Monday, November 17, 2014

Julie's Original Gluten-Free Baking Mixes

Woohoo! I'm not a gluten-freebie myself, but I have a lot of special friends and yoga students who are. As a vegan, I know how it feels to go to a party and see a big platter of baked treats - none of which are vegan. (spoiler alert: it feels bad!) So, I don't want my gf pals to ever feel left out. Over the years, I've done quite a bit of adventuring with vegan & gluten-free baking. I've had pretty good luck with gf cookies (lots of great recipes from Alyson Kramer!), but just so-so luck with cakes.

When my pal Julie Hasson started a new line of gluten-free and vegan baking mixes called Julie's Original, I knew they'd be good! How did I know? Well, I have a bunch of Julie's cookbooks (Vegan Diner, Vegan Pizza, Vegan Casseroles, and more) ~ AND I've eaten at the food cart that Julie and her husband Jay used to run in Portland, OR. All very good! So, for me, Julie is a trusted source indeed.

Before she was a vegan, Julie was a professional baker. Upon becoming vegan, she learned all sorts of tricks and created great vegan recipes. Then, when her health required a switch to a gluten-free diet... she dove in and created Julie's Original. Truth be told, I bought these mixes a while ago, but I've been waiting for a gluten-free pal to share them with. I know gluten-free folks don't have their friends volunteer to bake for them very often! It's been so long since I bought these packs, that in the meantime Julie has updated her packaging. Now the mixes come in boxes, and they look even cuter.

puffy! golden! studded with raspberries! delicious!
(and bruised from my careless removal-from-cakepan efforts!)

Finally I had a chance to use my baking mix when my gluten-free and vegan cousin was in town, and we had a big family party planned (a birthday party!). The baking mixes come in two flavors: chocolate fudge brownie and white cake mix. But, here's the cool thing: on her website, Julie has all sorts of creative recipes to enhance the mixes in loads of creative ways. On the night before our family gathering, I was trying to decided between Almond-Raspberry Cake, Pumpkin Spice Coffee Cake, Chai Carrot Zucchini Cake, or Lemon-Raspberry. So many tempting directions you can go with one box of cake mix!

with some simple raspberry frosting on top

I finally settled on the Almond-Raspberry variation, and the cake turned out amazing! 

My cousin also made a non-gluten-free chocolate cake, so we had two little birthday cakes, for a crowd of 11-12 people. Everyone had one small slice of each cake - and in a room full of gluten-eaters, there was not one piece of uneaten cake left on anyone's plate. That's quite an endorsement!

a leftover slice the next day... fresh out of the freezer, and just minutes before falling prey to my hungry tummy. This poor slice is a bit banged up, but I wanted you to see how nice the cake looked inside! 
I have to say, I was really, really impressed with this cake mix, and I will probably never again bother with trying to make a gluten free cake from scratch. I totally appreciated the ease, the sense of "this-won't-fail" confidence, and - most of all - the fantastic results of this cake! The flavor was fantastic - vanilla-y, with just the right amount of sweetness (not at all overdone). And the texture was also great. Honestly, texture has been the biggest struggle for me with baking gf cakes. I've often started with a trip to the natural foods store, buying 5 different kinds of flours and starches - only to be uncertain if the recipe will even work out -- and then ended with cakes that were gritty, or gummy, or that were gritty in some parts and weirdly gummy in other parts of the cake. Blech. Meanwhile, Julie's cake mix resulted in a great texture that was totally consistent throughout, light, and not crumbly. I plan on keeping a box of this in my pantry, so that anytime I want to make something special for a gf pal, I'll have a reliable and tasty plan of action at the ready!

I still have my packet of the chocolate brownie mix left over. I guess I'm gonna have to invite a gf pal over for dinner pronto, so that I have a good excuse to try that one out! Since Julie is a pal of mine, I really wanted to like these mixes. Happily, I did! I will definitely buy it again, and I actually plan on buying some boxes for Christmas presents for some of my gf loved ones. Highly recommended! 

