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Help: Graduation BBQ for Meat eaters vs. Veg. Heads

Can anyone help me come up with some ideas for my daughters graduation party? She wants BBQ. We are foodies, will gladly smoke our own brisket, make pulled pork. But the problems is.. we are also hosting the party with a graduating Vegetarian. Her family and most of the guest are NON foodies. Am I doomed to search for interesting pasta salads that I hope teenagers like?I don't think they even like portabella mushroom burgers. I wasn't planning on Bocca burgers, but I might just be reduced to them if I can't figure out any ideas. Anyone got any ideas? Thanks.

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  1. If they're non-foodie vegs then I'd suggest having boca/garden/morningstar/tofurky on hand. I think you could put together some veggie and fruit kabobs that would please both crowds. Also, I thought ofa build your own fajita or taco bar so you guys could grill the meat you want while leaving options for the non-meat eaters (portabellas are great here). Quinoa, couscous, orzo and tortelini are good options for room-temp salads. Good luck.

    1. You might want to just pick up a box of frozen Gardenburgers or something similar. I'm sure the vegetarians are used to eating them and would be glad you made the "effort" to provide veggie food. Or you could try grilling some veggies. Get a variety, and the girl will have to be satsified. Pick up a portabella, zucchini, red bell pepper, maybe an ear of corn. Grilled asparagus, whole garlic cloves, and onion slices are delicious too.

      I don't eat meat and when I go to my family's for BBQs, I am completely satisfied with having an array of grilled veggies. My mom has been doing this for me the last few years and it's not like the meat eaters don't enjoy the veggies too. I personally don't really like "fake meat" products; would rather eat "real" vegetables. I just pile them onto a bun with some fresh mozzarella or whatever's around and eat it without condiments. Another thing I love is piling corn, beans, rice, avocado, grilled bell peppers, zucchini, etc. into a corn tortilla and topping it with my mom's fresh salsa. Believe me, the appreciation is there when I have a "main" course I'm able to eat. Nothing's worse than being stuck eating chips and french fries for dinner at a BBQ...

      Either way, it's very thoughtful of you to consider her needs. I'm Greek and the rest of my family gatherings don't usually include anything I can eat. Dinner rolls and water, anyone?

      Good luck.

      2 Replies
      1. re: nothingswrong

        Why does being Greek make it any different for you than any other meat centric ethnicity? I was under the impression that Mediterranean cuisine used a lot of vegetables, pasta and rice?

        1. re: John E.

          yes, they do eat a lot of those things. but at least in my family it's unheard of not to "like" meat or eat it. they always think there's something wrong with me for not wanting to dig into a roasted lamb or pig. luckily, like you said--there are tons of grains and vegetables used in greek cooking so i have good options for a satisfying meal. but i think it's a cultural thing. there's always ground beef or lamb hidden in pasta dishes (pastitsi) and seafood everywhere.

      2. In addition to grilled veggies and starches (i.e. potatoes, yams, etc.), why not throw some pizza on the grill. Who doesn't like vegetarian pizza, or even focaccia?

        1 Reply
        1. re: ipsedixit

          That's a great call, you're exactly right, especially with teenagers. I use it as an entree for vegetarians at a lot of my gatherings.

        2. how much trouble are you willing to go to...

          if so inclined, you could easily make Black Bean Burgers or Chickpea Cutlets or Quinoa Patties or Lentil Burgers...

          you could also do a crockpot of Chili

          agree with grilled veggies and/or kebabs -- feel free to coat some tofu with blackening seasoning and add them to the skewers in cubes

          1. i'd go with kebabs. for the meat eaters, you could have barbeque chicken, onions, and pineapple, and for the vegetarians, you could have tofu, onions, pineapple, and bell peppers.

            1. JMO but if you are co-hosting the event with the other family, more effort should be put into attempting to provide interesting choices for the vegetarians and not just throw them frozen gardenburgers. Now, if you were hosting the event for just your graduate and the other graduate was just a guest, I'd say it was nice that you grilled up a gardenburger. This is different. That said, is the other family not helping with the planning of the food? Perhaps they have some ideas for what to serve the vegetarians since they're graduate is one? Another thing, you didn't say that the other family is vegetarian, just that the graduate is? Just because that family is non "foodie" doesn't mean they wouldn't appreciate your selection of what to serve.

