Visitors from the Planet Vegan
June 29, 2004 8:41 AM   Subscribe

Ack, I'm not vegan! But I've got a friend with three kids under 9 who is, and they're coming to stay a few days. This hapless carnivore and starchivore needs your culinary assistance to feed adults and kids.

I know the basic rule of vegan cooking -- use no animal products whatsoever -- and will have a chance to make one grocery run before the horde descends upon me, but this is a dietary restriction fundamentally incompatible with my cuisine. What can I make that my (also carnivorous) and her (also vegan) children will all eat, but that will also delight adults? I need breakfast and dinner ideas, since lunch isn't my problem.

Please share your vegan-friendly ideas for family meals that won't cause a couple of carnivore kids to start throwing food at me! I realize I can probably squeak by with pasta and some clever saucework, but I'd like to try a little harder than that.
posted by majick to Food & Drink (33 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I read that and thought you said 9 kids were coming over and I was going to say you are fucked. You should give the parent a call and ask what some good ideas are.
posted by Keyser Soze at 8:44 AM on June 29, 2004

Make pasta or rice, and some stir fried veggies and meat in separate dishes? Everybody can eat what they like, and you teach (both sides) a lesson in tolerance.
posted by signal at 8:54 AM on June 29, 2004

Well, she's not used to feeding carnivores, and I'm not used to feeding vegans, so between us we've got bupkus. I'm loathe to cook dual meals, and it would be nice to sit everyone at the same table without a lot of "ew! yuk! bleah!" and "no, honey, you can't eat that!" going on. So I'm hoping to get a few cooking ideas that aren't going to send my vegephobe kids into hysterics.
posted by majick at 8:56 AM on June 29, 2004

If their stay roughly coincides with the 4th, you could try for a vegan barbecue with Smart Dogs, which are a tofu version of the hot dog and I believe are vegan, and vegan veggie burgers.

Also, my mother has been experimenting a lot with tempeh lately, with delicious results. I could try to get ahold of some recipes for you. Try emailing me at moc.loa@gnawtumleh (it's backwards) for more info if you're interested.
posted by alphanerd at 8:56 AM on June 29, 2004

Just how vegan are they? If they eat Morningstar products, you could just buy them a bunch of fun hot dogs (NOT dogs) and burgers. But you need to check, as Morningstar products are generally vegetarian but not always vegan, they sometimes contain GM ingredients (as do Kellogs cornflakes, heh), and some vegans resent the idea of "fake meat."
posted by Shane at 8:58 AM on June 29, 2004

Watch out for whey, gelatin, and lactic acid in anything you buy. They may not occur to you as "animal products," right away, but they are.
posted by scarabic at 9:09 AM on June 29, 2004

Burritos. Beans, rice, maybe potatoes, possibly soy cheese if they want it, salsa to taste. If your kids insist on meat, just add meat to their burritos and don't get them mixed up with the veggie versions. Or, just have a bunch of bowls with stuff in them and some tortillas and let everyone make their own buffet style. My vegan friends are burrito junkies. Watch out for lard in the tortillas, though.
posted by LionIndex at 9:17 AM on June 29, 2004

Some great recipe links:

Breakfast could be bagels with tomato slices, or a nice fresh fruit salad, or granola with Rice Dream milk, or fruit smoothies, or oatmeal topped with fresh fruit and jam, or pancakes or waffles with fruit. If you want to make the kids your best friends, go buy some vegan chocolate and make chocolate chip pancakes, served with real maple syrup (not honey, honey).

Some of my favorite dinner ideas:

Burritoes or tacos with refried beans, olives, mild green tinned chilies, lettuce, salsa, fried peppers, and corn salsa. Really, pretty much anything you'd like to add can go in there.

Pasta tossed with olive oil which has been sauteed with garlic and parsley is great too, with bruscetta/garlic bread and a nice salad on the side. You can go nuts with the bruscetta (I know I'm spelling that wrong) by adding lots of fresh spices and herbs, and bits of olive, fried pepper, onion, whatever. Very important - dry grill the sliced Italian/French bread on the bbq first, for a very nice peasanty charred taste.

Sushi, with vegetables instead of fish.

