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Vegan for the Holidays

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All the world is nuts about

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Vegetarians in Paradise
Vegan Vegetarian Recipes

Fourth of July Vegan Barbecue

Includes Recipes Below

A vegan at a barbecue is not like a fish out of water. A vegan barbecue is not an oxymoron. It happens all the time all over the vegetarian world, especially on summer holidays.

Whenever people gather at summer celebrations like the 4th of July, there is often a focus on informal patio dining with an abundance of food. And, what kind of food? A barbecue, of course! The mention of an old-fashioned 4th of July celebration easily conjures up images of friends and family chatting, joking, and teasing the man of the house who dons an apron and tends the smoke-spewing barbecue. With long tongs firmly in hand, he dutifully turns the hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, or shrimp until flames shoot upward and the food is well charred.

But, let's leave that old-fashioned image behind, and step out onto the patio of the vegan household to see what's cookin' for this year's 4th of July barbecue. The vegan gathering of family and friends pays homage to its furry friends, the animals, by letting them roam free, while the barbecue sizzles with some tasty treats of the season.

Though people unfamiliar with the vegan table consider it very limited, it's actually quite the opposite. With so many possible choices of excellent dishes, the host and hostess have the challenge of narrowing them down to just a few special recipes that take advantage of the outdoor grill. The vegan choices for the barbecue can also include succulent hamburgers, steaks, hot dogs, sausages, and shrimp made from plant-based ingredients. But we've departed from the ordinary to offer an extraordinary festive meal. Here's what we've chosen for this year's barbecue menu:

Island Chiller
Marinated Tofu Fingers with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Tossed Salad with Coconut Curry Dressing
Grilled Tempeh Steak
Grilled Veggie Skewers
Grilled Red Onions
Grilled Corn on the Cob

Nutty Chocolate Frozen Bananas
Stars and Stripes American Pie

With just a few creative touches you can turn the patio into the ultra-American vision with some red, white, and blue decorations, a patriotic gesture to commemorate the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Fourth of July just wouldn't be complete without an array of small flags and streamers adding visual flavor to the party scene. Perhaps you've found a patriotic tablecloth, some napkins to match, and a package of red, white, and blue balloons at the local party shop. A CD playing strains of God Bless America, The Star Spangled Banner, and America the Beautiful completes the scene. These may seem like little things, but they instantly spark a festive mood from the moment guests arrive.

Any successful event goes more smoothly with good planning. Many dishes can be prepared a day or two ahead, making the party day as enjoyable for the home chef as well as the guests. Make-ahead dishes include the Curried Coconut Salad Dressing, the Grilled Tempeh Steaks (made from fermented soybeans and available at natural foods markets), the Spicy Peanut Sauce, and even the Marinated Tofu Fingers. Both desserts, including the Chocolate Sauce, can be made the day before, too.

Be quick to accept the help of anyone who offers! You'll find plenty of volunteers to blow up balloons and put up streamers. Young people love to contribute to the party activities including the preparation of the food.

When the party day arrives, prepare the Tossed Salad, assemble the Veggie Kebabs, soak the fresh Corn in their husks, and slice the Onions for grilling. Shortly before guests arrive, prepare the Island Chillers and put the dessert Chocolate Sauce into a saucepan ready for warming later. Then greet the guests with a smile, and turn the grilling over to the barbie chef.

While the guests are sipping a refreshing mango-pineapple Island Chiller, the barbecue chef can toss some succulent, skewered Marinated Tofu Fingers on the grill to warm before dipping them into a Spicy Peanut Sauce. While everyone is chatting, munching, and catching up on the latest happenings, the presoaked fresh corn in the husk can have its turn on the barbie, sending fragrant drifts of sweet corn into the air.

Set the cooked corn aside to cool off, and give the Grilled Tempeh Steaks, Grilled Onions, and Veggie Kebabs their place on the barbecue for a brief grilling. Now is the time to bring on the colorful Tossed Salad with homemade Coconut Curry Dressing. And when the plates are heaping with celebratory vegan barbecue vittles, the chefs collect their reward in compliments and appreciative grunts.

Dessert, often considered the piece de resistance, can be equally as delectable as the entrée. For some, the dessert is the highlight of the meal. There will be no disappointed diners on this occasion with two earthy desserts that cater to the sweet tooth.

First, the dessert lovers will encounter Nutty Chocolate Frozen Bananas secured on heavy-duty wooden skewers. These are dipped into a rich, warm Chocolate Sauce to coat the surface. Then, before the chocolate hardens, each guest rolls the banana in a combination of chopped toasted nuts. One bite of this heavenly treat brings on emissions of ecstasy and delight. It's a winning threesome--chocolate, banana, and crunchy toasted nuts.

