October 2007 Archives

What to Feed a Vegan (the PDF)


If you've ever wondered how on earth you're going to serve your health-conscious (or just fussy) guests at the holiday dinner table, this 11 page booklet will get you started. It comprises meal planning, ideas for dinner, dessert, cocktails, casual meals, & breakfasts. The range of dietary choices and food options are neatly organized with charts so you can see at a glance who will eat what.

What to Feed a Vegan (172K PDF)

If you prefer not to download the PDF for printing and reading offline, you can read back through the posts beginning October 16th for the full series. But the PDF has bonus recipes.

What to Feed a Vegan (spicy beans)

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This recipe is a part of one of our standby quick meals along with some tortillas and chopped vegetables. There's no need for an Old El Paso spice mix when you can easily make your own (and tailor the blend to your tastes, too!)

Spicy Mexican Beans
serves 2
(suitable for vegans, vegetarians, omnivores, low/no fat and gluten-free diets)

1 can beans (navy, pinto, black, etc)
1 pickled jalapeño, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 onion, minced
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp chili powder
salt and pepper

In a deep frying pan or pot, sautee the onions and garlic in a bit of oil until the onions are translucent. Add the beans and stir vigorously to smush them up a bit. Additional oil will make the beans creamier, but isn't strictly necessary. Mix in the spices & jalapeño. Salt and pepper to taste.

What to Feed a Vegan (for guests)

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Lest you think I am picking on the cooks & hosts here and putting all the burden of a successful meal on them, guests have their duties, too.

Party Manners

Be a tolerant and appreciative diner. It is horrible behavior to have a snit or be militant at the dinner table. Your fellow diners are not likely to be converted to your diet by discussion of slaughterhouses, weight loss or health issues. Let them find their own best eating habits.

Politely decline dishes that you can't eat. Usually a simple "no thanks" will suffice, or just pass the serving dish to the next person. If you are asked to explain why you are not eating Aunt Joy's cheesy sardine and rye bread casserole, do it in a way that doesn't make her feel like an idiot for not knowing you are vegan, gluten intolerant or whatever.

Praise the dishes you can eat and thank the cook if she made an extra effort to accommodate you (even if she didn't get it right).

If you are attending a pot-luck, the menu planning ideas on page 3 apply. Find the common denominator. You don't want to be the only person at the event enjoying your casserole.

If you are dining with company that you know won't accommodate your diet, eat before you get there and pick at a few things for show, if necessary. Or plan to arrive after the meal to enjoy socialising without the awkward table scenario. It it generally not OK to bring your own individually portioned meal in a plastic container and to microwave it and serve yourself.


Is it better to let a hostess know your dietary restrictions or to do your best to find something to eat at the table? This is a difficult question to answer, as each case is different.

If you decide to let your host or hostess know in advance, help your hostess understand what your dietary restrictions are in simple language – avoid medical terms or diet jargon. Try to put the emphasis on your hostess' ease - she doesn't have to do anything different, you will just not be eating the roast/bread/cheese/whatever and wanted her not to worry. It is gracious to offer to bring a dish that everyone can enjoy and share. If she wants to know what she can make for you, have a suggestion ready that is not too time-consuming or expensive.

Enjoy Yourself

No matter whether you're a vegan staring down a plate of creamy mashed potatoes and a slab of roast beef, or a lucky gluten-free eater whose hostess cooked rice instead of pasta, be as charming, happy and fun as you can be. That will make the meal a memorable one, no matter what is on the menu.

Tomorrow: recipes

What to Feed a Vegan (cocktails and snacks)

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Cocktails and snacks are another easy buffet situation. There's not much difficulty in throwing a festive cocktail party - choose good music, supply sufficient cocktails (but not too many), and an assortment of things to nibble. Kick everyone one out after a couple of hours, ideally to a restaurant or an event you've arranged elsewhere.

Here are some snack and alcohol suggestions:


Tomorrow: good guests

What to Feed a Vegan (breakfast)

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If you have holiday house guests, you'll have to tackle breakfasts. Unless you are a morning person, you may not have the energy to supply a huge spread of options.

Vegans are likely to eat fruit and unbuttered toast (though nut butters and vegetable spreads are good for vegans); no-carb & gluten-free people will prefer cheese omelets and sausage without toast on the side.

The only commonality among everyone is coffee and tea, so brew up a pot and then have a look at the options in the chart below to see what's going to work for your groggy group.


Tomorrow: cocktails and snacks

What to Feed a Vegan (dessert)

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It doesn't seem like a party without some sort of dessert, but this is probably the most difficult course to create harmony in.

