don’t have to stress on the big day.
If you’d rather go all out on the chocolate, how about this Chocolate Mud Pie?
It has a subtle hint of coffee that helps it taste a little more grown up.
You could even stick a few candles in this and serve it as an alternative to a traditional birthday cake!
At 125 calories a slice, it’s deceptively light for such a rich, chocolatey dessert.
Since it’s a celebration, how about treating your guests to a tower of Profiteroles?
These are a little tricker and more time consuming to make, but it’s worth the extra effort for a special occasion.
Our recipe uses low fat squirty cream rather than heavier alternatives, helping to keep the calories low.
You can fill them with whatever you like, from custard to jam, if you don’t mind the extra calories.
At the end of an indulgent, multi-course meal, there’s not always room for pudding!
If you want something sweet yet light to end the meal, a little light snack like this Greek Baklava is perfect.
All you need is some filo pastry, pistachios and a little low calorie syrup.
Crispy, flaky and so delicious, these are incredible served with an after dinner cup of coffee.
Don’t forget the drinks
This dreamy menu wouldn’t be complete without a beverage or two – it’s a celebration after all!
Alcoholic drinks can be higher in calories than you might expect, but a few clever swaps can lighten them up.
You can learn more in our guide to the calories in alcohol here.
Why not welcome your guests with a refreshing Strawberry Daiquiri?
It’s basically an alcoholic slushie, made with real, fresh strawberries, and it really looks the part when you serve it in a fancy glass.
Try a fun umbrella or a slice of lime as a garnish.
During the celebration, say cheers with a glass of prosecco or this Elderflower Gin Fizz.
It’s the perfect drink to get the party started.
Because our recipe uses a low calorie elderflower syrup and soda water instead of any sugary mixers, this cocktail is just 84 calories per glass.
Which recipes are making it onto the menu for your next special occasion?
Head on over to our Facebook Group to let us know, and share your ideas with the rest of the lovely PON community.
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