A Quinceañera is the Hispanic tradition of celebrating a girl’s 15th birthday. This birthday is celebrated differently from any other birthday, as it recognizes her journey from childhood to young womanhood. Though the celebration varies significantly across countries, one thing they all have in common is a shared meal. This menu will enable guests of all eating ideologies to share in the dinner festivities.
Chicken Taquitos (O)Beef Taquitos (O)
Garden Salad with Ranch Dressing (LV) and Mango Dressing (V)Refried Beans (V)Mexican Rice (V)Spinach Enchiladas (LV)Grilled Beef and Chicken Fajitas (O)Tortillas (V)Sautéed Onions and Sweet Bell Peppers, Chopped Tomato (V)Shredded Lettuce, Diced Onion, Sliced Jalapeno (V)Guacamole and Salsa (V)Grated Cheddar Cheese and Sour Cream (LV)
Sopapillas (V)Wedding Cookies (LV)
Taquitos are a good appetizer, as they are finger foods and therefore easy for your guest to eat while they are milling about. Go simple for these—get frozen chicken and beef taquitos at the grocery store. They can go straight from the oven onto serving dishes.
The Ranch Dressing and Mango Dressing are very quick. Make them early in the day or the night before. Serve them on the side with your garden salad.
You can also put the Spinach Enchiladas together the night before, or in the morning. Put them in the oven about 30 minutes before you want to serve them.
In the meanwhile, dice the tomatoes and mince the onion and pepper for the Mexican Rice. It will only take about 20 minutes to cook once you have everything in the pan, but the preparation takes a little while. The Refried Beans use canned beans and are very quick. Start cooking them when the enchiladas are in the oven and the rice is on the stove.
Make the Salsa anytime. If the night before fits into your schedule better, it will certainly keep.
If you marinate your flank steak and chicken for fajitas, do it early in the day or the night before as well. Fire up the grill a couple of hours before you want to serve—or earlier if you are having a large crowd and are grilling a lot of meat. Cut and sauté the onions and bell peppers on the stove. Chop and shred the accompaniments.
Make the Guacamole last.
If you have a good way to serve piping hot Sopapillas without tying yourself to the stove, then those are a great dessert. Otherwise, make Wedding Cookies the night before. Their crumbly sweetness is a perfect topper for this meal.
Most of all, enjoy your day as your beautiful girl celebrates her coming of age.
Until next time,
Lisa, (aka Veggie Gal)
I have done serious damage to a lot of mangos. I just can’t tell where that pesky seed is. I finally came up with a way to cut them that doesn’t leave me with a bunch of little slivers. So I made peace with mangos. Or maybe I made piece. (OK, I’m not the world’s best punster.) Here is my new technique.
First wash the mango so that any dirt or germs on the outside doesn’t go through the fruit when you cut it. Then cut off the bottom where the stem connected.
Then cut down the sides.
Continue cutting down the sides until you have gone around the entire mango. If you need large chunks, this is likely as much as you will be able to get.
If you don’t need chunks—or if you just want to eat the slivers since they won’t be going into your recipe—continue to cut slivers.
Now you can scoop the fruit from the peel with a spoon. If the mango is very ripe and you don’t care if the fruit tears, you can pop it out of the peel by bending it backwards. Enjoy!
Lisa (aka Veggie Gal)
Surprise your sweetie with a fabulous Valentine’s Day meal. The Mushroom Ragout with Mashed Potatoes is a hearty main dish for a vegan or vegetarian, plus goes very well as a side dish with steak for your omnivore sweetheart. I’ve also included salad and pie to round out the menu.
Baby Spinach and Feta Salad (V or LV)Preserves Vinaigrette (V)Steak, prepared your favorite way (C)Mushroom Ragout (V or LV)Mashed Potatoes (V or LV)Yogurt Pie (LV)
The Yogurt Pie couldn’t get any easier. Make it the night before and put it in the freezer. Take it out when you sit down to eat so it will soften a little to make it easier to cut. For Valentine’s Day, use strawberry yogurt and fresh strawberries. The sliced strawberries look like little hearts around the edge of the pie.
Assign the steaks to your omnivore sweetheart. My husband likes to cook them on our gas grill or Primo. My twin brother marinates his steaks first, then cooks them in his Green Egg. Steaks also come out very well broiled in the oven, with only salt and pepper for seasoning. Cook yours the way you like them best.
Make the Preserves Vinaigrette so the flavors can merge while you prepare everything else. I went with marmalade for this meal.
The Baby Spinach (or Mixed Greens) and Feta Salad goes together in a snap. Wash and spin the salad greens. Put into a nice bowl and put back in the refrigerator so they stay cold and crisp. Lightly toast the almond slices in a small skillet. Set aside. Right before you serve the salad, add the cheese, cherries and toasted almonds and toss everything together. You can also add the salad dressing before you toss it, or serve the dressing on the side.
Prepare the ingredients for the Mushroom Ragout. I’ve made this using only white button mushrooms and it is tasty. This is one case where more is better, though, so get a variety of mushrooms when you can. My grocery store had a very nice selection of mushrooms this week—cremini, Portobella, white, Chantrelle and oyster—so this Ragout was a real treat.
