Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Mom's Garden Birthday Dinner

It was my mom's birthday last month. In my mind, my mother is ageless. She seems to get more fit, active, beautiful, happy and in touch with herself and her surroundings as each year passes. She is an incredible inspiration as a woman and as a friend. I am endlessly grateful to have such a rock solid support system in my life and I recognize how drastically different a person I would be without her. 

With all that in mind, I am always thinking of ways to do unique and memorable things for her - especially on her birthday! Last year, we went to the fabulous Summer's End Vegan Dinner but as the dinner is being put on later this year, I decided to do something similar with my own personal touch. Basing the menu around seasonal veggies that I pulled from our garden, I utilized Pinterest to create a 5-course vegan menu that I prepared from our kitchen for my mom and her boyfriend. 

I even made my own cute little menu! And I decorated the table with flowers from our garden and candles and a homemade little center piece. It really was such a joy to set up. All in all, I spent about 4 hours straight in the kitchen, but it was well worth it! We all had a blast.

Naturally, everything I cooked had my own twist and I didn't really utilize any of the Pinterest recipes in their entirety, choosing instead to utilize what I had on hand. Also unusual, however, is that I didn't really pay close attention to my recipe amounts so instead of trying to reproduce exactly what I did, I am going to post the original recipe, the link to my inspiration, and my general modifications for each dish.

Starting with the "cheese" nut and fruit plate:

I provided two different kinds of vegan cheese alongside two varieties of crackers, figs, grapes, and a small bowl each of marcona almonds and these bomb Thai Chili Lime almonds from Trader Joe's. 

The first cheese was the Daiya Jalapeno Havarti wedge cheese that I cut into small slices. 

The second was inspired by this recipe for "Raw Vegan Goat Cheese" from Fork and Beans:

For Nut Cheese:
  • 1/2 c. raw cashews, soaked for 2-3 hours, drained
  • juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/3 c. water
  • 1 Tb coconut oil
  • 1 tsp raw apple cider vinegar
  • pinch of salt

For Basil Pesto:
  • 1 c. basil leaves
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1/3 c. pine nuts
  • olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt
  • In a food processor, combine all ingredients together.
  • 1/2 c. sun-dried tomatoes
  • extra pine nuts to top with
  • Take both small glass ramekins and line with plastic wrap. Don’t skip this step. Trust me. I learned the hard way.
  • In a high-speed blender, blend all of the nut cheese ingredients until smooth. Place part of the mixture into lined ramekins.
  • Add pesto layer on top. Top with sun-dried tomatoes. Layer with remaining cheese.
  • Refrigerate for several hours until set. You can also freeze it.
  • Line a small appetizer plate with olive oil and dust with dried basil. Set 1 cheese block onto place, take off plastic wrap carefully, drizzle with oil and herbs, and top with pine nuts.
  • Pairs perfectly with rice crackers.

For my cheese, I followed the top part of the recipe pretty closely, but incorporated some nutritional yeast and some garlic salt. I made pesto from the basil in our garden, adhering to my normal MO of using frozen (slightly thawed) peas and cutting waaay back on oil. Then, instead of using sun dried tomatoes, I chose to cover the top with a good layer of fig compote that I had in the cupboard. I'd been looking for a good use for it and I thought it would pair perfectly with the saltiness of the cheese and savory flavors of the pesto. And it did! 

My mom's boyfriend--NOT a vegan and learning day by day what vegans can actually eat :)--absolutely loved this cheese. There was a bunch left over (it was a massive amount) and he proceeded to eat it the next day for breakfast. I'd call that a win.

Next on the menu (not pictured) were the crispy quinoa zucchini flowers. I actually really had no idea what I was doing here but I'd heard somewhere that you could pan or deep fry stuffed zucchini flowers and since we had a bunch in our garden I figured I would give it a try. Basically, I used these Quinoa Cluster snacks that I had in the cupboard, pulsed them briefly in my food processor, stirred them in with Daiya's cream cheese and carefully spooned the mixture into the center of each zucchini flower. After heating about an inch of coconut oil in a heavy bottomed skilled, I briefly fried each one before serving it. I chose not to batter them because I was lazy but they actually turned out perfectly anyway so I was left with the impression that they don't need to be battered. So that was (mini) course #2!

Next on the menu, with our overabundance of zucchini, was this GORGEOUS Zucchini Ribonette salad with a miso vinaigrette. The original recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver's Zucchini Salad, but I basically made my own dressing with ingredients I had on hand.