              I'm with Emme in that you could easily do veggie burgers from scratch a day or two before the BBQ. Tofu marinated in a caribbean jerk seasoning or dry rubbed & grilled is nice, you could also do "pulled" tofu BBQ in which you grill off the sliced tofu, then shred and simmer with sauce; serve on buns.

              You could do stuffed zucchini, eggplant or tomatoes. Deviled eggs, mixed with different fillings & placed on a bed of ice to keep cold or grilled sweet potato salad with no mayo. A pan of mac & cheese (you could use silken tofu and soy cheese if they don't eat dairy) or a cold noodle salad with lots of veggies would go over big, especially with kids. Grill some pineapple & canteloupe skewers & serve drizzled with a lime dressing or carve out a watermelon basket piled high with mixed fruit for easy desserts.

              8 Replies
              1. re: Cherylptw

                Thanks for the great post!. We never would of thought of BBQ pulled tofu and I think it would really suprise my brother we went to the effort. We really appreciate your ideas.

                1. re: Cherylptw

                  Cherylptw, how do you do pulled tofu BBQ? I'd love a recipe!

                  1. re: funniduck

                    Here's a recipe I created for a vegetarian client.

                    "Pulled" Tofu BBQ

                    1-2 dried ancho chiles, seeded
                    2 cups hot water
                    3 pounds extra firm tofu
                    ¼ cup vegetable oil
                    2 teaspoons kosher salt
                    2 teaspoons ground cumin
                    1 teaspoon garlic powder
                    ½ teaspoon black pepper
                    1 cup sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla
                    2 cloves garlic
                    ½ cup cider vinegar
                    2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
                    1-2 drops liquid smoke
                    2 tablespoons brown sugar (or more if you like sweeter sauce)
                    1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
                    1 tablespoon butter
                    1- 18 oz. bottle regular bbq sauce
                    Non stick cooking spray

                    Place the ancho chiles in a small bowl; cover with the hot water and weigh the chiles down with a heavy cup or other object. Allow chiles to soak for one hour. Meanwhile, wrap the tofu in several thicknesses of paper towels or a kitchen towel and place in a baking dish. Weigh down the tofu with a heavy skillet or other object to release water for 20 minutes. Repeat once more then remove towels and cut each block of tofu into six pieces lengthwise. Brush the tofu with vegetable oil and season both sides with a combination of salt, cumin, garlic powder, and pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature until ready to grill.

                    For the sauce, add the ancho chiles & the water it was soaked in to a blender along with the onion and garlic. Puree mixture until smooth and pour into a medium saucepan. Whisk in the cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, liquid smoke, brown sugar, crushed red pepper flakes, butter and the bbq sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer over low heat for 20 minutes, then turn off heat.

                    Preheat a grill or grill pan at medium temperature and spray with non stick cooking spray. Grill tofu for 3-4 minutes per side then remove from grill and set aside as the tofu cooks. Using a sharp knife, thinly shred the tofu widthwise. Add to the pot of sauce and warm through. Serve on toasted buns or on as an entree with sides. Makes 6-8 servings.

                    1. re: Cherylptw

                      just a note that unless you buy a "non-standard" worcestershire sauce, it's not vegetarian. I found a substitute in an asian grocery.

                      1. re: DGresh

                        You're right; I forgot to mention that my worcestershire was a vegan brand that I ordered online. Here's the link: http://www.veganstore.com/422.html

                        If you know of an organic store, you might be able to find Annie's Natural Organic vegan Worcestershire or some other similar brand.

                      2. re: Cherylptw

                        Thanks Cherylptw! Looks good!

                        DGresh what do you use as a Worcestershire sauce substitute from the Asian grocery store? Thanks!

