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I am Vegetarian cooking for non-veg boyfriend... I want to impress!

I am 30 yr old who has been a vegetarian (no to eggs, yes to other dairy) for 20 yrs, so I have never cooked any meat dish. My bf is a meat and potatoes kind of guy, loves good cheese, and not a picky eater. I am making him dinner in a couple of days and I want some ideas. Either something vegetarian and hearty or meat that is easy to make and requires no tasting during the process. (maybe rib eye?? or some cheesy dish? )

He will eat fake meat (he loves seitan buffalo wings at a local restaurant) but in general his food background is pretty straight forward midwestern (he has never heard of gazpacho, for example.)

Any ideas? Just to re-state, I will not taste any meat product but I am open to cooking easy meat dishes. (if my OCD self is willing to handle meat it must be true love :) )


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  1. My husband is an omni. His favorite veg dishes are veg lasagna (I use a tomato sauce, not the bechemel that is common with veg lasagnas), risottos, soups and stews.

    1. Men LOVE meat loaf. There are plenty of good recipes on this board. Make a rich mac&cheese as a side. It's a traditional accompaniment to meat loaf and will be a good entree for you. Send the leftover meat loaf home with him for sandwiches. You can bake both in the oven at the same time. or if it's too hot and you want stovetop, shape the meatloaf mixture into inch-thick patties and saute over low-ish medium heat for 10 minutes per side.

      5 Replies
      1. re: greygarious

        You could even scale a recipe down to 4oz-8oz of meat and make a cute mini meat loaf! A couple vegetable sides (mashed potatoes, glazed carrots, roasted asparagus with shaved pecorino, or whatever you please) and you're sure to knock his socks off.

        1. re: operagirl

          I was just looking at ths meatloaf recipe, http://www.recipesource.com/ethnic/am...

          do you think I could cut it in half, no problem?

          1. re: rizzah

            Yes, you could halve it. But it looks low on onion - I would not halve that part, Unless you have a special meat loaf pan with an insert that allows the fat and juices to drain away from the meat, it is preferable to shape the meat and bake on a flat pan or grilling pan, to get it nice and crusty all around. Mini-loaves and muffin tins are cute but the sides aren't as nice.

            You can go a lot simpler. Recipes using dry onion soup mix are really quite tasty. You can use varying amounts of vegetable, anything from just onion to also carrot, bell pepper, cabbage, celery.....

            1. re: greygarious

              by the way, gryegarious, I kept the onion portion more than half and I cooked it in a large stainless steel skillet, with the meat kept a few inches away from the sides of the pan. seemed to work well.

          2. re: operagirl

            Mini meat loaf is a great idea. I make them all the time for DH and I since we have an empty nest.

        2. rizzah,

          Yes, I suppose a steak like rib eye is not a bad choice because you can gauge the meat by touch and look without tasting it. Another choice is to just add bacon into his dish. You cook the same thing for him as for you, but add bacon to his dishes. You cooked a eggplant dish. Well, his will be bacon bits eggplant. You made salad. Well, his will be bacon bits salad. I don't it is impressive in a fancy way, but most guys love bacon, so he will like it. In addition, bacon is very forgiving. You cannot really mess it up. It tastes fine when it is soft. It tastes fine when it is crispy.

          5 Replies
          1. re: Chemicalkinetics

            Another vote for the loaf--you can never go wrong with it.

            1. re: Chemicalkinetics

              that would be pretty funny, if I just added bacon to whatever it is I made. I might do it...

              1. re: rizzah

                You could also add bacon to the meatloaf ;) I shape mine kind of like an egg (well, like a flat-bottomed Easter egg candy) on a jelly roll pan and cover it in bacon. After awhile, baste with sauce made of chili sauce/dry mustard/brown sugar. Yum.

                Steak seems risky to me as well. Yes, you can judge doneness without tasting ... but not, perhaps, if you've never cooked steak before.