Heaven on earth - bbq fresh corn on the cob, along with some eggplant slices that you've brushed with olive oil. Season them both with Old Bay or some nice thing that you make up from fresh spices and herbs. Also make some veggie/fruit kabobs to go with it.

Penne tossed with all of the following, which you saute right before serving: capers, green olives, vidalia onions, red bell peppers, yellow bell peppers, garlic and eggplant, all chopped up. Add lots of fresh cracked black pepper, fresh parsley, and some salt.
posted by iconomy at 9:21 AM on June 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Watch out for lard in the tortillas, though.

Also watch for lard in some popular brands of refired beans.

Watch out for whey, gelatin...

Slightly off-topic, I just noticed Balance Bars often have gelatin, ruining them for the vegetarian, not just the vegan, market. I do not understand why so many foods that are just a tiny step away from being vegetarian or vegan miss out on selling to the entire demographic by one or two tiny ingredients. I guess it must be cost-effective, though, as that's the bottom line.
posted by Shane at 9:23 AM on June 29, 2004

Be sure to check labels first, on things like pancake mix, unless you plan on making your own. Bagels or pasta may contain eggs, etc, etc, etc. Things to watch out for.
posted by iconomy at 9:24 AM on June 29, 2004

TVP (Textured Vegatable Protein) can be found in Whole Food shops, and makes a spiffing substitute for Mince. Use it in Chilli and Spag Bol. Even without TVP, you can turn out a good Chilli by using different kinds of Beans.
posted by seanyboy at 9:26 AM on June 29, 2004

Soups. Lots of soups. Butternut squash soup, say. Or a cold gazpacho. Yams or potatoes. Big salads with lots of different kinds of greens and vegetables. Baked or roasted spaghetti squash. Fruit salads. Melons. Rosted plaintains. Coconuts. Couscous. Tabouli with lots of tomatoes. Some good black bread. Depends on how picky your carnivores are, really.

(This is a Brady Bunch episode waiting to happen, isn't it?)
posted by octobersurprise at 9:27 AM on June 29, 2004

A couple of recipes I have to hand:

Mushroom and Black-Eyed Bean Curry

8oz black eyed beans
2 pints water
8oz fresh mushrooms
6tbsp veg oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 inch cinnamon stick
5oz onion – chopped
4 cloves garlic
14oz tomatoes – chopped
2tsp ground coriander
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp turmeric
1/4tsp cayenne
2tsp salt (or less)
black pepper
3tbsp fresh coriander

Boil beans in water, cover, turn low and simmer 2mins, turn off heat, leave pan covered and undisturbed for 1 hour.
Chop mushrooms – 3mm slices.
Heat oil, add cumin and cinnamon – sizzle 5secs, add onions & garlic to brown, add mushrooms, fry till wilted, add tomatoes, ground coriander, cumin, turmeric, cayenne – cook 1min, cover, turn heat low and cook in own juices – 10mins. TURN OFF HEAT
Boil BEANS and simmer 20-23mins (covered). Add mushrooms to beans, then salt, pepper & fresh coriander, stir, simmer uncovered on med-low heat, 30mins, stirring continuously.

Cabbage and Lentil Dal

7oz red split lentils
2 pints water
1/2tsp turmeric
5tbsp veg oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2-4 cloves garlic
3oz onions – sliced
8oz shredded cabbage
1-2 fresh green chillies
½-1 tsp salt
4oz chopped tomatoes
½ tsp fresh ginger – grated

boil lentils in water – remove scum, add turmeric and stir, cover with lid ajar for 1 hour, stirring occasionally
heat oil in frying pan, add cumin, few seconds later add garlic, brown slightly then add onion, cabbage, chillies – Fry 10mins till brown and slightly crispy, add 1/4tsp salt, remove from heat.
When lentils are cooked, add salt, tomato, ginger, stir.
Cover and cook for 10mins more, add cabbage mixture, simmer for 2-3mins more.

I've got a decent veggie chili recipe somewhere that goes down well with non-veggies. I'll try and dig it out if I remember. It uses butternut squash plus potato, courgette, beans, etc and is pretty hearty.
posted by biffa at 9:39 AM on June 29, 2004

I'm told that this vegan Mac 'n' Cheese recipe is pretty darn good, but I haven't tried it yet. The site has a few more vegan recipes, too.
posted by neckro23 at 10:13 AM on June 29, 2004

Oh, and it might seem odd, but most barbecue sauces are completely vegan, and they can really spice up things like Boca Burgers or Seitan.

