If you're a vegetarian, dining with the masses can be a challenge when the menu extends beyond pasta or pizza. So it usually doesn't. Boring. It's not that pizza isn't great (because it's pretty freaking fantastic), but you find yourself salivating while others dig into Great Grandma's meatloaf or some Super Bowl chili. Your picky family doesn't make it easy either; if they found out their dish was vegetarian--forget about it. You have to get crafty for them to sink their teeth into this veggie goodness, and you have to pick the right recipes.
1. Stir the Pot--of Gumbo
When you think of gumbo, sausage or seafood quickly come to mind. Throughout history, if you were to omit these things you might have an angry mob on your hands--especially in the South. Fortunately, we live in an era of acceptance and progression: thus Vegetarian Gumbo is actually not frowned upon anymore (except for the stick-to-your-guns bayou regions--they're a tough sell). Here's the thing, throw some vegan sausage in that bad boy, and they likely won't even know that this dish had a completely sun-based diet anyway. My favorite brand is Tofurky. They have a bunch of flavors to choose from, and their Andouille is a winner in this situation. If you're really feeling adventurous, add some tofu!
2. Chill-i Out
Who doesn't love a bowl of warm, comforting chili? It's an easy way to fill your belly, and it provides your body a dose of homemade love after a long day of work. It's pretty much a big bear hug in a bowl for lack of better words. To eliminate the meat in this dish, all you have to do is--literally cut the meat from a recipe. Chili is a flavorful dish that stands well on its own, and all of these flavors really don't need meat to tag along with it. Vegetarian Chili is a fresher way to eat this dish without feeling weighed down. However, if you have that friend or family member that MUST have meat, add in some soy meat crumbles and the whining will drift away like a bad dream. Morning Star has a great product to work with; just make sure to season it well with salt and pepper if you decide to add it in.
3. It's All Greek (to Meat Eaters)
Moussaka is a big no-no is the veggie world because of its ground meat, which is a shame because this dish always holds delicious eggplant, veggies, and Bechamel sauce hostage from the green folk. Talk about a major buzz kill. Good thing you can work your way around this in your kitchen by making Vegetarian Moussaka! Subbing the meat out for Portabella mushrooms is a quick and easy fix; not to mention that mushrooms bring a meaty flavor to the party for your mouth to enjoy anyway. If your tasting squad isn't into mushrooms, sub out for soy meat crumbles. Easy as pie, or should I say "baklava."
4. Bea-No Meat
Baked beans are a barbeque staple. However, unless the host goes out of their way to buy the beans that say "vegetarian" in big bold letters on the can, those beans pack just as much meat as the burgers flipping on the grill. Why do beans need to have meat in them anyway? The answer is they don't. Offer to bring your special, homemade baked beans recipe (aka Vegetarian Baked Beans recipe). All of the flavors and spices involved will make all of the meat-loving crowd completely forget about the meat usually involved in this dish and will keep them loading up on seconds (maybe even thirds). When people ask, "Wow, what is in this recipe?" simply respond by saying, "Love" with a little wink and a giggle because it's not what's in this dish-it's actually what isn't.
5. The "Meat" Ball Is in Your Court
Meatballs are a rough one for the green crowd. They always smell amazing, but they're comprised of 95 percent no-no nourishment (they are balls of literal meat). Don't even get me started on those shopping sprees to Ikea where you NEVER get to partake in the Swedish Meatball fun--it's a total disaster after you spend the whole day trying to hunt down those burned sienna drapes, as far as I'm concerned. Well, your Vegetarian Swedish Meatballs will make your shopping pals (and Ikea) bum out about not having these veggie delights on their daily rotation. Tempeh is a great "meaty" product to create your Swedish meatballs from, or any meatballs for that matter. Lightlife has a bunch of tasty tempeh flavors to try--or test on your friends. Not to mention that this meat-free version looks like the real thing to an unsuspecting carnivore.
6. For the Chik'n Hearted
Whenever you go to P.F. Changs, do you stare longingly at the Kung Pao Chicken that is ALWAYS ordered at your table? It takes all of your will-power not to dump that entire plate down your throat, right? It's a tragedy. Luckily for you, Vegetarian Kung Pao Chicken is just as tasty and looks just like the real deal (muhahaha). Thanks to Quorn's Chik'n Tenders, the carnivorous population won't even know what's tickling their taste buds until it's too late! In all honesty, it's an easy dish for meat-eaters to start with. They might even ask for it again! Sweet and spicy victory.
7. A Meatless Way to Start the Day
Vegan Eggs Benedict recipes are not an easy find unless you omit the meat, the eggs, and settle for a mediocre sauce. You are pretty much ordering an English muffin, tomato, and a lame sauce in all reality. That's not good enough in my book. Well, turn that frown upside down! You can get a creamy, rich, and flavorful vegan Hollandaise sauce, and egg substitute, AND a vegan sausage patty to make this classic breakfast an absolute crowd pleaser. Yes, I said crowd pleaser. Do you honestly think that your meat-hungry crowd will notice that this sausage patty boasts zero meat? Spoiler alert: they won't. And this heavenly sauce--they won't know what hit them. Here's a delicious sausage patty from Morningstar to try, and turn to House Foods for tofu when you are making your Hollandaise. Silken is the real winner here.
Once you get a few veggie recipes in your family's rotation, try to get a little more creative. Many recipes can be veggie-tized. Shepherd's pie, bratwursts, and even tacos can get a veggie makeover. You might even find that your family will start requesting more vegetables in their diet. Kids asking for vegetables--take a moment to let that soak in! It's a good feeling.