Author: Amber French
Whether or not you are Vegan, vegetarian, or plant-based or even toying with the idea, it is nice to have a little inspiration on how to cook for a crowd of the meat adverse!
When I first started cooking sans meat I relied heavily on oils, sauces and cheeses to compensate for the lack of meat on the plate. Unfortunately, that was a costly substitute in the health/calorie arena.
Over the years I have learned to let the ingredients speak for themselves. I prefer to pick a produce and let that be the main focus of the dish instead of piling on the ingredients to add flavour (and fat/calories). Cooking for your family is always different than cooking for a crowd. We cook larger portions and our culture equates flavour with decadence. Next time you are having a crowd try out one of these options and your guest will leave feeling satisfied and refueled as opposed to stuffed and sleepy.
Pasta – brown rice and whole wheat pasta are a great option to go meat free. Make sure you pick your pasta to match your sauce. Spaghetti and fettuccine don’t hold the sauce as well but they are great if you are incorporating big veggies like broccoli or egg plant. Season your pasta with sea salt while you are cooking and pick your toppings according to the crowd you are cooking for. There are so many delicious vegetables to use like tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and much more. Kids can enjoy a “cream” (read almond milk) and broccoli dish, whereas adults can appreciate a zesty marinara full of capers, sundried tomatoes and portabello mushroom. Keep the oil and cream based sauces out of the mix and you can even substitute almonds for plant based “parmesan”
½ cup of raw almonds
¼ tsp of Garlic and onion powder
3 TBSP of Nutritional yeast (this stuff is gold!! Increases B vitamins and leaves behind a nutty cheesy flavour)
Pulse in a food processor until it resembles a parmesan style cheese.
Soups – Soups can be a quick easy weeknight dinner or can be dressed to be the main course at the best dinner parties, super bowl party, in-law visit or any other time hungry people gather. Most traditional recipes can be tweaked to remove the meat. Non dairy milks (my fav is unsweetened almond milk) can add the cream base to any vegetable combination. Like cream of mushroom, broccoli, or butternut squash etc.) Vegetable broths are the easiest base for clearer soups like Minestrone, Unchicken noodle or Vegetable. Sometimes all you need are blended vegetables (super healthy and way easy) to create tomato soup (with garlic croutons…yum) or potato/sweet potato or corn chowders! Pair them with grilled flat bread, dark pumpernickels or yummy garlic bread and your guests will be fighting over the next time you are hosting!
Stir Fry or Pad Thai – Easy glass noodles or brown rice vermicelli coupled with steamed baby corn, broccoli, bean sprouts, grated carrots, kale or Bok Choy and some peanuts for garnish allows for a fresh, quick and stunning meals. You can top with a spicy peanut sauce, soy sauce or just garnish with lime and cilantro. You really can go easy on the sauces if you steam or blanch you vegetables in vegetable broth and allow your guests to assemble it themselves adding in heat and spice in as little or as much as they like. If you want a heartier meal you can precook diced sweet potatoes, chickpeas or baked tofu and put those out for your guest as well.
Pancakes – who doesn’t love breakfast for dinner? The wonderful internet hosts a ton of great dairy and egg free pancake options that can be prepared ahead of time and warmed as the hoards arrive. I love pairing frozen fruit with my 100% maple syrup to add another layer of flavour and cut the calories down nicely. You can play up the pancakes buy mixing in bananas and nutmeg or pumpkin and cinnamon, offer up some different types of fruit/syrup and finish it off with whipped coconut cream super delicious, fancy and crazy easy!
Shepherd’s Pie – This meal is super conducive to “make ahead” and helps with all of the lovely fall root veggies. Your bottom layer is as simple as any/all root veggies you have kicking around, carrots, onions, parsnips, add in some celery, peas, corn, cover them in a “roo” of flour, almond milk and spices and top with either mashed potatoes, turnips, celery root or sweet potatoes! You do not need to bake in the oven, just layer in a serving dish when the ingredients are hot and serve immediately. Perfect for cold winter days.
Enjoy your plant based cooking, make what you love, tweak and always try something new! Fresh ingredients fuel, repair and sustain us. They also impress the heck out of your friends and neighbours.
About the Author: Amber has been in the fitness and recreation game for over 15 years (not including school!!). She made fitness her life because as the age old saying goes, study and teach what it is you need to learn. In other words, she’s battles with some weight issues for many years and wants to share what she has learned along the way.
You can follow her @TheVeganHouse