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(Vegetarian?) Christmas dinner party for 20

So....in a temporary lapse of judgement I decided it would be a great idea to throw a pre-Christmas dinner party in early December for our closest friends - all 20 of them! I LOVE the Christmas season and have always wanted to have a dinner party with a nicely decorated table etc...however, now that the invitations have been sent out and the rsvp's are in, I am totally stuck for ideas of what to cook!

Here are the issues:

1) I am a vegetarian (I know, one of THOSE people...)

I prefer not to handle meat, and besides that I really don't want to poison my friends because I don't know how to cook meat properly! The group I'm cooking for are fine with (and likely expect) a vegetarian dinner, but I want to prove to them that vegetarian meals need not be bland and boring! If I NEED to include meat somehow then I guess I could get my husband to deal with that part of it.

2) I've never cooked for more than 6 people before. This is my first large dinner party. Eek!

3) I don't want it to be a full out traditional Christmas turkey dinner...just a nice dinner that happens to be taking place during the Christmas season.

My idea for the menu is this:

Butternut Squash Soup
Individual Vegetable Strudels
A side dish of some sort?

I've had some DELICIOUS Vegetable Strudels at restaurants, but now I can't find a recipe that sounds really fantastic. I think it would be nice to have some fall vegetables incorporated into it, and maybe some sort of creamy or cheesy sauce inside or on top?

Does anyone have a recipe they think might fit the bill?

Are strudels really hard to make? Once I find a recipe I like, I plan to do a trial run to make sure it turns out well.

What could I serve on the side?

Any suggestions and tips are very much appreciated!
If you can think of a main course other than the Strudel idea I'd love to hear it :)


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  1. A vegetarian dinner is never less than! I'm sure your friends will appreciate the meal without meat. Strudels are actually ridiculously easy to make. The key is to ensure your filling is dry enough so the pastry doesn't get soggy. For a spinach strudel (spanikopita), they make you squeeze the liquid out of defrosted spinach before mixing in the cheese, eggs, and other ingredients. If you want other vegetables, make sure you sautee them thoroughly extrude the excess liquid. Like spanikopita you can either make it like lasagne with layers of filling and strudel dough or individual triangular packets. Here's what I've done for a layered vegetarian strudel. Take a block of tofu and mash it up so it's the consistency of ricotta (or even use 16 oz of ricotta). Grate 2 large zuchinni and carrots and saute with two chopped scallions in a little olive oil for about 15 minutes so the vegetables have softened and the moisture from the vegetables have evaporated to some degree. Add the mixture to the tofu/ricotta along with 2 eggs. Add a cup of medium hard cheese (any kind you want - gruyere, feta, cheddar). Add pepper to taste and 1/2 a teaspoon of nutmeg. In an 8x13 in baking pan, spread 1/2 of the mixture on the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of filo dough and brush the top of the filo with olive oil. Do four layers of filo dough. Add the other half of the filling and then top it off with another four layers of dough. Bake at 400 degrees for about half an hour. As long as the liquid has been taken out, you can do any vegetable - mushroom, kale, etc.

    A good side dish is a nice salad with chunk of blue cheese, pecans and cranberries in a sherry vinaigrette.

    1. I've really been enjoying braised red cabbage as a side this fall. It's a wonderful cheery color, so makes the plate really pop, and it can be made up ahead and reheated very easily (and the leftovers keep really well, too.) Maybe put a dollop of good sour cream with it.

      1 largish white or yellow (not sweet) onion, diced
      butter or oil for sauteeing (I usually use olive oil for this recipe)
      1 big apple, peeled & cored, chopped
      1 head red cabbage, cored and sliced thin
      good couple of shakes of celery seed (optional)
      couple of tablespoons of caraway seed OR juniper berries OR about 1/4 cup gin
      salt (I start with a tablespoon of kosher, taste & adjust)
      fresh ground pepper
      1/2 to 3/4 cup vinegar (apple or red wine)

      Sautee the onions in oil, when translucent add chopped apple and sautee until hot through and beginning to get tender, add cabbage and everything else, stir until cabbage starts to wilt, reduce heat and cover with pot lid a little ajar, and cook stirring occasionally for about 45 minutes. Taste & adjust seasoning (note: sometimes needs a bit of sugar if the apple wasn't quite sweet enough). Keeps up to 2 weeks in the fridge (thanks to the vinegar). Especially tasty with smoked foods

      1. Gruyere scalloped potatoes? Homemade whole wheat mac and cheese?

        One that I'm planning to do at Christmas is green peas cooked with butter, olive oil, shredded cabbage and carrot blend (i.e. cole slaw in a bag), minced garlic, chopped onion, fresh rosemary, fresh parsley, salt, and black pepper. This actually comes from a dish called haluski, which as a main course also has egg noddles and bacon in it. If you leave out the egg noodles, it's a great peas side dish, and of course you can leave out the bacon. :)

        You could also do a meatless version of Dublin Coddle - sautee boiled cubed potatoes with chopped apple and onion, in olive oil and a little bit of apple juice.

        1. How about a mushroom strudel? Do a mix of mushrooms, with as many wild as you can find/afford, sauteed w/garlic, maybe some shallots, parsley, and layer between sheets of phyllo or strudel pastry. You could, as you suggest, offer a cream sauce on the side. Brussels sprouts, glazed, or braised in cream would be another nice accompaniment. Or braised leeks or endive, baked fennel.
          Alternative to strudel, you could do a hearty tart or quiche: mushroom, leek, or onion w/a custard of eggs and cheese. Or a vegetarian lasagna.

          1. How lovely of you to do, and I'm sure your friends will all be just so grateful for the opportunity to get together and to be cooked for...