The second treat, the Stars and Stripes American Pie, is a recreation of the American flag with fruits of the season that include strawberries, blueberries, and a creamy Almond Tofu Mousse. It looks sensational, tastes great, and makes a perfect conversation piece--and a memorable one at that.

Here's an ideal starter that quells the hunger pangs, yet leaves plenty of appetite for the festive delights that follow. Because two servings fill the blender, you may want to prepare several batches ahead and chill them in pitchers if serving a crowd. Alternatively, have plenty of ingredients on hand and make them to order.


Yield: 2 delicious servings

Flesh of 2 ripe mangoes
1 1/4 cups (300 ml) unsweetened pineapple juice
1 cup ice cubes
1/2 cup (120 ml) firm silken tofu
1/4 cup (60 ml) coconut milk
1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup

Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth and creamy. Pour into old-fashioned glasses.

Marinated tofu and a vibrant peanut sauce were destined to meet as a great starter, perfect for any occasion. Prepare the sauce and marinate the tofu a day ahead so all that's needed is a quick sizzle on the barbecue or a brief warming in the oven. In addition to a dipping sauce, the Spicy Peanut sauce doubles as a tasty dressing for a salad or steamed vegetables. The sauce can be prepared up to three days in advance.

Marinated Tofu Fingers with Spicy Peanut Sauce is one of the delicious recipes in Zel's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.

Marinated Tofu Fingers


Yield: 10 tofu fingers

    Marinated Tofu
    1/3 cup (80 ml) plus 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
    1/3 cup (80 ml) light brown sugar
    1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
    1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

    1 pound (450g) extra firm tofu, cut into 10 thick fingers
    10 wooden skewers

    Spicy Peanut Sauce
    1/3 cup (80 ml) unsalted crunchy peanut butter
    3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    3 tablespoons maple syrup
    1 tablespoon water
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    1/8 teaspoon hot sauce

  1. TO MAKE THE MARINADE, combine the vinegar, brown sugar, soy sauce, and crushed red pepper flakes in a 1-quart (1 liter) saucepan. Gently warm over medium heat until the sugar is dissolved. Pour into a shallow baking dish and add the tofu fingers.
  2. Marinate for 8 to 12 hours, turning several times.
  3. Insert the wooden skewers deeply into the tofu fingers, and grill the fingers on the barbecue for about 5 to 8 minutes, turning frequently to avoid burning.
  4. TO MAKE THE PEANUT SAUCE, combine all the sauce ingredients in a bowl and stir with a wire whisk until smooth and creamy. Serve the tofu fingers with the sauce on the side. Sauce makes 2/3 cup (160 ml).

Baked Tofu Fingers: Preheat the oven to 400 degrees (Gas Mark 6). Do not use the skewers. Arrange the tofu fingers on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake them for about 20 minutes.

Here's a light dressing that promises not to cover up the fresh, sweet flavors of your crisp tossed salad. Instead, those crunchy veggies will show-off their best with a topping that compliments their earthiness.


Yield: 1 3/4 cups (415 ml)

    1 1/3 cups (320 ml) coconut milk*
    1/4 cup (60 ml) plus 1 tablespoon lemon juice
    2 teaspoons mirin (Japanese sweet cooking wine)
    2 large cloves garlic, crushed
    1 1/4 teaspoons curry powder
    1 teaspoon salt
    1/2-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and finely minced
    1/4 teaspoon black pepper
    1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
    1/8 teaspoon guar gum **

Combine all the ingredients in the blender and process until the garlic and ginger are completely incorporated and the dressing is smooth. Pour into a narrow-neck bottle for easier pouring and chill. To serve, shake well.

* Choose a coconut milk containing at 5 to 8 grams of total fat for a good consistency and flavor. Avoid the higher fat content varieties. They will produce a heavier dressing with overpowering flavor.

** Guar gum is a fine powder made from the seeds of a legume called cluster bean that grows in India. The powder is an excellent thickening agent that requires no cooking. The powder is on the (FDA's GRAS list). Used in small quantities it is considered completely safe. Guar gum is available in natural food markets.

A tasty marinade can raise the status of a simple food like tempeh to a level that deserves to be defined as "special" or even "elegant." By marinating the tempeh the day before you plan to serve, you will be able to prepare this dish in just a few minutes.


