Be the change you wish to see in the world...

- Gandhi

Monday, November 5, 2012

Taco Tuesdays and Other Ways I Feed My Non Vegan Family

Portrait of Stephanie Dreyer holding "I Am A Vegan" sign
Goofyfoot Photography 2011

Our local CBS affiliate recently aired a story about my family, reporting on veganism and the challenges in feeding my non vegan family.  This is a question I get asked a lot "Is your whole family vegan?"  When I tell them no, the next question I usually get is "Do you cook separate meals?"  The answer is, not really anymore.  At first I did.  I felt sort of guilty, like I shouldn't force my choice on them.  The truth is, though, as I became more educated about the health and environmental benefits of eating vegan, my position completely changed to that of wanting to feed my family the healthiest and kindest as possible.  I still believe veganism is a choice so I never force my family to eat what I cook, but I do expose them to vegan options at every meal and educate them as to why I make the choice not to eat animals.

I have three young children, so let's face it, mealtime is tough without adding vegan into the mix.  However, I refuse to turn my kitchen into a restaurant.  Instead, I have come up with what I call "mixed meals" where I build a vegan menu that incorporates options for everyone, meat and meatless.  I have listed some of my favorite, "go to" meals below.  My goal is to gently expose my fam to eating meatless without having to make two meals.  I also try to make the meals fun and interactive, which I have found goes a long way in getting them to eat what I put on their plate.  All of the meals below allow the kids to be part chef and get in on the "cooking" action.  

  • Taco Tuesdays are an institution in my house.  No matter what is happening in our lives, if it is Tuesday, we are eating tacos.  I set out tons of fillings in the middle of the table that cover the tastes of everyone, as well as homemade taco shells.  You can customize this list based on your family's favorites.  I also serve refried beans, and chips and salsa for sides.
    • Black beans
    • Ground turkey
    • Tomatoes
    • Cabbage
    • Corn
    • Avocado
    • Olives
    • Red onion 
    • Salsas
  • I received a panini maker for Mother's Day a few years ago, and our lives were changed forever.  For this meal, we all gather around the island in our kitchen, where I have set out two cutting boards - one with vegan sandwich fillings (portabello mushrooms, roasted red peppers, sun dried tomatoes, olives, spinach, and non dairy cheese), and another with meatless options (turkey, pastrami, cheeses).  I also set up different spreads, including mayo, mustard, and hummus.  The kids select their bread, spread and fillings, put it in the panini press, and grill their sandwich themselves.  They love it!
  • Going Greek with pitas offers kids more do-it-yourself fun.  I grill tofu and chicken (separately) with my favorite marinade and rub (freshly squeezed lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and rosemary) and set out warm pita halves, along with these main fillings on the table: kalamata olives, sliced cucumbers, sun dried tomatoes, red onion, hummus, and feta (you can buy a great vegan one at Whole Foods).  I serve a homemade Greek salad along with Terra vegetable chips for a Greek feast.
  • My kids love sushi.  I set out nori and sushi rice, along with the fillings below to please my kids.  They lay their selections down on the nori and I roll it up and slice for them.  I serve the rolls alongside miso soup and an asian "slaw" (Cabbage and shredded carrots, tossed with brown rice vinegar and sesame seeds)
    • Seasoned tofu (we like the Teriyaki flavor from Trader Joe's)
    • Carrot, sliced into matchsticks
    • Cucumber, sliced into matchsticks
    • Avocado

I'd love to hear what "mixed meals" you cook for your family or just share some of your family pleasers and maybe you'll give me a new meal idea.  And be sure to tell me what your family thinks if you try any of the above!