Before this year started, I had no idea what it was like to host a dinner party. Sure, I’ve folded my share of napkins in the past for company coming to our house, or helped my mom chop tomatoes for pasta salad, but never had I undertaken the task of single-handedly serving dinner to company before. This year has been great with helping me strengthen my confidence in cooking for others, and cooking meals that are friendly toward the diet of any guest that may pop in. I started the year by preparing my own version of spaghetti pie. I whipped up a vegan version of spaghetti pie modeled after one that my grandma makes and then made some donuts for guests to snack on in case dinner failed. Fast forward through the months and I’ve made quinoa pizza crust, a “little kid” themed dinner complete with veggie burgers, mac n’ cheese, and sweet potato fries, red cabbage cole slaw, veggie and tofu “cheese” stuffed manicotti, and then the dinner from last night…a Mexican themed spread that offered guests almost as many choices as Chipotle!

Lettuce wraps, tortillas, and blue-corn chips all served as vessels for the numerous toppings we had available. These included scrambled tofu, roasted zucchini, salsa, homemade guacamole, sauteed bell peppers and mushrooms, oven-roasted broccoli, Daiya cheddar cheese, tumeric-seasoned brown rice, and shredded lettuce. Whew, that was a mouthful – literally.

Sorry for the lame pun, but the make-your-own creation style dinner was a perfect way to satisfy everyone’s hunger in a way that they felt happiest eating. We had loaded burrito concoctions, nacho-style creations, and taco salads grace our table. Everything was vegan on our table and no one had a problem finding delicious food to enjoy! Meals like these (create-your-own) provide people with opportunities to stick to a diet of their choice – whether that involves remaining gluten-free, plant-based, vegan, or omnivorous choice. Best of all about this meal? It’s so easy to throw together that even Ripley can do it.

Who’s Ripley, you ask?

He’s Andrea’s spicy little yorkie who loves cooking as much as Muff-puff does. He’s always ready to help cook some vegan spreads!

If you’re interested in creating a meal like this at home for your family or for company, here’s the “menu” we used last night with simple tips on how to throw everything together.

The Staples
Tortillas, Chips, Rice and Lettuce Wraps.

These are the basic vessels that people can use as a base for their meals. Out of these bases, burritos, quesadillas, nachos, salads, rice bowls and wraps can be created. Having great basics such as these makes it easier for guests to get creative!
Note: we used whole wheat tortillas, blue-corn chips, and short-grain brown rice. Andrea added some tumeric to the rice to add flavorful warmth to the dish.

Spreads/Dips: Salsa and homemade guacamole

Pick a flavorful salsa that will really stand out in your dish! Providing guests with a couple of salsa choices can also accommodate people with differing levels of spice tolerance. To make the guacamole, mash together ripe avocados, garlic (fresh or powdered), a little red chili powder, and the juice of half a fresh lemon. If you’ve got red onion or tomato on hand, you can mash a little of either vegetable into the guacamole as well. Make sure you make a good amount of this stuff-the guac goes fast at most gatherings!

Veggies: roasted zucchini and broccoli, sauteed bell pepper and mushrooms, and shredded lettuce

For an extra pop of flavor, roast veggies in garlic powder and salt and pepper. Roast veggies for 20-30 minutes at 350. Sautee mushrooms and bell peppers with a little veggie broth on top to keep them moist and prevent them from sticking to the pan. The greatest part about these veggies is that you can literally use any that you have on hand! Toss some cold tomato chunks, slices of avocado, seasonal squash varieties, roasted sweet potatoes, or corn in serving dishes and put them out for your guests to use as they please.

Protein: scrambled tofu

Lightly smash tofu with a fork until the tofu attains the texture of scrambled eggs. Toss with garlic powder and nutritional yeast for a pop of flavor. Cook on a skillet until tofu becomes firm and a little bit brown on the edges. Other ideas for protein: any type of beans, lentils, or sauteed seitan.

Extras: Daiya cheese
Although not necessary, cheese adds even more variety to the menu and offers a chance for guests to make nachos, quesadillas, or just add more flavor to their meal! Other extra ideas include things like vegan sour cream, chopped chives, or queso. Get creative!

I hope you have luck creating a fun meal for your family or any guests that you may host! I sure did with this menu, and everyone ate to their heart’s content.


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