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Vegetarian Cooking for Novices

Types

Variation exists among vegetarians in terms of what they include in their diets. Semi-vegetarians, or flexitarians, limit their consumption of meat or certain types of meat. These vegetarians may not eat beef or pork, but may consume small amounts of chicken or fish, or may eat meat only a few times a week. Ovo-lacto vegetarians do not eat meat, but do consume eggs and dairy products. Vegans do not eat any animal products, including meat, dairy, honey or eggs. Fruitarians eat only fruit or seeded vegetables, including tomatoes and cucumbers, as well as nuts or seeds. Finally, raw or living foodists eat only fruits and vegetables that have not been cooked.

Basic Meatless Dishes

The easiest way to cook for a vegetarian is to simply refrain from adding meat to any recipes. Meatless pasta dishes and salads are perhaps the easiest way to cook for a vegetarian, but chefs can also substitute vegetables for meat products. Instead of cooking a burger, for example, a cook can grill a portobello mushroom or vegetable kebabs, made by chopping common vegetables, including zucchini, tomatoes, peppers and mushrooms, and marinating the kebab with salad dressing or olive oil and herbs. Vegetarian quiches, made with eggs and fresh vegetables, are also an easy dish, ideal for vegetarians who still consume eggs and dairy products.

Meat Substitutes

More experimental vegetarian chefs can add meatless substitutes, including soy products, tempeh or seitan to their dish. Many companies now make meatless versions of hamburgers, hot dogs, sausages, chicken fingers and chicken patties, and these are available in most grocery stores nationwide. Because these products do not contain meat, they need only to be heated up or grilled before serving, making them a quick and easy addition to any barbecue or dinner party. In addition, tempeh and seitan are two vegetable-based products with a similar texture to meat. These products can be marinated, grilled or ground up for use in many dishes.

Dairy Replacements

Vegetarians who do not consume dairy products can still enjoy tasty and healthy meals. Many companies now produce dairy-free cheeses, including versions of American, mozzarella, nacho, Parmesan and cheddar cheeses. Soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk can be substituted for traditional milk in desserts, and dairy-free creamers are an excellent addition to coffee. Many companies also produce dairy-free ice-cream products and yogurts.

Egg Replacements

Cooks can also substitute common ingredients in place of eggs for vegetarians who do not eat animal byproducts. Common replacements for one egg in recipes include 2 tbsp. of potato starch, 1/4 cup of mashed potatoes or 1/4 cup of canned pumpkin. Cooks can also substitute 1/4 cup of soft tofu for one egg. Tofu can also be used to make eggless egg salad or eggless breakfast scrambles loaded with chopped peppers, onions, and dairy-free cheeses. Many grocery stores sell egg replacer, a powder that, when mixed with water, creates a substitute for eggs.

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