Friday, November 14, 2014

Cozy Time!

As you might know, we're having some sort of crazy, years-long drought out here in California. Sunny days are fun, but after a while it gets a bit relentless. Sometimes all I want is a grey day where I feel justified in cozying up on the sofa, doing inside-the-house stuff, snuggling the kitties, etc. Well, guess what!? I finally got some quality cozy time.

The last couple of days have been mercifully grey and cool, and then - to make the deal even sweeter - we woke up yesterday morning to a rainy sky. Ahhh. Thursdays are my early morning workout day (7am!), so when I came home, I got straight to work with cozy time.

Step one: put on my favorite pair of Cozy Socks

Step two: make myself a big cup of hot coffee

Step three: Settle onto the sofa with my Chrome Book, some work tasks, and then be ambushed with excellent kitty snugs!

Step four: roast a giant batch of veggies for lunches. This whole biz lasted me for two lunches. I am a veggie monster! Delicata squash, kabocha squash, sweet potatoes, yellow cauliflower, and romesco cauliflower... all tossed with a little olive oil, salt and pepper. So beautiful and so delicious.

I had a great morning doing the crossword puzzle, getting lots of computer work done, and catching up on emails.

Then, after teaching a morning class, I finally got to eat my lunch: all my delicious veggies and a big dollop of tofu ricotta. Ahhh. A good ol' rainy day. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

I'm Kookoo for Fuyu (Persimmons!)

Have you ever had a fuyu persimmon? There are two kinds of persimmons that I know about: the acorn-shaped ones called Hachiyas, and the pumpkin-shaped ones called Fuyus.

The Hachiyas are really beautiful, and they are meant to be eaten when they are super soft and mushy - like basically when they turn into pudding on their own. Where I live, there are persimmon trees all around town. They are beautiful trees, and they are even more beautiful when they are covered with beautiful, bright orange fruits. At first the leaves are green, then they start to turn orange, and then they eventually fall to the ground... leaving the orange fruits hanging like Christmas ornaments. It's all really great, except that I don't really like that kind of persimmon.

little baby Amey, having her mouth stuffed with hachiya persimmons

The other day I was walking the dogs and passed a big bucket on the sidewalk filled with persimmons - with a "FREE" sign next to it. Even though I don't really enjoy the mushy persimmons, I can't resist free fruit and put one in each pocket of my jacket and wobbled home with my persimmons. I cut one up and put it in my yogurt... and at first it was going well, and I thought maybe I had crossed back into the territory of re-liking these mushy persimmons. But by the end of my little bowl of cereal, I could hardly get it down. That mushy texture is a total deal-breaker for me! My mom tells me that when I was a little baby, I went through a serious persimmon phase, and apparently I was totally nuts about that bright orange mushy stuff back then! This is no longer true.

fuyu beauties!

Luckily though, Fuyu Persimmons also exist - and they are awesome when crunchy! I usually just slice them up like an apple and eat the little wedges. Or I dice them up and add them to my yogurt (with greater success than the other kind). These persimmons don't seem to be quite as common place around these parts, and I have certainly never walked past a bucket full of free fuyus. Alas! If I did, I would clear that bucket out! Stuff all my pockets!

stuffing my mouth, grown-up style!

I really love these crunchy little beauties. I love the flavor, the color, and the texture. In fact, they are quite forgiving - because they're good when they're quite crisp and also when they have softened up a fair amount. Most fruits have a more narrow "delicious" window than that! Long live the Fuyu!

Friday, October 31, 2014

Jack O'Cuties, Skeleton Cookies & More!

Happy Halloween, Everyone

 jack o'cuties galore

I'm not a crazed Halloween fan like some people, but I certainly can't resist the opportunity for festive food fun. I saw those little cutie tangerine pumpkins all over the place, but I didn't feel like peeling a load of tangerines. (or mandarins? I'm not actually sure)... So, I decided just to draw little Jack O' Lantern faces on my cuties! It was so fun. No two are the same!

