Facebook Logo Twitter Logo Pinterest Logo

Nut Gourmet Blog Logo

only search Vegetarians in Paradise
VIP Bird
VIP Banner
Fill out your e-mail address to receive our newsletter!
*E-mail address:
*First Name:
Last Name:
Please let us know your location for special events:
Los Angeles:
(Outside USA):
Subscribe Unsubscribe


Vegan for the Holidays

Vegan for the Holidays has sold out its first printing.
New copies and the Kindle Edition are still available for purchase at Amazon.


Translate This Page

sphere Homepage

sphere News from the Nest

sphere Vegan for the Holidays Blog

sphere Vegan for the Holidays Videos

sphere Zel Allen's NutGourmet Blog

About Us


Weight Loss

Food History/Nutrition/Recipes


Nutrition Information

Los Angeles Resources

Cooking Tips/Recipes

Guest Contributors

Books/Media Reviews


sphere Archive Index

sphere Contact Us

*Privacy Policy: When you subscribe to Vegetarians in Paradise (vegetarian e-zine) your email address will not be sold or rented, and will only be used to let you know in an email what's new in our monthy web magazine.

All the world is nuts about

    What's in The Nut Gourmet

The Nutty Gourmet

Vegetarians in Paradise

Cooking with Zel


Though Cinco de Mayo is often thought of as Mexican Independence Day, the holiday actually commemorates the victory of approximately 4,000 spirited but ill-equipped ragtag Mexican fighters over the much larger and well-outfitted army of France allied with traitorous Mexican soldiers on May 5, 1862.

Fifty years earlier on September 16, 1810, Mexico won its independence from Spain through the efforts of Father Miguel Hidalgo. The priest worked to unite the country's scattered rebellions and create an integrated effort against Spain. Mexico experienced much political instability and financial hardship during those fifty years and incurred considerable debt, owing money to France, England, and Spain.

In 1861, Mexico's President Benito Juarez made a dramatic decision after recognizing the treasury was bankrupt. He stopped issuing payments to France that was ruled by Napoleon III. Responding quickly, Napoleon sent his undefeated, uniformed and well-equipped army to Mexico to collect the debt.

The French, expecting a quick victory, planned to march from Vera Cruz to take command of Mexico City and assumed the Mexicans would give up easily. Instead, before the French reached the capital, they faced a fierce contingent of indigenous stalwarts armed with machetes. The bloody battle, now known as La Batalla de Puebla, was over in two hours with the French retreating after suffering great losses.

In addition to experiencing victory, the small Mexican force gained pride and for the first time felt united in its patriotic effort. With pride, they declared, "Yo soy Mexicano!" (We are Mexican). Because the French returned one year later, took Mexico City, and seated Emperor Maximillian of Hapsburg as ruler of Mexico, the small victory of the humble Mexican army became insignificant in Mexican history. However, Mexicans living north of the border celebrate the event with pride by honoring those simple warriors with a day of recognition, Cinco de Mayo.

Some cities hold parades and special concerts to mark the day and plan events during the week leading up to the fifth of May. Others revel in the festivities of a fiesta, often held in a central park or city center. Rousing mariachi music flavors the air with the sounds of trumpets, guitars, and violins while musicians play lively tunes that start the feet stomping and the hands clapping. Some musicians take the stage while others stroll as they celebrate Cinco de Mayo, a holiday that has become meaningful to Mexicans in North America.

The Cinco de Mayo fiesta features colorful costumed folklorico dancers that dip and twirl to the music while performing traditional dances. And no fiesta would be complete without feasting on traditional Mexican foods. Tantalizing aromas float in the air while families gather to indulge in their familiar fiesta fare: tacos, burritos, enchiladas, churros, guacamole, and tamales.

For your own fiesta, bring a myriad of colors to the table with a bright tablecloth, napkins, and flowers. Decorate the room with large, brightly colored paper flowers, and don't forget the music. Perhaps you might even find your feet moving as soon as you hear La Raspa or La Cucaracha, two well-known folk favorites.