            Maybe a side dish with a little protein in it... Like a bean/rice pilaf or a lentil salad or a quinoa pilaf...

            Another alternative to the strudel would be a vegetable napoleon of sorts... This one looks fabulous with a Tomato Bisque Sauce http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ro...

            Another hearty side dish would be a Portabello Steak

            1 Reply
            1. re: Emme

              I am also trying to come up with vegetarian menu ideas for Thanksgiving and Christmas. Vegetarian Times had an article with recipes from some of the most famous vegetarian restaurants that look interesting. The Emerald Rice Cakes from Millennium in San Francisco and the Seitan Piccata from Candles 79 in New York City look awesome.


            2. In James Person's Vegetables cookbook he has an artichoke and mushroom ragout in puff pastry that is to die for and would make a gorgeous and special vegetarian entree. You bake off the puff pastry ahead of time and can also make the ragout ahead of time and then to serve you split the puff pastry and make sort of napoleans out of it. It strikes me that this might be less stressful than timing individual strudels for 20. OTOH, I agree that strudels are not that hard. The original Moosewood has a couple if I recall correctly that a friend and I made successfully in high school and you could probably convert those recipes to individual portions. And don't worry about not serving meat!

              1. Thanks for all the great suggestions! Even if I don't end up making some of these dishes for my dinner party, I'll definitely be trying them sometime :)

                1. This fig, walnut, and blue cheese tart just happened to show up on my sidebar: http://www.chow.com/recipes/13569?tag...

                  1. Have done a few variations on the Vegetarian Thanksgiving/Christmas dinner as we have a number of vegetarians (or kosher people who won't eat meat off my dishes) in the family. I've never made my own strudel pastry but store bought puff-pastry is very easy to work with and looks/tastes impressive with a number of fillings. Here's a recipe for a basic vegetable cheese strudel, I have one similar from the free magazine you get at the liquor store (LCBO) in Canada, but I can't find it on their website. http://recipe.aol.com/recipe/vegetabl...
                    A while back I made a cauliflower and sweet potato strudel, again using store bought puff pastry, my apologies but I cannot find the recipe but I think it's the kind of thing you could improvise, your basic chop, season, saute, wrap in puff pastry and bake. You could even do two smaller, different strudels to give people choices, once you get the hang of it after your trial run.

                    If I were to do the sweet potato one, might find a butternut squash soup too similar and change the soup to a roasted red pepper or something else.

                    There was also an article on here with 10 vegetarian Thanksgiving main dishes with a lot of great looking recipes - one that struck me that I think I'm going to try was a butternut squash stuffed with a wild rice stuffing. But again I'd change the soup.

                    A green bean side dish that I did last year from Vegetarian Times - it was absolutely to die for, even the non-green bean lovers liked it. Planning to make it again this year.

                    Would love to know what your final menu ends up being. I'm getting pretty hungry just thinking about it all!

                    2 Replies
                    1. re: 16crab

                      I think I actually have the recipe you're referring to, from LCBO's free Food & Drink Magazine! (I live in Toronto)
                      I printed it out a few years ago but never got around to making it. I'll have to see if I can find it, thanks for the reminder!
                      I wasn't planning on making my own pastry, I was definitely going to buy the puff pastry from the store...I'll already have enough to do that day without having to worry about making pastry too! ;)
                      I may have to take your suggestion and just put whatever vegetables I want it in, maybe broccoli, cauliflower, tomatoes, zucchini, onions....I'll have to think about that part. In that case I'll just need a recipe for a sauce of some sort, something creamy or cheesy as I mentioned before.

                      So I basically just have to cook/saute all the vegetables first, then wrap it in pastry, and bake it to crisp up the pastry? I like the idea of having 2 different strudel options.

                      I think I'll do a trial run this weekend, maybe try a couple of different options to see how they taste!

                      1. re: gfxchick

                        Here is a recipe for a Mushroom, Sweet Potato, Cheddar & Arugula Strudel that might work.

                        An alternative to the strudel might be individual vegetable pot pies like these ones.

                        For the soup, Ruth Reichl's Roast Pumpkin With Cheese Fondue is a cross between a soup and a gratin served in a whole pumpkin and makes for a really beautiful presentation.

                        Dorie Greenspan has a similar recipe:

                        Some great sides:

                        Roasted Broccoli With Garlic and Red Pepper

                        Golden-Crusted Brussels Sprouts

                        Moroccan-Spiced Parsnips

                        Carrots and Brussels Sprouts

                    2. I'd recommend including a hearty starch in your meal. Someone's idea for a pilaf was a good one -- lentils or garbanzo beans, vegetables, barley, herbs, onions, and wild rice, perhaps. Or you could make a hearty vegetable & cheese lasagna or broccoli or spinach & ricotta stuffed shells. If your guests are vegan, you could even make the filling out of tofu and add some cheesy flavor with nutritional yeast. If not, take advantage of fresh ricotta, and pecorino romano cheese.

                      In my Italian household, Christmas is a time for a lot of batter-fried dishes (you can try zucchini sticks, eggplant slices, green beans, use your imagination), served with a dipping sauce of marinara in a ramekin, and a bowl of spaghetti sauteed with allia e olia (garlic and oil). It goes great with steamed broccoli mixed in, as well, or with chopped portabello mushrooms & a few chopped fresh cherry tomatoes (you could add roasted peppers, and artichoke hearts, too...and black olives). Fast to make, but really delicious.

                      If you don't want to go the strudel route, you could make "zeppole", which are super easy but delicious. It's really just fried dough balls with powdered sugar. Here's a recipe (though I'd omit the vanilla bean & cinnamon): http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/gi...