“I’m a vegetarian (or don’t eat much meat) but my boyfriend prefers meat at every meal. I can’t seem to find any meals we can eat together that we’ll both enjoy!” Sound familiar? Not only do I experience this in my own home, but between clients, peers and colleagues this seems to be a common issue.
When cooking for two with different food preferences, dinnertime can be challenging, especially if you go into it thinking that you have to make two completely different meals.
Tips to Make Differing Dinners a Breeze
Choose a few go-to meals that both you and your significant other like. In my house, I know we can always agree on seafood and pizza. We usually keep frozen shrimp and ingredients for pizza dough on hand to quickly throw together a meal when we cook together.
Plan the meal around the vegetable and add the protein as the accent. This can involve a change in mindset for some. Instead of having steak or burgers or a purely vegetarian meal for dinner, you’re having Buddha bowls or tacos. The meat or the vegetarian aspect doesn’t have to be the focus.
Keep your pantry stocked with plenty of veggies and protein options for both parties. When a person of any diet preference can easily find something in the fridge that will satisfy them, no one is upset or goes hungry.
Plan ahead. Batch cooking lentils, tofu, steak or chicken can make mealtime throughout the week much easier. Use the proteins you already have prepped to add to your individual serving of veggies and whole grains.
Take turns cooking. This way everyone gets a turn choosing the meal and making things they love.
Simple Meals that Vegetarians and Meat Eaters Will Love
Tacos: These can easily be made with half lentils and mushrooms and half meat. Both proteins can be prepared on the side and the rest of the toppings are the same.
Pizza: Another simple option. Each person can prepare their own half or whole pizza the way they like.
Stir-fries: The veggies and sauce can be prepared together. Toss in your prepared proteins or cook them in separate skillets.
Buddha bowls: These are a good way to focus on all the other ingredients and use meat or protein as an accent. Use whole grains and veggies as the base and top with your choice of protein and sauce to finish.
Pasta: Top with veggies and sauce and serve meatballs or plant protein on the side.
Burgers: Both veggie and meat patties are simple to prepare for a quick dinner, or prep ahead of time to keep on hand.
Vegetarian chili: Many meat lovers don’t miss the meat in vegetarian chili, but ground beef is easy to make and add if desired.
Dinner on the grill: Veggies, meat, tofu, portobello mushrooms and shrimp kebabs are all easy to grill at the same time.
Sheet pan dinner: Add veggies and protein to a sheet pan and cook it all at once. The meat and plant-based proteins can be cooked separately or on separate sides of the tray.
Finally, below is a recipe that both meat eaters and vegetarians will love.
Curried Lentil Stuffed Peppers
- 3 small-medium or 2 large bell peppers
- 1 tablespoon avocado oil
- 1 cup diced yellow onion
- 2 cups diced carrot
- ¾ cup diced mushrooms
- 1 tablespoon + ½ teaspoon curry powder
- ½ teaspoon ground ginger
- ½ teaspoon turmeric
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- ½ cup red lentils (or any color would work)
- 1½ cups low sodium vegetable broth*
- 1 cup spinach
*Note: The amount of broth varies depending on the type of lentils used. Start with 1½ cups and add more as needed.
- Preheat oven to 350°F.
- Fill a baking dish with about 1 centimeter of water. Slice peppers in half and remove seeds. Place in baking dish and cover with aluminum foil.
- Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes, until peppers have softened. Set aside.
- Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat avocado oil over medium-high heat. Add onion, carrot and mushrooms and sauté for a minute or two until the onion begins to soften.
- Add curry, ginger, turmeric and tomato paste.
- Add lentils and broth. Cook until lentils are soft and have absorbed most of the broth.
- Add spinach and cook until wilted. Remove from heat.
- Spoon lentil mixture into pepper halves. Serve with a side salad and enjoy!