I took some to my yoga students, and I saved the other half to take to a Halloween party we're going to tonight. It's nice to provide some Halloween treats that are healthy. Also, this way if I feel like I'm being too tempted by sugary treats at the party, I can always make my way back to the big bowl of Jack O'Cuties. It was fun to let my students pick out their favorite - some people go for happy jack o'faces and some people like the mean, spooky faces!

skeleton yoga cookies!

That said, I made cookies too! I used the Chocolate Roll-out Cookies recipe from Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar. What took me so long to discover this recipe?? They were so delicious! I added a little extra cocoa powder and some chocolate extract for extra cocoa-power-punch. They taste like brownies! 

These cookies are my pride and joy this year, but I can't take credit - they were Mr. VE&T's idea. I have these yoga posture cookie cutters, and every year at Christmas I make Gingerbread Yogis for all my students. In years past, I've made Halloween Skeleton Cookies with my regular "gingerbread man" cookie cutter. But somehow, I never thought of making skeleton yogis! It was a fun icing challenge! 

I brought these (and a few jack o'cuties for the healthy-minded) to my yoga class on the night before Halloween. Needless to say - none of them made it home!

good ol' fashioned skeleton cookies!

While I was at it, I figured I may as well make some proper spooky skeletons and bring them along to the Halloween party tonight. There were a couple that broke, so I took advantage of those "tragedies" to make sure the the cookies were delicious. Check! These cookies are full-sized Gingerbread men, maybe 5 inches high (?), so they are actually pretty big. I like the ones where I left a nose hole better... the ones without noses look a little like Alien Skeleton Cookies - but I guess that's just as well for Halloween!

~~ Last but not least!! ~~

I promised to pick a winner for my "Vegan Casseroles" giveaway today... and with the help of the Random Number Generator, comment #23 was chosen. Congrats to Charj!

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Apple Time!

Our apple tree was planted by the people who lived here before us. When we first came to see the house, it was around this time of year. The realtor showed us the apple tree (it's planted in the weirdest place, behind our garage), and the ground below it was covered with rotting apples. In that moment, I passed some serious judgment on the people living here. Who cares if they had a toddler and were trying to sell their house (kidding! ... kinda)? I have a moral philosophy about fruit trees - they are a gift from nature, and it is some kind of unpardonable sin to let too much of their fruit go unused.

the doggies love it when I tend to the apple tree. The whole time I was up in the tree picking apples they were down below, absconding with apples! When I came down, I found 4-5 apples in the backyard, with little doggie nibbles out of them. Later, we even found an apple on the sofa. Ha ha. They look pretty cute trotting around with apples in their mouths.

Every year, Apple Time arrives when it wants to arrive and for a few weekends and evenings I must sacrifice my free time and put it all toward the art of apple preservation. It's even more of a chore these days because our tree has grown a lot over the years. When we bought our house, I thought the tree was a dwarf variety, but time has proven otherwise. 

This year, our apples came much earlier than usual. Like, at least a month earlier. This is undoubtedly because of our long drought that we are having in California. Another unexpected development was that this year we had WAY MORE "perfect" apples with no bugs and no icky bits and no bird pecks in them. Usually there are a just a few of those, but this year there have been many... like at least 10x more than in years past. Could this be another result of the drought? Whatever the reason, it's great.

My apple process involves picking the apples and then sorting them into a few different categories:
1. Perfect. Storable - no pecks or dents or worm holes or rotten bits. Nary a blemish in sight. 
2. Almost perfect, but with a little dent. 
If you eat them soon, everything will be fine... but not storable. This also translates as "perfect enough for Amey, but not perfect enough for Mr. VE&T"
2. Imperfect but usable. Maybe these have buggie bits or a rotten spot, or a big dent on one side... but with a paring knife and some patience, enough of the apple is still good that it's worth my time.
4. Unsalvagable. These rotten, sickly, tiny bad apples go straight to the yard waste.

