I'm in a mixed marriage. My husband is an omnivore (from a family in the feed grain and hog business), and I'm a vegetarian. Like me, our daughters don't eat anything that ever had a face.
And yet we can whip up a Thanksgiving feast. Here are tips from years of experience:
Find out whether your guests are vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, or "flexitarians." Vegans are the most hard core (more on them later). Ovo-vegetarians eat eggs but not dairy, lacto-vegetarians eat dairy but not eggs, and lacto-ovo vegetarians eat dairy and eggs. Got it? Others, called flexitarians, sometimes indulge in meat, poultry, and fish. A few years ago I wrote about these part-time or "almost" vegetarians for Newsweek. Famous foodies, such as Mark Bittman (author of How to Cook Everything, Food Matters, and How to Cook Everything Vegetarian), told me they advocate largely plant-based diets because they're better for reducing global warming and preventing obesity. Even vegetarian cookbook author Mollie Katzen, author of the Moosewood Cookbook, says she occasionally takes bites of her mom's brisket.
Think twice about using honey. Some vegetarians worry about bees that may die during honey production. If your guests fall in this category, use other sweeteners such as corn syrup, fruit juice, or maple syrup. Years ago I replied to a Vegetarian Times reader's question about whether drilling holes in maple trees hurts them. The answer: No, as long as producers don't overdo it. A tree giving up some sap is like a person donating some blood. The small hole typically heals with no damage.
Use vegetable broth for soups and stuffing. They'll taste just as delicious. And all guests will be able to eat them. Try vegetarian stuffing with whole wheat bread and plenty of spices. And experiment with onion soup – either with cheese or vegan style.
Don't put all the stuffing inside the turkey. If you're serving a bird, put some of the stuffing in a casserole dish. That way it won't get covered in turkey juices.
Skip the Jell-O salad. Both the gelatinous Thanksgiving staple and the marshmallows that are often in it contain gelatin, a glutinous substance that manufacturers get from boiling animal ligaments and bones. Instead, experiment with salads such as cranberry-spinach.
Don't make pie crusts with lard. The shortening comes from animal fat. Use vegetable oil instead. Luckily, pies are usually veggie friendly (at least if your guest is a lacto-ovo vegetarian). So bake traditional pumpkin, apple, and pecan pies with abandon. If you've got vegan guests, you can try a tofu pumpkin pie.
Make a veggie tray and meat-free appetizers. Load up on celery, carrots, and radishes. Add olives and pickles. And instead of sausage-filled pigs in a blanket, try pita chips served with garbanzo bean-containing hummus.
Hit the best websites for recipes. Even Martha Stewart is posting vegetarian recipes. One example: a mushroom tart. (Vegans, who shun dairy, may pass on cheese-containing dishes. But you can always divide a recipe that calls for queso on top and make half with and half without it.) Other good sites with vegetarian Thanksgiving recipes: allrecipes.com, epicurious.com, foodnetwork.com, and recipelink.com.
You never know: you may find the turkey (if you make one) is the least-touched dish.
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