What should I make to bring to a vegan family?
August 10, 2015 6:54 AM   Subscribe

I have a vegan colleague that is going through a medical situation. I would like to bring his family a meal that would help make their life easier. In traditional circumstances I have made a lasagna or typical pasta dish but in this circumstance I would obviously like to respect their dietary decisions. Any recommendations? I'm also open to the suggestions of pursuing something else to make their life easier.
posted by blackjack514 to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
You can make a pretty good vegan lasagna just by using tofu and/or TVP. Include an ingredients list so they know it's OK for them to eat. Other good standbys are a veggie risotto or a bean salad or just a pasta dish with sauce/veggies. Anything that you can make in bulk that will freeze and store well would be fine. Alternatively, if they have kids, taking the kids out to a meal while parents are dealing with a medical situation can be a similar but different kindness.
posted by jessamyn at 7:07 AM on August 10, 2015

PPK has a couple casseroles on the website--one of which is a lasagne with tofu substituted for the cheese.

The Chili Verde con Papas in Appetite for Reduction is good and saves well, but I don't think it's on her website--perhaps you could get a copy from the library?
posted by crush-onastick at 7:18 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If you'd like to go with a pasta casserole, this pumpkin baked ziti is delicious.

Soup (lentil or white bean-escarole, for example) would also be a good choice if it's not too punishingly hot where you are.
posted by snaw at 7:23 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Caponata and chili con veggie are both vegan and freeze/reheat well.
posted by neushoorn at 7:25 AM on August 10, 2015

What I would suggest is something healthy, good, not that heavy, and handy to have around when you're sort of hungry and don't know what you want. It's also fairly time-consuming to cook and clean up after yourself, but not expensive to make, so the cost is in your time and energy (which is precisely what you have that a family in crisis does not): a large (>= 1lb) quantity of black beans and some brown rice, packaged in individual servings in freezable containers.

You want to make a very basic recipe that all members of the family can enjoy, that they can doctor up if they wish. You might include a bottle of Tabasco or other sauce.

So, I'd recommend just doing the whole bean routine: pick through about 2 pounds of black beans checking for rocks (it's a thing, and biting into a rock is not good), rinse, soak overnight (makes them more digestible). Then cook them for a few hours until they're done along with some salt. Add some cut-up tomatoes at the end, maybe. No garlic (so nobody has to worry about garlic breath), no onions (so nobody has to worry about, again, indigestibility -- unless you want to use dried powdered onion). You can add a teaspoon or two of apple cider vinegar if you wish -- for awesome flavor and digestibility. Make sure they have enough salt, but not too much -- again, they can add salt if they want.

Do add an appropriate amount of olive oil; this will make the dish more nutritious (really), yummy, and filling.

The rice will make this a whole meal.

Bonus points if you include a few limes; they can enhance the flavor by squeezing some lime wedges over their servings.
posted by amtho at 7:38 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I like this lasagna. I make it vegan by using store bought vegan cheese for the mozarella and for the ricotta/egg mixture, I instead mash some tofu with lemon juice, salt, pepper and nutritional yeast.

I've heard great things about this cauliflower casserole as well.
posted by tofu_crouton at 7:40 AM on August 10, 2015

Vegan mac&cheese is easy and foolproof. There are countless variations that you can base around whatever you've got on hand, but here is one recipe I like.

Another way to go would just be to bring hummus+pita+plate of cut veggies. At very least, I'd bring a salad in a bag alongside the casserole--everyone misses fresh veggies in these moments.
posted by veery at 7:43 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

If Indian is an option, then this chickpea biryani would be a good choice.
posted by gueneverey at 7:46 AM on August 10, 2015

If it's not too hot where you are, a pot of vegetarian chili would be easy and comforting. (Most recipes for vegetarian chili will be vegan, I can't think of any animal-origin products that would be involved.)
posted by fingersandtoes at 8:03 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Whenever I'm cooking something to help out a friend, I make a crockpot curry, which is basically coconut milk, curry powder, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, and whatever else I feel like throwing in. It's automatically vegan unless you add meat.

