Fredericksburg Parent

June 2019

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10 Fredericksburg Parent and Family • June 2019 WRITTEN BY DEBRA CAFFREY practical pantry The Split Table: A few months ago, my husband announced he was going vegetarian. As the main meal planner, grocery shopper and cook of the house, I got nervous! Even though we've never been huge carnivores (I don't eat red meat), I've based our family meals around classics and favorites I've cooked for years, which includes lots of chicken, fish and occa- sional red meat—for him. Although we already eat a lot of plant-based, meatless dinners, I was initially overwhelmed at the thought of coming up with a protein alternative every night. And, ironically, I used to be full vegetarian many years ago (I went back to chicken and fish and was not ready to give them up). How much more complicated would it be to menu plan for separate dietary needs? What if I wanted to plan for chicken parmesan one night and couldn't think of what else my husband could eat? As it turns out, I've come to find that meal planning and cooking with a vegetarian in the house while there are still some meat-eaters is not hard! As a lover of food and all things culinary, I'm more inspired than ever to discover dif- ferent dishes, flavors and ingredients. It's no more expen- sive, and it's encouraged all of us to eat even more plant- based meals. There is more thought involved when I'm initially meal planning and preparing my shopping list, but this pays off in the long run and provides the blueprint for our eating and food habits to be successful for the week. So whether you're trying to accommodate vegetarian eaters in the household, or simply looking for ways to transition your family to a more plant-based diet, here are my tips to alleviate any thoughts of feeling over- whelmed by the task: Approach It with the Right Attitude. Be supportive of those in the house who are going meatless and don't harbor resentment about how it might make things more tricky for you. Be inspired and focus on taking on the challenge with excitement and energy. Take It Slow My first instinct was to research and buy every fancy "fake meat" product in the store and figure out the tastiest ways to use it right away. Don't worry about that—start small. Experiment with one or two veggie or meat substitute products and master a few recipes and techniques before moving on. Pace your grand ideas and remember: not everything has to be gourmet cuisine. Meet in the Middle with Meat and Veggie-Friendly Meals. Keep in mind that many dishes can accommodate both a meat component as well as meatless proteins. For instance, you can do Taco Tuesday but be sure to have beans for your vegetarian. I love doing tons of "make your own" type meals such as burritos, grain bowls and wraps where you can provide a bunch of different ingredients and components from which everyone can build their own plates. Embrace Global Cuisines There's a whole world out there filled with herbivores who have mastered delicious food! Take time to research and explore different cuisines and you'll find a wealth of ideas for vegetarian meals. For instance, you can make a Mexican bean and rice casserole one night, a tasty Indian vegetable curry the next, and a Chinese tofu stir-fry the next. So many international cuisines rely heavily on spices, herbs and other flavor enhancers that make anything absolutely delectable! Separate Proteins to Add Later You can still make the base of your favorite casserole or one-pot meal and simply add the different proteins later on to accommodate for different eaters. For instance, I made a chicken and white bean chili, but I cooked the chicken separately. After plating my husband's chili with extra white beans, I combined the chili with my portion of chicken, and it was a win for everyone. Don't forget you can also go "halfsies" on certain items. For example, if you're making lasagna, you can add crumbled Italian sausage to just half and keep the rest meatless. How to Cook for Both the Vegetarians and Meat Eaters in Your Family There is more thought involved... but this pays off in the long run...

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