Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Crap, I invited a vegetarian to dinner! 8 things to watch for

I know that , "crap, I invited a vegetarian to dinner" is probably something said by everyone in my family when I RSVP.  They love that I will be there but for some hosts, they stress over what I can and can not eat as a vegetarian. The truth is that it is not easy to be vegetarian these days...meat and byproducts are hidden in many of your favorite dishes- even those that you would think are safe. Take for instance something as simple as sweet potatoes...think they are safe.....they are- until you add gelatin filled marshmallows! Knowing how tough it is, I thought I would share 8 tips for cooking for those crazy veggies!

Here is the first and most important rule to remember as you read the list....we (special eaters) understand the difficulty in editing family dishes to meet our dietary needs...heck, we live it every day! We are totally fine with a plate full of amazing side dishes and desserts (thankfully, most desserts are vegetarian!). We would rather you spend your time enjoying what you cook than worrying about us....but, if you are dead set on being vegetarian friendly...here are 8 tips!

1. Know your "special person".
My tips are just for hidden items and suggestions are all vegetarian and pescatarian friendly. Vegan substitutions for vegans are a bit more work!
  • Vegetarian - does not eat beef, pork, chicken, or seafood (or any other meat that you know of). Will eat eggs, milk, cheeses, and butters.
  • Pescatarians - will eat fish and shellfish BUT no other meat.
  • Vegan - will not eat ANY animal byproduct. No eggs, butter, cheese, milk. No MEAT either!
2. Leave the dressing on the side!
So many hosts think a great salad is perfect for vegetarians...and it is...UNTIL, you dump most dressings on it. This is especially true if you are serving a vegan. Most dressings have hidden flavors,  gelatin, eggs, etc.

Here are three easy to make dressings that are perfect for vegetarians (and meat eaters).
Organic Ranch Dressing that is super yummy and super healthy..CLICK HERE!
Sweet Citrus& Onion Dressing HERE
Easy to make French Dressing HERE

3. Watch out for the breads!
Yep...I said bread. You totally thought bread would be safe right? nope. Check your package of cornbread mix.....most mixes have lard in them which is an animal byproduct. Vegetarian ones are easy to find and the same price.

4. Cheese can have meat in it!
 This is tough for me to accept because I love specialty cheeses. Sadly, many cheese ingredient lists show "enzymes" or "rennet". Some will list that they are from animal or not but others just leave it up to the imagination. For those of you wondering what "enzymes" and "rennet" are, I will spare you the details but will say that they are derived from the inner lining of the fourth stomach of a calf. It is used in the process of making cheeses and some milks. There are vegetarian options for cheese making but you do have to do some investigation about the brands that use them. I can tell you that cream cheeses are safe (they do not use any enzymes to make it) and Organic Farms Valley Organic Cheeses are as well. Everything else is a guessing game and varies by flavor.

5. Using soups for recipes....check them out too!
Sometimes the most vegetarian sounding soup will be filled with a meat flavor. Take for instance Panera's Broccoli Cheddar soup, it has beef flavor in it. Just check out the labels and ingredient lists to be safe.

6. Be on the lookout for gelatin.
Gelatin is hidden everywhere.  For those who are wondering why the jiggly stuff is a no go for vegetarians..... gelatin is “made by prolonged boiling of skin, cartilage and bones from animals.” You can sometimes find kosher gelatin, which is made from fish instead of cow and pig parts. Oops,  I should have warned you to look away first! It is true though. You will find gelatin in dressings, jello, jellies, gummy bears...anything that is thickened. There are vegetarian ways to thicken so just check the labels for the little vegetarian symbol.

7. Spices and sauces!
They are a GREAT idea but just double check the labels. Sometimes, there will be chicken flavor or beef flavor. Worcestershire sauce is usually made with anchovy and beef.

8. MOST IMPORTANTLY....Let us bring something!
We absolutely love being able to bring something to share with everyone. It kinda gives us a thrill to hear meat eaters loving our dishes that are absolutely meat  (and bacon) free! Over the past year or so, I have even watched my husband become a vegetarian because he realized that - when the food is good- you don't need the meat! It actually hides the flavors! So, let us bring a few things!

I hope that this list was helpful in some way! It is not always east but it totally can be done! The best advice is to not overthink it and just keep it simple. The more you add to something, the worse the odds are for a vegetarian. We don't mind bringing items nor do we expect you to veggify every dish. Just leave us some on the side without all the jazz added.

All of the recipes on my site are vegetarian and there are some vegan ones there too! Please be sure to check them out!

ALSO....Looking for What to make? Here are 10 amazing protein sources for vegetarians!

Here are a few of my favorites!

These red pepper and feta zucchini cakes are a huge hit! (just watch the feta)

Sweet and Savory Pumpkin Squash Enchiladas (again, Feta can be omitted)

This black bean soup is AMAZING

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