Easy Vegetarian Cooking for Carnivores

What to do if a vegetarian friend or family member is on the guest list for your holiday dinner.

You're a bona fide carnivore. And a vegetarian family member and/or friend is coming to your holiday dinner. What to do? Don't panic… here are a few tips and recipe ideas to make your gathering a vegetarian friendly success.

First, the obvious: ask your guest(s) what their dietary restrictions are. For example, some vegetarians incorporate dairy and egg products into their diet, others do not. If you can't find out, be cautious and skip these ingredients all together. 

Depending on how many vegetarians will be at your dinner table, make one or two extra vegetable dishes. This will not only give them more variety, but your thoughtfulness will be appreciated as well.

Mashed potatoes is an easy dish to make vegetarian. Instead of using milk and butter for flavor, use vegetable stock and herbs. Peel, slice and place your potatoes in a pot. Pour vegetable stock to an inch above the potatoes. Bring to a boil and simmer until the potatoes are tender. Transfer the potatoes to a bowl. To mash, add vegetable stock from the pot as needed to keep the potatoes moist and mix in salt, pepper and some fresh herbs, like thyme. 

Roasted garlic adds great texture and taste. Cut the top off an entire garlic bulb so the cloves are showing. Peel off as much of the skin as possible keeping the bulb in one piece. Season with olive oil, salt and pepper. Wrap up in aluminum foil and roast in the oven preheated to 400 degrees for 30 -35 minutes. I use a toaster oven, so the times may vary in a regular oven. Let the garlic cool, then squeeze the cloves out and mix into the mashed potatoes. You can also mash some garlic into butter to use as a spread on rolls. 

Think about making a vegetable a main, hearty, and filling dish. Turn portabella mushrooms or eggplant into a savory mushroom or eggplant parmesan. 

Make a lasagna using a variety of vegetables such as spinach, onions, mushrooms and zucchini. Remember to use plenty of herbs such as thyme, basil, oregano and garlic. I would use fresh versus dried herbs if possible, but if you use dry, don't go overboard.  They are more potent then fresh and a little bit will give you a lot of flavor. 

If dairy is an option, use a high quality variety of cheeses like ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella. 

Click here to view a simple vegetarian lasagna recipe from Food Network's Paula Deen. You can modify the vegetables and cheeses mixture to your guests' liking.

Make this a fun, inviting experience for everyone. If you feel comfortable doing so, ask your vegetarian guest to make a favorite dish of theirs and describe it to everyone. This is a great way to get dinner conversation flowing, an opportunity learn and try something new, and most importantly, make everyone feel at ease.


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