For the kids, try grilling a Boca Burger patty in a pan, then slicing it into chunks. Cover wtih BBQ sauce, and roll into a tortilla. Mmm. Better than a Sloppy Joe.
posted by scarabic at 10:24 AM on June 29, 2004

Some terrific ideas so far, thank you! Keep them coming! I'll be distilling the thread into a shopping list and trying to make my Whole Foods, also commonly known as "Whole Paycheck," run tonight.

I don't want to camp out and moderate the thread, but a few things call for reponses. I promise to shut up afterwards!

in re fake meat, Morningstar: I could probably pull it off, but I'm kind of shooting for something a little more entertaining for the adults than corndogs/hot dogs. Those Morningstar mini corndogs are a great little finger food, though.

iconomy: Pancakes? How's that work without dairy & egg? Google revealed some possibiilties which are hard for me to judge. I just don't have an intuitive sense of how things like soy "milk" and faux egg work when cooked!

I love the lightly-charred garlic bread idea (I've had great luck sticking half-loaves under the broiler for a minute or two), and I imagine I can substitute the customary oil & butter for just plain oil without any problems, but WTF do you do for a cheese heartiness flavor analogue? Or does it go straight up garlic without something to blunt the sweetness and bite? I've smelled that "vegan parmesan" and it's not appetizing stuff.

biffa: That curry looks like it would work fabulously with lumps of potato -- which the kids might actually eat -- substituted for the mushroom. They'll be here on weeknights, so in the interest of time I'd probably have opt for canned beans.

Okay, shutting up now. Really.
posted by majick at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2004

I'd try to make dishes where at the end you can separate them and add meat into one and veggies into the other, such as a curry with chicken added to one dish at the end and veggies added to the other dish, or a marinara sauce with meatball added for the carnivores.
posted by gyc at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2004

If you're cooking for vegans and non-vegans, maybe try cooking in easy-to-customize pouches, as described in this transcription of an episode of Alton Brown's "Good Eats" TV show. His recipe examples aren't vegan, but late in the episode, he shows a chart with categories of items to combine, and this could no doubt give you some ideas of vegan combos that would be easy & tasty!
posted by clever sheep at 10:27 AM on June 29, 2004

Oh, and it might seem odd, but most barbecue sauces are completely vegan...

Not always: some contain refined sugar, which is filtered thru' cattle bone char and offends some vegetarians/vegans, and many (e.g. Kraft) contain high-fructose corn syrup, which is vegan but not always considered healthy.*

*Kraft Thick 'n' Spicy Original Barbecue Sauce (supermarket brand).
First two ingredients: High fructose corn syrup, water.
. . .
Sylvia's Mild & Sassy Original Sauce (supermarket brand).
First two ingredients: Water, sugar.
. . .

posted by Shane at 10:37 AM on June 29, 2004

You could pick something from this site. I don't cook for kids, but I am a vegan, and when I cook vegan food for non-vegans, vegweb recipies usually impresses the carnivores.

If you feel up to it, a lot of Mediterranean dishes can be adapted to being vegan, as can a lot of Indian dishes. Falafel is vegan and very awesome.

Be wary of soy cheese, if you go that route, there are very few out there that don't have casein (a milk protein) in them.

Boca burgers are owned by Phillip Morris (and, in my opinion, taste terrible) , so you might have ethical issues with giving them money. These are a much better option.

Ener-G egg replacer works well as an egg substitute. We use it in my house to make pancakes and such.

Slightly off-topic, I just noticed Balance Bars often have gelatin, ruining them for the vegetarian, not just the vegan, market. I do not understand why so many foods that are just a tiny step away from being vegetarian or vegan miss out on selling to the entire demographic by one or two tiny ingredients. I guess it must be cost-effective, though, as that's the bottom line.

What's strange is that a lot of store-brand Safeway products, including their bread, are entirely vegan, since it's actually more cost-effective for them to not use animal products. I've never figured out why they don't advertise that fact. I always chalk the use of gelatin up to an unimaginative food scientist somewhere.

but WTF do you do for a cheese heartiness flavor analogue?