Put the onions on to sauté in a Dutch Oven, Chef’s pan or large sauté pan. While they are cooking, start the Mashed Potatoes by washing, cubing and putting the potatoes on to boil. Continue with the Ragout. The potatoes will be ready to mash shortly before the Ragout is done, so both of these will be hot when you serve them. Your salad will be cold, with an assortment of textures from the fresh greens, crunchy nuts, chewy dried fruit and creamy cheese.
Add the sizzling steak for your omnivore, plus wine and candlelight for a wonderful meal and the start to a romantic evening.
Candle Café (Upper East Side)1307 3rd Avenue (Between 74th & 75th St.)New York, NY 10021Tel: (212) 472-0970Monday through Saturday 11:30AM - 10:30PMSunday 11:30AM - 9:30PM
Candle Café West (Upper West Side)2427 Broadway (Between 89th and 90th St.)New York, NY 10024Tel: (212) 769-8900Monday through Saturday 11:30AM - 10:30PMSunday 11:30AM - 9:30PM
My sister and I recently visited her son in New York. He made reservations for us to go to the Candle Café. When we got there I learned it was vegan. I was touched, surprised and impressed that he was willing to go to and even sought out a vegan restaurant. For me.
And guess what? All three of us had wonderful meals. My Texas kin did not miss the meat at all.
There are two locations for the Candle Café. Their regular menu is extensive, plus the Upper East Side location (where we went) offers daily specials. Start with traditional Edamame, or go with something you can’t get anywhere else, such as their House-Made Seitan Dumplings. Move on to one of their fabulous salads or something heartier like Tuscan Lasagna or a daily special like Pomegranate Grilled Tofu. Accompany it with one of their organic wines, beers or teas.
Candle Café is a wonderful place to dine, no matter what your eating ideology. Check it out!
Happy holidays! Will you have a group of diverse eaters at your home this year? Not to worry. This Holiday Cheer menu will satisfy everyone.
Cheese Ball and Crackers (O or LV if it says “Rennetless”)Olive Paste and Bagel Chips (V)Prime (Standing) Rib Roast, with its gravy (C)Lentil Stew (V)White or brown rice (V or LV)Sautéed Swiss Chard (V)Yeast Rolls (V)Sugar Cookies (V or LV)
The cheese ball or cheese log (from the grocery store), the Olive Paste and the Sugar Cookies can all be prepared in advance. If you don’t have double ovens, bake the cookies either in the morning or the night before. Even with double ovens, I find it less stressful to bake cookies beforehand, particularly when I will have several other dishes going at the same time. The prime (standing) rib roast can take anywhere from two to six hours for preparation and cooking, depending on the size. The rolls are quick. Put those into the oven when the rib roast is resting after it is cooked. The Lentil Stew, rice and Sautéed Swiss Chard are all done on the stove.
Start this these seriously easy and good Sugar Cookies. This recipe makes a huge batch of them, so you can make little gift bags for your guests to take some home. Or make a half recipe. Some tips about them. First, cookie dough typically is like a sticky paste. This one isn’t. The dough will look mottled.
It will form easily into balls. Second, put lots of colored sugar on them.
The sugar will spread as the cookies spread while baking.
Lastly, put them in airtight zipper bags or containers. They will stay soft.
Recipes for Prime (Standing) Rib Roast are all very similar. They typically have these things in common:
Including prep time, the Lentil Stew will take about 1-½ hours to make. I have spoken to a lot of folks who don’t cook lentils because they end up crunchy. While lentils cook much faster than dried beans or peas, they still start out dry.
Crunchy lentils just means they haven’t cooked long enough. For this recipe, I first cook them for 30 minutes, covered, with just the vegetable broth or bouillon. This hydrates them and goes a long way to softening them. Then I add the rest of the stew ingredients and cook uncovered for another 35 to 45 minutes.
This makes a hearty side dish, as well as a terrific main dish for a vegan or vegetarian.
Next put on the rice, then, lastly, the Sautéed Swiss Chard and rolls.
When your family and friends arrive, your house will smell great! To give them something to munch on before dinner, put out the cheese ball and Olive Paste on festive dishes, served with crackers and bagel chips.
Mouths will be watering as you put the rest of the food on the table. You have created a meal that will feed carnivores, omnivores, vegetarians, vegans, those with lactose intolerance and folks who needs gluten-free foods. Your holiday meal is a success!
My family and I wish you and yours the happiest of holiday seasons—and especially joyous, harmonious mealtimes.
As November rolled in, so did our first frost. The annuals in the front yard didn’t fare so well. Neither did our tomatoes. They were not yet ripe, so my mother-in-law picked them and put them in brown paper bags—and they are really ripening in the bag! The tomatoes in this photo were all green three days ago. We will soon be celebrating our first Thanksgiving in our new house with a meal shared with love by folks of all eating ideologies. We would like to take this time to thank our readers, our newsletter subscribers and everyone who has visited the Veggie Gal site and given us input. Please keep it coming!
