August 04, 2014

7 Years of Love + Easy Vanilla Cinnamon Yogurt Dip

Earlier in May, we were supposed to have a birthday party cookout for J at my parents' house. Yep, even though I threw him a party already, and we also went up to his mom's house for his actual birthday, he was gonna get another celebration. Crazy, I know. It was to be the first time that both of our families had gotten together for an event, so it was more of a "let's find an occasion to get together" thing. It's so funny that it hasn't happened yet after all these years, but that's how it went. It was scheduled for Memorial Day weekend, but unfortunately we had to reschedule due to a difficult circumstance that came up.

We tried rescheduling it a few times, but our families have a lot going on this summer. Finally we found a day that worked. Wouldn't you know, it happened to be on our anniversary! We don't usually do anything big to celebrate our anniversary. One year, I made him a nice card with a poem and pictures of us (and our rescue ratties) inside. Another year, he took me out to dinner. Some years, it was nothing more than kisses and I love you's. No matter if it's big or small gestures, it's the great love we share that matters. And this year, we happened to choose to celebrate our belated birthdays and our anniversary with a family cookout.

Clockwise from the top: potato salad, zucchini. marinated mushrooms, field roast sausage, and a big heap of Caesar salad

We made as many things vegan that we could. It was our party after all. They did cook hot dogs and hamburgers for some of the people there, but we also grilled vegan sausages, marinated portobello caps, and zucchini. For the sides, J and I made a Caesar salad and potato salad. For the Caesar salad, I made the briny Caesar dressing recipe from Isa Does It, and J made herb croutons with a baguette that we had purchased from the French bakery. J was in charge of potato salad. He roasted the potatoes first instead of boiling them which gave them a really nice texture. The rest of it was made as traditionally American as possible (for the mayo we used Just Mayo because it rocks so much). We knew there would be some very picky eaters there, so we wanted to be accommodating to what they're used to. No harm in leaving the more jazzed up stuff for home or for crowds of more adventurous eaters!

The dessert was the stunner of the day. Oh my, how decadent, rich, and utterly mouthwatering was this torte from The First Mess. The brownie-like base was topped with an airy, fluffy hazelnut mousse, vanilla flecked coconut whipped cream, chopped toasted hazelnuts, and date caramel (the date caramel was not put on yet at the time of this picture. Oops!) I actually had some mousse and date caramel left over and ate them for dessert for a few evenings that following week. They made for a great sweet bite at the end of the night!

For appetizers and for snacking on later in the day, I made a vanilla cinnamon dip for a fruit platter, and we had chips and salsa as well. I had a different idea in mind when I committed to making the fruit dip. When it came time to make a prep list, I felt that I needed to lessen my load. I've been having more fatigue than usual, and I didn't want to make things more difficult than necessary. So, I canned my original plans for my fruit dip, and instead made this one. It was so extremely easy to make, and judging by the fact that there was none left at the end of the day, I'd say it was a success!

Vanilla Cinnamon Yogurt Dip

-1 1/2 cups unsweetened coconut yogurt
-2/3 cup cashews, soaked 4 hours
-1/4 cup Bee Free Honee
-3/4 tsp cinnamon
-1/2 tsp alcohol-free almond extract


-strain the cashews and blend everything until smooth.

Sweetener subs: If you don't have or can't find Bee Free Honee, you can use an equal amount of coconut nectar or 2-3 Tbsp of maple syrup.

For the almond flavoring: If you have an alcohol based extract, try using a 1/4 tsp instead of 1/2 tsp. I'm not sure of the exact exchange, but I know that it is stronger than the alcohol-free flavorings. The almond adds a nice undertone, but it's not meant to be a primary flavor here.

It was such a fun day. The rain didn't even stop us from having a good time; we just moved the party indoors! The adults and kids both enjoyed a dice game that's a family favorite of ours. The kids pulled out some board games, too, and I played piano with one of the little ones (or rather, she banged away at the keys while I played a little melody!). It went so extremely well, better than any of us had anticipated, and by the time I got home I practically face planted in my bed, exhausted and happy.

Every single day, I'm so amazed by the love that J and I share. I'm stunned that I met someone so incredible, strong, compassionate, and ethically driven. Plus, I found someone who would stick by my side through my years of illness and recovery, which has been anything but easy. We found each other, so different yet so complimentary. We're each learning, stumbling, and growing along this path together, but we always rise to the challenges, accept each others flaws, and encourage each others growth. I'm so lucky. Gratitude forever.

July 21, 2014

Pineapple Basil Quinoa Salad

In my vacation meal planning post, I talked about this amazing quinoa salad that I made at the beach and promised to include the recipe on the blog. Well here it is!

 It's wonderful on its own, but my boo loves to eat it along with baked breaded tofu and a few lime wedges, too.

Since we've been receiving an abundance of basil from our CSA this year, we've been making this grain salad a lot. The dressing always changes slightly (and I've included several ingredient options below), but it's always amazing. That's good news for those of you who don't have all of the ingredients necessary. Make this salad in the confidence that it will be great no matter what, and that if you make it exactly as written, you won't want to eat anything else for weeks. Maybe that's an exaggeration, but I dare you to try this and not fall in love with it.

Pineapple Basil Quinoa Salad

For the salad:
1 cup quinoa, cooked and cooled
1 cup pineapple, chopped, fresh if possible
1/2 cup black beans
3/4 cup frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1/3 cup scallions, chopped
1/2 cup chiffonade of basil, loosely packed

For the dressing:
1/3 cup pineapple juice*
2 tsp ginger, minced
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
juice of 1 lime
2 Tbsp tamari
1 Tbsp mirin
1 Tbsp raw apple cider vinegar
1/2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil**

-Combine all of the salad ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
-Whisk the dressing together in a small bowl and pour over the salad. Mix to incorporate.
-For the best taste and to bring out the maximum flavor, cover and place in the fridge overnight.
-Before serving the following day, be sure to give it a good stir.

*For the pineapple juice, I juiced a fresh pineapple (this is a great way to use up the core). If you're using canned pineapple for the recipe, you can use the juice from the can as long as it is 100% juice and not a sugar syrup. If neither of these options works for you, you can also use 1/3 cup of low sodium vegetable broth + a 1/2 Tbsp of coconut nectar (or maple syrup).

**If you are an oil-free eater, you can leave the oil out of the recipe with little effect to the end product. The reason it is in the recipe is because it helps the dressing adhere to the salad ingredients rather than sink to the bottom of whatever container you're using. If you do leave it out, store the quinoa salad in a shallow dish or bowl so that most of it will be immersed in the dressing.