Yield: 6 servings
Marinade makes 2 cups (480 ml)

    1 1/2 pounds (675g) tempeh

    3/4 cup (180 ml) rice vinegar
    3/4 cup (180 ml) Bragg Liquid Aminos or soy sauce
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    1/4 cup (60 ml) extra virgin olive oil
    3 to 4 tablespoons evaporated cane juice
    3 tablespoons blackstrap molasses
    1 green onion, thinly sliced
    6 cloves garlic, minced
    1 1/2-inch (3.5 cm) piece ginger root, peeled and minced or grated
    1/4 teaspoon plus 1/8 teaspoon Chinese Five Spices powder
    Freshly ground black pepper to taste

    1 green onion, slivered into 1-inch (2.5 cm) lengths

  1. Score the tempeh on both sides, making shallow diagonal cuts about 1/4-inch (.5 cm) apart. Cut the tempeh into 6 portions and spread them out in one layer in a shallow baking dish.
  2. Combine the marinade ingredients in a medium bowl and pour the marinade over the tempeh, turning to coat both sides. Marinate the tempeh in the refrigerator for 24 hours or longer, turning the tempeh several times.
  3. Preheat the barbecue and grill the tempeh 4 to 7 minutes on each side. Remove to a serving platter and garnish with the slivered green onion. Save the leftover marinade to use as a dipping sauce for a future recipe.

Dust off those metal skewers tucked away over the winter and prepare them for the grill with colorful veggie kebabs. While wooden skewers may seem convenient and can be easily disposed, they tend to burn quickly and break off, making the grilling experience challenging. Save the wooden skewers for items that take only a minute or two to grill. Metal skewers are best for kebabs and other foods that take several minutes to cook and need to be turned frequently. For easier handling and grilling, thread the veggies tightly together on the skewer.

Grilled Veggie Kebabs


Yield: 6 servings

    4 zucchini squashes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices
    4 yellow crookneck squashes, cut into 1-inch (2.5 cm) slices
    3 red bell peppers, cut into 1 1/2-inch (3 cm) squares
    2 large sweet onions, cut into 1 1/2-inch (3 cm) wedges
    1 pound button mushrooms

    Prepared dressing or marinade

  1. Place each vegetable in a pile on a large baking sheet. Consider arranging them in the order you plan to thread them onto the skewers.
  2. Brush the kebabs with your favorite well-seasoned oil and vinegar dressing, a prepared marinade, or your own homemade marinade. Place the kebabs on the grill and cook about 10 to 12 minutes, turning frequently to cook them evenly.

Note: Here are other vegetables you might consider for the kebabs:

    Yellow, orange and green bell peppers
    Patty pan squashes
    Red and white onion wedges
    Cherry tomatoes
    Eggplant cubes
    Bite-size chunks of sweet potatoes
    Bite-size chunks of butternut or kabocha squash

This is simple recipe with the rewarding flavor of onions that turn sweet when cooked until lightly browned. Grilling them brings out their best flavors. An additional enhancer, the maple syrup caramelizes the onions to perfection, making them a great side dish with very little preparation.


Yield: 6 servings

    4 to 6 large red onions, peeled and sliced 1/2-inch (1 cm) thick
    Organic canola oil
    1/4 cup (60 ml) maple syrup or agave nectar (optional)
    Salt and pepper (optional)

Arrange the onion slices in a large grill basket and brush the tops with canola oil. Grill 3 to 6 minutes on each side, brushing with oil when turning the basket. If desired, lightly brush on the maple syrup when the onions are almost done cooking, and grill 1 minute longer on each side. Season with salt and pepper if desired.

Sweet, succulent, fresh-picked corn is a much-anticipated treat on 4th of July because it is often the first corn of the season. Farm-stands and farmers' market offer fresh, sweet-tasting corn that's usually picked the very day you purchase it, but nothing beats home-grown corn. By the time sweet corn arrives at the supermarket, it is often several days old, and has lost much of its sweetness. Ever wonder why? It's because the corn's natural sugars have begun turning to starch.

Our favorite method for cooking sweet corn is to grill it in the husk. That way, none of the flavor or nutrients is lost. The season for fresh, sweet, white corn begins about early to mid May. Yellow corn becomes available at the end of June or early July.


Begin by soaking whole ears of corn in their husks in a large bowl of water at room temperature for 15 minutes to 1 hour. Soaking makes the ears easier to shuck and helps to retain the moisture in the kernels.

Prepare the barbecue for grilling. When the coals are hot, place the whole, unshucked corn directly on the grill. Cover the grill, and cook 5 minutes.

Lift the cover and use tongs to turn the corn about 1/4 turn. Recover and cook another 5 minutes.

Turn the corn a final 1/4 turn, and cook 5 minutes longer. The husks should be quite blackened. If the corn is young to medium, 15 minutes is just about right. For medium to large kernel corn, 20 minutes on the grill is perfect. Allow 5 minutes for corn to cool before shucking.