Zorba’s Opa!2501 Bethlehem Pike (Rt 309)Hatfield, PA 19440(215) 997-0606
I travel for work, primarily to industrialized or warehouse areas. It is difficult to find a nearby restaurant in those areas that can feed a vegetarian. I was therefore thrilled to find Zorba’s Opa! Restaurant in Hatfield, PA, just minutes from our facility. It caters to folks of all eating ideologies and can accommodate any level of vegetarian.
Many Greek restaurants in the US really serve a combination of Greek and Lebanese foods. Zorba’s Opa! is true Greek. Their food is made to order, even at lunch, and is very fresh and tasty. Plus, if you have special dietary needs, all you have to do is tell your server and they will do their best to accommodate. The food was so good that I went two days in a row! I had two lunch specials and am hard pressed to say which one I liked better. The Dolmades (stuffed grape leaves) special was particularly good. The Dolmades were served warm, with a side salad. I confess I also ordered fries, as everyone else’s looked so good. The next day I had the stuffed tomato special and I have one word for it: Yum!
None of my colleagues who went with me on Day 1 is vegetarian. They ordered a variety of other lunch specials and all went away happy. Zorba’s Opa! is a great place to dine when you have a group of diverse eaters. Try it!
We just put in new flower beds and I incorporated herbs into them. I can now just walk out my door and get fresh basil, oregano and lemon verbena. Rosemary and parsley are on the way!
We also put in some lettuce, which makes a surprisingly good border plant. And we put in cabbage for fall color.
Now my husband has planted a large fall garden, with rows and rows of various kinds of lettuce and greens—kale, Russian kale, spinach, Holland greens, to name a few. These are doing great! The Brussels sprouts and peas are coming up more slowly.
The trick to the lettuce is to not pull up the entire head. Instead, we pick leaves off the bottom of the plant. The lettuce continues to grow up the middle, so we end up with a spindly lettuce plant, but we have lettuce for weeks from one plant.
We are still experimenting, finding out what works here and what doesn’t. We are very happy to be on this gardening adventure.
1101 FM 517 Road EastDickinson, TX 77539(281) 534-2126Open Tuesday through Saturday
I lived in Dickinson, Texas, until earlier this year and went to Sesame House restaurant a couple of times a week. We moved 110 miles north of there, so now I only get to Sesame House when I am traveling that way. So I am thrilled (because they are so awesome) and saddened (because I can no longer go very often) to feature Sesame House as my first vegetarian-friendly restaurant while I am on the road.
Sesame House is family-owned and operated. They have a mix of excellent Viet Namese and Chinese foods. The very nice thing for vegetarians—including vegans—is that they will make virtually anything on their menu vegetarian. My favorites are Orange Tofu, Tofu Singapore, Pan Fried Veggie Dumplings and most especially an off-the-menu selection, Tofu Black Pepper. My husband routinely ordered one of the Pho soups there or, when he wanted a big meal, he got another off-the-menu item, Seafood Clay Pot.
Sesame House is the perfect place to dine when you have a group of diverse eaters. Check it out.
There was probably a vegetarian in Texas before I became one. I just didn’t know that person, nor did any of my friends know him either. I was a true maverick. Almost everyone I knew had something to say about it. A lot of folks were genuinely concerned about my health and gently and not-so-gently suggested I rethink the whole thing. I got my fair share of teasing as well from those who just could not imagine why I would want to do such a thing.
One of the most memorable times was when my friend, who had been widowed the year before, had a “Work Your Butt Off at My House” party. She invited all of her friends and we converged to do things around the yard and the house that had taken a slide over the previous year.
I had never met most of the folks there. One of the guys who came had clearly never met a vegetarian. He was relentless in his teasing. When a group was picking up grass clippings, for instance, he suggested they just put them in the back of my truck. Other folks there started feeling uncomfortable for me, because every time I turned around, there he was, with some other remark or joke.
Until it came time for the potluck dinner. Each of us had brought our specialty, which meant I brought cookies. I had made Reese’s cookies, which have Reese’s peanut butter chips and milk chocolate chips in a regular cookie dough. They are really good cookies.
This gentleman took one bite of a cookie and got an almost reverent look on his face. “Oh my gosh!” he said. “These are cookies like you wished your mama would have made. Who made these?”
I cleared my throat. All eyes turned to me as I said, “I made them. They are vegetarian cookies.”
Everyone fell out. All of our work was almost in vain, as it appeared the house was going to come completely down due to howling laughter. Beet red and beaming from ear to ear, the vegetarian-buster got up, came across the room and shook my hand. He didn’t say another word about my being vegetarian.
I don’t know if there was a lesson to be learned that day, or if it was all in good fun. Or maybe keeping it in good fun was the lesson. Or just maybe the lesson was that we can always find some common ground.
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Each month we will bring you breakfast, dinner and special occasion menus starring the foods you are already cooking, and featuring tantalizing new vegetarian dishes to appeal to everyone.