                        1. re: funniduck

                          it's just asian brand labeled "organic worcestershire sauce-gluten-free vegan". Happened to be just what I needed (for my veggie daughter)

                        2. re: Cherylptw

                          Thanks for the great recipe we are excited to try it. Although my brother and sister in law, graduating niece (extremely picky eater ie. I'll get chips) are going to be the only vegartarians in a gathering of 60 we would like to try something for them and hopefully all will enjoy it.

                    2. I commiserate, once cancelled a dinner party cause I stressed out over cooking for vegetarian friends. What can I say, i was young and easily panicked. Calmed down since then and these things have worked really well for me. In fact, I am happy to do them even when vegos aren't attending as they are well liked by meat-arians alike. Well, *I* like them :)
                      * Second everyone on grilled vegetable kabobs. Zucchini, onion cubes, peppers marinated in rosemary, olive oil and salt are yum and easy. I especially like that I can serve them alongside the meat kabobs, and it doesn't feel like I'm "separating out" the vegos. Plus the vegetables do double duty as I used them as "separators" on the meat kabob skewers as well.
                      * Black bean and corn salad surprised me, by being so popular I had to set aside some for the vegos
                      * Zucchini bread - I like the Simply Recipes version. But I reduced the sugar and raisins to 1/3 so it became more savoury. Served it with chunks of cheddar beside.
                      * French Green Lentil Salad - I like the David Lebovitz version. I couldn't believe lentils could taste so good! Don't skimp on the olive oil.

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: ozinboz

                        I agree about the lentil salad....filling and delish! :) The pulled tofu sounds awesome too! :)

                      2. One standby that is really easy to make ahead is cold cheese tortellini salad. You could add whatever you like. For me, that's some crumbled feta, kalamata olives and halved grape tomatoes. Could also add some red onion. I just add a bit of olive oil, s and p to dress it.
                        I make tons because everyone eats it, it goes very fast.

                        My other go to so veggie folks feel like they've been fed is a preassembled lasagna with no boil Barilla lasagna noodles, and chopped spinach mixed into the cheese. I make it very thick and cheesy, with a few eggs, so it's a protein meal. I bake it while everything else is cooking, from room temp. Another option is quiches, store bought or home made.

                        1. Grill some veggies and put out a potato salad and a green salad. How about a mixed bean salad.
                          Dont worry about "foodie" focus on food

                          1. As a veg head myself, I beg you to consider a bit more care than pre-made veggie burgers. Especially given recent hullabaloo about hexane in the production of textured vegetable protein and soy protein isolate that has many vegetarians and vegan unnerved.
                            First, start with thinking about hearty non-meat options for the grill- tofu, tempeh, seitan, homemade veggie burgers and patties, sliced of nut/bean/grain loaves, mock meatballs. If you feel like venturing the realm of seitan, you could make your own seitan sausages or cutlets (see: http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2007/05/..., http://chubbyvegetarian.blogspot.com/...


                            You're truly not limited to shish kebabs, mock meat, and vegetables. Although you have endless options with that alone, if you think of all the possible marinades at your disposal for both meat and vegetables- teryaki, satay, tandoori, chimmichurri, jerk, cajun, etc. What about grilled pizza, galettes, and foccacia? Guests could even choose what toppings they want for each pizza. Stuffed eggplant, bell pepper, tomatoes, jalapenos (like poppers)? Burritos with grilled vegetables and tortillas warmed on the grill (black beans, rice, guac, cheese, salsa all other fillings set out for everyone to choose), or quesadillas. Strips of eggplant and zucchini wrapped around cheese, bean mash, pesto, etc. Polenta, panelle, or crostini, allowing guests to top as they's like. Anything en papillote. Grilled falafel. Grilling 'unusual' vegetables/fruits/other ingredients can also perk things up- avocado, plantain, okra, green tomatoes, pickles, mochi, hard boiled eggs, whole green olives.

                            What non-grilled dishes you serve could depend on what you choose to grill. Potato salad, coleslaw, baked beans, mac and cheese, cornbread/casserole/spoonbread, stewed or sauteed greens, salads using grilled ingredients (for example, if you grill radicchio and red onion, serve it with fennel, beets, mizuna, fresh mint and basil, pine nuts and reduced balsamic). Alternative takes on those traditional dishes tend to go over well with both omnis and vegetarians ( I had success with my own versions of these: http://noteatingoutinny.com/2009/06/1... ).