Because we had so many more perfect apples than usual, I looked into how to store them. I carefully inspected them for any tiny damages or knicks that might lead to accelerated rotting.

Those apples that passed the test were loving wrapped in half sheets of black and white newspaper. I read that it's better not to use the pages with colored ink. Some of my pages had colored ink, but I kept that part on the outside.

as snug as a bug in a rug

Then I put all the little love-wrapped apples into a box and have stored them in our garage - which stays quite cool. It's not as good as a walk-in refrigerator, but it'll do.

Mr. VE&T really, really loves apples, but he is also slightly lazy and prudish. Only apples of the highest perfection levels will meet his standards. While I am happy to cut a little icky spot off an apple and eat the rest... this idea is completely prohibitive to Mr. VE&T. Instead of getting out the paring knife, he will drive all the way to the store and spend money on giant bags of store apples. I love the guy, but geez. Anyhow, this system has been perfect. Every few days, he goes out to the garage and unwraps a few more apples for himself. It's been great! 

These are the "imperfect but usable" apples. You can see the bug holes and spots... but also, you can see that there's a lot of good apple stuff going on there! This is just a small sample of the many, many, many imperfect apples I've picked so far. I did one early picking, one giant picking, and I have at least one more big pick to go.

The first thing I did was make some dried apples. I like them for snacks and also to give as holiday presents. I still don't have a dehydrator of my own, but every year I borrow one from my friends Toni & Scott. I put that Excalibur to use! I peeled, cored, trimmed and sliced SO MANY APPLES and filled all ten (or is it twelve?) trays of the dehydrator. This large gallon bag of dried apples was the result. Yum! I also really love the way the house smells when I'm drying apples - the whole house is filled with the aroma of apples... it's magical!

The second thing I did was make Applesauce!

I love having homemade applesauce on hand! This weekend I made two GIANT batches - filling my biggest pot and my usual large pot with apples, two times over. Wowsers. In the past, I've always peeled the apples, but I recently learned* that you can leave the peels on, and then just run the applesauce through a food mill after it has cooked down. Using the food mill was still a little bit of work, but not nearly as much work as all that damned peeling... so I think I'll still with this technique from now on! 
(*full disclosure, I learned this from Martha Stewart Living)

I made the first batch all by myself, which took me at least two hours of just chopping - not to mention all the boiling and canning. But for the second batch of applesauce, I had helpers: my mom and dad! My dad is probably the biggest fan of our tree's super delicious apples and he loves our applesauce. So it was extra fun to have his help. And my mom has helped me many times in previous years with applesauce making, so she is already a pro. We had the football game on for my dad to watch, and we each had a big bowl of apples to cut and trim and it took us under an hour! Hoorah! It was such a fun way to spend the evening together! I hope they don't mind if I give them applesauce for Christmas, even though they helped make it. Ha ha.

If you'd like to see details about how I cook and can my applesauce, there's an old post about it here, and another one here. It definitely takes some time, but it's not hard, and then you have applesauce when it's over!

that's a lot of applesauce!! And this is just HALF of what I made.
I guess this is The Year of Applesauce

When all the boiling and food milling and canning and re-boiling of the canned jars was said and done, I was left with 23 medium jars and 12 of the smaller jars. I like having some of the smaller jars for the times when I just want a little applesauce for baking or whatever. But the medium jars make nicer Christmas presents and are better when I really want to munch on some serious applesauce!!

Fortunately for us, our apple tree makes the most wonderfully delicious apples. I don't know how we got so lucky. Even with all the work involved, I wouldn't trade my apple tree for anything. I love it so much and I'm so grateful for the bounty it brings us year after year!

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

"Vegan Casseroles" Review & Giveaway

Vegan Casseroles Blog Tour! 

