Whole Story

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The Value Guru and the Case of the Vegetarian Guest

wild_mushroom_tart I was talking to my friend Liza Burke the other day. She's Marketing Team Leader at our store in Memphis. Every year she sits at the Whole Foods Market holiday table and without fail she gets frantic hosts that just found out "my niece and her boyfriend are coming for a holiday meal and they are VEGETARIAN!" I thought it would be great to share Liza's story and her tips on the subject, so, without further ado, heeeerrrre's Liza! For years my adoring grandmother thought that the only thing a vegetarian could possibly eat was raw broccoli and plain pasta without any sauce. And after helping her make Thanksgiving dinner, I understood why. Everything had meat in it! The stuffing had giblets, the mashed potatoes were made with chicken stock and the green beans were made with ham. To her, meat was an essential seasoning. If you are in this boat, or simply don't know what to serve your vegetarian guest, let me lend a hand. lentils_frenchpastry300wFor starters, realize that there's no reason to spend a fortune on serving one guest. I often see customers leaving with $50 worth of food just to feed the one vegetarian. It's not necessary. Vegetarian ingredients are budget friendly! Next, you will want to know exactly what "vegetarian" means to your specific guest(s). For example, "vegan" means not only no meat, but no dairy or honey either. The tricky thing is that some unlikely ingredients aren't vegan, such as some white sugars that are processed using animal bone. Even some soy and rice dairy alternatives have casein in them which is milk derived. If you are serving vegans, your best bet is to go with labels that say "vegan." We can help you find them! "Lacto ovo" is a type of vegetarian that doesn't eat meat, but does eat eggs and dairy. They are a breeze to serve because dishes such as mashed potatoes and many vegetable dishes are vegetarian friendly if you refrain from using animal-based ingredients or meat (including chicken broth!). If your secret family recipe includes meat ingredients, you may be able to set a small portion aside before adding those ingredients. Here are some quick tips for including vegetarian options in your holiday meal: Think about what you're already making. It is likely that most of your sides are or can be vegetarian/vegan friendly. No need to make a separate meal when yours can feed meat eaters and vegetarians alike! Visit wholefoodsmarket.com/recipes and check out The Whole Deal for some of the best vegetarian and vegan recipes you can find. All of our recipes are labeled for special diets and are searchable by category. Don't worry about our meal emulating yours. If you're having turkey and stuffing, don't think we have to have a turkey substitute and vegetarian stuffing. How about stuffed winter squash or vegetable lasagna instead? butternut_squash_tartThink it through. Vegetarianism is generally a fundamental value for those who practice it. My grandmother was notorious for saying "oh you can eat this-it only has a little meat in it." If you use animal ingredients, be sure you let your vegetarian know. It's likely that they will taste it if you don't, and it could make them ill. Remember dessert! It's a classic oversight to forget the vegetarian at dessert time, and then feel like a bad host. Ask us for ideas. We even have vegan whipped cream. Try it! If you taste some of the vegetarian food you're creating, I assure you it will take some of the stigma out of it. Rely on us. As always, we're here to help you make your dinner delicious, affordable and suitable for all. Don't hesitate to ask. You're going to be the host/hostess with the mostest, no doubt about it.

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Sandy says …

Good ideas. I have a 9 year old grand daughter who is a vegetarian. I will rely on you for future visits. Also am forwarding this to my friend Brenda who recently found a lovely vegetarian at her holiday table when her son brought his new girlfriend home. It all worked out well and the girl is gracious and flexible but this will allow Brenda to be a little more prepared for the next visit. And LOL she was a serious over-buyer. Lots of uncooked stuff when the kids left. Thanks, S