Enjoy a banquet of vegan recipes in the Mexican and TexMex style--muchas comidas (much food) to share with family, friends, and even neighbors. With each household contributing a dish, a neighborhood party may be an ideal way to celebrate the holiday and enjoy tasting a large variety of dishes.

Menu Choices
Sopa de Tortilla
Jicama Salad
Spanish Rice
Tampico Timbales
Veggie Burrito
Funky Quesadillas
Sabroso Frijoles y Queso
Stuffed Poblano Peppers with Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa

Though it seems such a cliché, guacamole is truly an integral part of the traditional Mexican meal. Served as an appetizer, the "guac" is accompanied by tortilla chips. Presented as a garnish, a little dollop enhances a variety of dishes. If you like a touch of fire in your guacamole, add a pinch or two of cayenne or one diced fresh jalapeno pepper.



Yield: about 4 servings

    1 large avocado
    1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons lime juice or juice of 1/2 lime
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    Salt to taste

    1 small tomato, diced
    3 tablespoons chopped onions
    1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

    Baked or fried tortilla chips

  1. Cut the avocado in half and discard the seed. Using a spoon, scoop the flesh into a medium bowl and mash it coarsely with a fork. Add the lime juice and cumin, and season with salt.
  2. Add tomato, onions, and cilantro and mix well. Spoon the guacamole into a serving bowl and serve with a napkin-lined basket of tortilla chips on the side.

Tortilla soup takes on a healthy, low-fat glow with a few touches of kitchen sleight of hand. Traditionally, the soup is made with chicken broth and includes tortillas that are fried in oil until crisp. Adding more oil to the Mexican favorite, traditional cooks fry the onions and tomatoes before adding the chicken broth, adding excess fat and calories. Our vegan rendition, however, relies on a tasty vegetable broth and eliminates the oil altogether, yet the flavors are still robust enough to delight anyone with a hearty appetite.


(Tortilla Soup)

Yield: 4 to 6 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) chopped onions
    1 (28-ounce) can (790g) whole tomatoes
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) water
    2 cloves garlic

    7 to 8 cups (1.75 to 2 liters) vegetable broth
    1 fresh poblano chile, diced
    1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1 teaspoon salt
    8 corn tortillas (handmade preferable if available), broken into bite-size pieces

    4 to 5 cups (1 liter to 1.25 liters) baked corn chips
    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) shredded vegan Jack cheese
    1 avocado, peeled and diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped fresh cilantro

  1. Combine the onions, tomatoes, water, and garlic in the blender and blend on low speed for about 1 minute or until completely pureed. Transfer the tomato mixture to a 10 to 12-quart (10 to 12-liter) stockpot.
  2. Add the vegetable broth, poblano chile, cumin, salt, and corn tortillas and bring to a gentle boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently to avoid burning the soup. Reduce the heat slightly, if needed, and simmer about 15 minutes to blend flavors and soften the tortillas.
  3. While the soup is simmering, put the garnishes into separate bowls to pass at the table. Spoon generous portions of the soup into serving bowls and enjoy.

Note: In California fresh poblanos are called pasilla chiles. If poblanos are unavailable, substitute with two Anaheim chiles or one green bell pepper.

Jicama may be more familiar to those living in the Southwest than in the U.S. heartland or East Coast. A root vegetable native to Central America, jicama is peeled to reveal a moist, deliciously sweet, crunchy vegetable that can be cooked or eaten raw. In this recipe the jicama, served raw, becomes the featured vegetable of this refreshing salad.

Jicama Salad


Yield: 4 to 5 servings

    2 cups (480 ml) diced jicama
    1 yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
    1/2 cup (120 ml) chopped celery
    1/2 red bell pepper, diced
    2 green onions, sliced
    1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil
    1 tablespoon fresh lemon or lime juice
    1 tablespoon minced cilantro
    Salt and pepper

Combine all the ingredients in a medium bowl and mix well to distribute the bright colors and flavors evenly. Transfer the salad to an attractive bowl and serve.

