The Holiday Crunch

From celery stuffed with nut butter or soy cream to mini-mushroom quiche, appetizers are on the vegetarian menu.

Everyone likes savory, spicy appetizers. Add some cold sparkling grape juice or hot cinnamon-spiced cider and a plate of hot, savory, crunchy elegant or easy bites and you’ve got it covered.

Get your front-of-the-house staff in on appetizer production. Set up a side station for fast holiday nachos preparation, using the pick and pile method, as follows:

  • Provide portion-packs of baked tortilla chips to be piled on a microwaveable dinner plate.
  • Have warm vegetarian refried beans with the appropriate-sized scoop for piling on top of chips.
  • Give customers the option to order toppings of sliced green or black olives and/or shredded
    veggie cheese. Staff can heat the creation in a microwave on high for two minutes or until the cheese is melted and the beans are hot,

Think color: This works with any kind of chip, so think pita chips or veggie chips. Find or prepare red, green and blue tortilla chips, as well as flavored bagel chips. If you’d like to offer more topping options, have chopped onions, fresh salsa, diced chilies of varying heat or cut corn.

Another variation on this theme would be using canned, drained artichokes (packed in brine or water, not marinated) and croutons instead of chips for the base. Top with a small amount of vegan mayo, then shredded vegan cheese, then olives or garbanzo beans and canned drained tomatoes. Microwave as above.

If you need to prepare this appetizer in party size, preheat the oven to 400°F, place the ingredients on the appropriately sized baking sheet and bake for five to 10 minutes, or until everything is heated through.

Popcorn is festive, filling and vegetarian—have a popcorn appetizer buffet. Whether air-popped, microwaved or popped in your property’s fireplace, you can season popcorn for a tasty crowd-pleaser.

You’ll want to premix flavorings and place them in a bowl big enough to toss the popcorn. Toss while it’s hot, even if you are serving it later, so the flavor can permeate through.

Night at the pop:  Here are some ideas, working with about 6 cups of popped popcorn (about 1-1/2 cups unpopped popcorn):

1. Red Hot Chili Popcorn: Combine 2 tablespoons chili powder, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes and 1/2-teaspoon garlic powder in a large bowl.

2. Holiday Sweet Spice Popcorn: Combine 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, 2 teaspoons vegan dry sweetener and 1/2-teaspoon ground nutmeg.

3. Curry Popcorn: Combine 2 tablespoons curry powder, 1 teaspoon ground cumin and 1/4-teaspoon dry mustard.

4. Pizza Popcorn: Combine 2 tablespoons garlic powder, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon dried basil and 1 teaspoon dried oregano.

5. Power Punch Popcorn: Combine 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast, 2 teaspoons dried parsley and 1 teaspoon onion powder.

Tortilla time: You can make veggie appetizers with tortillas in no time. Shred vegan cheese or finely crumble firm tofu. Toss with salsa or pizza sauce. Spread on a tortilla and cover with a second tortilla. You can bake your “quesadilla” on a baking sheet sprayed with vegetable oil in a 400-degree oven for five minutes or until bubbly.

Or, you can saute it on top of the stove in a heated frying pan on high heat, browning it on both sides. Cut the quesadilla into small triangles and serve as a hot appetizer. You can also fill the quesadilla with mashed beans, hummus or soy cream cheese.

Double- and triple-dipping: Make some dips to have on hand for those last-minute bookings. To create sweet dips, be sure to stock: peanut butter, soy butter or other nut butters; apple butter; ripe bananas; raisins or dried cranberries; orange juice concentrate; and fresh or frozen, thawed strawberries.

For savory dips, you’ll want: soy sour cream, unflavored soy yogurt or silken tofu; canned or cooked garbanzo beans or white beans; prepared salsa or canned chopped tomatoes; fresh bell pepper (any color); and fresh parsley.

You’ll need ingredients with which to dip. Here are some ideas:

Sweet: pretzels; fresh apples or pears; fresh pineapple; fresh grapes; fresh strawberries; frozen whole strawberries; and dried apple, mango, pineapple and papaya slices.

Savory: fresh or dried bread sticks; tortillas; baked tortilla chips or veggie chips; pita bread; bagels; fresh veggies such as carrots, radishes, cherry tomatoes, celery, jicama, cucumbers, zucchini and even fresh corn (in season, it doesn’t have to be cooked, just washed); wedges of hot or cold baked potatoes.

To make a sweet vegetarian dip fast: Place a small amount of nut butter or apple butter in a mixing bowl. Stir to soften. In a separate bowl, mash a banana with berries and/or orange juice concentrate. Combine banana with butter and mix and stir until well combined. You can add in chopped nuts, chopped dates, crumbled cold cereal or fresh berries, depending on customer preference.

To make a savory dip fast: Place yogurt, sour cream or tofu in a blender or food processor. Add a small amount of salsa or drained canned tomatoes and canned beans and some chopped bell peppers (or fresh chili, for heat) and parsley and blend until smooth. Chill for ten minutes prior to service.

Vegan quiche: Making vegan quiche is easy. In place of the usual egg and milk custard, use blended (as in pureed) silken tofu. Remember that tofu is bland, so go a little overboard with white or black pepper, onion powder, chili powder or cayenne and dried parsley. Mince and saute a combination of mushrooms, onions, bell peppers, tomatoes, garlic and broccoli or cauliflower florets. Combine with tofu, pour into individual pie shells or individual phyllo cups, and bake. Prepare and bake off several batches of quiche and freeze for later use.

For another hot vegetarian appetizer, prepare a stuffing of minced celery, sweet onions, breadcrumbs, soy sauce and melted margarine. Stuff mushroom caps, halved cherry or roma tomatoes, baby summer squash or pearl onions and bake until stuffing is set and vegetables are soft.