Crowd-Pleasers

Most people who read this blog probably already know this, but H and I first met while playing softball (on opposing teams) in our law school intramural league. For the past several years, we have continued to play together in the summer in an adult recreational league of greater Boston.  Dorn’s has become a staple of our summer schedule and a centerpiece of our social life as a couple.

dorns
Dorn’s 2012

derby
H and me decked out in red

Since H is the captain and I am the captain’s wife, we hosted our team’s post-season barbecue at our home way out in the burbs this year.

I should first say that I really love hosting parties.  H and I have lived in our house for just under 2 years and we have now had 5 great get-togethers in it (2 holiday parties, 2 barbecues, and a Superbowl party).  But holy hell is it a lot of work.

This isn’t really anyone’s fault but my own.  You see, it really wouldn’t be that big of a faux pas to just buy a bunch of pre-made platters and stuff to serve to a crowd (and frankly I’d probably end up spending about the same amount of money).  But no, I have this compulsion to make everything myself.

So as soon as H and I set a date for this year’s Dorn’s barbecue, I started planning a menu.  Our team consists solely of wings-loving omnivores and me, plus one vegetarian (who unfortunately wasn’t going to make it).  I decided to do my traditional taco bar, with meat, yes, but also with the option of Ancho Lentils from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  This way I can have a taco (never mind that these lentils are a total crowd-pleaser, delicious to everyone, regardless of dietary preference).  Plus hamburgers and hot dogs (which I wouldn’t have to look at…grilling is H’s job).  Everything else I served, I decided, would be vegan.

I don’t have a picture of the Ancho Lentils from my taco bar, but here’s an old one of the same recipe that I ate on a sandwich with dijon mustard.  Yes, they are versatile!
MayFood-LunchPost005

I was all freaked out because I realized we were going to have between 20 and 25 people and I’ve never made food for that many before.  So I pulled a bunch of recipes and then doubled or tripled them to make enough.  Let’s just say I overestimated.

But no matter.  For appetizers, I decided to make Olive-Rosemary Tapenade from this PureWow recipe (minus the anchovy) that had caught my eye a few months ago.  The recipe requires some intensive chopping (especially when using non-pitted olives…ugh).  I did most of it on Wednesday night and waited until Friday night (the night before the barbecue) to mix in the chopped parsley and orange zest.

Here are the prepped ingredients, packed up and ready to go on Wednesday night.
Olive Tapenade Prep
Kalamata and castelvetrano olives, red bell pepper, jalapeno, and garlic

Oh, and when I was chopping the red pepper, I found this devilish little piece inside…
Devil Tail
H: “That picture just proves that vegetables are evil.”

Here is the finished product, served with crostini that I made according to this method by Chloe Coscarelli:
Tapenade with crostiniI also made the Summer Orchard Bruschetta from Happy. Healthy. Life. (click for recipe):
Summer Orchard Bruschetta 1Also served with crostini:
Bruschetta with crostini
I love, love, LOVE this bruschetta and am going to make it again and again!

Appetizers not pictured: hummus platter (Cedar’s original with carrots and celery); Utz honey barbecue chips; tortilla chips with salsa and guacamole (thankfully I didn’t make these by hand…I used Whole Foods medium chunky salsa and Trader Joe’s spicy guacamole autentico [which is incredible btw]).  Oh, and loaded tater tots (which weren’t vegan, so I guess ALMOST everything else I made was vegan).

So that there would be stuff to drink besides beer, I made Stoli Dolis (2 pineapples, cored and cut into rings, with vodka poured over them, which sat for 5-6 days and was WAY too strong…in the future I would soak the pineapple at least 2 weeks before serving) and Strawberry-Mint Water:

Strawberry Mint Water

I got the idea back in May, when H and I went to a wedding on Nantucket.  In the hotel lobby, they had a water cooler with strawberries floating in it and it was so incredibly delicious.  My own version did not disappoint either.