To complete the Mexican feast, don't overlook the Spanish rice, a simple dish typically made with white rice, tomatoes, onions, celery, and seasonings. Adding a boost of nutrition, we turn to brown rice, stir in the veggies, and say "Buen provecha," Spanish for "Bon Appetit."


Yield: 5 to 6 servings

    2 1/4 cups (540 ml) water
    1 cup (240 ml) Basmati brown rice
    1 teaspoon salt

    1 large tomato, chopped
    1 small onion, chopped (about 3/4 cup or 180 ml)
    1 stalk celery, sliced (about 1/2 cup or 120 ml)
    1 clove garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon water

  1. Combine the water, rice, and salt in a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low and steam for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the rice is tender.
  2. Combine the tomato, onion, celery, garlic, and water in a medium skillet. Cook and stir over high heat for about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the onions and celery are softened.
  3. When the rice is cooked, spoon the tomato and onion mixture into the rice and stir well.

While tofu is definitively atypical of Mexican cuisine, it can easily adapt to the familiar south-of-the-border flavors. A unique entrée or side dish with alluring appeal, these little timbales are so irresistible they just might compel the tofu skeptic into tasting. One small sample is sufficient to create another tofu convert. The timbales can be prepared a day ahead and simply covered with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and reheated at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 12 to 15 minutes.

Tampico Timbales


Yield: 12 servings

    1/2 cup (120 ml) minced sweet onions
    1/2 cup (120 ml) whole kernel corn, drained
    1/4 cup (60 ml) canned diced mild green chiles

    1 pound (450g) extra firm tofu
    1/2 cup (120 ml) medium-spiced red or green salsa
    1 teaspoon chili powder
    1 teaspoon ground cumin
    1 teaspoon ground coriander
    1 teaspoon salt

    1/3 cup (80 ml) prepared or homemade guacamole
    2 to 3 red chiles

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and line two 6-section muffin tins with paper baking cups.
  2. Combine the onions, corn, and green chiles in a medium bowl and set it aside.
  3. Puree the tofu, salsa, chili powder, cumin, coriander, and salt in the food processor. Scrape down the sides of the workbowl and process until all the timbale ingredients are thoroughly incorporated.
  4. Transfer the tofu mixture to the bowl with the onions and stir well to distribute the ingredients evenly.
  5. Spoon the timbale mixture into the prepared muffin tins and bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until the timbales are firm and lightly browned on top.
  6. Place the lettuce leaves on a serving dish and invert the timbales onto the lettuce. Carefully remove the paper baking cups and garnish the tops with a dollop of guacamole. Slice the red chiles into rings and top each guacamole dollop with a red crown.

Note: The timbales can also double as an appetizer by baking them in three 12-section mini-muffin pans at 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) for 20 to 25 minutes. Serve them as finger food with a dollop of guacamole on the top. The recipe makes 3 dozen mini timbales.

The burrito is so popular in the U.S., some versions of it can be found on the menus of many American bistros, cafes, school and corporate cafeterias, and homes across the country. Pile on the veggies and black beans for a great tasting burrito that delivers hearty and nutritious eating. Then, spoon a little cheesy sauce over the top before serving.


Yield: 2 servings

Cheesy Sauce

    3 medium tomatoes, diced
    1/4 cup (60 ml) diced onions
    1/4 cup (60 ml) water
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon chili powder
    Salt and pepper

    1 cup (240 ml) shredded vegan cheddar or vegan nacho flavored cheese


    2 tablespoons water
    2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
    1 green bell pepper, cut into thin julienne
    1 red bell pepper, cut into thin julienne
    1 medium tomato, chopped
    1/2 medium onion, thinly sliced vertically
    1/2 yellow crookneck squash, cut into thin julienne
    1 jalapeno pepper, thinly sliced (optional)
    1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
    Salt and pepper

