Vegan Meals for Skeptics

Vegan Meals for Skeptics

pastapinenutsIt can sometimes be stressful having non-vegan friends or relatives for dinner – or perhaps your spouse or children are nervous about eating meals free of animal products. Many non-vegetarians think vegans eat strange food. Perhaps you are transitioning to a vegan diet yourself and don’t know where to start. Rather than switching from steak to tempeh, or serving tofu or seitan to your wary guests, I recommend cooking familiar dishes that are naturally vegan.

Most non-vegetarians eat vegan meals without even realizing it. Or meals they eat can easily be made vegan without them knowing. Soups are a great example of this. Vegetable soup, minestrone, split pea, lentil, black bean, etc. are meals that no one would question if they didn’t contain meat or dairy. They are familiar so even the most hesitant guest won’t be afraid to try them. Many ethic foods are easy to make vegan as well. Toss pasta with garlic, olive oil, and toasted walnuts; stir-fry veggies and serve over rice or noodles; make Mexican rice and bean burritos and top with avocado and salsa. Nothing weird there!

For desserts, fruit cobblers, vegan cookies, or my delicious Better Than Ice Cream (recipe below) will have your guests asking when they can come to dinner again. Serving “normal” vegan foods is great advertising to others. If they see that a vegan diet doesn’t mean a drastic change, it may convince them to give it a try.

Squash and White Bean Soup
This soup was a hit in a cooking class I gave recently. Everybody asked for seconds.

  • 1 small onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 cups water or vegetable stock
  • 1 butternut, kabucha, or hubbard squash, peeled and cut into cubes (about 7 cups)
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh ginger or 1/2 teaspoon powdered ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons miso
  • 1 tablespoon tahini
  • 2 cups cooked white beans
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley or watercress
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

In large soup pot over medium-low heat, add onion and oil. Stir gently to spread and then cook about 15 minutes without stirring until onions are brown and caramelized. Stir in garlic. Add water or stock and squash. Cover and bring to boil over high heat. Lower heat and simmer 30 minutes until squash is tender. Puree squash mixture in blender or food processor with spices, miso, and tahini. Add water if soup is too thick. Return to pot and stir in beans and parsley or watercress over low heat. Season with sea salt and black pepper. Garnish with roasted pumpkin or squash seeds if desired.

Makes 6 servings

Pasta with Vegetables and Pine Nuts
This is a lovely light dinner full of colorful vegetables that takes only about a half hour or less to make.

  • 1 pound penne pasta, cooked and drained
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 large carrot, sliced (1/4 inch)
  • 1 cup cauliflower florets
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup chopped kale
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil or 2 tablespoons minced fresh
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sea salt and black pepper to taste

While pasta is cooking, place 1 tablespoon olive oil in large skillet with garlic, carrot, cauliflower, broccoli, and kale. Stir gently and cover pan. Steam 10 to 15 minutes, or until vegetables are just tender. Add a little water if necessary to prevent vegetables from scorching.

Drain pasta and place in large bowl. Add cooked vegetables, pine nuts, basil, 2 tablespoons olive oil, sea salt and pepper. Toss gently. Serve with grated vegan Parmesan cheese if desired.

Makes 8 servings

Note: You can use any combination of vegetables for this or even just two or three, as long as you use a total of 4 cups vegetables.

Better Than Ice Cream
Frozen bananas are the key to this rich, creamy treat. To freeze bananas, peel and slice ripe bananas. Lay on baking sheet or tray and place in freezer. After a hour or so when slices are frozen, transfer bananas to a freezer bag or container and keep frozen until ready to use.

  • 1/2 cup nuts (almonds, walnuts, pecans, etc.) (optional)
  • 1 cup frozen sliced bananas
  • 1 cup frozen diced peaches or berries
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup nondairy milk (almond, coconut, rice, or soy all taste great)

Place nuts in food processor and pulse until coarsely chopped. Add bananas and berries or peaches. Pulse until fruit is coarsely chopped. Add milk a little at a time through top of processor, and puree until creamy.

Makes 4 servings

Note: This is best eaten right after it is made. If you want to save it for later, place in individual containers and leave at room temperature about 10 minutes before eating.

Recipes from The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook copyright © 2005 by Cathe Olson.

Cathe Olson

Author: Cathe Olson

Cathe Olson is the author of the new nondairy ice cream cookbook: Lick It! Cream Dreamy Vegan Ice Cream Your Mouth Will Love, as well as Simply Natural Baby Food and The Vegetarian Mother’s Cookbook. Visit Cathe’s blog at

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