His, Hers, and Theirs: Preparing Inclusive Dinners

by Gena on May 13, 2010

Happy almost Friday!

Couldn’t be gladder that the weekend looms. Has anyone tried my Asian dressing yet?

I’m here today with a reader question, which comes from my pal Emily. She wrote:

Hi Gena!

I wonder whether you might write a post on how to eat raw (or vegan) when your partner does not? For example, creating two meals (and ideas for not succumbing to a quick bite off of their plate!).

xo Emily.

Great question, Em! It’s not easy to be a high-raw vegan in a world full of omnis. If I were to take a survey of three recent relationships, I’d have:

1) The private chef, who ordered in bulk from D’Artagnan and worshiped at the altar of French cheeses. Le sigh.

2) The takeout-aholic. Though a relatively healthy eater, Mr. Takoeout was a dial-and-dine kinda guy. I often conceded to this habit, but if I were to go back and do it again, I’d have tried to insist on more home cooking.

3) The foodie. Like many NYC fellows, he was a walking Zagats. This restaurant officianado loved nothing more than to scour the latest issue of New York for cool new restaurant tips; when he wasn’t doing that, he was phoning Magnolia to find out whether or not pumpkin cupcakes were available that day, or hunting down the Treat Truck. I suspect that, had we been together longer, the dining out vs. dining in discussion would have become a little tense. But I did get him to Pure Food and Wine a few times!

So you see, Em, I know from experience that it ain’t easy. Never fear, though: I have answered this very question for many a client. Usually, said client is asking me not only how to prepare simultaneous meals, but also how to prepare them both in a pinch. My tips for copacetic, quick, and tasty vegan/omni dinners include, but are not limited to, the following:


  1. Make a nice batch of hummus (I’ve got a cacaphony of hummus recipes) or nut pate, and serve his in a regular wrap with roasted or marinated veggies, and yours in a collard or romaine leaf with regular raw shredded veggies. You can do baked yams for you both on the side, and a bit of raw salad for you and cooked veggies for him.
  2. Make big batches of my raw marinara sauce or any raw pesto, and serve yours over spiralized noodles, and his over regular pasta (of course, whole wheat pasta is great for you, too, but zucchini pasta will be fun in the summer). Spiralizers can be had cheaply, such as this one.
  3. Taco night: get a jar of your fave organic salsa at the grocery store, and then whip up a giant batch of guacamole. If your partner is omnivorous, you can also have some fish or chicken strips at the table. Serve his tacos in corn tortillas or tacos, and yours in romaine or collard leaves, with a big salad on the side!
  4. Marinate portobello mushroom. At the last minute, grill or saute his, and leave yours raw. You can serve them with my raw mashed potatoes (I guarantee that omnivores love these!) or mashed sweet potatoes, cooked.
  5. Make some of my pizza cheese and marinara. Serve yours in layers of thinly sliced zucchini and tomato, for a lasagna effect, and his in layers of regular (or whole wheat) lasagna pasta.
  6. The obvious: make giant salads. Top his with whatever fish, meat, or cheese he might like, and load yours up with avocado, quinoa, nuts, and other sources of vegan density.
  7. Make spring rolls (all raw!) and serve them with brown rice and salad. Some raw, some cooked.
  8. Make homemade pizza: you can use a storebought crust for him and top it with goat cheese or regular cheese, marinara, and veggies. Put yours on an ezekiel wrap, and smother it with hummus, marinara, or another favorite topping (my pizza cheese will work) and lots of veggies. Serve with roast broccoli.
  9. Prepare any daal or curry dish, and serve it up with cooked veggies for him, and salad for you.
  10. Make a double serving of soba noodles (love, love, love these), and top with my Asian dressing. You an toss in some raw veggies, and serve it with whatever sides he and you prefer — raw for you, cooked for him!

A lot of varying a simultaneous raw/cooked dinner will be about the sides. You can prepare a raw or cooked entree for you both, but then the two of you can, as noted above, choose to serve up your fundamentals a bit differently. Grain dishes at night are great, and it’s easy for you to make a quinoa pilaf or brown rice dish and serve yours with raw salad, his with additional cooked food.