    2 large whole wheat flour tortillas, about 11-inches in diameter

    1 15-ounce (424g) can black beans, drained and rinsed
    2 to 3 leaves romaine lettuce, shredded

  1. TO MAKE THE CHEESY SAUCE, combine the tomatoes, diced onions, water, cumin, and chili powder in a 1 or 2-quart (1 or 2-liter) saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Cook about 4 or 5 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to break down. Season with salt and pepper and add the cheese, stirring constantly until the cheese melts. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting while preparing the burrito filling.
  2. TO PREPARE THE FILLING, combine the water, olive oil, bell peppers, tomato, onion, squash, jalapeno, if using, and cumin in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over high heat about 4 or 5 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened. Remove the pan from the heat and season with salt and pepper.
  3. TO ASSEMBLE THE BURRITO, put each tortilla on a separate dinner plate. Spoon some of the filling into the center of the tortilla, and add a generous spoonful of black beans and some shredded lettuce. Fold the bottom of the tortilla up over the filling. Then fold in both sides and roll the burrito closed. Top with a generous spoonful of Cheesy Sauce and bring the remaining sauce to the table.

We call our unusual quesadilla funky because rather than forming it in the traditional manner with the tortilla folded over the filling, this baby is fashioned more like a sandwich, with one tortilla on the top and another on the bottom. Because the quesadilla is so plump, it is best cut into quarters and served with a knife and fork. Two of the quarters make an ideal main dish serving along with Spanish rice, guacamole, salad, or soup. You can also offer the funky quesadillas as an appetizer.

Funky Quesadillas


    Yield: 8 main dish servings

    1/2 pound (225g) button mushrooms, sliced
    1 red bell pepper, diced
    1 yellow bell pepper, diced
    1 medium zucchini, diced
    1 medium red onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, crushed
    1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
    2 teaspoons ground cumin
    1/2 teaspoon chili powder

    8 whole wheat flour tortillas
    1/2 pound (225g) vegan Jack cheese, shredded
    1/2 pound (225g) vegan nacho flavored cheese, shredded
    1 recipe guacamole

  1. Combine the mushrooms, red and yellow bell peppers, zucchini, onion, garlic, olive oil, cumin, and chili powder in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir about 5 to 7 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened.
  2. While the vegetables are cooking, arrange 4 of the tortillas on a large baking sheet or jellyroll pan. Sprinkle the Jack cheese over the top, spreading to the edges.
  3. Place the baking sheet under the broiler, about 3 inches (7.5 cm) from the heat source to melt the cheese. When the cheese is bubbling, top it with the cooked vegetables.
  4. Sprinkle the nacho flavored cheese over the vegetables and melt it under the broiler. When the cheese is bubbling, top the quesadillas with the remaining flour tortillas.
  5. Cut each quesadilla into quarters and top each quarter with a generous dollop of guacamole before serving.

Beans are such an integral part of Mexican cuisine they often become the centerpiece of simple meals that may consist of bean soup and tortillas. Embellished with tomatoes, onions, and cheese, refried beans step out of their humble status to become a richly flavored savory side dish worthy of praise.

Sabroso Frijoles y Queso


(Tasty Beans and Cheese)

Yield: 4 servings

    1 16-ounce (450g) can fat-free refried pinto beans

    1 large tomato, diced
    2 tablespoons water

    2/3 cup (160 ml) chopped onions
    1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
    1/4 teaspoon salt
    Dash crushed red pepper

    2/3 cup (160 ml) shredded vegan cheese (cheddar, Jack, or nacho flavor)

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees (Gas Mark 5) and spoon the beans into a deep-dish pie plate, or 2-quart casserole, spreading to the edges.
  2. Combine the tomatoes and water in a 1 or 2-quart (1 or 2 liter) saucepan and cook over medium-high heat for 3 or 4 minutes, or until the tomatoes have begun to soften. Spread them over the refried beans.
  3. Combine the onions, cumin, salt, and crushed red pepper in a small bowl and sprinkle them over the tomatoes. Top with the shredded cheese and bake for 15 to 20 minutes or until the cheese and beans are hot and bubbly.