                1. re: rizzah


                  I kinda of agree with foiegars, so I like to modify my original support for steak. It is a good choice and you don't need to taste to judge doneness, but it is difficult for someone who has never ever eaten or cooked a steak. It can be unforgiving. You know how certain food are very forgiving, like stews, bacons, cookies, turnip green, ... Well, a steak is not one of them. It can be easier undercooked or overcooked.

                  Meatload is still great.

                  1. re: rizzah

                    I'm an omnivore that cooks a lot from vegetarian cookbooks. I find that so many of the recipes are a better to my taste with a little bacon added!

                2. I think a really great eggplant parmasan would be awesome with a great salad, nice dessert. Do a nice antipasto appetizer platter and include some typical italian meats, cheeses, olives, etc.

                  1. I have a few options for you.

                    As GG said, a nice meatloaf with mac and cheese is a great idea.

                    A veg lasagna and make a couple of Italian sausges for him to go with.

                    A Greek salad with a souvlaki on the side for him. (Since it seems like you're okay to grill)

                    My whole point would be that you make a dish that the two of you could share and just augment his with some meat of some sort.

                    And just before he comes over, fry up some bacon, let the grease cool and then rub it all over yourself. He won't be able to resist you ;-)


                    1. i still eat seafood but no meats otherwise. we make a dish that comes from rachel ray. we have made this for meat eaters who went back for seconds. this is completely vegetarian dish. we love it and we like to serve it with sweet potato fries. it's a more informal dish too if that matters.


                      Portobello Burgers with Roasted Pepper Paste and Smoked Mozzarella

                      1. All of these are great suggestions, thanks. He always talks about making me a veggie lasagna from a recipe that his friend gave him, otherwise I probably would do that. The Rachael Ray mushroom burger is an option I am thinking about.

                        I am thinking now that I would like something that I could eat alongside, either the exact dish or a variation (like vegan ceasar salad for me and w/ chicken for him) just because I would feel weird serving two totally different dishes (like steak or meatloaf for him, veggie burger for me). I will do those another time.

                        I think I am going to go to my go-to dish of Thai green curry w/ tofu. Might be a little "exotic" for him, but oh well, at least I know how to make it and I know it tastes good! :)


                        10 Replies
                        1. re: rizzah

                          If you are hoping for a lifetime with this fellow, I strongly suggest you re-think the tofu. As Kooper describes below, "mixed" couples can co-exist in harmony if they accommodate each other's preferences. Tofu (a.k.a., in carnivore circles, as "tofu-blech" and "to-phooey") might be construed as an attempt at forcible conversion. I happen to like it but would not prepare it for a meat-n-spuds eater unless you're trying to drive him away! If yours is a permanent relationship, you will wind up preparing and eating different things at the same meal, so both of you may just as well get started now.

                          1. re: greygarious

                            Oh, I don't know - as long as the fella likes Thai food, I'd think a curry would be a pretty good tofu-introduction medium. The sauce would be rich and flavorful enough to compensate for the neutral-ness of the tofu, and there'd be enough other veggies in there that it could disappear a bit, visually. I grew up eating super-mega-middle-American and while my first official introduction to tofu was plain and cubed on a salad bar (not recommended), thai tofu curry was one of the first tofu dishes I ever deliberately ordered for myself in a restaurant.

                            Aside to Rizzah: I love a good meatloaf, but I might recommend choosing something a little less hands-on for your first meat-cooking experience ever. Mixing meatloaf more-or-less evenly with a spoon is hard to do. You kinda gotta get in there with your hands and squish.

                            1. re: greygarious

                              I feel the opposite. If, in the "honeymoon" phase, he can't eat a little tofu... well, I just think he should do fine. Even dedicated carnivores can eat the occasional vegetarian meal, especially when it's been lovingly prepared by a romantic partner. Why would you want to spend a lifetime with someone who can't compromise?