Typical baked goods of all types are out of bounds for vegan, no-carb, no-fat and gluten-free diets because of butter, sugar, flour and eggs. Custards are ok for gluten-free folks, but not no-carb, no-fat or vegan diets.

Traditional Dessert Spread


So you can see that there is no one desert to suit everyone and for some of these diets, the options are limited unless recipes are modified to exclude the unwelcome ingredients. But in baking that can be tricky, so here's a chance to get your guests involved. If someone offers to bring something, suggest they bring a sweet dessert. Nearly everyone on a special diet has a favorite after-dinner treat, so you're likely to get an interesting range.

If you want to serve a dessert course just in case promised desserts don't turn up, how about a Continental twist: fruit and cheese? Just like the taco or salad bar, this allows everyone to choose their own.

Continental Dessert Spread


Tomorrow: breakfast

What to Feed a Vegan (holiday feast)

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If you're reading this series as a holiday host, maybe you're panicked about how to make a tofu turkey, or what to do about stuffing for your no-gluten guests. Don't worry. The spread at a holiday meal is a wide and varied as a taco bar, and even though each holiday dish is composed of many pieces, you can adjust recipes to suit your guests.

Adjusting recipes often means simplifying them by doing things like not buttering the vegetables or excluding ham pieces from the potato casserole. Some recipes can be adjusted by substitution (replacing butter with vegetable oil for example), or by changing the cooking method from sauteed to steamed.

Traditional Feast


Many of the dishes in this menu can be enjoyed by only a few types of eaters. And the vegan guests are going to leave hungry or have to compromise their diets. How can we modify this menu to allow more people to eat dinner?

Modified Feast


Now everyone has at least five dishes to dig into.

Tomorrow: dessert

What to Feed a Vegan (casual meals)

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It can be a challenge to come up with a meal that satisfies omnivores, vegans, and other guests with special diets. And the more diversity you have in the guest list, the more creative you will have to be.

But there are two similar options perfect for lunches or casual dinners - Build Your Own Burrito/Taco or a Salad Bar. By offering a variety of ingredients buffet style, you allow guests to take their diets into their own hands and choose what they can eat.

But you have to figure out what to offer to give everyone enough to eat. Burritos with meat and cheese filling, lettuce and tomatoes will leave your vegans guests a little hungry. Only serving flour tortillas will give the gluten-free guests nothing to wrap the filling in! No-carb folks will appreciate

Here are some ideas for ingredients to include and which guest can eat what. As always, the ingredient listed are in their most natural forms, not variations manufactured for “low fat” or “no carb”. Please read labels when purchasing packaged foods – many contain hidden sources of gluten, fat or animal byproducts.

Taco Bar

Salad Bar

Another delicious option, if the weather is cooperative, is food grilled on the barbecue. Vegetarians will enjoy grilled vegetables and of course the meat-eaters will be happy with the meaty bits. Because everything is cooked separately, there's no meat-veg overlap, though it might be best to grill the vegetables first to avoid charred meat bits from clinging to the peppers and onions. Again, please read labels on any manufactured foods you buy - especially sauces and dressings - to avoid hidden gluten, fat and animal products.

Grilled Feast


(Note: my plan is to put all of these charts and the text together into one PDF that you can download when I've completed the series. Please be patient and suffer the on-screen charts until we're through with this topic!)

What to Feed a Vegan (menu planning)


When hosting a meal for people who eat differently than you do, it is wise to consider what you have in common and focus on that. The chart in yesterday's post can help.

  • You're gluten-free and your friends are vegan. Excellent, you can all eat rice and vegetables. That sounds like a stir-fry to me.
  • You're vegan and your friends are low-fat eaters. How about pasta primavera or a grilled vegetable sandwich?
  • You're an omnivore and your guests don't eat carbs. Sounds like a great excuse for a roast chicken and vegetables (but skip the potatoes, please).
  • You're no-carb and your guests are both vegan and low-fat eaters. This might be a little tricky...what do you have in common? Looks like only vegetables. Better serve soup and salad.

So it's certainly possible to cook delicious meals for a mixed crowd. But I will offer a few words of caution:

In general, it's best not to replace an original or whole food with a formulated version unless you are absolutely sure your guests will accept it. For example, there are no vegan cheeses that are remotely like cheeses non-vegans eat. Vegans may love them, but they are not really very cheese-like to anyone who eats the real thing. Serving them will only make your guests wonder how you can stand being vegan.

