Quick and Easy Vegan Cocktail Menus That Will Charm Even Meat-Eating Guests

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by guest blogger Gillian Francella, multimedia journalist and converted vegan/vegetarian

Winter chills and holiday cheer are a few of my favorite things about December. Oh, and all the glorious food! But one thing about being vegan during the holidays is that sometimes you feel a little alienated--and totally stereotypical--while hovering over the veggie tray at every party you attend.

That's why this year I decided to put my own vegan spin on a few of my favorite holiday hors d'oeuvres. Since I work in a tiny kitchen, I needed to make small things with big flavor, and since I'm bouncing between wine drinkers and cocktail queens, I figured I should also pair my food with a drink that fits the mood.

The one constant is dessert. I think it's sinful to not love cheesecake (and tequila), so I decided to craft my own veganized version. Now, you can have your cake and eat it too!

For Cocktail Sippers: Cranberry Margaritas with Avocado Naan

Ingredients: The Drink
  • About 8 ice cubes, 4 for mixing, 4 for serving
  • 8 ounces cranberry juice
  • 2 ounces silver tequila
  • 1 ounce triple sec or Cointreau
  • 1 lime, juiced (save a sliver for garnish)
  • Margarita salt
Directions: The Drink
  1. Put ice cubes in a cocktail shaker cup (or use two Solo cups if you're budgeting).
  2. Pour in cranberry juice, tequila, triple sec, and lime juice. Slap the top on your shaker and shake away!
  3. Use a lime wedge to coat the rim of a mason jar then dip it into margarita salt. Stack the jar to the top with ice cubes and pour your drink mix through the strainer. Garnish with a lime wedge.
Ingredients: The Food
  • 1 Hass avocado
  • 2 Tablespoons vegan ricotta cheese* (see recipe for homemade version below)
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 whole wheat naan
  • 2 Tablespoons water
  • A handful of cherry tomatoes, sliced thin
  • 1 Tablespoon red pepper flakes (for garnish)
  • Dash of salt (for garnish)
Directions: The Food
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. While it warms up, slice your avocado in half, take out the pit, peel the skin, and mash the flesh with a fork. Set aside. Toss your avocado and some vegan ricotta in a food processor. Add a dash of salt and pepper. Give it a few pumps in the processor, but allow it to stay chunky.
  1. Grab a pizza stone or grease a baking sheet for the naan and a little olive oil. Place the naan on your stone or sheet and splash with a little water (think: spray bottle amount). Toss in the oven for about 5 minutes.
  1. Pull out the naan and let it cool for about a minute. Then slice into triangle-shaped pieces. Place these little guys on a serving plate and start topping with your avocado mix. Add a sliver of cherry tomato to each piece. Finally, make it rain with a sprinkle of red pepper flakes on your plate.

For Wine Drinkers: White Wine with Lasagna Puff Pastries

Ingredients: The Drink

The white wine of your choice--I chose an inexpensive chardonnay here and still felt fabulous.

Ingredients: The Food
  • Patience
  • 1 package dried porcini mushrooms
  • 8 Tablespoons vegan ricotta cheese
  • ¾ pack organic silken tofu
  • 3 Tablespoons nooch
  • 1 heaping Tablespoon tahini butter
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • Dash of salt
  • Italian herbs, to taste
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • ¼ yellow onion
  • 1 cup kale
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 1 package Upton's Traditional Seitan
  • ½ package pastry sheets--also called wonton sheets, if you're lucky to find them
  • 4 Tablespoons Italian "neat"
  • 4 Tablespoons marinara sauce of your choice
  • Dash of cumin
Directions: The Food
  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Submerge your porcinis in water and let them rehydrate till you're ready for them (step 4).
  1. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil, and spray with nonstick spray. While the oven heats, get to cooking. Start with the ricotta then toss the silken tofu, nooch, tahini, 2 cloves of garlic, salt, and herbs in a hardy food processor and blend until you get a smooth, slightly bumpy texture. Spoon out and set aside. Rinse the processor; you'll need it later.
  1. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil. Add your onion and 2 cloves of garlic, cooking till translucent. Then, toss in the kale and dash of cumin and stir together to season. Cook until wilted and dark green. Remove and set aside.
  1. Now you can drain your mushrooms. But WAIT, set aside the juice, you need that. You'll toss the mushrooms, seitan, and about ¼ cup of the mushroom juice in the processor and blend until it's ground to a meal. Take this out and set aside. Now you have all the ingredients ready to stuff in your pastries, woo!
  1. Lay your pastry sheets out (double or triple up on layers). Place about ½ tablespoon of kale, 1 tablespoon of vegan ricotta, ½ tablespoon of neat, and ½ tablespoon of marinara in the center of each and fold to the shape you want--triangles, squares, rolls--anything goes.
  1. Once you have your pastries stuffed, place them on the baking sheet. Spray the tops with nonstick spray--this will give them a nice golden color. Pop in the oven for 10 minutes.
  1. Remove and enjoy!