Also keep in mind these very simple ideas:

As I did with my miso glaze on Saturday night, try making a marinade, sauce, or glaze that’s equally tasty over grains and veggies, or on chicken or fish. I love to mix nama shoyu, maple syrup, and white wine vinegar and marinate a bit of tempeh; you could easily use the same marinate on fish (salmon would be great with this). Other fave marinades of mine are honey mustard (agave, dijon, apple cider vinegar, spices of choice), and balsamic vinaigrette. Marinate your proteins separately and cook them simultaneously; prepare a giant salad (raw, if your partner is willing) and enjoy it together as a way of rounding out the meal.

Also: summertime is here! This means many of you will be pulling out your grills. Grills make veggie/omni dinners easy as pie! Just grill up veggies, tofu, or sunshine burgers (or homemade veggie burgers of choice) as your partner is grilling up meat or fish (I would personally wrap my veggies or burgers in foil to avoid them touching a grill that’s been used for lots of meat). You’ll both have fast, smokey, delicious meals at the ready in no time! Ditto for setting up sandwich “bars” at home: put out sprouted bread, veggies, hummus, nut pate, pickles, guac, and whatever other vegan fillings you love. He can pull out his cheese or meats, and you can assemble your sammies together. Easy, relaxed, fun.

Hope this helps, Em! I imagine that, when two people respect each other’s choices, it’s quite easy to create delicious dinners that are both vegan friendly and omni-pleasing.

And for dessert? Well, everyone likes banana soft serve.

Now I want to hear from all of you. I know that many of my blogging friends prepare family meals for themselves and for partners who aren’t quite vegan (but may flirt with it at home). What are some of your favorite ideas for inclusive dinners?

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{ 36 comments… read them below or add one }

Coco @ Opera Girl Cooks May 13, 2010 at 11:46 pm

Great tips, thanks for sharing!

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Danielle (Coffee Run) May 13, 2010 at 11:59 pm

These are great tips & I’m with you on the taco/sandwich bar- who wouldn’t like that??

I can’t say I’ve ever had a boyfriend/eating issue but this can also relate to family! My tip would be to stick to stuff that’s somewhat close to their norm…as in if they’re a meat & potatoes family, don’t bust out the tofu & exotic spices ;)

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Claire May 14, 2010 at 12:00 am

What a great ? and response! I am a vegan with a definite non-vegan bf so I can definitely relate. He pretty much likes everything I make and is a huge fan of baked or dehydrated kale chips! I can’t wait to try your portobellos when I get back next week…when Katie (lil veggie made them) she reminded me I bookmarked the recipe, love when that happens. The raw pesto and hummus, and pretty much anything with guac are all winners with my man.

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Claire May 14, 2010 at 12:01 am

Oh and Gena thanks for commenting on my blog today! I can’t wait to be back to eating banana soft serve once the warmth comes back!

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jenny (green food diaries) May 14, 2010 at 12:18 am

mmm how i miss banana soft serve…
great tips. sandwich/collard wraps i think are always a good idea. i want to make cauliflower mashed “potatoes” again!

ps. i used many of your travel tips when i recently went traveling and stayed at a friend’s for three days (the post will be up on my blog soon). thanks so much for your tip of taking a frozen bottle of green juice, as well as other advice… it helped a lot. thanks gena.

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Ilana May 14, 2010 at 12:28 am

seriously, every blogger is writing about relationships RIGHT when mine is coming to that serious point where I have to think about these things like cooking for an omnivorous family while I stick to a vegan diet.
These are great tips, of course. I like to make shared side dishes like salads and veggies and then cook meat for him and either just amp up on the veg for myself or make portobellos for me. And thank goodness he loves raw veggies like tomatoes and peppers, it makes my life a thousand times easier.

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Mama Pea May 14, 2010 at 1:02 am

Great question and great answers. You’d be surprised how many meals are easily made inclusive in our house, though I suspect it’s a lot easier since we are all vegetarian. But some of our staples that are readily adaptable are:

*veggie/bean burgers (can be made with cheese)
*spaghetti with lentil sauce (with parm or nooch)
*bean burritos (with organic sour cream or cheese)
*tofu scrambles (with cheese)
*pizza (with vegan/reg. cheeses)
*breakfast for dinner (vegan waffles, pancakes, oats with veggie breakfast sausage)
*tofu or tempeh stirfries
*bean, veggie, broth based soups and stews (i.e. chili with sour cream and cheese for non-vegans)