                            For dessert, grill fruit, poundcake, angel food cake, stuffed french toast, cupcakes grilled in orange shells: (http://www.theungourmet.com/2009/08/t...) with ice cream, whipped cream, zabaglione, etc.

                            Also, cookbooks for more inspiration:

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: gwendolynmarie

                              Thanks for the FANTASTIC post! We will definately be using some of your ideas.

                            2. Thanks for the ideas so far. To clear up some of the questions. The other graduate is my niece and she, along with my brother's entire family is vegetarian. So I am willing to go the extra mile to include their needs. However, I am not expecting any help or ideas from them. The menu so far is we are making pulled pork, smoking brisket, fruit basket, potatoe salad and grilled vegs. Thanks for all your help any ideas are much appreciated.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: Tamhoffman

                                You could try 'Paneer Tikka'. It is an indian snack made by coating paneer (farmer cheese) in coriander and lime juice (+seasonings) and then grilling it, like you would a skewered kabob. I have served this to many a vegetarian and they are always satisfied.
                                Recipe: http://www.indianfoodforever.com/snac...

                                Other things for a vegetarian barbeque, would be stuffed chiles/peppers

                                And of course: a simple things like a corn husk with a rice and beans would go over well.

                                An extremely easy thing to do is, grill ratatouille vegetables (eggplant, tomato, onion, zucchini) and serve it tossed with feta and parsley.

                                P.S. Tandoori spiced, yogurt marinated cauliflower is pretty darn good.

                              2. The following is a link to a Madhur Jaffrey recipe for lentils cooked with onion and garlic that makes a fantastic side dish/salad. It's been discussed quite a bit on CH; most posters love it.


                                And a link to the CH discussion:

                                1. Stuffed, rolled rice-filled grape leaves called Dolmas or Dolmades are wonderful. A bit time consuming but easy to make and they bake in the oven in a casserole. They make delicious finger food for a buffet or BBQ meal.

                                  Grill veggies in large slices, dab with a good vinagrette and get some nice grill marks. Zukes, thick onion slices, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes. Try even leafy things like chard--it's very dramatic, but be careful--it's fast to burn.

                                  Baked Mac N Cheese made with Swiss and Fontina is a good non-picnic-y side.

                                  Large fruit chunks macerated in sparkling wine or apple juice.

                                  For dessert, cake pops!

                                  1. What I love most about BBQ is that wonderful smoky flavor that simply cannot be duplicated indoors. So I'd be inclined to throw things on the grill for the vegetarians. I think the grilled vegetables, and flatbread are great ideas. Also, have you considered some grilled Haloumi cheese? Great change of pace from the usual tofu, grain, mushroom substitutes...

                                    Here's a great link:


                                    ETA: Another thought...Grilled polenta cakes.

                                    1. Corn and beans are a classic vegetarian protein combo:
                                      How about grilled corn-on-the-cob with Mexican lime chili butter
                                      and a chickpea-green bean-black olive salad

                                      Also, devilled eggs at a backyard party will be gobbled up, no matter how simple it sounds.

                                      For dessert, grilled half-moons of pineapple (including the bark) are great too.

                                      Good luck!

                                      1. My husband is veggie and we bbq all of the time. Our secret, which may not be easily available in all parts of the usa but is worth seeking out, is Hallumi cheese. It grills rather than melts, and becomes all delicious on the grill- all blistery and salty. Perfect on rolls with some grilled veg! Also, that old standby of brie with chutney wrapped in foil is amazing.

                                        1. Make a side of beans vegetarian. Everyone else will love them too. Use liquid smoke or smoked paprika or chipotle instead of pork. We always do this for our BBQs and along with the veggie sides the veggies have a good meal. We have also smoked veggies and tofu, but beans serve a dual purpose. BTW - you can also throw the beans in the smoker.

                                          1 Reply
                                          1. re: jsaimd

                                            Thanks for the idea regarding the liquid smoke or paprika. Being the meat hounds that we are, we have a great bean reciepe with sausage and bacon and we were trying to figure out how to duplicate a "meat" flavoring for them. They love when we used smoked cheese in our potates at the holidays.

