Easy Entertaining: Easter Brunch

When thinking about what to eat on Easter, ‘vegan’ is not the first thing that comes to mind; after all, the Easter Bunny is notorious for leaving eggs around. I did a lot of internet searching to come up with an easy and cheap brunch menu, but everything I found was full of ingredients from a specialty store or relied heavily on tofu or soy substitutes.

First rule of serving vegan food to your non-vegan friends? Leave the tofu in the fridge.

Now, I’m not saying that tofu isn’t great. It is. However, if you are trying to make an accessible meal for your friends and loved ones, then it’s just not the best way to go. Keep your menu familiar, and people will be excited to come and eat at your house.

So, I had a challenge in front of me. To me, brunch has a potato dish, an egg dish, bread, and a drink. How was I to make an egg dish without using eggs or tofu? I was stumped. After thinking about it for a while, I realized that I’d have to get creative. Eggs are usually the creamy, fatty component to a meal. Once I began brainstorming flavor profiles, the answer came to me: sweet potatoes. This way, I had a potato dish that also hit the same notes as a creamy, rich egg dish. Perfect!

My Easter brunch menu has all of the flavors you’d expect, with none of the animal products. The entire menu comes together in about an hour or less, and you can find everything you need in your regular grocery store. So easy it hurts.

 

 

Carrot Cake Scones, Sweet Potato Hash, Fruit, and Blushing Mimosas

Carrot Cake Scones (Recipe adapted from here)

These scones are light, fluffy, and taste just like the quintessential cake. I added vanilla and raisins to bulk up the flavor.

You’ll need:

  • 1 3/4 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
  • 6 tablespoons room-temp coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/2 cup grated carrots
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 6 tablespoons almond milk

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Combine the flour, sugar, baking powder, and spices in a bowl. Sprinkle in the vanilla and add the coconut oil. Cut together with two knives until the mixture looks like course crumbs. Add the almond milk, one tablespoon at a time, until the dough comes together.

2. Stir in the carrots and raisins. Pat the dough into an 8-inch circle, and cut the dough into 8 wedges. Place the wedges on a baking sheet and bake for about 11 minutes. Watch them carefully, because scones have a tendency to burn!

3. Let the scones cool for a half hour. Meanwhile, combine powdered sugar, almond milk, and vanilla to make a glaze. Drizzle over your scones, and you’re done!

Sweet Potato Hash

I love sweet potatoes; I probably eat them three times a week. Don’t be put off by the baby kale in this recipe–it looks and tastes like spinach once it’s cooked.

You’ll need:

  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 1 bag baby kale
  • 1 can black beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 teaspoon paprika

1. Place the potatoes in boiling, salted water and simmer until you can pierce them easily with a fork. Drain.

2. Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan, then add the sweet potatoes and let them sizzle for a few minutes. Add the paprika and some salt and pepper to taste. Dump in the black beans and the baby kale, and cover so the kale can wilt. Stir to combine, and you’re done!

Blushing Mimosa

This simple and easy cocktail is a nice twist on a traditional mimosa, and the pink hue makes it perfect for Easter.

You’ll need:

  • 1 cup pineapple juice
  • 1 orange juice
  • 2 tablespoons grenadine
  • Champagne

1. Combine the juices and the grenadine. Fill a glass about a quarter to a half with the juice mixture, and top with champagne. Voila!

This menu is pretty, delicious, and perfect for any springtime brunch–not just Easter. I hope this weekend finds you all happy!

Photo Credit: Rachael Pace. Check out her work here!

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Spring Break, No Regrets!

While my posts will usually be about hosting and entertaining friends, I wanted to do a special post about my spring break. This year, I applied to be an adviser for my college’s alternative break program. The concept is that, instead of going to the beach, students can use this free week to perform acts of service. Alternative Breaks sends students all over the country, and I was chosen to go to Kendalia, Texas, to work at Kendalia Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation.