By now I'm sure you've heard some of the buzz about Julie Hasson's newest book, "Vegan Casseroles." Julie is quite a dynamo - she's written loads of great cookbooks (including one of my favorites, "Vegan Diner"), she used to run a vegan food cart in Portland called Native Bowl (yum!), and now she's busy launching a vegan & gluten-free baking mix called Julie's Original

Somehow, in the midst of all that, she also wrote this excellent casserole book. Casserole recipes are often super heavy on the eggs and dairy - since they rely on those ingredients to bind everything together. It's so fun to finally have a whole book of vegan casserole recipes! 

ready to go in the oven

The first recipe I tried was the Italian Stuffed Peppers with Fennel and Garlic. This recipe called for TVP (texturized vegetable protein), which I hadn't used in years! Combined with some cooked rice that I already had on hand, this whole thing came together in no time at all. The flavors were absolutely delicious - I especially loved the fennel seeds in spice mix.

I made this dish on a day of the week when I don't typically return home from teaching until later in the evening. Casseroles are so great that way. I made it ahead of time, and had Mr. VE&T pop it in the oven at the appointed time. And then I came home to a delicious dinner! The recipe says it will make you eight halves, and I only got seven. That said, I picked out some pretty giant bell peppers, so I wasn't surprised. We enjoyed these for dinner two nights in a row, plus I had some for lunch for a few days after that. I loved that this dish came together quickly, was packed with protein, was quite low-cal, and made a ton of food!

after baking!

In fact, Mr. VE&T loved these stuffed peppers so much that he made a batch all on his own for our recent rainbow potluck! He used little mini bell peppers for that occasion and made about 30 halves with the mini peppers. 

Like a lot of recipes in this book, you can take the "make it from scratch" route and make your own pasta sauce (she provides a recipe), or you can take the "I want something super easy" route and use store-bought sauce. 

Next up on my list of recipes to try was the Creamy Spinach Florentine. Oh dear, this was SO GOOD. The sauce recipe made a ton of sauce and I thought it was going to be too much... but once you mix it all together, the result is a super creamy and rich casserole dish that was not lacking at all. The sauce also calls for sherry and nutmeg, both of which imparted a more sophisticated flavor to the dish.

The recipe suggested using frozen spinach, but I'd rather use fresh spinach, so I just steamed up a pound of fresh spinach and chopped it up. It definitely seems to me that these recipes are easily adaptable and quite versatile. Even Mr. VE&T who is an eager omni eater totally loved this and said "I couldn't have enjoyed this more if it had been made with cheese!"

This dinner was a bit more indulgent than my average weeknight dinner, but seriously, no regrets. I loved it. After I made it I also saw that Julie gives an option to reduce the cashews in the sauce a bit, so maybe I will try that variation next time. There are a load of mac and cheese type recipes in "Vegan Casseroles," and I think I will slowly try my way through them all. For years now I've pretty much avoided vegan versions of mac n cheese, but this dish totally lured me back in. Next up we'll probably try the "Boozy Baked Penne with Caramelized Onions." Doesn't that sound crazy good??

One of the best things about casseroles is how you can throw a bunch of stuff in one dish, pop it in the oven, and then feed an army. Recently we had 6 family members over for a special dinner (my mom's birthday, actually!!), and I thought it would be a perfect time to make another casserole. I made the Chickpeas with Rice, Dill, and Tomatoes, and it was a big hit. The ingredients are mixed with a creamy tahini sauce and then baked. I couldn't stop myself and used extra tomatoes.

This dish had really excellent flavors - light, fresh, and tangy. We served this with a giant side salad and then some birthday dessert for my mom, so it was just great. That said, this was a lighter dish, and in my opinion, needs a salad or another side dish to be just right. Everyone loved it - including the healthy-palette folks and the not-at-all-health-oriented folks, so that alone makes it quite a winner in my book.

It's also worth mentioning that the book is very friendly to gluten-free folks, especially since Julie herself has been gluten-free for a few years now. The result is that almost all of the recipes in the book are either naturally gf, or easily adapted to gf needs.

Taco Casserole - straight out of the oven!

all served up and ready to eat!