Whole Foods sells a vegan parmesan cheese made by these folks, it works pretty well.
posted by cmonkey at 10:49 AM on June 29, 2004

Majick, I just bought vegan pancake mix at the health food store (blush). Betcha that Whole Foods has some as well. As far as the charred bread goes, I put dry sliced bread on the bbq, and char it till it has some black stripes on it. It's so luscious as a base for nice vegetables. Then I drizzle it with oil, and add the bruschetta or however you spell it. It's also quite nice with roasted red peppers, or even better, with an artichoke or eggplant spread that you can make from just roasting or boiling your peeled and chopped chosen veggie, and then pureeing it with garlic, lemon, salt, etc, until you get the flavor that you're after. I know what you mean about the cheese, but the heartiness and saltiness and even creaminess of the artichoke or eggplant spread will make you forget about cheese for a little while, I promise! You can serve the spread hot, room temp, or even cold. I always make this for company when they come for dinner.

I don't use tofu, or fake meat, or imitation dairy products, or anything like that, and people are always pretty happy with whatever I make. Unless they've been lying to me all these years... I think I'm maybe a bit of a purist, though. I'll bet your vegan friends wouldn't mind if you used non-dairy cheese, or something like that, though. You could always have it on hand just in case, since you're giving Whole Foods your Whole Paycheck this week anyway ;)

PS - I don't think moderating your own thread on AskMe is a problem - it's your question, and we're all responding to you, not a link, like on the blue.
posted by iconomy at 11:00 AM on June 29, 2004

If you're good with garlic bread under the broiler, and want something more substantial on it, try this:

Spinach Pistou:

- 1 bag / 1 lb fresh spinach
- 1 cup pistachios
- 1 cup olive oil
- 1 tsp crushed garlic
- salt and pepper
- 1 cup parmesan cheese (omit for vegan, may substitute any vegan cheese substitute like shredded bean curd)

roughly chop the spinach and the pistachios, (I use a cutting board and a two-handled curved blade). Too fine ruins the flavor, but you don't want big chunks. Mix all the ingredients. Salt and pepper to taste.

Serve in a bowl with the garlic bread, cut into roughly 1" strips across the short way of the bread. I like to knife on a very generous amount of the pistou.

If pasta is OK, then I strongly recommend an Italian dish called El Bandiero. It's just penne pasta, chunked tomato, crushed tomato, a dash of olive oil and garlic, plus either spinach or arugula. Email me if you want a recipe.
posted by yesster at 11:05 AM on June 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Oh - just thought of this -- an absolutely wonderful dish that's easy to make: asparagus risotto. Anybody who doesn't like that should just stick to fast food crap.
posted by yesster at 11:08 AM on June 29, 2004

"PS - I don't think moderating your own thread on AskMe is a problem - it's your question, and we're all responding to you, not a link, like on the blue."

Hush! If I shut up and stay out of the way, I'll get more recipes!

Speaking of which, since everyone's sharing, here's what I trotted out last time they were in town. It was a hit but I don't want to wear out its welcome by cooking it again:

Penne or rigatoni, something that really take a sauce. Bash up whatever tomato you can get your hands on: cherry tomato, that extra heirloom that's not enough to use by itself, a can, whatever. Moosh em together in a collander in the sink (because otherwise things'll get too juicy) just get in there with your hands, drizzle a good thick balsamic. Be generous but don't go nuts. Salt it. Leave it alone for a while because you've got to get the garlic and basil chopped.

Heat up a pan with more olive oil than you think you need. Throw all the garlic and about half the basil in. Let it do its thing, sautee a while. Spoon out some of the oil and a bit of garlic for anyone who doesn't want tomatoes, because here they come straight from the collander. Crank up that heat!

As soon as the tomatoes disintegrate and the mess in your pan starts to change color, throw the rest of the basil in, pull it off the heat, and slather the whole pile over the pasta.

