If you are hosting a traditional Easter dinner this year, but have a few (or just one!) vegetarian or vegan (or gluten-free, or allergy sensitive) dinner guest(s), here are seven tips to make them feel welcome and well-fed at your holiday celebration..
Hosting Vegetarians at Easter Dinner: 7 Tips!
1. Get the Details. You may have heard that this person was “vegetarian” but you want to first make sure that you are prepared for what exactly they CAN eat. There is a big difference between a vegan and vegetarian. Vegans don’t eat dairy and egg products like butter, cheese and egg-containing baked goods – while vegetarians do. If you are unsure of what your guest eats, just ask! I assure you this is not the first time they will be giving their eating info out to a host, and it will make them feel welcome and thought-of that you cared enough to ask.
2. Hint at the Menu. You can take a lot of pressure off yourself by quickly emailing over the loosely planned menu for your feast. And mentioning dishes on your menu that they might be able to eat. Include the ingredients of those dishes. (Sometimes a tiny tweak can make a big difference! Like using agave syrup instead of honey – or Earth Balance or olive oil instead of butter.) Then you can simply ask if there is a recipe or dish that they would love to have you prepare for them. But do not fear – MOST of the time (if the person lives close and is not traveling) the veg or special diet guest will offer to bring their own dish. This way they know exactly what the ingredients are and they are also contributing to the meal and sharing a favorite recipe.
3. Need Help? If the guest isn’t speaking up or doesn’t seem very helpful in relation to the menu it is time to hit the internet! I promise you that there are oodles of recipes to fit special diet needs for the holidays. Just one hearty dish made for that person can be the difference between and empty plate and a happy guest.
Vegan & Vegetarian Recipe Sources:
* Browse Babble’s 14 Vegan Recipes for Easter round-up. Also try Babble’s “vegan” section.
* Check out my website Healthy. Happy. Life. for my 40 vegan recipes for Easter. These recipes are suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
* Also a wealth of recipes for vegans is FindingVegan.com. For gluten-free recipes, check out the gluten-free tab! FV has recipes submitted by vegan bloggers from all over the web.
* VegWeb.com is run by VegNews Magazine and has user-submitted and rated recipes with a holiday section as well.
4. Be Vocal. If you didn’t have the proper time or opportunity to plan ahead and coordinate with the special diet guests (or if it is ‘news to you’ upon start of the event) don’t be shy in chatting directly with the guest(s) so that together you can make sure there is an option for them at the dinner table.
5. Safe(ish) Foods. It is always a good idea (even if you think all your guests will eat anything!) to have a few safe foods at your celebration. Foods like raw veggies (a wide array!), fresh fruit, nuts, assorted crackers (some rice crackers for gf folks!), nut or seed spreads like almond or sunflower butter, simple fruit jam, hummus, guacamole and a few simple other one or ‘few’ ingredient items on your appetizer table.
6. Milks! If you are offering tea or coffee at your meal or you are doing a brunch with beverages or cereal, be sure and pick up one soy milk and one almond milk. You can get the easy ‘shelf-stable boxed’ varieties for just a few bucks. Toss it towards the back of your fridge, or if you will be heating it up to serve you can keep it in your pantry. This way you can be prepared by offering soy milk, but even more “super cool” of you is to offer soy OR almond milk. Since many vegans are limiting their soy intake lately for various reasons.
7. Dessert Time. If you dread that moment when your traditional non-vegan dessert is brought out and feel bad for the vegan who cannot join in, do this: have some simple (easy to find) sorbet and fresh berries or sliced bananas on hand. Or better yet, buy a pint of coconut milk ice cream to offer everyone. Or buy a simple vegan dark chocolate bar and make an elegant chocolate nibbler platter to pass around. I promise, vegans will be thrilled to see a dessert offering (anything!) that they can enjoy. Another option is to head over to your local natural foods store and buy one or a few single serving desserts from the bakery who can assure you that they are vegan.
Other Thoughts and Advice:
* Ingredient labels. If you really want to get detailed, you can label all the foods you are serving and have ingredient lists available to anyone who may want to browse them.
* Potluck. Make your entire feast a potluck meal. This makes it easy on you, fun for the guests and anyone who may be on a diet, have a special diet or other needs. They can always eat their brought dish(es).
* Brunch it! Brunch is generally more veg-friendly that dinner. Fresh fruit is in abundance, light salads and grain dishes can easily be made vegan without compromising “grandma’s secret recipe” and any meal with a more buffet-ish approach is easier on guests with special diets.
* Kids Candy. Easter candy is generally not vegan. But there are plenty of vegan version brands and recipes out there! Yes there are vegan peeps, vegan Cadbury eggs, vegan peanut butter eggs, vegan jelly beans and vegan-raw Easter bunnies! Whole Foods usually sells a few brands or buy online or make them yourself. Check out this post for those!
* Be Respectful. I know this is pretty much obvious information to an experienced host, but making sure your special diet guests feels welcome and not put on the spot is crucial to a successful interaction and meal. Though you might be extra sensitive and thoughtful, you might want to make sure other guests do the same. If light dinner chatter turns to the topic of why that person isn’t eating anything, give them a light chance to address the group (if they want) and then change the subject. Some veg eaters will be eager to engage a curious crowd in diet chatter, while others might feel uncomfortable being singled out.
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