                              1. re: visciole


                                I think I understand what greygarious are talking about. Not that I personally would think of it, but grey has a point. It isn't so much that a typical person cannot eat a full vegetarian meal. He/she can. The thing is that tofu can send a specific wrong message. To some people, tofu is a way to ease into full vegetarian diet. It is often used as a substitution for meat products. Think of all the imitation meats like tofu burger or tofu turkey. In other words, a full vegetarian meal without tofu may seem less threatening than one with tofu.

                                Again, I personally don't see it this way, but I can see others may feel this way.

                                By the way, we are not carnivores, we are omnivores.

                                1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                  Yeah, I understand the difference between carnivores and omnivores. However, many people refer to those who seem to need meat with every meal as carnivores. Hyperbole as humor.

                                2. re: visciole

                                  Somehow, visciole, I think you're missing the point. The OP has pointed out that he has been compromising and eaten "fake meat," but she is making him dinner and she "wants to impress". I think if I were starting to date a vegetarian and wanted to impress her with how much I cared, I would be sending the wrong message if I threw a couple of steaks on the grill and some potatoes into the oven and expected her to "compromise." (Unless as you put it, why would you want to spend a lifetime with someone who can't compromise".

                                  1. re: junescook

                                    one of the reasons I wanted to do meat, is because the first few times we went out it was to a vegetarian only restaurant, at his suggestion. it took me a while to realize it prob wouldn't have been his first choice and I thought it was really sweet. soo, I want to show the same kind of thoughtfulness in return by cooking meat.

                                3. re: greygarious

                                  speaking as someone who LOVES tofu, i am completely in agreement with greygarious.

                                  i don't know ANY carnivores that really like the stuff.

                                  1. re: westsidegal

                                    Um, except for all those people who love mapo tofu.

                                4. re: rizzah

                                  You might want to look at Peter Berley's Flexitarian cookbook. Each meal he presents has a meat option and a veg option. It might give you great ideas for over the years (if, as greygarious pointed out, you're hoping for a lifetime with the fellow).

                                5. You could do a linguine with sliced green pepper, onions, mushrooms and fresh tomatoes in a garlic, basil and olive oil sauce. You can have it with just the vegetables and pasta for him you could do a grilled chicken breast done is a separate pan. When I cook for my wife we often do healthier options for her and meaty options for me. This is a simple way to offer something for everyone.

                                  This is also the first recipe my wife made for me 6 years ago for my birthday. This recipe is something that is easy and tasty.

                                  6 Replies
                                  1. re: Kooper

                                    is it easy to cook a chicken breast w/ out being able to taste it and not really knowing what signs I am looking for to signal it's done?

                                    1. re: rizzah

                                      You can fry in a little olive oil on about medium heat until nice and brown on one side, then turn and cook till it is nice and brown and juices run clear from chicken. Seasonings can range anywhere from just s&p or something you know would work with your pasta.

                                      1. re: boyzoma

                                        With my recipe I usually use Basil, garlic and pepper. Keep it simple.

                                        1. re: boyzoma

                                          And, that could be dry and overcooked and nasty. NOT chicken breast, please!

                                          1. re: MazDee

                                            Well, I guess that is a personal opinion. But we are all entitled to our own. :-)

                                        2. re: rizzah

                                          Better than a chicken breast (which are hard to not overcook anyway) is sausage, the precooked chicken or turkey kind (typical favors are spinach feta, sundried tomato, or Italian). They are already cooked, so you are really just heating, can do in a skillet with a bit or oil or water. Would go great on top of any veggie pasta dish..

                                      2. The only thing that I think you should avoid that has been posted here is steak. The only reason I say this is because if you've never cooked it before, you're likely to overcook it and unless your friend likes his steak well-done, I'd make something else.

                                        I understand your sentiment in wishing to cook meat for him, but unless he's been asking, I don't really think it is necessary. If I were you, I'd make something really good that's hearty enough so a meat-eater won't miss the meat, such as lasagna or a pasta dish with seafood, shrimp scampi, or halibut (if he eats fish).

                                        2 Replies
                                        1. re: John E.

                                          from what I've read online, it looks like steak is the most fool proof?? maybe bacon is a better choice, or seafood like you say...