I've also got a vacuum bagger, which is great for this kind of thing, since no one needs to worry about returning a casserole dish, they freeze well, and the recipient can just boil the bag.
posted by adamrice at 8:06 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

You can make a casserole vegan by

a) not using meat or cheese*
b) replacing butter with vegan margarine or oil
c) replacing milk with coconut milk (can or carton, canned is thicker if you shake it before you open)
d) replacing meat with vegetables
e) replace chicken broth/stock with vegetable soup base/Better Than Bouillon

It's not that hard. A basic google survey will confirm any vegetables you should pre-cook or par-cook before putting in a casserole.

*Cheese can be handled one of several ways: skipping it, replacing with Daiya or other vegan cheese, ground or creamed cashews, make a bechamel with oil and coconut milk, tofu in various forms. (Or check out this chickpea pasta sauce, which looks amazing.)

If you're too nervous about it, find out if any of the pizza places in their delivery area do vegan pizza and get them a gift card sufficient for several. If not pizza, find out who else delivers that does vegan.

You could bake some muffins or coffee cake instead. Normally, you'd expect people to be inundated with sweet stuff, but a lot of prepackaged items have dairy or honey and it might be very welcome. I do recommend packaging all of it in portions (sandwich bags, probably) so they can grab-and-go or chuck some of it in the freezer for later.
posted by Lyn Never at 8:08 AM on August 10, 2015

I made this sweet potato and chickpea curry a while ago, it is vegan and was delicious. (I should confess that I only used about half the amount of chickpeas it calls for and added some frozen spinach to mine.)
posted by Diablevert at 8:20 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

vegetarian times has a vegan squash bean corn casserole called 3 sisters. delicious.
posted by Ms Vegetable at 8:59 AM on August 10, 2015

Honestly, as someone who eats functionally vegan, I think that some of these substitution suggestions are well-meaning but would leave me pretty unhappy with the result! For example, I really just don't like coconut milk in anything but sweets (and even then, I am not a huge fan).

I also am persistently aware that people who aren't used to vegan cooking may make mistakes and include non-vegan ingredients that I really would rather avoid. However, I don't want to sit there and interrogate them about every ingredient because they obviously mean well.

So, a number of times, due to someone's well-meaning efforts, I've been left eating something that I really don't like or that seems to include non-vegan ingredients. It has gotten to the point where I actively discourage people from making me food pretty much ever.

If you're not used to vegan cooking, maybe try something else, or get them something pre-packaged (Amy's makes lots of vegan stuff). There are also home-popped popcorn bags that are vegan (look for plain, no butter, and double check for milk ingredients). Lara bars are a good tasty vegan snack. Dried fruits and nuts are always nice. I would vastly, vastly prefer a gift basket with a selection of these kinds of things to something home-cooked.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 9:10 AM on August 10, 2015 [7 favorites]

If you end up making a main dish, remember to include protein: beans, nuts, tempeh, etc. Taking out the meat does make a recipe technically vegan, but you still need to replace the protein somehow.

A box of So Delicious coconut ice cream sandwiches might be a nice treat?
Though it doesn't address making life easier, per se.

Or maybe just pick up half a dozen cans of Amy's soups & a loaf of hearty, freezable, vegan bread.
Check the label to make sure you are getting the vegan ones (Lentil is one for sure).

These are super easy to prepare, reliably good, and pretty nutritious. Doesn't have the homemade touch, but it's the thought that counts... !
posted by OlivesAndTurkishCoffee at 9:21 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I make this casserole pretty regularly, which is vegan, does not require working with unfamiliar ingredients, and hits a lot of the same comfort food spots as lasagna. A loaf of bread or salad will make a pretty complete meal.

I also like a sweet potato dish similar to this, though I sub breadcrumbs for the parmesan, chopped canned tomatoes or sauce for the cherry tomatoes, and usually use chickpeas instead of white beans. Again, vegan and cozy. Both dishes are enjoyed by folks who eat meat which to me is a good sign of edibility.