To send chocoholics into ecstasy, purchase a good quality of dark chocolate and prepare the easiest sauce you've ever made. A few simple preparations the day before serving puts this sinfully delicious treat into the category of nearly trouble-free. Then, when the crowd is ready for dessert, simply warm the chocolate sauce over low heat until it is completely melted.


Yield: 6 servings

    3 ripe bananas

    1 cup (240 ml) raw walnut pieces
    6 ounces or squares (170g) unsweetened dairy-free dark chocolate
    1 1/4 cups (300 ml) organic sugar
    1/2 cup (120 ml) boiling water

    6 sturdy wooden skewers

  1. TO PREPARE THE BANANAS, peel and cut them in half crosswise. Insert a wooden skewer deeply into the center of the cut end of each of the bananas, and place them on a metal baking pan. Freeze the bananas for several hours or overnight.
  2. TO PREPARE THE NUTS, coarsely grind the walnuts in a hand-crank nut mill or place them in a zipper-lock plastic bag and pound them with a hammer. Place them into a wide mouth bowl and set them aside.
  3. TO PREPARE THE CHOCOLATE SAUCE, melt the chocolate squares in a 1-quart (1 liter) saucepan over very low heat, stirring frequently.
  4. Place the organic sugar into a 2-or 3-cup (240 or 720 ml) measuring cup. Pour the boiling water over the sugar and stir to dissolve the sugar completely.
  5. When the chocolate is completely melted, turn off the heat, and add the sweetened water, stirring until the chocolate develops a shiny, smooth consistency.
  6. TO SERVE, bring the prepared nuts to the table. Pour the chocolate sauce into a wide mouth bowl, place the frozen bananas on a serving platter, and bring them to the table.
  7. Holding the skewered banana firmly, roll it in the sauce to coat, then immediately roll the banana in the coarsely ground nuts. Then, enjoy chocoholic nirvana.

A patriotic holiday like 4th of July really deserves a patriotic dessert to top off the celebration with patriotic flair. Instead of waving a flag, we create a patriotic dessert that resembles our flag, and we devour it in a patriotic moment. If two desserts seem excessive, and you decide on only one sweet finish, choose the red, white, and blue. The dazzled diners might even burst into patriotic song with God Bless America or It's a Grand Old Flag!

Stars and Stripes American Pie


Yield: 6 to 8 generous servings

    1 1/3 cups (320 ml) raw almonds

    15 pitted dates
    1 tablespoon water
    1/2 teaspoon coconut extract

    2/3 cup (160 ml) raw cashews

    1 12-ounce (340g) box soft silken tofu
    23 pitted dates
    2 tablespoons coconut milk
    1/2 teaspoon coconut extract
    1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

    2 cups (480 ml) unsweetened flaked coconut, divided

    1/2 pint (225g) fresh strawberries, sliced crosswise
    1/2 pint (225g) fresh blueberries

  1. TO MAKE A BASE FOR THE PIE, line a 12 x by 15-inch (30 x 35 cm) cutting board or tray with cooking parchment by wrapping it around the board and taping it on the bottom. Set aside.
  2. TO MAKE THE CRUST, place the almonds into the food processor and process to an almost fine meal. Add the 15 dates, water, and coconut extract and process until the dates are well incorporated.
  3. Turn the mixture out onto the parchment surface. Use your fingers or the back of a spoon to press the mixture into a rectangle 10-inches wide by 7-inches high (25 x 17.5 cm), keeping the edges even. Set aside.
  4. TO MAKE THE FILLING, grind the cashews into a fine powdery meal in the blender. Add the tofu, the 23 dates, coconut milk, and the coconut and vanilla extracts, and blend to a thick puree on low speed. You may need to stop the machine and redistribute the ingredients. Alternatively, use the food processor.
  5. Transfer to a medium mixing bowl, add 1 cup (240 ml) of flaked the coconut, and mix well.
  6. TO ASSEMBLE THE PIE, spread the mixture over the top of the prepared date-nut crust, spreading to the edges to cover the crust completely. Top with the remaining 1 cup (240 ml) of flaked coconut.
  7. Arrange the blueberries in the left top corner of the rectangle, to form the impression of white stars on a deep blue background. Form the flag's red stripes with rows of strawberry slices placed closely together. To chill the pie for serving later, place several toothpicks into the pie so they stand up and protect the pie surface. Carefully wrap the pie with plastic wrap and chill.

Click here for past cookingwithzel@home.comeonin recipes

Click here for other Vegetarian Holiday Meals

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