                                          1. re: rizzah

                                            I agree with John, enjoyment of a steak unlike chicken is very tied to how well cooked or rare it is. Some people absolutely love a well done steak, I myself hate one that is over cooked. If you want to make a steak maybe have him cook it to his desired doneness as a way of helping out with the meal.

                                          1. re: joonjoon

                                            Really people? No one likes steak?

                                            What's easier to cook and sexier to a man than steak? Season meat, put on hot cooking surface for 3-4 minutes a side depending on thickness, let rest and serve. Even a novice can make a good steak with an instant-read thermometer.

                                            Make him steak.

                                            1. re: joonjoon

                                              The point I was trying to make is that while easy to cook, steak is unforgiving and is just as easy or easier to overcook as it is to cook properly for someone that cooks and eats steak regularly. For someone that has never cooked or eaten a steak the odds are it will get overcooked. Kooper has the best steak idea, have the guy cook it. This gal can make her point that she wished to please him simply by buying a good steak. What guy wouldn't love that?

                                              1. re: John E.

                                                I guess that's where I'm sort of disagreeing. There are indeed foolproof methods of cooking a steak, here's one example:

                                                Season steak with salt and pepper, rub with oil. Set on a rack and put into 275 degree oven with an instant read thermometer. Cook until temp is a couple degrees below desired temp. (130 for MedRare, pull at 127/8ish)

                                                Heat up a pan over high heat until pan is extremely hot. Sear steak on pan for 1 minute per side until nice crust forms. Serve with a little butter or blue cheese on top.

                                                You can't screw that up. And the steak will be spectacular.

                                              2. re: joonjoon

                                                the way i know when the steak is cooked is by it's feel.
                                                if someone has no experience with this, they wouldn't know how cooked the steak was unless they kept cutting holes in it during the cooking process.

                                            2. I think Kooper is on the right track. If you're thinking of making a serious commitment and not hoping that one of you is going to change, develop menu items that are complementary, like Kooper's pasta and chicken combo, or maybe swiss chard or rabe with white beans over penne, with some sausage to accompany for him. Personally I'd marry anybody for meatloaf (actually I think maybe i did), ratatouille might go good with that. Now I'm starving.

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: junescook

                                                yeah, it sounds good but I am worried about serving bad chicken, either not fully-cooked, or not correctly spiced...
                                                sausage is a good idea, it would probably be easier to cook correctly and I wouldn't have to worry about seasoning it...

                                              2. BRAISE!!!

                                                It's the only way you are going to cook meat without SCREWING IT UP, well you can screw it up, but not as badly as an overcooked steak.

                                                If you aren't willing to try the food you cooked for taste (even just the sauce) then don't cook him anything with meat. You can't cook anything well without constant tasting.

                                                1. As of now, I am thinking a mini-meatloaf for him (the Paul Prudhomme cajun recipe, looks time consuming but pretty hard to mess up) and mac and cheese and peas.

                                                  Dinner is tomorrow night; I'll let you know what I do for sure!

                                                  Thanks again for all of your great ideas!

                                                  2 Replies
                                                  1. re: rizzah


                                                    Meatloaf with mac and cheese sounds like the ultimate guy happy, comfort combo. Please let us know how it turns out. My wife did the BH&G meatloaf recipe and has gotten me for 38 years.

                                                    1. re: rizzah

                                                      Sounds wonderful! Just remember that your mini loaf will cook in a much shorter amount of time than a regular-sized one -- perhaps check internal temp for doneness rather than relying on the recipe.

                                                    2. Oven roasting is a great technique that makes cooking meat dead simple. You just need a hot oven and a meat thermometer. Go to a butcher and buy a ready-to-cook beef roast; or pork or lamb or veal. For lamb or beef, cook it to 150 F or so, and you'll have a very happy omnivore.

                                                      I think this would work well for a mixed meal. If you have a big oven, cook the roast meat at the same time you roast potatoes and vegetables, and you'll both be eating something similar.