The last recipe I've made (so far!) was the Taco Casserole. This recipe also called for TVP, and came together really quickly - just a matter of minutes really! It called for vegan cheese, but I don't keep any vegan cheese around. Instead I had some homemade noochy queso sauce that I poured on top and that was a nice addition. We got four hearty servings out of this dish. The serving suggestion of lettuce and tomatoes was a really important part of the final presentation. It was nice to have something so crisp and fresh like the lettuce along with the spicy, meaty casserole. In fact, next time I think I will make even more veggies to go with it, since unlike the other recipes I tried, this one didn't have that many veggies in the recipe itself.

Vegan Casseroles has a variety of rich and creamy casserole recipes, along with some that are lighter. Some of the recipes call for pre-made ingredients like "vegan sour cream," or "frozen hashbrowns," or "vegan cheese." If you're like me, and don't usually buy many products like that, obviously you can skip those recipes or just skip those ingredients - or knock yourself out and make the same thing from scratch. That said, there are some really amazing "from-scratch" sauce recipes in this book that are truly delicious and that don't require a ton of effort or weird ingredients. 

I think almost everyone is guaranteed to find a few standby recipes in this book that they will really love and will come back to again and again. I'm glad to have this book, especially because it's hard to find tasty and reliable vegan casserole recipes. Casseroles are so great for holidays, potlucks, big gatherings, or when you want to cook on the weekend and eat all week. This book definitely meets those needs and I'm looking forward to trying a lot more of the recipes. 

Two Giveaways!
#1) I was lucky to receive a copy of the book in exchange for participating in the blog tour... and then publishers accidentally sent me another copy! So, happily for you, I have a copy to give away. I'm happy to open it up to my international readers as well as US and Canadian readers. To enter, just leave a comment here on this post. I'll pick a winner on October 31st (Halloween!). 
A winner has been chosen! Congrats to Charj!

#2) Also, in conjunction with this blog tour, Julie's publisher (Running Press) is holding a special giveaway you can enter to win a Breville Smart Oven, and five runners-up will win a copy of Vegan Casseroles. That's pretty rad. That giveaway closes on November 12th. 

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Return of the Double Rainbow Potluck!

I'm sure you can see from the title drawing for my blog that I really love rainbows. When I was kid, I always arranged my candies in rainbow order before eating them. Up until fairly recently, I kept my sock drawer arranged in rainbow order. So, this rainbow-appreciation runs deep with me. 

This weekend was our 
4th Annual Double Rainbow Potluck! 
Inspired by the glory of nature's colorful bounty this time of year, my pals and I held our first Rainbow Potluck way back in 2010. We skipped a year in 2011 (why!?), but now we are fully committed to making this excellent culinary spectacle a yearly event.

Just what makes it a Double Rainbow Potluck, you ask? Well, we have the full rainbow spectrum represented in both savory dishes and in desserts. It is quite an undertaking! Well ahead of the gathering, people have to commit to their color and flavor spectrum - for example, I signed up for "Green Savory," and Mr VE&T signed up for "Red Savory"... until bit by bit, you've got red-orange-yellow-green-blue-violet in both sweets and savories all signed-up-for. It's so fun! Without further ado, get ready for a colorful blast of food photos!

Red Savory: Stuffed Mini Red Bell Peppers
This was Mr. VE&T's first time ever actually cooking a dish for a potluck, and it was really awesome! I helped him a little - but mostly just with finding where I keep things in the kitchen. This recipe is from Julie Hasson's new Vegan Casseroles book, and you'll be hearing more about it soon - it's super easy, very tasty, and also extremely red! 

Orange Savory: Sweet Potato & Lentil Shepherd's Pie
Our friend Jamboxrocks made a long-distance drive to come to the potluck, which was really special because I hadn't seen her in ages and she is very cool. Plus, she is a great cook - so that's an extra bonus! She made this delicious Shepherd's Pie - and what you can't see here is the lentil-veggie filling. The whole thing was very delicious and I went back for seconds. She even left us with some of the leftovers and we were both stoked! 