It is also bad form to foist your preferred specialty foods on your guests. Omnivores know it's rude to slip bacon into a casserole being served to vegetarians. Vegans understand that serving flaxseed lasagna is probably not going to go over really well with the omnivores. If you want to introduce your friends to the more esoteric aspects of your dietary plan, warn them first.

Tomorrow: three menu ideas for casual meals.

What to Feed a Vegan (and others)


As the holidays roll around, friends and families gather to celebrate the season but with a new emphasis on healthy eating, you may find yourself with a table full of guests who have dietary preferences and restrictions that are incompatible.

What to do? You want to be a good hostess and ensure that everyone goes home happy, healthy, and well-fed. How can you make sure that the vegan and the no-carb dieter both enjoy their meal?

It's tricky, but not impossible. My set of friends range from omnivores to vegans, lacto-ovo vegetarians, no carb, no fat ,and gluten-free eaters and I usually manage to throw a decent party. The next few days will help you get a feel for who eats what, how you can plan menus around these differences, and recipes that suit a combination of eaters.

An overview of diets and food categories

What's vegan?
A vegan is a vegetarian who eats only plant-based foods. They do not eat meat, poultry or seafood. Vegans also don't eat honey, milk, or eggs. No animal products at all.

What's lacto-ovo?
Lacto-ovo vegetarians eat plant-based foods and also dairy, eggs, and other animal products that don't kill the animals, like honey. Vegetarians do not eat meat, poultry or seafood.

What's omnivore?
Omnivores eat just about everything: plants, animals and minerals (but only the tasty ones). Omnivores are easy to cook for but sometimes they have restrictions, too, such as the next three categories.

What's no-carb?
People on carbohydrate restricted diets avoid starchy foods like bread, pasta and potatoes, and also sugary foods including many fruits.

What's no-fat?
No- or low-fat diets exclude oils, butter, eggs, and fatty meats. How much fat is acceptable depends upon the diner's individual restrictions.

What's no-gluten?
Gluten free diets exclude wheat and all of its cousins: barley, rye, semolina, spelt, triticale. Oats don't have any gluten, but they are often contaminated with wheat, so many gluten intolerant people avoid them.

Foods and diets in detail.

Download a printable PDF (76 KB)

A note on the foods listed. I am talking about the recipes your great-grandmother would have made, not manufactured foods that use plastics, chemicals or cheap fillers to declare themselves "X free!". In my chart, milk has fat; pasta is made of wheat; cakes and cookies are baked with butter, sugar and eggs. Of course you can find specially formulated substitutes to suit your guests' needs, but I'm not considering those in this chart.

Morsbags update

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It's been 4 months since I started making fabric shopping totes as part of the Morsbags project. Together with about a dozen other friends, we've sewn up 192 bags so far and given most of them away to strangers, friends and family.

I've been using my Morsbag every time I go shopping, so I'm sure I've refused at least 2 dozen bags. That's not going to reverse global warming or eliminate plastic bag litter, but it makes a small difference. There are more than 6,000 Morsbags in circulation worldwide and if everyone uses their bag consistently, that's a reduction of anywhere from 150,000 to 3 million bags.

You can do your part, too. It's really so painless. If you'd like to get involved, there are many ways to start:

  1. Make a bag (or a few) for yourself & friends. They make gifts, and great gift bags, too! Here's a simple Morsbag pattern to use.
  2. If you're in Tokyo
    • Join TokyoBags for a sewing session. Our next one is Sunday, October 21st.
    • Help pass out bags at an upcoming distribution.
    • Donate materials - old duvet covers, cotton curtains & table cloths are ideal. Sewing machines, irons, thread...we're happy to have them!
    • Host a workshop: I can teach kids or adults how to make Morsbags.
    • Start a new pod in Tokyo; TokyoBags doesn't want to hog all the fun! Register your pod with Morsbags so you can add to the tally.
  3. If you're not in Tokyo
    • Join a local pod or form a group of your own. Register your pod with Morsbags so you can add to the tally.
    • Get your school or community group involved.
    • Donate money to help keep morsbags running

More about Morsbags:
Website: http://www.morsbags.com
Forums: http://www.morsbags.com/phpBB/
Morsmap: http://www.morsbags.com/html/morsmap.html
Photos: http://www.flickr.com/groups/morsbags/pool/
TokyoBags: http://groups.google.com/group/tokyobags

P.S. Check out Tracey's related post on plastic bags in Yokohama harbour. We're both posting environmental topics today as part of Blog Action Day.

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