                                                      1. pretty sure you're all set for tonight, so good luck!!! i'm sure he'll be thrilled no matter what you serve him :=) if he's a good guy, he will no doubt simply appreciate all the effort in action and thought that you've put into this dinner.

                                                        for next time,
                                                        enchiladas - chicken or beef for him, cheese for you
                                                        carbonara - sans meat for you
                                                        roast chicken for him - ina garten's is sooo easy and you can test with a thermometer; serve with a lentil rice pilaf and grilled veggies/artichokes, salad and/or souffle of some kind
                                                        gourmet pizzas - easy to top separately
                                                        stuffed chicken breast (test with therm) for him and stuffed tempeh or something similar with same stuffing for you
                                                        breakfast for dinner - omelettes, waffles/pancakes, bacon, hash browns

                                                        happy meating and non-meating for this wonderful meeting of the mouths!!

                                                        1. Wow! Dinner was great. I made Paul Prudhomme's Cajun meatloaf recipe, halved, Martha Stewart's mac n' cheese, and a simple salad.

                                                          He was genuinely really excited when I pulled the meatloaf out of the oven and he saw what it was. Without missing a beat he said he loved meatloaf (I was kind of worried that he was the rare guy who doesn't like it. We've only been dating for 3 mos and I don't think meatloaf was ever a topic of conversation, ha.)

                                                          Anyway, he ate more than 3/4 of the thing (it was a halved recipe, but still...) and a huge portion of mac and cheese. Didn't even touch the salad. He LOVED the meatloaf and I am really glad I chose to make it instead of my go-to green curry w/ tofu dish. (Which is probably what I would have made if it hadn't been for you guys.)

                                                          So, THANKS!

                                                          25 Replies
                                                          1. re: rizzah

                                                            Congratulation, rizzah. He knows he's got a winner.

                                                                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics

                                                                    Glad to hear that your dinner went so well! I'm coming to this late, but Deb of smittenkitchen has a recipe for Mushroom Bourguignon that makes carnivores wonder why they ever preferred meat. It's hearty and delicious, more for autumn than the heat of summer!


                                                                    1. re: janeh

                                                                      Have you made it? I like the idea and have bookmarked it. Thanks.

                                                                      1. re: greygarious

                                                                        I made it ... it did not make me wonder why I ever preferred meat ;) But I wish it had.

                                                                        1. re: foiegras

                                                                          Ditto. I thought it was ok. Husband hated it.

                                                                          1. re: Jen76

                                                                            Yes, I would go with OK. I had so much money and time in it that I wanted to think it was better than that. Then a bit later I made the same/similar dish with beef, and ah ... *that* is what it's supposed to taste like. Sadly, all the mushrooms, soy sauce, etc. in the world do not replace the umami of good beef. (And some meat and poultry is so poorly raised and produced that it is not worth the time to bring it to the table.)

                                                                            1. re: foiegras

                                                                              "I had so much money"


                                                                              Hi, can I have some?

                                                                              1. re: foiegras

                                                                                Indeed. Same way I felt. It was a very expensive dish to make (for me) and I really wanted to like it more. I love a lot of her recipes (her chicken and dumplings recipe is to die for), but that one didn't do it for me, unfortunately.

                                                                          2. re: greygarious

                                                                            Greygarious, I've made it a few times and everyone's really liked it and requested it again. It's a hearty dish for cooler weather (which will eventually return!). Enjoy!

                                                                          3. re: janeh

                                                                            yeah, that looks good, I bookmarked it, too. so much of the flavor of good food is in the sauces. that was one thing i was amazed at making the meatloaf yesterday - even though I stopped eating meat at age 10, the flavor of the meatloaf "sauce" (the stuff I mixed in w/ the meat, which I made w/ veg. worcestershire sauce) tasted to me like full on meat because the flavors reminded me so much of eating meatloaf as a kid.