Sorry I've got no measurements, but I just don't cook that way.
posted by majick at 11:20 AM on June 29, 2004

I don't cook that way either, majick; the qty's listed in my previous post are estimates.
posted by yesster at 11:28 AM on June 29, 2004

I was just going to mention risotto. I make a saffron risotto that is plenty fancy for adults while also being fun mush for kids. Served with a nice salad and a side of bread, it's a pretty okay meal. You can toss in some finely chopped nuts like cashews or toasted almonds to give it some more texture. Using veggie stock instead of chicken stock and some sort of vegan parmesan cheese and it's still super tasty. Other vegan recipes I like include red pepper soup and red lentil soup. I've also cooked with rice/soy milk a lot and have found that with the exception of baking bread, it usually substitutes for regular milk pretty well. Just make sure that if you buy tasty vanilla soy/rice milk for drinking, you also get some plain stuff for baking with. Mac and cheese with vanilla rice milk is teh suck. Other tips are: olive oil is good in place of butter when you're looking for savoriness [like on garlic bread, for example] and veggie stock is good in place of chicken/beef stock when you're mainly looking for salty/tasty, browning rice or carmelizing onions is really a way to pull flavor out of stuff that normally isn't thought of as the centerpiece to a dish.
posted by jessamyn at 11:29 AM on June 29, 2004 [1 favorite]

Breakfast ideas: Granola/cereal with rice milk. Hash browns with veggies (peppers, onions, tomatoes, corn). Smoothies (use a banana base; with or without soy/rice milk).

Vegan muffins. I am vegetarian not vegan, but I don't usually have eggs or milk on hand since I use them so rarely, and I buy soy margarine instead of butter because it's cheaper. Use this egg substitute:

1 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 Tbsp. flour
3 Tbsp. water

Mix separately in a small bowl with a fork until foamy. Add to recipe. Substitutes for one egg. (You can't tell the difference. Seriously. In all the muffins, cookies, breads, and even cakes I've tried this in, it's worked great.)

Here's a simple vegan pancake recipe, just add choco-chips:

1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 cup unbleached white flour
1 Tbsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 cup soymilk or rice milk
2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. liquid sweetener (maple syrup, rice syrup)

Combine first four ingredients in a bowl. Combine last three ingredients in a second bowl. Add liquid mix to dry mix and mix 'til just moist: don't overmix, a few lumps are okay. Heat griddle or frying pan on medium heat. Pour 1/2 tsp. of oil on the griddle and heat through. Make circles of batter and cook until bubbles form, then flip. Continue flipping as needed until brown, about 4 minutes.

(Both recipes above from The Teen's Vegetarian Cookbook by Judy Krizmanic.)

For dinner: try these burritos that jennyb posted in a previous AskMeFi question, they're *excellent* and I can't recommend them enough!

Mexican Pizza: drain two cups of salsa, spread on unbaked crust, combine 3/4 cup of black beans with 1/2 cup of corn kernels and add a little spices or chopped fresh cilantro. Spread on salsa, bake as usual, top with avocado and tomato. Or just regular pizza with no cheese on the vegan side and topped with a lot of veggies.

I have had very good luck with this Yves Ground Round veggie chili recipe, except for part or all of the fake ground round (which is expensive), I use two cups of TVP crumbles (insanely cheap) soaked in one cup boiling tomato juice/V8. My husband (who eats meat) loves it.
posted by Melinika at 12:04 PM on June 29, 2004

No one's mentioned, but veggie kids = fruit. Make sure that you have plenty of fresh fruits on hand that can be eaten straight out of hand. If you've got a farmer's market where you can get local produce, all the better. Fresh veggies too, especially salad fixings -- until you're getting things sorted out, it's not hard to make a meal out of a big salad and some bread.

I will second the trick that has been mentioned of bases (pasta, stirfries, curries, salads) that can have meat added or extra veggies, tofu or nuts added, per needs/preferences. My extended family frequently uses that method frequently (we're pretty evenly split between veggie/not veggie) and it allows everyone to leave the table satisfied. (Oh, on the recipe front, I'm vegetarian, not vegan, and have an unnatural fondness for all things cheese, but many of my recipes are vegan or easily transformed.)
posted by Dreama at 3:51 PM on June 29, 2004

While at Whole Paycheck, look for coconut oil. It's solid at room temp, so look for a jar, not a bottle. It's a great butter replacement, especially for sauteeing vegetables for soup or curry, and on the griddle for making pancakes. And if you don't find yourself cooking with it after the vegans leave, you can use it as body oil!