Claudia says …

Entertaining Vegans or Vegetarians I have been a vegan for over 20 years and would like to share some advice for the traditional host. First, this article said, “lacto ovo vegetarians-They are a breeze to serve”. Well, the truth is vegans are a breeze to serve too. The stigma we get is way out of proportion. Preparing a couple side dishes without meat broth, butter, and milk is easy and inexpensive. Use soymilk instead of milk, margarine instead of butter, and vegetable broth instead of meat broth-it is that simply. Doing this, you have just prepared vegan stuffing and delicious mash potatoes. The salad, a favorite side dish for everyone and vegan friendly. My favorite, a pasta salad: fresh veggies, fresh basil tossed with pasta and vegan Italian dressing, or everyone’s favorite, a true mix green salad (lots of dark green lettuce) tossed with a ‘creamy’ vegan dressing, garnished with fresh herbs, fruit, and ripe tomatoes. The vegan ‘creamy’ dressing is an item your traditional guess will not be able to distinguish from non-vegan dressings. …now you have a cold side dish for everyone. Purchase a vegan Tofurky, they come in different sizes and are easy to prepare and take little space in the oven too. Oh, yes, do not forget the dessert, Whole Foods bakery has vegan cake or pies and they are to die for! I know from experience, and this is another purchase your non-vegan guest will not be able to tell the difference-yummy to the tummy! Wala…you have just prepared an inexpensive and hassle-free holiday dinner any vegan/vegetarian will appreciate and enjoy. Another tip, look at preparing vegan meals in a new light-leave the meat for the turkey plate, use your talent to create side dishes with fresh fruit, herbs, and other alternatives. As a cook myself, if I was preparing a meal, I would not add onions in every side dish like the traditional cook uses meat, in one form or another, in every side dish. If you enjoy cooking, every meal is opportunity to explore new territory, branch off in healthier ways. Whether your guests admit it or not, today people are making smarter chooses, they are educating themselves and open to trying new things, using less fat, less sugar, hormone free meats, etc... For those finicky, eaters-children, and those in fear of eating something ‘healthy’…don’t disclose your changes-first, they will not even notice and secondly, it will only turn all your efforts into a debate, instead, relax and enjoy the compliments. In addition, if you are worried about your ‘new’ side dishes being a success, experiment before the big day, this will give you confidence that they will be just as delicious at your holiday feast. The final touch…when it comes time to eat and everyone’s been called to fill their plates, use tabs, like the tabs Whole Foods uses in their deli, tags will identify traditional from vegan entrees, they’re easy to make or you can buy them, just stick them in the dishes at the last minute. This eliminates the needed decision while everyone is filling his or her plate-is this vegan, is this vegan…is this vegan; let the focus/discussion be about how beautiful and delicious everything looks. Vegans will appreciate the tabs very much, and hey, you deserve the compliments after working so hard to prepare a loving meal for everyone. Happy Holidays!

elizaduckie says …

My DD#2 has been vegetarian, with vegan leanings, since childhood...The thing we've found, over and over, is that whenever we make a vegetaran dish for a group we must be VERY sure to make enough for everyone at the table! We learned this the hard way, one or two times my DD#2 didn't get to eat her special dish before it was consumed! The carnivors always dug right in and ate it too! Especially if we hadn't announced it as a vegetarian/vegan dish beforehand! :D The one thing we've never done is try to emulate meaty dishes by substituting something that is suppose to taste and look like "beef" or "chicken" etc....therein lies disapointment. It doesn't usually turn out well as meat tastes, well, like "meat" and other things just don't. We decided right up front to serve up vegetarian/vegan dishes and enjoy them for their own tastes and the special and delicious delights they have to offer. And also because my DD#2 didn't like the taste of "meat" anyway.:D

Raili says …

I used to be vegetarian and ran into the problem of vegetarian options at dinner parties often. Although it was nice if the host/hostess would go out of their way make a vegetarian option (aside from the main dish) I never expected it. I would contact the host a head of time and either offer to bring my own "entree" and then eat the vegetarian sides, or I would eat before going and just skip the entree all together opting for the vegetarian sides and/or dessert. Now that I am not vegetarian if I know that a vegetarian is coming I either make the entire meal vegetarian so it's a non-issue or I tell them what I'm making and ask what they want to do. I like this approach better because I have gone to TOO many dinner parties as a vegetarian and been stuck with a salad because that is all the host/ess could think of. I would rather just bring something I like then let someone who is unfamiliar with vegetarian cooking "figure something out" when they are already stressing about everyone else's food. I don't think a vegetarian (or anyone with special diets) will find this unreasonable. And if they do? Well, maybe you don't want them over anyway.

Rachel says …

Hi, I'm only 12 and in the 6th grade. I was wondering if you can give me a few recipies. Nothing to the max though. I am a growing girl.


there is the best vegan meat product at the Whole Foods in Arlington . It is flavourful and sold in bulk. What is it? Is there recipe? Thanks