Yellow Savory: Nacho Dip, Yellow Veggies & Yellow Corn Chips

Solipsistnation made a very rich and spicy, and "dark yellow" Nacho Dip. I don't know what all was in it, but it was really good! It was a little chunky, thick and dippable and had just the right amount of spicy flavor without being overwhelming. I also loved the yellow veggies - yellow carrots are special!

Mini Green Corn Tortillas!
I was in charge of Savory Green, so I decided to make Green Tacos. First, I decided that the corn tortillas had to be green. I went looking online and found nothing helpful at all, which seemed totally surprising. Then, I looked in my brand new copy of Vegan Tacos, by Jason Wyrick and didn't see any green tortilla ideas. So, I sent him a Facebook message and asked for advice. In the end, I combined my idea and his idea and had great success! I charred (then peeled) two poblano peppers (Jason's idea), and steamed a big handful of spinach (my idea). I pureed the poblanos and spinach with some of the water from steaming the spinach and used that for the liquid in the tortillas. I used the recipe and instructions from Vegan Tacos, which were easy and clear. This was my first time ever making corn tortillas! 

They came out great! As you can see, they are super green. Also, they had a perfectly present poblano flavor, and even a little spicy kick. They didn't puff up, the way the book said they might, but they were soft and tasty and I was totally pleased.

actual depiction of real-life events

I do not have a tortilla press, so this drawing shows the sophisticated method I used. I put the little wad of tortilla masa between two sheets of waxed paper, and put all that between two of my thickest cookbooks ("How to Cook Everything Vegetarian" and "Madhur Jaffrey's World Vegetarian," if you must know). Then I stood on the top book with one foot and pressed down solidly and evenly. It worked just fine! 

I also used Vegan Tacos to make a homemade batch of Salsa Verde - with tomatillos, charred poblanos, cilantro and some other stuff. This was my first time ever making green salsa, and it was so fun! I always love Salsa Verde, but usually I just buy it. It was actually pretty easy and was also extremely delicious - way better than the store bought stuff!!

Green Savory: Mini Green Tacos!
Green corn tortillas stuffed with garlicky sauteed spinach, slices of fresh avocado, and then topped with salsa verde. It was hard to figure out how to serve a giant batch of mini soft tacos - but smooshing them all into pyrex casserole dish ended up working out pretty well. I was really happy with how these turned out, and I definitely look forward to more taco adventures with the new Vegan Tacos book.

 Savory Blue: Blue Gnocchi with Shallot Dressing
Oh my goodness. Can you even believe it? First of all - they really did turn out blue! Secondly, they were also extremely delicious. Max made a big batch of gnocchi using purple potatoes, and with the help of a little food science, got them to turn blue. But they were also just very tender and fresh little gnocchi gems of starchy goodness. The shallot dressing was such a nice flavor and didn't detract from the blueness of the gnocchi at all!

 Savory Violet: Imam Bayildi (Turkish Stuffed Eggplants)
Oh man, don't these look amazing? Well guess what? They were! These were long eggplants stuffed with tomatoes and garlic and herbs and they were lovely. Even though they looked so perfect like this, we cut them in half for the sake of trying a little bit of each of the dishes.

Bonus Rainbow Salad!
A long time ago, we collectively realized that you must have a giant green salad at every potluck. It feels so good to eat some salad along with all the other special foods. Plus, for a rainbow party, the salad is an obvious must! I had so much fun making this beautiful salad. Underneath that colorful array of veggies was a giant heap of pre-dressed lettuce and greens. So fun to arrange all the veggies in order.

Bonus "Clouds": Tamale Pie / Shepherd's Pie Fusion
Instead of puffy white clouds at the end of our rainbow, we had a puffy white casserole dish! This had a mexi-beans base with lime-scented mashed potatoes on top. I think Ms.A said it was a PPK recipe? It was a nice mix-up of two familiar casserole favorites. The mashed potatoes were super good with the lime in them!

