Thursday, September 14, 2006

A Guide To Parents And Others Who Have A Family Member Who Recently Announced Turn To Vegetarian

First rule, don’t freak out. There are lots of resources to help you. One mentioned is the group Vegetarian Resource Group. You can find them and an excellent page to start with at

This article does an excellent job of showing how one mother used creativity to tackle the new issues. In fact, most find it a much easier and cleaner route to cook. I do find the article a little overboard though in it's push for multi vitamins. They miss the point - it isn't vegetarians who need vitamins (obviously); it's meat eaters or those who eat strickly meat who need to consider vitamins.


Juggling act

Instead of becoming a short-order cook when a family member goes vegetarian, some home cooks come up with creative ways to satisfy everyone's appetite -- making flexible meals and flavorful meatless dishes, or bending the definition of dinner
Tuesday, September 12, 2006
The Oregonian

The words out of her teenage daughter's mouth triggered an instant eye roll: I'm becoming a vegetarian, said 16-year-old Molly Morgan.

Her mom, an adventurous cook and omnivore, remembered her own teenage declaration of independence from meat years earlier, an experiment that ended with a diagnosis of anemia.

But the family cook kept her lips sealed. "I put some duct tape on my mouth and listened," Diane Morgan says. "I couldn't give her a hard time about it." Nor was she willing, Morgan says, to become a short-order cook for her family of four.

Such is the conundrum among growing numbers of families.

With an estimated 1.4 million teens and preteens nationwide declaring themselves vegetarian -- 3 percent of those 8 to 18, says the nonprofit Vegetarian Research Group -- and many more eating meat only rarely, many home cooks wonder how to feed a family, fast, when differing diets collide.

Portlanders who routinely perform this juggling act swear by several approaches.

They plan two-in-one main dishes where protein, if desired, gets slipped on the plate at the end. They work up a reliable repertoire of "stealth" vegetarian dishes -- meals so flavorful and hearty, meat eaters happily dive in. And often, they relax about what constitutes dinner.

Morgan, the author or co-author of a dozen cookbooks, was fine with her daughter's food politics. (Molly gave up meat after interviewing vegans for a high school journalism project.) But she didn't want to double her work at the dinner hour.

Her first move was buying Molly a copy of "The Big Book of Vegetarian Meals," with basic nutrition information and a slew of simple recipes. She took her daughter shopping to stock the fridge with nutritious foods she had a hand in choosing. And the house rule became, "If you were going to choose not to eat the family dinner, you were going to have to come down early and cook something," Morgan says.

For her part, Morgan mastered dual-purpose dinners where the main dish could be split and adapted to everyone's needs. Pastas and stir-fries easily go in two directions, with portions set aside for vegetarians before meat goes in the dish. Soups are the same, Morgan says: You start with the same base of sauteed vegetables and split it into two pots, one with chicken or beef broth, the other with vegetable stock or water.

A full-size lasagna can be assembled in two small pans, one with ground sausage or beef tucked between pasta layers, the other with chewy tempeh, which has a more appealing texture than tofu in the dish, Morgan says.

Build-your-own dishes also work great at a mixed table. Think taco bar, with shredded rotisserie chicken and tomatillo salsa for the meaties, and black beans and pico de gallo for the veggies.

Morgan's family likes Asian lettuce cups, delicate packets of carrot shards, bean sprouts and shrimp, ground chicken or minced tempeh with a dollop of bottled peanut sauce.

Tofu, Morgan says, holds its own on the grill, provided it's the extra-firm type, sliced thick, drained well and doused with a zippy marinade. Smeared with a bright-tasting chile-laced lemon grass paste and cooked over an open flame, it was good enough to make it into her forthcoming grilling book. Crusty on the outside, creamy inside, the recipe passed muster not just with her finicky vegetarian daughter, but with her trusted carnivore tasters. "I had originally made (the paste) for a pork dish," she says, "but I put it on the tofu, and it was fabulous."

With deep flavors, no one

will miss the meat

Fall vegetables are the perfect springboard for meatless meals that satisfy one and all: Think roasted squash soups or minestrone swirled with pesto, served with chewy bread and a salad.

Now's the time to find Italian borlottos and other dried heirloom beans at farmers markets, and any bean "is a beautiful blank canvas" for flavors, says personal chef and registered dietitian Carrie Peacock. "You can cook them up in a tomato-rich sauce with oregano, thyme and basil and have that be your protein source."

Mushrooms also can pinch hit for meat: Toss fall chanterelles or any wild mushrooms in a skillet with butter or olive oil, add wine or broth, and fold into cooked whole-wheat soba noodles with some braised bok choy or another hearty green. Or grill marinated portobellos, and stuff them with strips of roasted pepper into your favorite sandwich roll or a yeasty bun, spread with gorgonzola mixed with a little mayonnaise. Call it a burger, and even the meat eaters won't feel deprived.

But what about protein? Most of us get more than enough without trying, and the recommendations on complete proteins -- that magic amino acid combination found in meat, or when you match beans with grains -- have changed. "They used to say, get them in the same meal or within 24 hours," says registered dietitian Lila Ojeda. "Now they're saying, as long as you get them within a week, that's fine. But it's good to have a big variety of (beans, nuts and grains), so you get your amino acids covered."

Many pediatricians recommend taking a multivitamin with iron as well.

Nutrition needs must also square with the demands on working parents.

The Geenen family has two full-time careers and three types of eaters: Mom Sarah recently gave up red meat but still enjoys fish and chicken, while Shanti, 8, wouldn't dream of eating an animal product. "His name means peace, and he's definitely living up to his namesake," Sarah says. "He's very concerned about animals." Dad Prashant grew up vegetarian but now eats pork freely, and 41/2-year-old Narain, Sarah says, likes nothing better than a big sausage on Saturday at the farmers market.

So Sarah, the family cook, writes her own definition of what makes dinner.

The family sometimes eats the same meal, say curried vegetables with rice and some chicken or fish on the side. Some nights Shanti might instead have cheese and crackers, a peanut butter sandwich or a scoop of dal made by his grandma, who lives nearby.

And Sarah, an assistant professor at Portland State, is fine with that, especially after consulting with Shanti's pediatrician.

"Once I figured out that he's really getting the protein he needs, I put less pressure on myself to put something together that's unique and creative that everyone would enjoy. I shoot for the middle ground -- I put my energy on fresh vegetables and whole grains."

That, and on making quick meals showcasing Indian flavors. "I will confess that I cheat," Geenen says. Many nights, she'll saute potatoes and peas or eggplant she's brought home from the farmers market with a dab of Indian simmer sauce from a jar. She sets out whole wheat roti and a bowl of plain nonfat yogurt, and calls it dinner. "Prashant thinks he's come home to a home-cooked Indian meal, and everyone's happy."

In other parts of the world, dinner isn't a production, she says. "In India, they'll eat dal and rice all day long. There's really not pressure to come up with something new every evening. So I just really try to keep it simple."

That's kitchen advice we all can happily swallow.

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