Planning a Vegetarian Thanksgiving Menu

When you're inviting vegetarians to Thanksgiving dinner and planning a Thanksgiving vegetarian menu, it doesn't mean you have to ditch the turkey-just provide enough variations of other favorites for the Thanksgiving meal. Vegetarians will appreciate your efforts and they'll really be thankful for your hospitality.

Before you tackle the turkey issue, take a good look at all the other Thanksgiving meal dishes. Vegetarians can enjoy plenty of harvest bounty, such as mashed potatoes, bread, cranberries, buttered vegetables, stuffing (without sausage) and other family favorites. If the vegetarians live close and are able to cook, invite them to bring one or two dishes to share for the Thanksgiving meal. This ensures they'll have plenty to eat without feeling awkward.

There are simple substitutions you can make for vegetarians at your first Thanksgiving dinner. For example, when you are stuffing the turkey, save some stuffing to bake in a small pan for your vegetarian guests. For yams with marshmallows, just leave off the marshmallows (contain gelatin) and substitute a veggie broth for a meat-based broth in any recipe. If a recipe calls for the addition of meat, such as a bacon and potato casserole, set part of the casserole aside before you add the meat. There are many variations of vegetarianism, so it's best to ask your guests directly what they can and can't have. Some are fine with milk and butter, while others are stricter with what they eat.

Communication is key when it comes to a turkey substitute. Some guests will be fine with eating all the side dishes and won't care if there is no entrée. Others may enjoy a turkey substitute, such as Tofurky. This mock turkey product is made of tofu and generally comes with vegetarian gravy and sometimes stuffing. Just ask what your guests will prefer and plan accordingly.

Remember that Thanksgiving is about bringing family and friends together. While there's no need to overhaul your own non-vegetarian traditions, it is a gesture of love and respect to provide something for everyone at the Thanksgiving meal. Avoid getting into any debates or judgments about the vegetarian lifestyle with guests. Instead, provide enough for everyone and you'll receive plenty of compliments about your first Thanksgiving dinner from vegetarian and non-vegetarian alike.

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