Pleasing vegetarians and meat lovers without cooking two meals

Help! How do I make a family meal for two vegetarians and two meat-eaters? I’m out of ideas and tired of cooking two different meals. Any suggestions will be appreciated.

Your dilemma is more common than you might think. But a little creative cooking can bring the family back together at the dinner table.

First, always start with a vegetarian recipe. While it is cooking, prepare meat to add to the plate at the last minute. Separate half of the meal for your vegetarians and add the meat to the other half for the meat-eaters.

Veggies, grains and legumes all complement meats and stand on their own as entrees. You might even pre-cook different sized meat pieces, package them and freeze for future combinations with an all-vegetable recipe. Pork tenderloins, turkey tenders or boneless chicken breasts will adapt perfectly. Fully cooked meatballs might even dance to this tune.

If you want more of a step-by-step concept, look to the traditional process of stir-frying. Traditionally, small cut pieces of beef, chicken or shrimp are cooked in a hot wok and removed to stand close by. Cut vegetables are quickly tossed into the wok and stir-fried with a glaze of oil. The final dish is composed by returning the cooked meat to the wok and adding a flavorful sauce. Together, the meat and vegetables are finished off in the bubbling wok and served with a steaming mound of rice.

This ancient method can be translated to today’s no-stick skillet or Dutch oven. I would make two alterations to the process. Quickly wash the pot/wok after cooking the meat and before cooking the vegetables. Secondly, fully cook the carrots, sugar snap peas, red pepper, scallions and broccoli. Serve half to your veggie-cravers and combine the small amount of meat with the remaining vegetables, reheat and serve to the meat-eaters. This sounds like a longer process, but it can be accomplished in minutes.

Finally, keep browned extra-lean ground beef on hand in the freezer. You can use this as a topping on stuffed zucchini or peppers. Also, a cupful will turn half of a chunky vegetable marinara into a hearty meat sauce for a plate of pasta. Enjoy!

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