Vegi chili is always a good choice. I use grated carrots instead of meat, and an assortment of beans.

Have lots of fresh fruit on hand for breakfast to go with the granola/oatmeal/soymilk/rice milk. On, preview, as Dreama sez. Peanut butter & jelly should be on the shopping list too.

Grilled portobello mushrooms with mashed root vegetables (cooked in veg broth & finished with parsley & olive oil).

ok hungry now...
posted by obloquy at 4:02 PM on June 29, 2004

Your duties as host do not necessarily include bending over backward to cater to your guests' dietary preferences. I wouldn't expect someone whose hospitalitiy I was taking advantage of to serve me only low-carb food, for example, and a Jewish family staying with gentiles would just have to accept that the food is probably not going to be kosher. Sure, it's a friend and her kids, so you want to do good by them, but they are surely accustomed to working with their particular food preferences when they visit other people. And if you have no experience with vegan cooking, your results will likely be suboptimal anyway. So rather than trying to figure things out before she gets there, why not ask your friend to help you cook? She'll have ideas for what to cook and advice on how best to do it, and you'll learn something that will be useful for next time.
posted by kindall at 4:10 PM on June 29, 2004

Are the kids tall and healthy with straight teeth and beaming constitutions? Just curious.
posted by stbalbach at 5:06 PM on June 29, 2004

kindall: I appreciate your outlook on the matter, but there are two unbendable rules of hospitality in my home. The first is that nobody leaves hungry, ever. The second is that nobody else cooks in my kitchen, ever. Having made my bed, I must now proceed to sleep in it. In addition, a family that has been vegan for years -- the lifetime of the children at the least -- could be made violently ill by the introduction of non-vegan foodstuffs into their diet even as incidentals. I understand this has happened to them in the past, and I don't care to be a party to it. When food preference swerves into becoming a matter of well-being, I'm inclined to go ahead and be as accomodating as possible.

As I love to eat, enjoy cooking, and prefer to make something of a spectacle of both, that means at this point I've no choice but to cook vegan chow for a couple of days. It's better to play the solicitous host, in my eyes, than to veer too far in the other direction. Call it personal preference if it makes you feel better.

Dreama: Fruit, as always, will be readily on hand, but I'll be sure to heavily stock up.

stbalbach: I've a policy of not commenting on other folks' offspring in public forums if I can avoid doing so. Sorry.
posted by majick at 6:54 PM on June 29, 2004

First, check with your guests in advance over exactly what they do and don't eat, to make sure you understand your constraints. There's a lot of variation... some people who call themselves vegan eat honey; some eat bone-filtered sugar.

Then, be really careful. Animal ingredients lurk in the damnedest places; it's not at all obvious. Most soy cheeses have casein. Most veggie burgers have cheese. Some ingredients, like glycerin, "natural flavors," "natural colors," may or may not be vegan; if an ingredient list doesn't specify, you have to assume it's not.

If you have access to a Whole Foods or another good natural foods store, there are a lot of fake meat products that are easy to make, and might satisfy the meat-eaters in your family. (Then again, some vegetarians are put off by fake meat products... best to ask.)

Some I like are Gimme Lean sausage, Yves veggie ground round, Fakin' Bacon, Boca Burgers (most aren't vegan, but one is explicitly labelled 'vegan,') Nate's Meatless Meatballs.

If you take a meal with meat and subtract the meat, odds are that what's left isn't nutritionally balanced. Vegetarians need protein, too, and an all-starch meal isn't very satisfying. So think about a protein source to go alongside the pasta and sauce.

Iconomy's links, above, are good sources.

And, finally, thanks for caring about your guests' diets. But please note also that most real live vegans of any duration (as opposed to the bogeyman vegans of some meat eaters' imaginations) are sick to death over the fuss their diets create (just not enough that it overwhelms their motivations toward veganism.) Your guests probably already have things in mind for how to minimize the fuss. This is another reason that, since you want to make them more comfortable, discussing what you're thinking in advance could help.

good luck.
posted by Zed_Lopez at 12:13 AM on June 30, 2004

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