Vegan Recipes Find a Home at Today’s Events

Vegans rejoice!

With more and more people following vegan diets it has sent chefs scurrying back into cookbooks to create flavorful and nutritionally balanced dishes that meet your dietary requirements.

If you are a vegan, I’m sure you have attended events where your plate consisted of the same vegetables being served to other guests – just minus the meat. Or worse yet, you “meal” was a plate of plain pasta tossed with olive oil and herbs.

One of my recent catering jobs was for a mostly vegan audience and I came up with these dishes:

Butler-passed hors d’oeurves
Beet pesto with pita chips
Crabby cakes (vegan cake with remoulade sauce)crabbycakes

Chilled English Pea Soup 

Entrée course of Moroccan Vegetable Tagine

Coca-Cola Cake

Each course was rich with flavor and texture – and are easy enough to prepare yourself. To get the most from each recipe:


  • Use fresh, organic vegetables
  • Fresh herbs are best, but if dried herbs are used, make sure they are fresh and aromatic
  • Seeds, like cumin or coriander, develop the best flavors when lightly toasted over medium heat in a pan

Beet Pesto with Pita Chips


(Adapted from
Four 2 to 3 ounce fresh beets (trimmed weight), peeled and quartered
1 cup, firmly packed, fresh cilantro (leaves and stems)
1/3 cup smoked almonds
2 large garlic cloves, halved
1 tablespoon coriander seeds (whole)
1 teaspoon cumin seeds (whole)
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika (ground)
1/3 cup olive oil
Juice of 1 large lemon
Juice of 1 medium-large lime
1 tablespoon maple syrup
Sea salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes or to taste

Place all ingredients in the bowl of a food processor and process until almost smooth, scraping down sides of bowl as necessary.
And, on a hot summer day, there is nothing more refreshing than chilled pea soup. This may be served in bowls – or in small glasses (shooters) – for more casual service.

Chilled Spring Pea Soup


1 Tbs. olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced small shallot, chopped (2 Tbs.)
1 lb. frozen peas, thawed
32 oz. vegetable stock
⅛ tsp. white pepper
¼ cup large fresh mint leaves, plus more for garnish
1 ½ tsp. lemon zestMethod
Heat oil in medium saucepan over medium heat. Add onion and garlic, and cook 2-3 minutes, or until soft and translucent. Add peas to pan, just cover with vegetable stock, and bring to a boil. Simmer until peas are tender. Add salt and pepper. Cool slightly.
Blend with immersion blender, or in stand blender or food processor until smooth. Add mint leaves and lemon zest, and blend 30 seconds, or until very smooth.

There is no need to for vegans to miss out on dessert! This recipe, another adaptation from, is a hit with everyone!

Coca-Cola Cake

For the Cake:

1 cup natural sugar
1 cup unbleached all-purpose flour (I like white whole wheat)
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 cup dairy-free margarine (such as Earth Balance)
1/4 cup vegetable oil or grape-seed oil
1/2 cup Coca-Cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons dairy-free buttermilk (5 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons non-dairy milk, e.g. So Delicious Dairy Free Original Coconut Milk Beverage + 1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar whisked together to curdle)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Frosting:
2 1/2 cups confectioner’s sugar (plus extra, if needed, to yield the consistency you desire, but more sugar makes it lighter in color and less fudgy)
1/4 cup dairy-free margarine
3 tablespoons cocoa powder
3 tablespoons Coca-Cola, root beer (not diet) or a natural cola/root beer brand
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup coarsely chopped toasted pecans + more for garnish, optional (omit for nut-free)

For the Cake:

Preheat oven to 350ºF and grease, and lightly flour an 8 x 8-inch baking pan.
In a bowl, combine the sugar, flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.
In a 1-quart saucepan, combine the margarine and oil. Bring just to a boil and pour over dry ingredients.
Add the cola to the batter, and whisk well to combine.
Dissolve the baking soda in the vegan buttermilk and add it to the batter along with the vanilla extract. Whisk just until combined. The batter will seem a bit thin.
Pour the batter into your prepared ban and bake 25 minutes or until a wooden pick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean; avoid over baking.
Remove from the oven to a wire rack and frost immediately.

For the Frosting:
While the cake bakes, place the confectioner’s sugar in a medium bowl.
In a 2-quart saucepan, combine the dairy-free margarine, cocoa powder and Coca-Cola; bring just to a boil.
Pour the liquid over the sugar, and whisk to combine until smooth. Whisk in more confectioner’s sugar if necessary.
Add the vanilla extract and pecans (if using), and stir to distribute.
Spread frosting over warm cake. Garnish with pecans if desired.  When cool, cut into squares and serve. Store, covered, in refrigerator.

Guests Won’t Squawk When Served a Moist, Tender Recipe With Bone-in Chicken

Fish can be fragile. Beef can be expensive – and more and more people are eating less red meat. Pork runs afoul of personal lifestyles.

But chicken…chicken can rule the roost for your special event.

The obvious go-to for chicken is the boneless chicken breast. As popular as the choice may be, it’s not without its own problems when being prepared for a crowd.

First, some history.chickendish

The boneless breast came about, in part, because it was quick to prepare. Busy restaurant chefs could give the chicken pieces a quick sear on each side then finish in a hot oven in just a few minutes. When prepared properly, this is the ideal application.

But your party of 50 – or more – cannot be served made-to-order chicken breasts. For large parties, we must think about keeping food hot, keeping meat moist and tender and delivering lots of flavor plate after plate.

The boneless chicken breast is not at its best when prepared in quantity. It tends to dry out – even when held in sauce. Plus, bone-in chicken has much more flavor than boneless breast filets.

Choosing chicken to save money is the right idea. According to price statistics from the National Chicken Council, the retail price of chicken can be just one-third the price of a comparable cut of pork and a whopping 75 percent less than beef.

So what are your options to serve chicken, save money and get the best dish possible?

Work with your professional caterer on braised chicken dishes, chicken in sauces or stews and always choose bone-in pieces. Use dark meat – thighs and legs – when possible because these higher fat pieces bring even more flavor to the table. These cooking methods will keep the chicken at its best – and allow you to introduce some international flavors to your event.

Recipe ideas

Chicken Tagine: This savory dish can use all pieces of the chicken – dark and white meat. The traditional Middle Eastern preparation incorporates rich flavors of the Med – lemon, turmeric, cinnamon, ginger, parsley and cilantro. It’s a dish that is loaded with flavor and colorful variety.

Chicken Cacciatore: This rustic, Italian-inspired chicken dish can use all parts of the chicken and brings together flavors of Tuscany: Tomatoes, garlic, olive oil, oregano and basil. This dish offers an easy and affordable wine paring option – Sangiovese or Chianti work just fine and are great values right now.

Coq au Vin: This classic French dish is a crowd pleaser for both its simplicity and its flavors. Literally “chicken in wine,” the dish marries earthy ingredients like thyme, mushrooms and pearl onions with a rich wine sauce to produce chicken pieces that are moist, tender and delicious.

Braised Chicken with Wine and Oranges: The tangy oranges in this dish blend with the sweet Muscatel wine to create a Spanish sweet-and-sour chicken. Spain is also the source of some great wine values – and this dish pairs perfectly with the popular Spanish red wine grape Tempranillo.

Beer-Braised Chicken Stew with Fava Beans and Peas: This is a perfect foundation dish for parties where there are plenty of craft beer fans. Onions, mushrooms, herbs and spices ramp up the flavor in this hearty chicken stew – that can be make only with chicken thighs. Compliment the dish with beer like a Belgian-style ale.