Tiffany Pesonen's Blog
Many people have chosen to live a meat-free or dairy-free lifestyle. Whether it's for health reasons, environmental concerns, or ethical beliefs there are now more vegans and vegetarians than ever before. If you're not familiar with the details of the diet, cooking for vegetarian and vegan guests can be difficult or even embarrassing. But with an open mind and a bit of research you can pull off a delicious meal that won't leave anyone out.
Vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian... what does it all mean?There are countless different names for the various types of restricted diets. However. there are a handful of common diets that everyone should familiarize themselves with. They are:
- Vegetarian. Vegetarians abstain from meat (including air, land, and sea-food) but may consume other animal products like dairy and eggs. In some cultures, "vegetarian" means eating no animal products at all.
- Vegan. A vegan diet contains virtually no animal products. No meat, cheese, milk, eggs, or anything made with traces of those items. Some vegans even consider things like honey an animal product and abstain from eating it.
- Pescetarian. People who call themselves pescetarian often abstain from meats like chicken, pork, and beef, but will eat meat from fish and other forms of seafood (shrimp, crabmeat, etc.)
- Ovo- and lacto-vegetarian. Some vegetarians abstain from food that contains either dairy or egg according to their own preferences. Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy, and lacto-vegetarians consume dairy but not eggs.
Planning for dinnerAll of those diets are a lot to keep track of, we know. But the best way to plan dinner for a guest with a restricted diet is to simply just ask what works for them. You will most likely find that your guest appreciates that you ask in advance. It shows that you want to provide them with a happy meal and have concern for their dietary requirements. Once you know what animal products your guest will or will not eat, it's time to start thinking of dinner ideas. If you want to play it on the safe side, you can ask your guest what they like to eat. If you're feeling adventurous, you can try making meat-free versions of some of your favorite recipes. Whatever you choose, it's important to remember to read the labels of your ingredients. You might be surprised to find that many food items contain animal product like beef stock or fish oils, or eggs. Most Caesar dressing, for example, contains anchovies, though you would never guess it from the taste.
Dinner ideasIf you're stuck on choosing what to cook, try some of these meal ideas that tend to be easy to make without animal products.
- Tacos or burritos. It's easy to make many Mexican-inspired dishes meat-free by using ingredients like rice, beans, salsa, and grilled vegetables. If you can't stand the thought of a meat or dairy-free meal for yourself then you can have a make-your-own taco dinner so you and your guest can both eat happily.
- Pasta and sauce. Most styles of spaghetti are vegan. To make the meal a bit more substantial add eggplant or grilled tofu to the mix.
- Dessert. To impress your guest prepare a vegan dessert for after dinner. Several brands make vegan ice cream (including the revered Ben & Jerry's). And if you're extra ambitious try a vegan cupcake recipe out as well. You might like it more than traditional cupcakes!