Though it's a bit time consuming, this main dish is well worth the effort. Not only will guests be convinced that you're a culinary whiz, your family will also be grateful that you've made something special just for them.

To make the preparation a little easier, assemble the Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa a day or two ahead. It keeps for several days in the refrigerator and retains flavor quite well.

If you're not acquainted with fresh poblano chiles (called pasilla chiles in California), here are a few tidbits that may help. Poblanos have an almost glossy appearance and an irregular shape. Deeper green than jalapenos and similar in size to bell peppers, they are often described as blackish green and pointed at one end. You never know if you've purchased spicy ones or those that are on the mild side. The same bin may have some of each. A poblano chile could even be spicy at one end and mild at the other. In rating the degree of spiciness, however, we've noticed these peppers are never as hot as jalapenos, yet offer exceptional flavor. If poblano chiles are unavailable, you can use green bell peppers instead.

Another unique aspect of this recipe is the Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa made with fresh tomatillos, similar to small green tomatoes but with a lemony tang. You can recognize tomatillos by their green or brownish papery husks that encase them completely. The freshest tomatillos have green husks. Look for them in Latino markets and in many large chain supermarkets.

Since poblano chiles can sometimes be a bit spicy, I prefer to keep the salsa unspiced. However, if you've got a bent for the spicy life, add one or more jalapeno chiles when processing the tomatillos and onion.

Stuffed Poblano Chiles with Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa is one of the delicious recipes from Zel Allen's cookbook The Nut Gourmet: Nourishing Nuts for Every Occasion published by Book Publishing Company in 2006.


Yield: 6 servings

Poblano Pepper

    1 large broccoli crown, cut into quarters (about 3/4 to 1 pound or 340g to 450g)

    1 pound (450g) extra firm tofu
    3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
    1 green onion, chopped
    1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast
    1 clove garlic
    1 1/4 teaspoons salt
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

    6 large or 8 medium fresh poblano chiles
    1 recipe Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa

    2 tablespoons finely diced red bell pepper

  1. TO MAKE THE STUFFING, put about 1/4-inch (.5 cm) of water into a 2-quart (2 liter) saucepan, add the broccoli, and cover the pot. Bring it to a boil over high heat, reduce the heat to low, and steam for 4 or 5 minutes, or until the broccoli is just tender. Quickly cool the broccoli by briefly rinsing it under cold water. Drain the liquid, chop the broccoli coarsely, and set it aside while preparing the tofu stuffing.
  2. Crumble the tofu into the food processor. Add the lemon juice, green onion, nutritional yeast, garlic, salt, and pepper and process until creamy. Add the chopped broccoli and process until the ingredients are well incorporated and the tofu is smooth. Adjust the seasonings, if needed, and set aside.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and set aside a 7 x 9-inch (17.5 x 23 cm) baking dish.
  4. TO PREPARE THE CHILES, have ready a large bowl of cold water placed in the sink to cool the peppers.
  5. Wash and dry the chiles and put them directly on the stovetop burners (gas or electric) over high heat. To save time, put a chile on each burner. Using tongs to turn the peppers, cook them until almost blackened, turning constantly. When they are blistered and blackened all over, plunge them into the bowl of cold water to cool. Use your fingers to rub off the blackened skins and rinse the peppers.
  6. Using a serrated knife, cut around the top of the chiles to remove the stem and core. Rinse out any remaining seeds.
  7. Stuff the chiles with the tofu-broccoli mixture and place them into the baking dish. Pour three-quarters of the Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa over the chiles, reserving the remainder to serve at the table.
  8. Sprinkle the diced red bell pepper over the top, and bake for 20 to 25 minutes to heat through.

