Monday, March 19, 2012

Almost All Vegan Valentines Day Lunch

I needed an excuse to use my aunt's china and to try out a few new recipes so I invited a couple of friends over for lunch the week before Valentines Day.

I recently acquired my Aunt Mary's lovely china. She had promised it to me a few years ago when we were there for a visit. She showed me exactly where it was in her cupboard and I was honored to be receiving it one day. That one day came sooner than expected when my aunt was diagnosed with ovarian and colon cancer two years ago and then died suddenly, just two short weeks after her diagnoses. My aunt was one of the most creative people I know. She was always involved in some sort of project, sewing, painting, gardening, or refinishing furniture. She had many beautiful things and this tea set was one of them. I feel so blessed to have it now, and keep it displayed on my shelf as a constant reminder of my aunt and how special she was.
My New Year's resolution was to switch to a plant-based, whole foods diet. My dad was at the MAYO clinic last December undergoing several cancer tests including testing for Lynch Syndrome, and it really scared me knowing that this might run in our family. Thankfully he tested negative for Lynch Syndrome but it was enough of a scare for me to change my ways. After watching the documentary Forks over Knives, and reading several books relating to cancer and diet, including a very impressive book, The China Study, I decided to give up meat, dairy, and eggs and adopt a whole food, plant based diet. The switch has been easy for me. I never was much of a meat eater, and spent 15 years as vegetarian, and part of that time as a vegan so switching back was easy. It has been a good change for me in many, many ways. 

I've spent the last couple of months checking out  every vegan cookbook from the library that I could get my hands on. I've found many great recipes, quite a few that have become family favorites and that are served a few times every month. I wanted to share some of those recipes with my friends and decided to do so by inviting a couple of them over for my "almost" vegan lunch.

For the lunch I served a white bean rosemary soup, polenta heart cakes with spinach, kale, onion, and walnut stuffing with a read sauce, and a Mediterranean quinoa salad stuffed in a tomato. We also had grapefruit and pomegranate sparkling juice drinks. I didn't have a chance to take any photos of the main entrees because I was busy in the kitchen preparing them.

The white bean soup recipe came from Barefoot Contessa. I altered it a little and used vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and sauteed the onion without oil. The polenta and quinoa recipes came from the FOK companion book. 

Above are my usual cutout cookies made from my great, great grandmother's recipe. Nothing vegan about them. But the chocolate hearts are Mexican Chocolate Cookies, a recipe from the cookbook, Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. They are delicious with a little spicy kick, and my boys love them.
 For the vegan cupcakes I used two recipes from the cookbook, Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, the same author of the previously mentioned vegan cookie book. The first recipe is a pistachio rose water cupcake that is to die for. My friends loved these. The rosewater makes them very special. The second recipe was a vegan chocolate cupcake with peanut butter icing. To add more variety, some of the chocolate cupcakes have a non vegan chocolate ganache topped with a raspberry. And I hand-dipped peanuts in dark chocolate to top the chocolate peanut butter cupcakes.

Did my friends mind eating a mostly vegan lunch? I don't know but I think the conversation and company was more important than the food that was served, and I was happy I could share all of it with them.
The idea for  this cute centerpiece came Martha Stewart. It was a little hard keeping my kids' fingers out of it though.


Esmerelda said...

Lunch was lovely. I will never forget your kindness and generosity.

Steph said...

I'm inspired by your switch! The dishes are lovely, and it's a special way to honor your aunt.