I recently attended a friend’s housewarming party where the only source of sustenance was meat – lots and lots of meat. As consolation, I was told there was some broccoli for the vegetarians. News flash: broccoli alone does not a meal make. This is hardly the first function I’ve attended that didn’t cater to my dietary restrictions, but I usually come better prepared. In recognition of Hug A Vegetarian Day yesterday, I’ve put together a few tips on how to tailor your menu when hosting an herbivore.
Ironically, American fare has little to offer non-meat eaters. BBQs consist of hamburgers or ribs, while comfort foods focus on fried chicken and pot roast. Italian and Mexican cuisines, however, provide many meatless options. My favorite Italian dish is eggplant parmesan – the vegetarian version of the traditional chicken parm. Any type of noodle in a marinara or cream sauce also works when served with a side salad and garlic bread. Or head south of the border with tacos or burritos. Just make sure to have plenty of beans, rice and grilled veggies on hand.
GET COMFORTABLE WITH QUINOA
It’s pronounced ‘keen-wa.’ And it’s a delicious and versatile grain-like seed that’s high in protein and healthy fats. I attended a vegetarian’s baby shower a few months ago, and the main dish was make-your-own tacos. In addition to chicken, guests could stuff their corn tortillas with seasoned quinoa. I was skeptical at first, but after trying it, I was hooked. In fact, I make quinoa with taco seasoning regularly now. Sometimes I pair it with black or refried beans and a cheese quesadilla. Other times I toss it in a salad.
CLEAR SOME SPACE ON THE GRILL
I’m a pretty laid-back vegetarian. So when I have to share the grill with burgers and brats at tailgates, I don’t bring my own set of tongs. But when you accidentally flip my veggie patty on top of a meat one, I cringe. Case-in-point: leave some untainted space available for the veggies. Strict vegetarians can even bring a piece of foil to cover their area of the grill.
MAKE MEATLESS VERSIONS OF THE ORIGINAL
My mother-in-law is wonderful – and very thoughtful – cook. On Thanksgiving, she always makes me my own dish of stuffing without the sausage. You can do the same with gravies, pasta sauces and soups. Meat doesn’t define every dish; it merely enhances it.
SALAD SANS MEAT
What I find most frustrating about ordering salads at restaurants or buying pre-made ones at the grocery store is that they always have meat. It’s like chefs are afraid that if they don’t throw in some chicken or steak, the salad won’t be worth eating. Well, let me tell you, if you make a salad right, it doesn’t need any meat! Sub beans for beef for protein. Add in some avocado or cheese, along with rich leafy greens and your favorite veggies and voila!
So the next time you have a vegetarian over for dinner, keep these tips in mind. If all else fails, don’t hesitate to ask us to bring our own dish. You never know, it may inspire you to eat less meat yourself! And be sure to hug the vegetarian in your life!