Cooking for everyone during the holidays

Living in Portland, I’m sure we’ve all met our fair share of vegetarians, vegans, celiacs, etc. After all, Portland was voted the second most vegan-friendly city in the country this year by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.

Now the question is, what do you feed these lovely but especially picky people when you bring them home for the holidays to your meat, potatoes and bread-loving family? Luckily, it’s not as challenging as most people think.

First, let’s get some definitions straight. A vegetarian can be slightly difficult to figure out at first. In general, you can be sure that none of them consume meat, poultry, game, fish, shellfish, crustaceans or any other byproducts of slaughter. Getting more detailed, the most common “type” of vegetarian is the lacto-ovo vegetarian; they eat both dairy products and eggs. Lacto vegetarians will eat dairy but not eggs, and ovo vegetarians will eat eggs but not dairy. That should pretty much cover your vegetarians invited.

Vegans are along the same lines as vegetarians, with just a bit more to think about. They avoid any meat, dairy products, eggs, or any other animal products (for example, some skip honey and gelatin).

Now, a celiac is someone with a medical condition that damages the lining of the small intestine (causing the person to become very uncomfortable) when they ingest gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and sometime oats, so they’ll want to avoid those things. Another thing to be aware of is that some people have such a high sensitivity to gluten that a reaction can even be caused by eating something gluten-free that was cooked in a pan that previously had a wheat tortilla in it.

It works out nicely that several of these people overlap in the things that they prefer or do not prefer to eat. For example, if you cook something vegan, any type of vegetarian or lactose-intolerant person (someone not able to digest lactose, found in milk and dairy products) will also be able to enjoy it.

This is a great gluten-free recipe that vegetarians will also appreciate, and it’s a holiday classic.

Gingerbread Men

  • 1 cup brown rice flour (this is the key ingredient to making this recipe gluten-free)
  • 1 cup arrowroot starch
  • 2 teaspoons ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon guar gum
  • 1/2 cup molasses
  • 1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar
  • 1/4 cup softened butter
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  3. Sift all dry ingredients together and set aside.
  4. Cream butter and sugar, beating on high speed for 3–5 minutes until light and fluffy.
  5. Add molasses and vanilla and beat until combined.
  6. Slowly add dry ingredients to butter mixture and beat just until a stiff dough forms.
  7. Place dough between two sheets of plastic wrap lightly dusted with sweet rice flour. Roll out to 1/8 inch thick.
  8. Dip gingerbread cookie cutter in sweet rice flour and cut out gingerbread men. Use a flour-dusted spatula to transfer cookies to baking sheet. If the dough should get too soft while you are working with it, just place it in the freezer for about 5 minutes.
  9. Bake for 10 minutes in preheated oven, or until cookies are firm to the touch. Cool and decorate.
  10. This recipe could also easily be made vegan by replacing the butter with margarine.
  11. This next recipe is sure to please any vegans, vegetarians, and/or lactose-intolerants in the house.

“Chicken” Pot Pie

  • 1/4 cup vegetable bouillon or faux chicken broth powder
  • 2 1/2 cups hot water
  • 1/2 cup nutritional yeast flakes
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 teaspoon garlic salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • One 15.5-ounce can white potatoes, drained and cut into small pieces
  • 1 1/2 cups frozen or canned and drained mixed corn kernels, peas and diced carrots
  • 1/2 pound faux chicken, cut into tiny cubes
  • 1 box puff pastry sheets

Cooking Instructions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Mix the vegetable bouillon or faux chicken broth powder with the hot water to make stock. Set aside.
  3. Combine the nutritional yeast and flour in a large pot and stir constantly over low heat until lightly toasted.
  4. Add the oil, stirring to make a roux. Slowly whisk in the stock, garlic salt and pepper. Add the vegetables and faux chicken. Cook for 5–10 minutes, or until heated through.
  5. Roll out one sheet of puff pastry and place in a 9-inch pie dish, trimming to fit. Place the pastry in the oven for 5–10 minutes, or until it starts to puff. Remove the pastry from the oven, pour the filling into it and place the other sheet of puff pastry on top, cutting and pressing the edges together and making several 1-inch slices on top to allow the steam to escape. Continue baking for approximately 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and puffed.
    (This recipe could be made gluten-free by using rice flour and gluten-free puff pastries.

    Just remember, all of these people eat simple fruits and vegetables. A vegan and/or vegetarian can always grab a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. Celiacs can snack on popcorn. It can be surprising how many foods you have laying around that just happen to be vegan or gluten-free. And don’t worry; most people with special dietary needs try to be as accommodating as possible and will let you know what they can and can’t eat.

    A great resource is PETA’s “Accidently Vegan” food list, which lists items produced by well-known brands that you may have never known were vegan. Some examples include Oreos, Swedish Fish, and Spicy Sweet Chili flavored Doritos. Another resource is the website, which is home to tons of classic recipes reinvented as gluten-free.