It really isn’t that hard to turn a meal into something that everyone can enjoy, though I know I’m spoiled in having the most open-minded spouse ever. And I’m sure you will to, Ms. Gena ;)

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Kilee May 14, 2010 at 1:45 am

What a great post topic! I cook for my boyfriend and I almost every night and have found that works best is to:
Always make a big salad, so if one of our meals isn’t satisfying enough, there is lots of salad to go around
Prepare a “side dish of substance” along with a meaty main dish.
I eat gluten-free and my boyfriend doesn’t, so I buy those little 6 packs of artisan single serving french breads from Costco and stick them in the freezer. When he needs extra carby substance, I pop one of those in the oven as well.
It might take a little extra time to fit everyone’s dietary needs in, but it’s worth it!

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Laura May 14, 2010 at 2:03 am

So timely, as we’ll be cohabiting again for the summer!
Things we love:
Sides: salad, sweet potato fries, kale chips, carrot sticks and dips
Entrees:
Falafel with salad, whole wheat pita… no meat needed
Salad with vegan toppings vs meat or cheese
Sunshine burgers vs free range beef. great with sweet potato fries!
Smoothies: with added whey vs added hemp or rice protein
Burritos: sweet potato fries, corn, avocado, lettuce, and salsa… who needs meat?
Asian dressing (I make Natalia’s raw thai nut sauce) over grains, veggies, and/or meat
Stir fry: veggies, nuts and nut sauce, optional grains/egg/meat
Raw pesto over veggies, noodles, and/or meat
Homemade pizza… not gonna lie… I eat real cheese with this one!

Dessert: coconut ice cream or banana fro yo vs dairy ice cream, chocolate, baked vegan goods, dessert balls (eg frozen almond butter/honey/seeds/chocolate chips)

Eating out: thai food is usually our best bet for fresh and flexible. But all kinds of restaurants can work!

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Emily May 14, 2010 at 5:26 am

These are really great suggestions, Gena. Let’s say my boyfriend eats NOTHING like I do (i.e., vegan), but there are some great meals here that he would certainly eat and enjoy!!

Thanks!
Emily :)

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Lauren @ Eater not a runner May 14, 2010 at 7:37 am

I do this a LOT even though I’m not even vegetarian. I’ll make a sauce filled with veggies and serve mine over spinach or quinoa and his over pasta. Or I’ll make meatballs or grilled chicken on the side for him to add to his meal!

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Jen O May 14, 2010 at 7:41 am

I loved this! It is extremely helpful and I plan on using most of these ideas.

My husband will eat or at least try most of the raw/vegan meals I make. I usually make a cooked vegan meal for dinner and he has shredded cheese and frozen grilled chicken strips to add to the meal if he wants. However, he rarely does. My husbands loves your banana soft serve and rawcos!

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MarathonVal May 14, 2010 at 8:42 am

I’ve found all of these techniques to be successive, being married to an omnivore…. it’s really not that hard at all :)

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Kristin (Cook, Bake and Nibble) May 14, 2010 at 8:54 am

This is a great list! My boyf and I are learning how to deal with this, and it is becoming easier and easier as time goes on. Sometimes we make seperate meals- say if I have leftovers he’ll have noodles, sometimes he eats the veg meal I am eating, and sometimes I’ll cook myself an entree, make it his side and give him some meat as well!

xo
K

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Lauren May 14, 2010 at 8:58 am

Perfect tips! My hubby is very open minded to my creations, and when he isn’t..he makes his own meals! :)

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Catherine May 14, 2010 at 9:54 am

Excellent tips Gena! I’ve been eating mainly vegan (with the occasional piece of sushi here and there) since New Year’s pretty much and it’s never come in the way of making tasty meals for me and the omni fiance. Granted, my fiance is happy and willing to eat Vegan/vegetarian with me when I’m cooking so that helps alot. Here are some recent meals we’ve enjoyed together:

- Snobby Joe’s
- Homemade italian seitan sausages cooked into a stew with veggie broth, kate, potatoes and kidney beans (just like mom used to make, but w/o the meat!)
- Dal – with many different types of beans
- Chana Masala (smitten kitchen has a great recipe)
- Falafels served over salad & in pitas
- Raw almond sauce from Natalia Rose’s book served over zucchini spirals for me and soba noodles for him
- Cool cucumber soup (raw cashews, dill, cukes, onion, salt, olive oil) served with baked potatoes & Delhi Saag (mustard greens & spinach)

You could even enjoy vegan eats out without having to go to a special restaurant… Mediterranean / Turkish / Thai / Indian… tons of vegetarian options!!