 Red Sweet: Raspberry Beet Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting
It's hard to capture just how red these were! The main flavor was definitely raspberry, but some of the deep red color comes from beets. Underneath the red stuff was a chocolatey cake/crust. The recipe comes from Hannah Kaminsky's pie book, and these were really good. In fact, just looking at this picture made me go get one of the left over bars out of my fridge right this moment and eat it. Damn that's good!

 Orange Sweet: Pumpkin Whoopie Pies
 Whoopie! Big cakey cookies with pumpkin-marshmallow filling! Apparently, the filling was made with just melted-down Dandies marshmallows and pumpkin puree, and it had a great flavor and a great orange color. Our tiniest party guest was absolutely smitten with these, and by the end of the party, he was camped out by the edge of the table, up on his tip toes, turning the platter to try to access the last of the Whoopie Pies. Ha ha. Sadly, he was foiled by alert parents!

Yellow Sweet: Turmeric Lemonade
Damn this stuff was good! Ms. A said that she found raw fresh turmeric and infused it into the simple syrup, and used that to make the lemonade. And that now her entire kitchen was stained yellow. A while back my aunt gave me a bunch of really amazing Turmeric drinks and I totally fell in love with them - and then realized that they cost about $7 at the store. So sad. Well, this delicious lemonade really reminded me of those drinks and made me think maybe I could make some on my own. I loved the turmeric flavor and it was a great idea to combine it with lemonade. 

Green Savory: Kale & Apple Cake
You heard right, Kale Cake! What will vegans think of next?! Well, you can't see it - but this cake really was quite green on the inside. Believe it or not, this cake had one entire bunch of kale in it - and it was so delicious. It was sorta like zucchini cake or carrot cake - a lovely spice cake that is secretly stuffed full of veggies. When we cut into it, the inside was actually full of little green flecks - which was really fun. A totally good and delicious spice cake!

Blue Sweetie: Blueberries
The truth is, no one signed up to bring a blue sweetie. I get it - blue is pretty tricky. But I couldn't stand to neglect such a lovely part of the rainbow palette, so I ran out and bought a couple of tubs of blueberries. Is that a lazy move? Maybe. But hey, I was busy making green tortillas! Plus, in truth, most of the time all this beautiful produce is pretty spectacular all on its own and really doesn't need to be enhanced in order to shine. Suffice it to say, there were no blueberries left at the end of the evening.

 Violet Sweetie: Port Wine Ice Cream
This is not a good picture, but this was some very delicious ice cream! I think Sophia said it was a vanilla ice cream base, made with port wine. I'm not a big alcohol fan, but I really like boozy desserts for some reason. This ice cream totally knocked my socks off! The rich and earthy port was a great combo with the sweetness of ice cream. Because of the alcohol, it was super melty, but that didn't stop us from gobbling it down.

 Sophia sportin' the rainbow unicorn socks! I need to buy a good pair of rainbow socks. My lack of silly rainbow attire for the Rainbow Party was woeful. However! We did each wear our color - so, since I brought "green savory," I wore a green tshirt and green jewelry.

The rainbow spread!

We have a little potluck tradition amongst our pals where before anyone eats, we all stand around the table and tell each other about the dishes we brought. It's a fun way to start, and it's nice to give everyone a chance to talk about their culinary creation.

my dinner plate, in rainbow order of course.

Sorry the picture is blurry, but I think I was in a manic rush to eat. Who has time to properly focus the camera at a time like this??

my dessert plate
Again, a blurry picture. I could take the high road and blame this on the lack of natural light by this point in the evening, or I could be more honest... and just confess that I was probably a bit too eager to get to that melting ice cream before it was too late! Can you see the green flakes in the kale cake in this picture?
 treasures at the end of the rainbow!

All in all - another super wonderful Rainbow Potluck! Great food, beautiful produce, delicious creations, good friends, and a lovely evening. Hoorah!!