Weekend Guests Vegan Style

Going vegan means there are lots of “firsts” that go beyond all of the firsts associated with changing to a new and unfamiliar way of eating.  In other posts I’ve written about all the foods– miso, cashew cream, nutritional yeast, lentils, beans and green juice that were new to me.  Several months into this journey cooking with these ingredients has become pretty much second nature.

From a vegan lifestyle standpoint, there are different kinds of “firsts”.  So far, we have experienced our first time traveling on a plane, going on vacation, visiting family, eating out and even shopping for holiday gifts.  Each year I send Anne a Hanukkah box full of goodies that I select.  I had to consider whether I would buy a leather wallet (nope) or a cookbook that included non-vegan food (nope).  So beyond food, there’s lots of research and planning that goes on once we step outside our own homes and engage more in the culture we are a part of (we are trying to change?).

So this past weekend, David’s son, Jason and his girlfriend, Kristen, flew across the country to visit with us for three days.  It was the first time we had guests (non-vegan) staying in our house since we became vegan.   We knew they would be completely respectful of our vegan home, but we also wanted to make sure they had a great time with us (it was their vacation after all), ate well and felt welcome.   And that meant some planning.  Our time spent together was really fun and relaxing and I thought I’d share how we balanced our needs with theirs.

Jay and Kristen were due in Thursday night, and we knew they would not have had dinner.   We figured we’d eat before they arrived and take them out to one of their favorite local places.  The plan was to cook dinner for us that could be reheated for lunch the next day. We chose our favorite vegan mac and cheese (recipe here): DSCN2058

and smoky tomato and lentil soup (recipe here): DSCN2223

I also baked a yummy pumpkin bread earlier in the day figuring that it could be toasted for breakfast or snacked on while we were hanging around.  Here’s a look at my breakfast this morning (recipe here): DSCN2336

At dinner at our favorite local bar and grill, they ordered non-vegan items off the menu and we had drinks and munched on chips and salsa.

On Friday we started the day with smoothies (banana, strawberries, blueberries, rice milk) and we all munched on toast, cereal and english muffins. Easy peasy.  For lunch we all enjoyed the reheated soup and mac and cheese giving us plenty of energy for an afternoon hike in Sabino Canyon.  We had lots of nuts,chips, pretzels and fresh fruit around for afternoon snacking.

Friday night we also went out to dinner to our neighborhood Italian place (one we had scoped out for ourselves weeks earlier).  We happily ate penne pasta with tomato, spicy peppers and mushrooms and Jay and Kristen made their own (non-vegan) choices off the menu.  We shared a bottle of red wine and thoroughly enjoyed ourselves.

Saturday was all about hanging out and watching football.  The cold beer was ready.  We had plenty of nosh around and this arrived just in time:

DSCN2341

This vegan cheese is all the buzz and for good reason.  We ordered a package of four of these handcrafted vegan cheeses before the new year and they arrived just in time for the game.  Our pack included a smoky English farmhouse cheese, some garlic/herb which was tangy and creamy, this winter truffle and some sun dried tomato that we haven’t tried yet.  These are quite tasty and as Kristen said,  “if you didn’t say they were vegan, no one would know”.  High praise if you’ve ever tried any of the other commercial vegan cheeses.  If you want to know more about this product, the website is here.  I totally enjoyed being able to serve “cheese and crackers” and everyone loved it.

Saturday night dinner was a chance for me to do my vegan thing in the kitchen.  Jeff joined us, and I made one of our favorite dishes, Tempeh Creole.  I’ve written about this one before and here’s a look at it:

DSCN1749

Jay and Kristen were surprised by the meaty texture and the transformation of the tempeh from its packaged form to this.  Kristen and I had fun dicing, slicing and putting this dish together, and everyone seemed to enjoy it. By this point I was ready for some convenience food so I served this for dessert:

DSCN2339

Actually I served the chocolate walnut fudge flavor, but when I went to take a picture of it this morning the container was nowhere to be seen.  Hmmm…  This stuff is delicious, especially if you like coconut.  We let ours soften up for a while before serving and the consistency was super creamy and delicious.

After a lovely weekend full of talking, eating, drinking, hiking and football we said goodbye yesterday afternoon.  Jay and Kristen were very open-minded about eating our vegan dishes (they even enjoyed our afternoon green juice), and we tried to offer a variety of familiar and tasty vegan dishes.  At the same time we made plans to take them out to eat so they would have the opportunity to eat other non-vegan foods while we were together.

I’m offering up this post as a way to show people who are already vegan or just thinking about it, that it is possible (and fun!) to get together with family or friends, remain true to a vegan lifestyle and also be considerate of others who eat differently than we do.   There’s no question that it takes a bit more planning.  Knowing in advance which non-vegan restaurants work well is one important part of the equation because it is definitely harder as a vegan to just “run out for a bite to eat”. But what better way to show out-of-town guests that you care than to plan for their arrival and serve an array of tasty foods?

I believe that the best way to encourage others to consider veganism as a way of life is to show them “how it’s done”.  I can’t say that Jason and Kristen loved every morsel of our vegan meals, but they certainly saw that it’s possible to live compassionately, cook delicious food and still live and love in the culture that surrounds us.

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