                                          2. I have not read all the posts but I have an easy solution to your problem. Why not let the graduating vegetarian's (why the capital V in your post?) family take care of the vegetarian aspect of the food served at the girls' graduation party?

                                            2 Replies
                                            1. re: John E.

                                              John.. wouldn't that be a nice idea. Unfortunately, they are working the night before than driving the three hours to my house for the party.

                                              1. Just a couple thoughts. How about pizza's on the grill using roasted veggies or make chili using TVP and put it in flat pans and smoke it for a couple of hours for that deep rich BBQ flavor?. Here is the pizza
                                                dough recipe I use w/ lots of thumbs up from all parties:
                                                Grilled Pizza Rustica

                                                Grilled Pizza Dough:
                                                1 1/3 cups lukewarm water
                                                1 package active dry yeast
                                                1 tablespoon molasses
                                                2 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
                                                2 1/2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for coating
                                                2 cups bread flour
                                                1 1/2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
                                                1/4 cup whole wheat flour
                                                In a large bowl, combine the water, yeast, and molasses and stir gently to mix. Set aside for five minutes until bubbly and foamy. Add the salt, to taste, and oil and stir to mix.
                                                In a separate bowl, whisk together the flours. Add the flours to the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until a dough forms and pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
                                                Divide the dough into six equal pieces. Roll into balls and place on an oiled baking pan. Brush the balls with olive oil and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes.
                                                When the grill is ready, oil a second baking sheet and flatten one ball of dough into a 10 to 12-inch piece about 1/8-inch thick. A perfect circle is less crucial than even thickness.
                                                Cook's Note: Dough can be held for 1 day in the refrigerator. Let sit 1 hour at room temperature before grilling.
                                                2 cups tomato puree
                                                1 pound Italian melting cheese, such as fontina, coarsely grated
                                                4 ounces prosciutto di Parma
                                                1 small red onion, peeled and thinly sliced
                                                1/4 cup capers
                                                1/2 cup roasted red peppers, drained and thinly sliced
                                                4 ounces freshly grated pecorino Romano
                                                4 ounces bel paese, sliced
                                                1/2 cup jarred Italian eggplant
                                                4 jumbo shrimp, halved, de-veined, and grilled
                                                4 sprigs basil, leaves only, roughly torn
                                                Salt and freshly ground pepper
                                                1/2 cup olive oil, plus more for greasing the pans
                                                Grilled Pizza Dough, recipe follows
                                                Preheat a grill with coals on one half and bricks on the other (so that there is a hot and cool side). Assemble all of your topping ingredients on a big platter.
                                                Lightly oil a sheet pan and roll and stretch one ball of dough until it is approximately 12-inches in length and 8-inches across. It is not necessary to make a perfect circle, but the dough should be an even thickness of 1/8-inch. Carefully stretch the dough onto the hot side of the grill and cook until the dough puffs on top, crisps on the bottom, and grill marks appear, about 1 to 2 minutes.
                                                Flip the dough onto the cool side of the grill and brush the cooked side with olive oil. Quickly and sparingly assemble the toppings of your choice, such as tomato puree, fontina, and prosciutto di Parma, capers, and red peppers; or tomato puree, pecorino Romano, bel paese, grilled jumbo shrimp, and jarred Italian eggplant. Garnish with torn basil leaves. Feel free to improvise the toppings and come up with your own.
                                                Once the pizza has been dressed, season it with salt and pepper, to taste, drag it over to the hot side of the grill, and cook until the ingredients are heated through. (If the pizza browns too quickly, pull it to the cool side and cover the grill to finish cooking.) Using a wide spatula or two pairs of tongs, carefully lift the pizza onto a cutting board and divide into 6 or 8 pieces. Serve right away. Repeat with the remaining dough.

                                                1. As a person who is inclined to keep things simple, my rec would be grilled tofu. Marinate it along with some veggies, slap it on the grill, and there you go - a delicious vegetarian meal. You can throw it on ciabatta for a nice sandwich too if that appeals to you.