With people showing increased interest in healthy eating and fresh produce, caterers are often asked to create completely vegetarian menus. While many traditional menu options for large crowds include meat dishes, it is easy to leave out meat without compromising the flavor of the food. Vegetarians and non-vegetarians alike will appreciate the healthy, tasty dishes prepared for meatless menus.
Vegetarians are people who consume no red meat, poultry, fish or seafood in their diets. They also avoid animal fats, rennet (often used in cheese) and other animal byproducts. Most vegetarians eat eggs and dairy products because no animals were slaughtered to produce those foods.
Make sure to check all condiment labels to make sure they include no animal products. Also double check alcoholic beverages, bread products and soup stocks, which sometimes contain animal ingredients. When you cook for a crowd, ensure that food preparation areas are free from non-vegetarian foods and utensils.
Cooking large-scale vegetarian meals benefits both the cook and the crowd. The caterer cuts down on costs by removing meats, often the most expensive part of the meal, from the menu. The people eating the meal benefit by receiving fare that is more heart-healthy than menus heavily involving red meats. Though vegetarian menus are commonly associated with lighter options such as salads, meatless dishes can be as hearty and tasty as traditional meals containing meats.
When cooking for a crowd, provide several choices to give people options. Make two or three appetizer dishes of vegetables and dip, fresh fruits, or hummus and crackers. For main dishes, try a vegetarian lasagna, meatless burgers and sausages, or a grain and vegetable salad. Most desserts are vegetarian-friendly--just make sure not to include gelatin, which is made from animal products. Alternative vegetarian gelling options are available.
A vegetarian meal should be well balanced, with plenty of grains, fruits, vegetables and protein. When not including meat, many caterers forget to substitute another protein source. Add nuts, beans, peas, tofu and eggs to dishes to boost their protein levels. Non-meat protein sources ensure that vegetarian meals are filling and meet nutritional guidelines.
Making vegetarian menus for large crowds is no more difficult that creating meat dishes. Use meatless substitutes and alternative sources of protein to ensure that a menu is well-balanced. When cooking for a large group, also remember that vegetarian food extends far past a salad bar. Vegetarians enjoy flavorful, delicious food as much as non-vegetarians do.
- Photo Credit vegetarian pizza image by blaine stiger from Fotolia.com
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