Drink Station

For dishes to serve on the side of the entrees, I did my favorite Vegan Caesar Salad with Avocado and Chickpeas from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  I didn’t take a picture of the trough of salad that I served at this barbecue, but here is a pic from when I made the recipe once before:
Picture 016

I also made Creamy Avocado Potato Salad from Post Punk Kitchen (click for recipe).  I like that blog, a little.

First of all, look at these stunning avocados:
Avocados

Next, here is a picture of the “dressing” all creamy and beautiful in the food processor:
Potato Salad Dressing

Finally, I forgot to take a picture of the finished product.  But it looked like fingerling potatoes with green stuff on them.

Also on the side, and not pictured (I suck) was a pesto pasta salad, which was just cooked elbow macaroni tossed with Classic Pesto from Vegan With a Vengeance and chopped cherry tomatoes.  And the corn and black bean salad that I talked about in my last post.  Oh, and corn on the cob.  I was going to also serve collard greens but there was too much food and so I didn’t.

Finally, dessert!  I served a fruit salad in a watermelon bowl, which I didn’t photograph because the watermelon shell looked kinda wonky, plus it was dark by the time we got to dessert.  The fruit salad contained watermelon (obviously), pineapple, strawberries, blueberries, and kiwi.  I was able to prep the fruit salad ingredients well in advance of the party.  Here are the latter three ingredients packed up in a very large container:
Fruit Salad prep

Because our team’s color is red, I wanted to make an appropriately colored dessert.  I chose Vanilla Cupcakes with Strawberry Buttercream Frosting from Made Just Right by Earth Balance (click for recipe).  These came out great! I mean, they’re pink, but strawberries are red, so it works, right?  [One note: I noticed while making this that the recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of baking powder and I was like…no.  That is most definitely a typo.  So I used 2 tsp. and the cupcakes turned out great, so if you make this recipe do NOT use 2 tbsp.!]

Cupcake Platter 2

They looked so pretty on my cupcake platter!

Cupcake Platter 1

Bonus: M (an honorary Dorn) came up to visit and hang out at the barbecue.

Obligatory
Obligatory sisters shot

And late Sunday afternoon, after two softball games and lots of house cleanup, I used leftover watermelon (which I had frozen) and leftover Summer Orchard Bruschetta (which was already getting soggy) to make this incredible concoction for the three of us to enjoy.Watermelon Frosty 1

Watermelon Frosties for all!

All in all, the party was a ton of fun, everyone was completely stuffed and happy, and no one seemed to even notice or care that the usual cheese platter/mayo-heavy potato and pasta salad/creamy veggie dip were missing.  I think the key to this lies in choosing recipes that utilize “normal” things that everyone loves (like avocado and chickpeas).  I call these “crowd-pleasers.”

The other thing is not to broadcast that everything is vegan.  I know some would disagree with me, but I really do believe that it’s important to let the food speak for itself.  Most people think that it must be very difficult to be vegan.  Frankly, I used to be one of them.  That was before I learned how to be creative and think outside the box and really understand and appreciate all of the things that can be done with plant foods.

Obviously, if people ask me questions, I am happy to answer.  But actually, at this barbecue, the only dish I got questions about was the Caesar Salad, (i.e., “How is the dressing vegan?” Answer: “It’s made with tahini.”  I didn’t mention the nooch though.)  Usually it’d be the cupcakes (“How did you make the frosting?” “How can you bake cake without eggs?”), but not this time.

Well. Hopefully this post was long enough.

Advertisements

Spilling the Greens

Get it?? It’s like beans but…green.  Except not green beans.

I’m tired.

And I’ve been spilling stuff non-stop for the past two days.  This morning I knocked over my bag of chia seeds and they went all over the floor.  Just a minute ago I knocked over my coffee mug at work and it spilled onto a case I had been reading (thankfully just a print out and not an actual court file!).

But yesterday’s spill was the king.  I had hoped to get in to work a little early, so I set up my coffee and prepped my smoothie ingredients the night before.  I was totally jamming and making great time.