The original recipe looked like this:

  • 4 courgettes, (mixture of yellow and green)
  • 1–2 fresh red chillies
  • 1 lemon
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon mustard powder
  • sea salt
  • a few sprigs of fresh basil, leaves picked

Using a speed peeler, peel the courgettes lengthways into long thin ribbons, then finely chop the chillies and add both to a bowl. 

In a small jug, add the juice of the lemon and top up with double the amount of extra virgin olive oil. Stir in the mustard powder and a pinch salt, then mix well and pour over the salad. Toss to coat, then scatter over the basil leaves and serve immediately.

My salad looked similar in its final form, but I used my spiralizer to ribonette the zucchini and then I made a dressing using white miso, pure maple syrup, lemon, coconut vinegar, cilantro and garlic salt. It was delish! A GREAT use of zucchini - slicing it thinly and putting a kick-ass dressing on it makes raw zucchini much more palatable than it otherwise is.

For the next mini course, the frozen lime apertif, I just blended ice, fresh squeezed lime juice, a pinch of salt and agave nectar to taste in my vitamix until it had a nice sorbet-like texture. I served it in a little bowl with a tiny spoon to cleanse the palate before the main course!

Which was this! Spaghetti Squash with Mushroom Primavera! Inspired by this recipe from Lexi's Clean Kitchen. I liked this recipe because it was really simple but also a unique way to utilize spaghetti squash and LOTS of veggies. We had (still have) so much spaghetti squash in our garden that I am running out of ways to use it. This recipe was flavorful, fun and simple. Heeellloooo love!

  • 1 Spaghetti Squash
  • 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (more to taste)
  • 1/4 tsp ground garlic
  • Freshly ground pepper (to taste)
  • Himalayan sea salt (to taste)
  • 2 handfuls of organic spinach
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomatoes
  • 1/2 onion, chopped
  • OPTIONAL: protein
  • OPTIONAL: other veggies (zucchini, broccoli, grape tomatoes, asparagus)
  • OPTIONAL: Garnish with fresh basil
1. Preheat oven to 375
2. Roast spaghetti squash
3. Prepare protein of choice (I grilled 2 organic chicken breasts and shrimp)
4. In a medium-size pot add oil, garlic, and onion and sauté for for 3-5 minutes
5. Add in spaghetti squash and mix well
6. Add in sun-dried tomatoes, spinach, and any other vegetables of choice
7. Add in protein and mix well to combine
8. Top with fresh basil (optional) and serve hot; taste and add Himalayan sea salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

I followed this recipe, at its core, pretty closely. I basically just added a ton more veggies (cauliflower, kale, mushrooms, broccoli, tomatoes) and arranged it a little differently. Like I said, this is a great, simple and flavorful recipe that is easy to build on and highlights spaghetti squash perfectly!

Last but not least!!! DESSERT:

These are rainbow carrot cake cupcakes! I actually made these in the photo above for a friends birthday and then saved the batter and made tiny carrot cakes in these adorable Le Crueset ramekins that I have. The cupcake photos turned out better though so I chose to use those :) 

These cakes were inspired by this recipe from The Green Forks. I didn't use the cashew frosting part of the recipe but rather I chose to make a simple vegan buttercream frosting with maple syrup and then toasted up some coconut to top them off!

Oh, also! They are rainbow because I used purple and yellow and orange carrots from the farmers market to make them. So colorful!!

Carrot Cake:
  • ¼ cup spelt flour
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp baking powder
  • pinch of salt
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ¼ cup freshly shredded carrots (on small holes of grater box)
  • 2 tablespoons non-dairy milk
  • 1 tablespoon oil
  • ¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

FOR THE CAKE: In a small bowl, mix flour, cinnamon, baking powder, salt, and sugar.
In separate a small bowl, mix together carrots, milk, oil, and vanilla.
Pour wet ingredients into dry; stir with a rubber spatula until no flour bits remain.
Pour into two greased 4-ounce ramekins, two mugs, OR 2 cupcake cups.
TO BAKE: At 350°F for 18 minutes. Check for doneness with a toothpick. Let cool 10 minutes before removing.

I followed the recipe pretty closely but used applesauce and only a baby scoop of coconut oil. I also added some cloves and used brown sugar instead of straight regular sugar. 

That's the menu! And that's all for now lovers! 

Live long and prosper, and don't ever be afraid to do what you love as a way to show others that you love them! Your passion will not go unappreciated :)


  1. These pictures are so delightful. You just made me hungry all over again. The recipes look really nice, Thanks for postingl

  2. A child love for mother is always precious. Happy birthday to your mom and this recipe is just mouth watering and easy. I shall try it on my mom's birthday.