                                                                            1. re: janeh

                                                                              I love this recipe and have made it about ten times since ChristinaMason recommended it to me. As a non-carnivore, I can't speak to whether it is or isn't "better" than beef bourguignon, but it sure is good.

                                                                              1. re: small h

                                                                                Aw, yay! And I've never ever made it...lol

                                                                                1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                  How about that! Well, you picked a winner.

                                                                                  1. re: small h

                                                                                    That's fun. I keep meaning to make it for a veg. friend of mine. He recently started eating bacon. Maybe I'll add some.

                                                                                    Glad it worked so well for you.

                                                                                    1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                      Wait a sec. Your vegetarian friend 'recently started eating bacon'? If he'll eat bacon, you could ask what he thinks of trying real beef bourguignon. (I've never been a vegetarian, have known a few, but eating bacon seems like diving off the high board into the deep end rather than sticking a toe into the kiddie pool, so to speak.)

                                                                                      1. re: John E.

                                                                                        He is still grossed out by meat that resembles animals, from what I understand. This includes hunks of muscle. I don't pretend to really "get" the internal logic, but if it makes him happy, I'm good with it! Right now I think he is willing to eat more "flexitarian"---he'll eat tofu and seitan and veggie products simmered in a Taiwanese beef noodle dish, for example. But chunks of meat are still a no-go zone (should have seen the chagrined look on his face when we passed a plate of sliced medium-pink pork loin around the table). I respect vegetarianism but it's not a viable choice for me personally.

                                                                                        1. re: ChristinaMason

                                                                                          I respect his decisions, but am just a little perplexed because bacon seems much more of a problem health-wise than beef. (Of course I know health isn't always the reason for being a vegetarian.)

                                                                                          Several years ago I had a co-worker who would not eat pork. I knew her religious affiliation and the Bible college she attended so I knew it wasn't a religious thing. She would however, eat pepperoni, bacon, and ham, she just wouldn't eat 'pork'. I never did convince her that pork loin is much more lean than the pork she was already eating and that it was 'clean'. An interesting thing about her husband (they were newlyweds at the time) is that he was the youngest of 13 children. His parents were obviously older and his mom was tired of cooking by the time he came along (bonus baby, his next oldest sibling was 10 years older) and she basically stopped cooking. He grew up on fast food, frozen food, and junk like that. The only potato he would eat was a french fry. I wished his bride luck on getting him to eat a wider variety of food. She complained about him to me every day at work, she had figured out that I cook and could help her with her questions.

                                                                      2. re: rizzah

                                                                        Wow! Sounds like you nailed it, rizzah. Glad you had a great meal together!

                                                                        1. re: rizzah

                                                                          now next time he has to cook dinner for you! it's probably more of a challenge to have him cook a vegetarian meal but ya never know...

                                                                              1. re: rizzah

                                                                                I know I did not contribute to this thread but I am so glad it turned out well! Yay! What will you make next time?

                                                                              2. I'm glad it went so well for you. Bask in the glow! ;-)

                                                                                1. Just noticed this link on the right side of the page - perhaps a "meatloaf" that you can both enjoy next time? http://www.chow.com/recipes/28603-mea...

                                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                                  1. re: greygarious

                                                                                    It's similar to my grilled fish recipe. Take two hot dogs and boil them in water.


                                                                                  2. I would stick to the vegetarian. You really do not seem like a meat and potatoes type of person. I also noticed just now this thread goes back awhile so perhaps it is a non issue now. I hope it all worked itself out!

                                                                                    1. These Chicago-style Italian "beef" sandwiches are a personal favorite of mine - http://vegweb.com/recipes/chicago-sty...

                                                                                      I've eaten the real thing in Chicago before and these are pretty damn close to the real thing.

                                                                                      1. what i would do is to cook a pasta that goes well with italian sausage.

                                                                                        i would serve him real italian sausage and i'd serve myself "phoney meat" italian sausage.

                                                                                        that way, your meals look more the same than different.
                                                                                        no need to highlight differences now.