I made my pretty purple smoothie:Spill the Greens

1 cup frozen organic strawberries, 1 cup chia gel (1 tbsp. chia seeds + 1 cup water soaked overnight or longer), 1 cup fresh blueberries, 1/2 fresh banana, 1 large collard green leaf, 2 leaves of kale.  [Pause: If I made this again, I might add a touch of liquid sweetener, because my berries weren’t all that sweet.  Resume.]

As I was filling my smoothie cup, I knocked the blender bowl into it and I spilled half (okay maybe like a third) of the smoothie onto the floor.Spill the Greens 012

It was disgusting and surprisingly hard to clean up.  I was not early for work.

Anyway!  I’m getting pretty pumped about Vegan MoFo (that’s the Vegan Month of Food) this year.   I’ve never participated in anything like it before.  And, as is probably crystal clear from scrolling down a few inches on this blog, I don’t publish anything close to 20 posts in a month, ever.  But I have a fun theme in mind, and I’m really excited to challenge myself to be creative and to post very frequently.  It’s starting September 1st this year, and the deadline to sign up is August 28, in case anyone else is interested.

I don’t want to reveal my MoFo theme just yet, but I will say that it does NOT focus on green foods.  I, along with many other herbivores, eat so many greens each and every day that it wouldn’t be all that daring or interesting to do a whole month on green food.  They’ll be there, of course, but not *featured* is all.

To that end, I’m doing a photo dump (or “spill” if you will…see how good I am with themes??) of some yummy green stuff I’ve eaten lately, to get ready to fill my camera up with MoFo pics.

Green Smoothies: nothing new in the blogosphere, but somehow they never get old.  I made this one at home (fresh pineapple, frozen banana, hemp seeds, kale):
Spill the Greens 005

And bought this beautiful thing at Whole Foods:
Spill the Greens 006

My wallet may never forgive me for discovering that Whole Foods has a smoothie and juice bar.  This one is called the Mighty Green and it has unsweetened non-dairy milk (you can choose from coconut, soy, almond, or rice), banana, kale, spinach, avocado, and your choice of fruit (pineapple, mango, strawberries, or blueberries).  The one pictured above was coconut milk and pineapple.  The one below was almond milk and blueberries.

Spill the Greens 002SO GOOD.

Despite all of the Halloween decorations you are seeing in stores, it’s still summer, dammit, and basil is calling my name.
Spill the Greens 003

Half the time I go into a store (well, really, a farm stand) with no plan to buy basil, but then its aroma wafts over to me and it’s game over.  I mean, it’s never going to go bad as long as pesto is a thing.  My favorite recipe (and everyone else’s I’m sure) is the Classic Pesto from Vegan With a Vengeance.

Spill the Greens 004

I could eat this every day for the rest of my life and die happy.

I had a buttload of corn and black bean salad leftover from a barbecue H and I hosted at our house.  The original, ultra-simple salad recipe (by Maria Guadagno) can be found here.  I ate some of the leftovers on tortilla chips, and cooked up the rest with some onion, red bell pepper, garlic, and tomato, and added a little lime juice, fresh cilantro, and some additional cumin (because I can never have enough cumin).

Spill the Greens 008

For 3 days I ate it over steamed collard greens, topped with chipotle hot sauce.  Talk about cheap and cheerful!

Spill the Greens 007

I also have discovered this:

Spill the Greens 3 001

If you like hummus (or “hommos,” I guess?), and you like spinach artichoke dip, you have to try this.  Trust me.  It is creamy and tangy and best of all, dairy free. My favorite way to eat it is spread on crostini (also leftover in droves from this storied barbecue), but regular bread or toast would do just fine.

I want to write a little more about the barbecue H and I had, because I served up a whole lotta vegan food to a bunch of omnivores and it went over pretty swimmingly.  I also found a restaurant in the Boston suburbs that has actually heard the word “vegan” before and I want to give them a write-up too.  I’ll try to get a post on both of these topics up before Vegan MoFo begins.

Make sure you get out and enjoy the last few weeks of summer!!