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Vegan or Vegetarian

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“Mom, I'm bringing my girlfriend home for Christmas Eve dinner.  She can't wait to meet you, and by the way, she is vegan.”

Vegan, vegetarian, lacto-ovo vegetarian. How are they the same and how are they different?  What can you serve that they can eat? Do you have to serve some strange soy “fake meat” or things that no one else at the table will want to eat? The answer is no. Today there is a world of recipes, flavors and products available for those who consume a vegetarian or vegan diet.

Vegetarians are defined as those whose diet does not contain meat, poultry, fish and shellfish. Some vegetarians eat eggs and dairy; others don't. Many choose the diet for health reasons, religious beliefs and environmental reasons or to reduce cruelty to animals.

Vegans carry their diet restrictions further to include the removal of dairy, eggs, honey, whey, gelatin and any derivative of animal products. Some don't wear leather or use products containing animal products.

When you begin to look for things to cook for your vegetarian/vegan company, be sure the recipe is egg-free, dairy-free, and casein-(dairy protein) free. Be sure products you may use (such as salad dressings) are also free of these items. There are several great websites with vegan and vegetarian recipes. If they are only joining you for one meal, don't worry about trying to meet their protein needs. Most will be glad to have a choice on the menu besides green salad.

Another benefit to providing a vegetarian or vegan selection to your meal is that it also will eliminate several of the major allergens. Many vegan recipes can be made without nuts and gluten as well.

Here are a few that should please even your non-vegetarian guests.


Hot Tamale Pie
1 tablespoon olive oil                                                                                                                       
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 medium yellow, red, or green bell pepper, seeded and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 16-oz. can unsweetened tomato sauce
1 16-oz. can pinto beans, rinsed and drained
1 ear corn, kernels cut off the cob, or 3/4 cup thawed frozen corn
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
3 cups water
1 cup yellow stone-ground cornmeal
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, bell pepper and garlic and cook until softened, 6 to 8 minutes.
Remove from the heat and stir in the tomato sauce, pinto beans, corn, chili powder, cumin, salt and cayenne. Pour into an 8- by 8-inch glass baking dish.
Preheat oven to 350°. Boil the water, add the cornmeal, lemon juice, mustard and salt in a large saucepan, and stir until mixed. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened, 3 to 5 minutes.
Spread the cooked cornmeal over the bean mixture. Bake for 30 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes before serving. Makes an 8-inch square pie.
Vegan: Dairy-Free, Casein-Free, Gluten-Free, Egg-Free

Wild Rice Dressing
4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup long-grain brown rice
3/4 cup wild rice
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 pound fresh mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
1/2 cup finely chopped parsley
1 cup sliced celery
1/4 teaspoon crumbled sage
1/8 teaspoon each black pepper, dried marjoram, and dried thyme
1/2 cup pecan halves, broken lengthwise
Bring water to a boil and add 1/4 teaspoon salt and both varieties of rice. Lower to simmer, then cover and cook until rice is tender but still crunchy, 30 to 40 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350° F.
In a large ovenproof skillet, gently heat the oil and saute the onion and mushrooms until the onion becomes transparent. Add the parsley, celery, cooked rice, seasonings and pecans. Stir to mix, then cover and bake for 15 minutes.
Vegan: Dairy-Free, Casein-Free, Gluten-Free, Egg-Free
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For the past 20 years, Cindy Welch has been involved with all aspects of cooking, including formal culinary training, experience as food service director for First Baptist Church of Euless, a personal chef and owner of Cindy’s Casa Cuisine. Cindy’s favorite hobby is “providing delicious food for the people of Sulphur Springs.”
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