    Tomatillo Pistachio Salsa
    1 pound (450g) fresh tomatillos
    1 large onion, coarsely chopped

    1 clove garlic
    Freshly squeezed lime juice

    1/2 cup (120 ml) pistachios

  1. Remove and discard the husks from the tomatillos and wash them under running water. You'll notice the sticky surface is part of their nature. Cut the tomatillos in half and put them into a 3- or 4-quart (3 or 4 liter) saucepan along with the onion.
  2. Add just enough water to cover the tomatillos. Cover the saucepan and bring it to a boil over high heat. Cook about 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatillos and onions to the food processor. Add the garlic and process to a chunky consistency. Season with the lime juice and salt. The sauce should have a pleasing tangy flavor with a comfortable salt balance.
  4. Spoon the salsa into a serving bowl and stir in the pistachios. Refrigerate until ready to use. Makes about 3 cups (720 ml).

Many cuisines throughout the world consider bread pudding a comfort food. Capirotada is usually the dessert of the poor who prepare it with stale bread and fruits they have on hand. Often, the pudding contains ingredients that are unique to their region. Although this traditional Mexican-style bread pudding is made rich with butter and eggs, our vegan version is equally as tasty and far less caloric. The ingredient that makes this dessert unique is Jack cheese that melts into the syrup and perfectly compliments the fruits and nuts.


(Mexican Bread Pudding)

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

    1 1/2 cups (360 ml) brown sugar
    1 cup (240 ml) water
    2 (3-inch) sticks cinnamon
    2 whole cloves

    6 slices whole wheat bread, toasted
    2 apples, cored, peeled, and sliced
    1 cup (240 ml) shredded vegan Jack cheese
    1/2 cup (120 ml) raisins
    1/2 cup (120 ml) pecans, coarsely chopped
    1/2 cup (120 ml) roasted peanuts, coarsely chopped

    2 teaspoons vanilla extract
    3/4 cup (180 ml) soymilk

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (Gas Mark 4) and oil a 12 1/2 x 8-inch (31 x 20-cm) glass baking pan.
  2. Combine the brown sugar, water, cinnamon, and cloves in a 2-quart (2-liter) saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat. Turn the heat down slightly and boil gently for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. Break the toasted bread into small pieces and put them into a large bowl. Add the apples, Jack cheese, raisins, pecans, and peanuts and toss well.
  4. Remove the cinnamon sticks and cloves from the brown sugar syrup. The cinnamon sticks can be saved and reused for another recipe. Stir the vanilla extract into the syrup and add it to the bread mixture along with the soymilk, tossing well to coat all of the bread.
  5. Spoon the bread pudding mixture into the prepared baking dish. Cover with aluminum foil, shiny side down, and bake for 55 minutes.

Vegetarians in Paradise

Homepage sphere Los Angeles Vegan Events Calendar sphere Our Mission sphere The Nut Gourmet sphere Vegan for the Holidays sphere Vegan for the Holidays Videos sphere Vegetarians in Paradise Diet sphere Vegan Survival Kit sphere News from the Nest sphere Vegan Recipe Index sphere Los Angeles Vegan & Vegetarian Restaurants sphere Vegan Basics 101 sphere Protein Basics sphere Calcium Basics sphere Ask Aunt Nettie sphere VeggieTaster Report sphere Vegan Reading sphere VegParadise Bookshelf sphereHeirloom Gardening sphere Cooking with Zel sphere Dining in Paradise sphere Cooking Beans & Grains sphere On the Highest Perch sphere Road to Veganshire sphere Words from Other Birds sphere Using Your Bean sphere Ask the Vegan Athlete sphere Vegan Holiday Meals sphere Great Produce Hunt sphere Farmers' Markets sphere Natural Food Markets sphere Vegetarian Associations Directory sphere Links We Love sphere VegParadise Yellow Pages sphere Media Reviews sphere 24 Carrot Award sphere Vegetarian Food Companies sphere Archive Index sphere Contact Us

© 1999-2015 vegparadise.com