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Vegetarian/Pescatarian Entertaining on a Budget?

I travel a fair bit for various reasons, which means my friends often watch my cat for me while I'm out of town.

They usually refuse cash payment, but I'd like to do something to thank them. Coincidentally, most of my cat-sitting friends are some variety of vegetarian (ranging from full vegan to ovo-lacto to pescatarian). I'm looking to cook them a thank-you dinner. Any great, guest-worthy dinner recipes that are either veggie or easily modified to be so?

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  1. budget? - forget the pesce idea - that stuff (the good items anyway are sooo pricey!)

    vegan and ovo-lacto, you can go wild (well within reason).

    1 Reply
    1. re: hill food

      second hill food's thought about the fish.
      the world wide price of good fish has skyrocketed and the only inexpensive fish is farm-raised yuck.
      also, don't know about your ventilation, if you cook fish, your whole house may smell of fish when the guests arrive.

    2. You could do a chili night - black bean, with soy milk cornbread and vegan or non-vegan cheese.

      A taco night, with offerings from soy chorizo to spiced tofu to shrimp.

      Marinated grilled portobello mushroom caps make lovely burgers, with vegan cheese or regular. Olive oil baked fries. Salad. Chocolate coveted strawberries.

      Or do an asian night - spring rolls made with marinated tofu or shrimp, a napa cabbage slaw, veggie potstickers.

      Or if they are pescatarians, that leaves the barn doors wide open for crab, shrimp or lobster dinners. Way cheaper at home and more fun than restaurants : )

      6 Replies
      1. re: happybaker

        never considered crab or lobster as
        <<Entertaining on a Budget>>

        canned crab is gross and fresh crab costs a fortune.

        1. re: westsidegal

          lobster is $3.99 a pound for me right now. cheaper than deli meat. :)

          1. re: hotoynoodle

            hotoy - where is there and why am I not?!?!

            1. re: hill food

              lol, boston. same thing happened last summer. honestly i don't know how the lobstermen can afford to even take out their boats, but we do our best to help them!

          2. re: westsidegal

            Ah, so jealous of hotoy!

            But even in LA, I can get a lobster for less than $9 a pound, and getting a few lobsters for friends with bread, salad and wine is WAY cheaper than a "nice" restaurant meal.

            And the frozen dungeness crab legs and claws from Costco are great for cracking and then roasting or stir frying, to add extra flavor and fun.

            1. re: happybaker

              just got culls caught this morning for $3.99 pp at the farmer's market.

              using a couple of these bugs to make lobster fritters or as a topping on crostini would seem decadent and still way cheap compared to dinner out.

        2. It's not the most original choice, but my favorite chili ever is the Vegetable Chili from the New Basics cookbook.


          Also, there are lots of great Indian curries that are vegetarian. Usually they are quite easy and very budget-friendly.

          There are two recipes in Celia Brooks Brown's "New Vegetarian" that I really like. One is the Piedmontese Peppers with Gorgonzola polenta. Here is a variation of that recipe

          The other is the haloumi fajitas. Here is a variation of her recipe:

          1. for an appetizer do a simple hummus with toasted pita halves and crudite to dip in it.

            if, on the other hand, your main dish is chili, then consider guacamole.

            i've had good success making a main dish bean-rich minestrone soup using water instead of stock, using fresh basil, and adding shelled edamame to it.
            a hearty whole grain french bread (in LA the brand to get is La Brea Bakery) tops the whole thing off.

            if you do make the minestrone soup, for an appetizer make a white bean hummous

            1. Take a look at the Ottolenghi threads - he's had two cookbooks of the month, and "Plenty" is vegetarian. You'll get some great ideas and inspiration.

              1. How sweet of you!
                Some good ideas were mentioned here:
                This time of year a fresh gazpacho appetizer, then a big main salad of farmers market greenson the bottom with quinoa, chopped nuts, avocado and some edamame or lentils mixed together w dressing, serve ontop of greens, a side of grilled corn and fresh rolls, a decent light wine, and a nondairy ice cream ( soydelicious coconut is awesome) in a root beer float (or even better drizzled with port!) with watermelon slices for dessert.

                1 Reply
                1. re: Ttrockwood

                  Trockwood: i want to be a guest at YOUR parties!
                  your menu sounds fantastic!

                2. green gazpacho to start, or a salad of cantaloupe, feta and mint. if for fishy friends, you can put a few poached shrimp on the melon too.

                  also for fishies, i have made something like these as nibbles for parties:


                  this really will help stretch a good piece of fish. great alongside a salad of shaved fennel and avocado. soba noodles with peanut sauce, finished with snap peas and julienned carrots, would work with all this too.

                  tomato tarte tatin and roasted, stuffed zucchini. you can use lots of fresh herbs and some cous cous along with the zuke flesh for this.

                  dessert can be simply fresh berries, or a crumble with coconut cream.

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: hotoynoodle

                    Yum. Do you have any cats who need sitting?

                  2. Since it is summer, what about a big salad nicoise? you can use good quality canned tuna if you want. Serve with bread and an olive tapenade. Gazpacho, maybe, if you think salad is insufficient.

                    1. I would do fish tacos. You can get reasonably priced firm whitefish like snapper or cod, or even tilapia as a last resort. serve with cabbage slaw and a great sauce, sliced avocados maybe a peach or mango salsa and warmed corn tortillas. Then on the side make a salad of quinoa, corn, beans, cilantro, peppers etc etc. The vegheads can put the salad right in the tortillas with all the toppings. others can have the fish on theirs.

                      1. Ginger-carrot-cauliflower soup is relatively cheap considering one gets a gallon from the recipe and it can be made vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and coconut milk instead of half-and-half or cream and it comes out just as good as otherwise.

                        1 Reply
                        1. re: Joebob

                          love ginger and carrot! cardamom plays well in there too.

                        2. What is your budget? If you are saving yourself $15/day (or more) in pet-sitting fees, be generous with the thank-you meal food budget. What size group? Perhaps just have those who've watched the cat in the past month each time, as so spread out / limit your expenses that way.
                          Guest-worthy ideas:
                          Warmed or chilled - Almond stuffed dates, with or without cream cheese.

                          Baked squash, with wild rice & nuts stuffing

                          Devilled eggs

                          Stuffed green peppers - rice/tomato/cheese/spices

                          1. Indian is very cheap but still a treat. Dals, rice, pakoras, chutneys can all be homemade on a small budget (if you already use the spices, but then it would be a great investment).


                            1. thanks guys, for all the great ideas! i think a chilled quinoa salad (one vegan, one with shrimp) and hummus/pita/crudites are how i'm going to go. i'll definitely be coming back to this thread in the future!

                              i think dessert will be fresh berries (wild blackberries here are EXPLODING!) with coconut cream and toasted candied almonds. you guys are the best!

                              1 Reply