I recently told my new neighbor that I'm vegan and that I haven't eaten meat, eggs, or dairy products in nearly 18 years. "Wow," he said. "You must really like salad!" I suppressed a groan, smiled, and explained that while a fresh salad is nice on occasion, I eat much more than that, including beefless tips with sautéed asparagus and red onion, macaroni and "cheese", Tofurky Italian sausages with diced peppers and onion, Pad Thai, and vegetarian chicken fajitas.
He seemed a bit skeptical, even after I rattled off a list of the popular vegan products that are available at the nearby grocery store, so I decided to throw a vegan dinner party to show him—and a few of my other nonvegan friends—just how delicious, and easy to find and make, vegan food really is. The best way to anyone's heart is through their stomach, after all. My idea worked too. My guests devoured the food and agreed that there was no reason to eat animals with all the tasty vegan food available. The chocolate tofu pie was a huge hit, and my neighbor even asked for the recipe for the spinach and artichoke dip (below).
I promise, I'm not telling you this just to impress you with my culinary skills or my party-hosting prowess. Hosting a vegan dinner party is a good way to convince your (unenlightened) friends and neighbors that they won't miss a thing if they go vegan. I never even tried foods like falafel and curried garbanzo beans when I ate meat and cheese, so going vegan has opened up whole new worlds for me.
If you, too, plan to host a vegan dinner party, I have a few tips:
• Serve a couple of "fancy" homemade vegan entrees as well as some easy-to-prepare items that are available in most area grocery stores. Not everyone likes to cook, and you want to show people that they don't have to spend hours in the kitchen every night to make a tasty vegan meal!
• If you're not a chef yourself, choose easy dishes that you've successfully prepared before. (You can experiment when company is not coming to dinner!).
• Have copies of the recipes by each dish so that your guests can make them, too, and be sure to casually mention a couple of upbeat things about being vegan—like how each vegan saves more than 100 animals every year—rather than gory slaughterhouse stories (ruining your guests' appetites is never a good idea!).
• If you prefer a more outdoors-y gathering, fire up the grill and serve summertime favorites like vegan potato salad and BBQ tofu salad.
As promised, here's a rave-worthy recipe for vegan spinach and artichoke dip:
Spinach and Artichoke Dip
1 12-oz. jar marinated artichoke hearts (drained, not rinsed)
5 oz. frozen spinach (defrosted, and the excess water squeezed out)
1-2 cloves garlic
1 cup Vegenaise
½ cup nutritional yeast
• Preheat oven to 350°F.
• Chop up the artichoke hearts and garlic. Mix all ingredients in an oven-safe bowl.
• Bake in the oven until bubbly and brown—usually about 20 minutes.
Makes 8 servings.
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