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Sarah L. May 14, 2010 at 10:24 am

Stir fries will always work in a pinch (if you’re not eating completely raw). It’s easy enough to heat up something meaty in a separate pan. I used to do this with my roommate quite often.

Burgers also work. I usually have a batch of bean burgers in the freezer so it’s easy enough to eat up one of those alongside a meaty alternative.

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Ian May 14, 2010 at 10:24 am

I recently made a mezze platter for the family with everything vegan, since everyone was willing. The other night, we had pizza, a mushroom spinach and a roasted tomato-basil, half of each sprinked with cheese to satisfy everyone while all sharing the same basic meal. It worked very well!

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Caleb May 14, 2010 at 10:45 am

I have been eating a high-raw diet for almost two years now and I have yet to get a spiralizer. But I have always wanted one, but after recently having a raw pasta from Whole Foods I think I will be more likely to get one soon. BTW, like the new site layout! Very professional looking!

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Christine (The Raw Project) May 14, 2010 at 12:54 pm

Great post, something I can relate to with a non-raw hubby that comes from a southern meat-loving family. Though he has been eating much more vegan with me, we are often playing dueling chefs in the kitchen. I’ll often create a big batch of raw marinara, half for my raw dish, half to pour into the skillet for his dish.

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Evan Thomas May 14, 2010 at 1:14 pm

THANK YOU for this post. I’ve been home 2 days and my parents and I haven’t eaten the same food yet. I realize now it doesn’t matter what we’re eating so long as we’re accomodating of one another

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Jackie (Peaces of Earth) May 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm

Love these tips, Gena! I mostly cook for myself, but I imagine that ooonne day I’ll have to cook for a variety of tastes and diets so ideas like these come in handy. When cooking for my friends and family everything is always vegan, dessert is usually raw and they love it! I think the key is not to turn old favorites into vegan fares, but to just make a meal out of whole, fresh food which often *happens* to be vegan. Usually they’re amazed at how good it tastes, and how satisfied they feel after!

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Crunchy Granola Gal May 14, 2010 at 2:12 pm

these are some great tips! i’m currently involved with a G-type guy and because it’s very new (two months), i’m indulging his eat-out-all-the-time side. but soon, we’ve discussed, we’ve gotta chill out, and i will certainly look back to this post for reminders as to how we can make things work – or just how to be healthier at home. the grill is definitely a good place to start, as men love grilling i love grilled vegetables – with homemade hummus, of course.

happy friday. :)

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belita May 14, 2010 at 4:37 pm

i made the creamy asian dressing and the miso sauce — both to rave reviews from family members ages 9 – 39! thank you for sharing so much great information and so many wonderful recipes. much admiration and gratitude to you!

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Kenzie (Healthy Purpose) May 14, 2010 at 7:42 pm

these are great dishes for non-raw/vegan friends! it is all about the sides, when i cook with friends usually the only thing that’s is the meat/protein source.

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Sophie @ yumventures May 14, 2010 at 8:46 pm

I’ve been making more vegetarian meals recently and my poor boyfriend is suffering from it! I definitely need to add some meat to his plate. Thanks for the great tips!

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bitt May 14, 2010 at 8:53 pm

Great ideas! My husband is vegan but not all raw. We usually make part of a meal to share, like a salad or nori rolls or some of your raw ideas above, and then he adds quinoa or squash or whatever cooked additions he wants. He likes that he is getting lots of veggies, but the calories he needs from cooked vegan food.

We used to eat the EXACT same things. But now it doesn’t work for us. We had to get over that and make sure that we spent time doing other things together in case our meals weren’t a bonding experience. It helped out relationship grow.

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Averie (LoveVeggiesAndYoga) May 14, 2010 at 10:06 pm

Hi Gena,
I posted on Wednesday on this very topic…I entitled it Short Order Cook.

The issue at play for us is vegan/vegetarian/neither
Gluten or not
Soy or not
Raw or not
Dairy or not.

Balancing my food intolerances, with Skylar’s needs as a child, balanced with Scott’s adult food preferences.

