Perplexed cook surrounding by vegetables with text: Vegan? Vegetarian? Gluten-free? Surprisingly easy menus!

Surprisingly Easy Vegan, Vegetarian and Gluten-free Menus

Since Chelsea Clinton’s wedding reception featured vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, this kind of food is now well on the way to becoming a staple of mainstream American cooking.

But if you thumb through your family cookbook, you’ll probably find more vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes than you might have imagined.

Our grannies instinctively cooked vegan and vegetarian because that’s what they had: fresh locally-grown veggies. They just didn’t label the food that way.

Back then, people cooked and served more vegetables than meat products.  The meals they made were more filling, and consisted of mostly vegetables and some breads. If folks served meat, it was as an accent to the mostly vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes (not counting any biscuits on the table).

Let’s take a look at what these terms vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free really mean:


A vegan is someone who avoids foods derived from any kind of animal (land or sea) or animal-originated products such as:

  • honey
  • butter
  • gelatin
  • eggs
  • milk
  • cheese or other dairy

People may become vegan for either political or dietary reasons.


A vegetarian is someone who doesn’t eat meat, poultry or fish, but will eat dairy and eggs.


Gluten-free cooking means preparing dishes without the gluten protein found in wheat, rye, barley and oat products.

Cooking vegan and gluten-free can be very challenging because of the absence of texture and taste added by many animal products. Good substitutes (even for wedding cakes) are a combination of white rice flour with potato starch flour, sugar and cornstarch.

Ideas for vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meals

If you want to try your own vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free meal, it’s easy to make satisfying and easy choices using fresh ingredients:


Choose 2

  • Crudités with dips like eggplant caponata, white bean puree, kalamata olive or sun-dried tomato tapenade or Baba Ganoush (mashed eggplant and spices)
  • Fresh fruit skewers
  • Sweet potato puree piped on fennel leaves
  • Mushroom and leek tacos on tiny corn tortillas
  • Guacamole, corn tortilla chips with salsa


Choose 1

  • Spicy green beans with walnuts and Dijon mustard vinaigrette
  • Greens with sliced peaches, jicama, pistachios with sweet vinaigrette
  • Three- or four-bean salad


Choose 1

  • Miso soup with tofu and portabello mushrooms
  • Garlic split pea soup
  • Tomato dill soup


Choose 1

  • Tofu and squash casserole with broccoli and cashews
  • Roasted bell peppers stuffed with rice, herbs, artichoke hearts, kalamata olives, and toasted pine-nuts
  • Refried black beans and chunky tomato rice
  • Angel hair gluten-free pasta with vegetables and mushrooms
  • Spicy curry with chickpeas on brown rice

Side dishes

  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Herb roasted vegetables

Gluten-Free Dessert

  • Carrot cake with whipped sugar frosting
  • Pineapple cake (mixes available)

After all that hoopla about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding menu of vegan, vegetarian and gluten-free dishes, I hope she remembered to do one thing: Save all her recipes in a family cookbook!

Happy Cookbooking,


About Erin Miller

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