A simpler choice that most people I know would appreciate would be a few dips, a container full of cut-up veggies, and a loaf of nice bread or fresh pita.
posted by tchemgrrl at 9:34 AM on August 10, 2015

What about a comfort food, like mac & cheeze? This is vegan. So is this.

Whatever you make, you may wish to include the ingredients and tape them on the dish, since vegans are very picky about they eat, obviously.
posted by AppleTurnover at 10:03 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'm not vegan, but I cook a lot of vegan meals. One of my favorite go-to recipe sources is The Post-Punk Kitchen.
posted by brianogilvie at 10:36 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

Please just ask what they would like. I am a vegetarian and have so, so many times found food very thoughtfully, lovingly, and carefully prepared for me by non-vegetarians to be just a sad addition to my compost (while feeling like a jerk about it). There aren't foolproof "veg*ns always enjoy X" options.

A gift certificate for a cleaning service is a thing that comes to mind as an alternative. I have intermittent health hassles and when I am laid low my house is gross -- and that does nothing for morale when one is unwell.

If you do want to bring a meal I would make it the simplest of simple and leave it open to customization. Prepared ingredients for a "make your own X"-style meal comes to mind. Tacos, subs, salads, fajitas, etc, where you show up with everything all ready to go to be put together, and they can leave things out or add to it, or simply re-purpose the prepped ingredients.
posted by kmennie at 10:44 AM on August 10, 2015 [3 favorites]

My vegan sister in law brought me this Thai curry chili with brown rice after my son was born. It's delicious, reheats and freezes well, and doesn't require a lot of vegan substitutes that will hang around in your kitchen for ages. Anything from the PPK is safe, and I'd be sure to let them know where you got the recipe so they know it's a vegan recipe by a vegan cook and not something you guessed at and so might have missed some animal byproducts.
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 11:05 AM on August 10, 2015

Food and taste and texture is such a personal thing, especially when you get into the realm of comfort food. If you add strict dietary requirements it becomes very difficult to get this right for this particular individual. So I'd strongly suggest you go with the idea of a vegan gift basket or else voucher for a cleaning service or some such alternative.
posted by koahiatamadl at 11:16 AM on August 10, 2015 [1 favorite]

I'd go with a selection of prepared raw fruit and vegetables, and maybe pre-cooked grains and some nuts for protein. They may be eating on the run and only have time to grab a fistful of something to eat standing up, or they maybe huddling at home listlessly over long boring hours without the energy to look after themselves, so if you can cover for both situations you will be ahead. Bringing an assortment of stuff means that if they hate sweet potatoes or garbanzo beans you won't have given them a big mushy casserole dish of compost.

Dress up your offering with a tub of hummus, maybe some soy cheese, and some nuts for protein. If you include tortillas or some tubs of precooked rice and beans (not mixed) they can turn your offering into a hot dinner by slapping some into a dish and putting it into the micro. Don't bring melon. Maybe it's a regional thing but I notice that nobody ever eats the honeydew and the cantaloupe melon.

Bring stuff you already understand. If you have never made a sweet potato and garbanzo bean casserole you will have no idea if it is actually supposed to look or taste like that. On the other hand you can probably tell that if the cut up strawberries are mostly white and yellow they are not going to be ripe enough to be delicious.
posted by Jane the Brown at 12:31 PM on August 10, 2015 [2 favorites]

I regularly cook for vegan friends and have noticed that lentil-dishes are very popular among them. There is a huge variation in lentils, and both Indian, African and European recipes. Personally, I can always eat a dal, and here are a couple of nice recipes from Ottolenghi. When tired and stressed, I simply cook a chopped onion and a large chopped potato in oil, add thyme, pepper and perhaps a little paprika or chili, then a small cup of puy lentils and a pint of water. It sounds too simple to be true, but grown men and tiny girls have asked for this dish repetitiously. It gets better if you have a veg-stock instead of the water, but it isn't at all necessary.

Minestrone can also be entirely vegan and is delicious and freezable.

Vegan couscous (replace the butter with olive oil) is a party staple at our house, and beloved by vegans and omnivores alike.

And a good loaf of bread and some hummus is a good thing too.
posted by mumimor at 11:22 AM on August 12, 2015

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