Holiday cooking for vegetarians?

STILLWATER – What do you do when the guest list for the traditional holiday family meal includes someone who is vegetarian?

Relax. It is not a recipe for disaster, said Barbara Brown, Oklahoma State University Cooperative Extension food specialist.

“If your family has any special or favorite dishes you enjoy during the holidays, definitely keep them on the menu and simply incorporate dishes catering to the vegetarians or vegans in the crowd,” Brown said.

When a host knows in advance holiday guests have special dietary needs, asking them what they can eat, as well as what they like, is a great starting point that will provide some key information.

After all, there are different types of vegetarian diets. Not to mention lots of foods made for vegetarian diets contain either soy or wheat protein, which is gluten, so those dishes could pose issues for individuals with certain food allergies.

Armed with some basic, but key details, holiday hosts can confidently move forward creating a meal with something for everyone. A word of caution, though. Keep it simple and avoid dishes containing unfamiliar foods and ingredients.

“You’ve got enough to do over the holiday. It’s probably not the best time to experiment,” Brown said.

Soup is a good option, and so is winter squash, which can usually be stuffed with wild rice, cranberries and other ingredients appropriate for a vegetarian diet. Another alternative involves roasting winter vegetables such as Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower and broccoli. Other ideas for side items include roasted mushrooms, risotto and sweet potatoes. Pasta dishes without meat or salads with greens, toasted nuts, dried cranberries and homemade croutons are viable choices, as well.

Hosts can make some recipe substitutions, too, such as using nonmeat ingredients when possible, cooking with vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and exchanging margarine for butter.

Of course, as families and friends grow more diverse and tastes vary widely, there is always potluck.

“As the host of a potluck style holiday meal, simply provide a few basic main dishes and invite others to bring sides,” Brown said. “That way, everyone knows there will be at least one dish they like and will eat.”