RECREATE THE OLD WEST
IN A BACKYARD BARBECUE
Wind up the summer with a bash that celebrates the Labor Day holiday with panache. Invite some amigos, fire up the grill, and dish up a Western-style barbecue that carries the flavor of the Old West with every succulent bite. Got some tough hombres who are tofu-shy and need a little arm-twistin'? Many carnivores believe vegans live a life of deprivation. Lasso 'em, and then dazzle 'em with a host of finger-lickin' made-from-scratch eats that make the Labor Day holiday memorable.
The new kid on the block, Labor Day does not have a long history. Proclaimed a national U.S. holiday in 1887 by President Grover Cleveland, Labor Day, the first Monday in September, became an official workingmen's holiday, earning all laborers a day of rest. The holiday honors the contributions made by American workers to social and economic achievements that promote the country's strength and prosperity.
While President Cleveland declared Labor Day an official holiday in 1887, the gala was not actually celebrated throughout all the states at that time. Instead, there was a gradual adoption, first by Oregon, then Colorado, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and New York. Early in 1894, twenty-three more states passed legislative acts recognizing the holiday. Finally, in June 1894, Congress enacted legislation to make the first Monday in September, Labor Day, a legal holiday in recognition of the American worker.
The arrival of Labor Day proclaims the last gasp of summer in some regions of the U.S. where cooler days and chilly nights signal the onset of autumn. So gather the cowpokes, spread out the red and white checkered tablecloth, pull on those non-leather boots, don your fancy straw Stetson, and get ready for a rip-roarin' fun barbecue.
Ropin' the Pinto Pattypans and Buckin' Prairie Dogs
After a hard day ridin' the vegan range and workin' the tofu patch, you can just imagine how hungry those wranglers might get. Rough and tumble as the Old West was, cowboys looked forward to a meal of tasty and hearty grub with robust flavors and zesty seasonings. By squeezing in a little time here and there a day or two beforehand, you can re-create the sizzlin' flavors of chuckwagon meals that are easily veganized. You'll notice the following menu focuses on simple preps and wholesome foods with irresistible flavors and tantalizing aromas.
And instead of roughing it with skewers made of old dry sagebrush, mosey on over to the general store and invest in a few metal skewers for easy grillin' of those ornery veggies. That'll tame 'em in a hurry.
Do-ahead fixin's include the colorful Chuckwagon Salad, tangy Cheesy Ranch Dressing, Stuffed Prairie Dogs, savory Pistachio Buttered Loaf, and the dessert-time Spicy Banana Oatmeal City Slickers.
Two or three hours before guests arrive, take the Pistachio Buttered Loaf out of the fridge and set it aside on the counter. When the grilling begins, place it near the grill to warm while the potatoes are baking. Then, a quick warming on the grill shortly before serving will bring out the rich, buttery flavor of the Pistachio Paté that's liberally spread between the slices.
While the foil-wrapped Grill Taters are baking under the hood of the barbecue or tucked right into the hot coals, offer the friendly cowpokes a tall Tumbleweed Twizzle. A tasty little sipping tonic gives the guests something to guzzle while the potatoes are baking.
The Chuckwagon Salad and Cheesy Ranch Dressing might be served while the "taters" are baking, or, if you prefer to wait until all the grilling is finished, just serve it along with the whole kaboodle of fixin's.
Finally, the Grill Taters are ready and will stay nice and hot while grilling the Pattypan Skewers, followed by the Cowboy Steaks and the Stuffed Prairie Dogs.
When it's time to round up the all the big and little vaqueros for dessert, bring on the cooling watermelon slices and a platter of Spicy Banana Oatmeal City Slickers. Watch the faces react in surprise when the gang bites into the City Slickers. Those little treats are laced with a subtle zap of hair-raising spice.
Still got a few doubtin' Thomases that need some arm twistin'? Show those picky varmints you're plum serious about serving the best chuckwagon meal they ever ate, and you'll soon have them begging to be invited to the next barbecue.
Waterin' Hole Special
Sweets 'n Treats
A refreshing thirst quencher, this fruity punch will keep the wranglers sated with something cool to sip while you're tending the grill. If there's no time to chill the beverage ahead, you can always count on ice cubes to help the folks chill-out. This recipe is so quick and easy that you can be a last-minute camp cook and still impress the crowd.
Yield: 4 servings
2 cups (480 ml) apple juice
1/4 cup (60 ml) agave nectar
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 teaspoons peeled and minced fresh ginger
Seltzer or sparkling water
Range-ridin' cowpokes need their greens, too, but some balk like bucking broncos when the greens land on their plate. Gotta be persistent like the varmints that come a-rustlin'. Be sneaky and brighten up the salad bowl with vibrant colors. Intense orange carrots, passionate purple cabbage, sizzlin' yellow corn, and hot-blooded red tomatoes offer "green relief" for those tough hombres who turn sissy at the sight of green.