Why would I deny my family cooked tofu just b/c I really can’t eat it but they can and would like it. Or bread. And why would I eat cooked broccoli if I don’t want it and would prefer raw but they like it cooked.

Basically, pleasing each person’s palate and needs sometimes does require short order cooking. In a perfect world we’d all eat the same…wait. That would be boring :) so if it’s important to honor thy body AND soul/spirit, mind, when eating and making food, then it’s important to say ok, we are different and so we are eating differently. And cooking differently. It’s time investment, yes, but in one’s health so it really is time well spent.

That said, in my post it was called Raw Taco Nut “Meat”…I gave about 10 dinner ideas that are all high raw vegan :)

Sorry for the novel but as a wife and mother, food intolerances, and quite a unique dietary path, this is an issue very near to my heart!

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Rachael May 14, 2010 at 10:25 pm

Excellent suggestions for what I’m guessing is a very common situation.I used to do several completely different meals – my partner eats a lot of meat and cheese, but now, I focus more on having several courses or mini-dishes that can be personalized and/or meet the dietary needs of those I’m dining with. Somehow, though,I always end up with the most greens on my plate..

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Emily May 15, 2010 at 6:53 am

Thanks so much for this thorough and thoughtful response Gena! I will certainly play with some of these ideas. I read in a Renee Loux book that she used to imagine the good part of cooked food as being the smell of it, and so she was getting the best part without actually needing to eat it. This also helps me when cooking things which smell delicious, that I’m trying to steer away from :)
xo em.

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Diana (Soap & Chocolate) May 15, 2010 at 8:15 am

Confession: I looked up “copacetic.” All this time I thought it was like, a medical term or something. Looks like I could stand to go back to SAT camp.

The ex-boyf was open-minded when he wanted to be, but he had a lot of issues, period, and I’m just as glad not to have that on my mind any more. But actually, when it comes to cooking for our mutual friend Katherine and her meat-lovin’ huz, I do find myself brainstorming for things that will be “very satisfying” for the health-minded, rawcurious blog-readers in Katherine and I and for the more traditional huz, whose open-mindedness always impresses me nonetheless. Luckily, vegetarian food is an easy middle ground, so I think we’re all happy when cheese is involved, for example. :)

Now off to come up with a dessert to bring to them tonight: something that is neither fruit salad nor Duncan Hines cake mix!

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JoLynn-dreaminitvegan May 15, 2010 at 12:12 pm

Great post due to this being an issue with lots of people.
Luckily my husband understands my choice for being vegan. I basically went from vegetarian to vegan overnight. So he supported me with my decision and still does for not cooking any chicken for him. He eats everything I make, he says “as long as it tastes good I’ll eat it.” I guess I’m pretty lucky in that area. Now it’s just getting him to stop bringing home the oreo’s and chips for snacking. As regards to the raw food, I’m slowly incorporating these foods, my son eats anything so that’s easy. Summer is really easy because we are constantly grilling and eating salads throughout. Your list of meals is wonderful!

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Ellie Di May 15, 2010 at 1:45 pm

I’m not totally veg, vegan, or raw, but I do want to lean more than way and cut out meat, processed gains, and dairy eventually. The trouble is that my husband hates tofu and believes that he *must* have meat in his diet to stay healthy. Anything I say to the contrary or anything I show him is automatically “hippy bunk”. Now, this isn’t to say that he’s against me doing it – he’s very supportive of whatever diet choices I want to make. But since I make dinner and we’re on a veryvery limited budget, it’s markedly harder to make two dinners than one. (I think that maybe if I had a food processor, it might be a bit easier.) I’ll definitely give a few of your suggestions a shot, though! Thanks for sharing them!

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Sarah May 16, 2010 at 10:40 am

Ooo, good topic! For the husband and I we both will eat sauteed vegetables and brown rice, or I may have a baked sweet potato and salad whereas he will have a normal baked potato with something. Those are our main compromise meals. Ooo, and we’ll both have roasted veg and vege burgers or sweet potato fries. x

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Karen July 15, 2011 at 12:29 pm

thank you for all your great suggestions. I’m slowly transitioning to raw and have a family that enjoys meat & dairy. This will definitely help. Can’t wait to make the recipes and try the wraps in collards

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びゑへそ August 24, 2013 at 8:48 am

whoah this blog is wonderful i love reading your posts. Keep up the good work! You know, many people

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