For Beer Advocates: Stout with Fried BBQ Tofu Picks

Ingredients: The Drink

A hearty winter stout. Preferably dark and not too sweet.

Ingredients: The Food
  • One package extra-firm tofu, cut into ½" cubes
  • 3 Tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 3 Tablespoons barbeque sauce of your choice
  • 1 Tablespoon parsley (for garnish)
  • Dash of garlic powder (for garnish)
  • 1 pack toothpicks
Directions: The Food
  1. Heat a wok or deep frying pan over high heat. Pour vegetable oil in down the side then toss in the tofu (careful, they may crackle oil); let them cook on high heat until they turn golden brown and have a slight crust.
  1. Remove from heat. Using tongs or a spatula, remove the tofu from the oil and place in a mixing bowl. Give it about a minute to cool off.
  1. Once your tofu has had a minute to cool down, pour in the barbeque sauce and stir into the tofu using a rubber spatula. Use toothpicks to pick the cubes out and place them on a serving dish. Sprinkle with a dash of garlic powder and some parsley for a festive garnish.

Dessert for Everyone: Dark Chocolate Pomegranate Cheesecake Bites with Patron XO Cafe

Ingredients: The Drink

A shot of Patron XO Cafe or Sambuca will do.

Ingredients: The Food
  • 2 cups water
  • ¾ cup cashews
  • ½ cup pitted dates
  • ½ walnuts
  • ½ lemon, juiced
  • 2 Tablespoons coconut oil, melted + 1 tablespoon unmelted
  • ½ cup coconut milk
  • ¼ cup agave nectar
  • Seeds from ½ pomegranate
  • 1 bar dark chocolate, I used Endangered Species Dark Chocolate
  1. An hour ahead of time, boil the 2 cups of water. Put your cashews in a mixing bowl. Once the water reaches a boil, remove it from the heat and pour it over the cashews. Give them the next hour to soak in the warm water and soften.
  1. Submerge your dates in water and let them soak for about 10 minutes. While this is happening you can prep your muffin tin: Spray with nonstick spray and plop muffin liners in the slots.
  1. To make the crust: Dump the dates into a food processor and blend until they start to become a ball. Remove from the processor, and swap in your walnuts. Process the walnuts until they form a meal. Reintroduce the dates and process until the two are combined in a nice sticky ball.
  1. Remove the ball from the processor and smoosh a tablespoon of it at a time into the bottom of your muffin liners. Pat down using a spoon.
  1. To make the cheesecake filling: Clean out your processor and get ready for the cheesecake mix. By now you can drain your cashews and toss them in, along with the lemon juice, melted coconut oil, coconut milk, and agave. Blend until silky smooth and pour into a mixing bowl. Add your pomegranate seeds and mix. Set aside for a second.
  1. Over medium-low heat, add 1 tablespoon of the coconut oil. Then add your chocolate bar and melt slowly.
  1. Pour the cheesecake mix into a six-hole muffin tin, filling each hole almost to the top. Next, pour the melted chocolate on top. Toss a few pomegranate seeds on top for an extra dash of holiday flare. Stick these babies in the freezer for 4 to 6 hours. When you're ready to dig in, give them about 5 minutes to thaw before digging in!

Gillian Francella is a writer, editor, and newly converted vegan/vegetarian living in Philadelphia. Through trial and error, she works through various cookbooks to discover delicious dishes that test the limits of her tiny kitchen. She strives to make cruelty-free foods and tweak classic recipes from her childhood to be healthy, vegan treats, all while ballin' out on a 20-something's budget. Chances are, if she can make it, so can you!

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