Easy Summer Appetizers...Accidentally Vegan

Do you get that dreaded feeling when you invite someone over for dinner and then find out they are vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, or all of the above? I've actually had people tell me the reason they haven't invited us over for dinner is because they are nervous about what to make for me. Here's a secret, most of us alternative diet people are pretty easy to please. And so many foods are what we like to call "accidentally vegan" and simple to make gluten-free. Especially in the summer. Marinate and then grill a portobello cap for them as their "meat" and throw some summer squash and other veggies on the grill for everyone's side dish. Just be respectful to keep them on one side of the grill if you are doing meat as well. Make a salad with baby romaine, chickpeas, pistachios and dried cherries and add a simple homemade lemon-dijon vinaigrette dressing. Or a quinoa black bean and corn salad would be a great protein rich side dish. For desert, buy a pint of soy or almond milk ice cream (you can find these at most major chain grocery stores now) and make an easy berry compote to drizzle over. Don't over think this—it's not as hard as you think it is.

A few of my favorite accidentally vegan appetizers are hummus and guacamole. I am constantly amazed at how many people have never made either, but instead buy them pre-made from the grocery store. Both are extremely easy to make and take less than 10 minutes.

We love hummus and tend to make it weekly for lunches. You can dip your veggies or chips in it or use it as a sandwich spread to replace mayo. To make hummus, I always use my food processor to insure right consistency. I've tried to make it in my Vitamix but it doesn't turn out right.  I swear by my Cuisinart food processor for the perfect hummus. I usually make it with olive oil, but for the times I am really trying to cut down on my fat intake, I'll use a water and olive oil mixture to lighten it up. It makes for a fluffier hummus that is still delicious. Try it either way!

Sun-dried Tomato Hummus (GF,V)
Time: 10 minutes

1 15.5 oz. can of garbanzo beans (chickpeas)
Juice of 1 lemon
8 Sun-dried tomato halves (from packed in oil jar)
1/2 tsp. kosher salt
1/4 tsp. coarse ground black pepper
Handful of fresh basil leaves
1/8 c. olive oil

Drain and rinse well the canned garbanzo beans in a colander.
Using a high powered food processor, pulse all of the ingredients, except the oil for 10-15 seconds, scraping down the sides as needed. Through the top opening, slowly pour in the olive oil, blending for another 10-15 seconds until it forms a creamy consistency. Serves 8.

Nutritional Estimations per Serving: Calories 101. Total Fat 6 g. Cholesterol 0 mg. Sodium 272 mg. Potassium 188 mg. Total Carbs 9 g. Fiber 3 g. Sugars 1 g. Protein 3 g. Vitamin A 3%. Vitamin C 9%. Calcium 2%. Iron 4%.

Print the recipe here!

No fancy equipment is needed to make amazing guacamole. You can use a fork to smash it, or leave it chunky and chopped up. You can also use an old fashion pie dough cutter or potato masher. There is also a nifty avocado tool out there that I received as a gift a few years ago. Completely unnecessary but handy to have for the masher side alone. Mash a few avocados, with the juice of a lime, salt and pepper. That is a basic guacamole recipe. Jazz it up by adding a chopped fresh jalapeno, seeded tomato, and/or fresh cilantro (which you know by now is a no-no in my house).

Most corn tortilla chips are gluten-free and vegan and would be perfect to go with either of these recipes. For your hummus, get a box of Mary's Gone Crackers (a must try for the name alone!), which are also vegan and gluten-free and full of whole grains and seeds. Most grocery stores have a natural food section where you can find a number of gluten-free and/or vegan crackers.

Now you don't have to feel nervous about inviting someone with a alternative diet over for dinner. Look at their dietary challenge as an adventure—a chance to show off your diverse culinary skills. Trust me, they will recognize and appreciate your efforts.

I will be anxiously awaiting your invitations!