Yield: 6 servings
2 collards or curly kale leaves, stems removed, greens thinly shredded
1/4 of a small head red cabbage, chopped or shredded
3 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded
Kernels cut from 3 ears of fresh uncooked corn or 1 can corn kernels, drained
3 medium tomatoes, chopped
5 green onions, sliced
Toss all the veggies together in a large salad bowl and serve with Cheesy Ranch Dressing.
Smooth and creamy, thick and tangy--all qualities that make for an irresistible salad dressing. Toss all the ingredients into the blender to create this well-seasoned, homemade dressing that offers classic comfort with a nouveau bent.
CHEESY RANCH DRESSING
Yield: 2 1/2 cups (600 ml)
1 cup (240 ml) shredded vegan cheddar cheese
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon nutritional yeast flakes
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
3/4 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
For the busy host who enjoys a day of rope-tossin', adding foil-wrapped spuds baked on the grill provides a convenient, yet hearty menu choice that will make those 'tater lovers yee-haw with joy. Served with tasty, make-ahead toppings they're a cinch for success. Just squeeze in a few minutes to prepare the Bacon Tomato Topping the day or two before guests arrive and give the Tofu Sour Cream a whirl in the food processor when another window of time opens. The toppings are served chilled or room temperature, so just relax and enjoy the get-together. When guests begin to speak up for a feeding, watch the grill really work its magic and keep the kitchen cool and comfy.
GRILL TATERS 'N' TOPPINGS
Yield: 6 servings
Bacon Tomato Topping
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup (60 ml) soy bacon bits
1 or 2 tablespoons water
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed
Pinch or two cayenne
Salt and pepper
Tofu Sour Cream Topping
1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
Real cowboy steaks could never boast their ability to lower cholesterol or provide a good measure of calcium, but these hickory smoke-flavored "steaks" certainly can. Marinated in this lightening-quick flavor bath and cooked in a matter of minutes, Cowboy Steaks provide darned good eats for a hungry bunch of cowpokes.
Yield: 6 servings
1/2 cup (120 ml) fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup (120 ml) water
1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil
1/4 cup (60 ml) tomato paste
1 tablespoon natural hickory seasoning liquid smoke
1 1/2 teaspoons soy sauce
1 teaspoon salt
Dash Tabasco Sauce
Surprises are in store for those hungry cowpokes who cut into their grilled veggie dogs. Rather than plain, unadorned, grilled veg hotdogs, these critter-free pups are lovingly prepared with a charismatic stuffing. With just a few extra preps you can offer guests a hip chuck-wagon treat with brassy flavor that won't bulge the belly.
STUFFED PRAIRIE DOGS
Yield: 6 servings
2 tablespoons plain or vanilla soymilk
6 to 8 plump veggie dogs
1/4 pound (115g) button or cremini mushrooms
1/4 cup (60 ml) diced red bell pepper
2 long, plump zucchinis or Mexican squashes, very thinly sliced lengthwise
Prepared barbecue sauce
Nutty and alluring, this distinctive spread makes the tired old garlic bread seem out of step. Here, the nut-buttered bread becomes something superlative, yet homey with compelling flavors that will even bring the cowpunchers back for seconds.
PISTACHIO BUTTERED WHEAT LOAF
Yield: 6 to 8 servings
A gorgeous summer vegetable that takes no advance prep and no last-minute fussin' either, pattypan squashes make the perfect grill veggie. They retain their moisture and offer sweet, fresh flavor with nothing more than a little olive oil to keep them moist on the grill. Buy them right from the farmers' market or farmstand the day before they hit the barbie to assure the freshest flavor.
Yield: 6 servings
12 metal skewers
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Big and little cowpunchers look forward to a sweet reward at the end of their hearty meal. These special oatmeal city slickers don't disappoint. Instead, they deliver a flavor surprise--a subtle burst of heat from two ingredients seldom found in a cookie recipe. You won't find these critters the least bit dry or crunchy. They stay soft and moist from the start. Store them at room temperature wrapped in plastic for a day or two or tuck them into the fridge for up to a week. If you're a long-range planner, you can make the cookies ahead, spread them out on a parchment paper-lined metal tray with parchment paper between the layers, wrap them well with plastic, and freeze them for up to two months.
SPICY BANANA OATMEAL CITY SLICKERS
Yield: 12 giant cookies or 24 smaller cookies two inches in diameter
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) old-fashioned rolled oats
1 cup (240 ml) dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons flaxseed meal
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds, crushed in mortar and pestle
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/8 teaspoon cayenne
1/2 cup (120 ml) pine nuts
1 1/2 cups (360 ml) well mashed banana
1 tablespoon powdered Ener-G Egg Replacer