As someone who is hoping to work in animal advocacy, getting this opportunity was incredible. KWRR is full of animals who have been rescued from terrible situations. There are mountain lions from roadside zoos, monkeys from labs, and sheep saved from slaughterhouses. There are FIV+ cats, elderly chihuahuas, and a few feral pigs. The staff there are dedicated to giving these animals as natural a life as possible. They are also committed to treating each animal with respect; no one is considered an ‘it’, but rather referred to as a ‘he’ or ‘she’.

I was completely blown away by how the staff worked so hard for the animals. However, the staff is small, and projects were piling up. The Alternative Breaks crew–myself included–did our best to help out KWRR. We built and painted fences, collected branches, made enrichment toys (including a hammock for a mountain lion!), and socialized with the cats and dogs. It was hard work, but I truly loved every second of it!

Places like Kendalia Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation are so important because they are the ones looking after the animals that the rest of society has forgotten. Taking care of these animals is hard, dirty, tiring work, but to see how happy the animals were was well and truly worth it. Plus, I got to feed a mountain lion, and how cool is that?

We also had one free day to explore Austin, and let me tell you guys, it was a vegan’s dream. We ate at Conan’s Pizza, which had the best vegan pizza I have ever had. They used Daiya cheese, and I am super stoked to find some and use it at home. We also went to Sweet Ritual, an incredible vegan ice cream shop. They use coconut, almond, or cashew milk as the base of the ice cream. I had cookies ‘n cream and rocky road–it was heaven.

If you have the opportunity to give back a little to the world around you, I challenge you to do it. Whether it’s helping out at your local animal shelter or making the commitment to only buy cruelty-free products, every little piece helps. Some of my fellow Alt-Breakers have decided to give veganism a spin–I am very proud of them.

So, don’t forget to give the animals in your life a hug, and I hope you all had as awesome a spring break as I did!

Easy Entertaining: Game Night

As a newlywed graduate student, my days are quite long. Between classes, work, the gym (sometimes) and all those odds and ends chores that everybody deals with, it’s easy to feel a little strained. If I want to spend time with my equally busy friends, we usually have to meet up late at night. As much as I’d like to go out for a drink to see them all, my liver and my wallet can’t support the habit. Throw in the fact that my husband doesn’t get home until 9:30 on the weekdays–and I can’t help but feel rude if he and I are eating dinner in front of guests–most weeknights I’m faced with an apartment full of people that I need to feed and entertain. What’s a girl to do?

The solution is simple: vegan food and board games. It’s a perfect combination.

I’m quite aware that claiming myself as a vegan comes with a lot of heated opinions–and I’ve found trying to extoll the virtues of any lifestyle tends to come off as preachy–so I’ll keep it simple. For me, I’ve found that veganism not only allows me to live my ethics, but it also lets me stay within budget. If you go the plant-based route, vegan food is cheap. With a little meal planning, I can feed myself and my husband a week’s worth of lunches and dinners for about forty dollars. This, in turn, gives us some pocket change to go out once in a while for those much-coveted drinks. Yes, please.

When feeding a crowd, it can be quite easy to feel like there’s a lot of pressure to pull out all the stops. Every once in a while my husband has to talk me down from the ledge as I convince myself that I simply must make three different appetizers for movie night. As with most things in life, simple is best. And what’s more simple than some old-fashioned board games and a one-pot meal? Not much, that’s what.

 

For this weeknight game fest, I had six people coming over, and nothing satisfies a crowd more than chili. Sweet potato black bean chili, to be more specific. Paired with some great rosemary thyme bread and Two Buck Chuck from Trader Joe’s, it makes a really satisfying meal. Since I was feeling fancy, I also got blondie mix and replaced the eggs and butter with coconut oil and applesauce. Dinner and dessert, all done in less than an hour. Plus, since this shindig is veggie-centric, it only cost about eighteen dollars.

Want a sneaky vegan tip? Don’t tell anyone it’s vegan. I used to be one of those people who excitedly proclaimed my cookies’ distinct lack of butter, only to be crushed when no one would touch them. Most times, people can’t tell the difference. So, keep it on the down low, and I promise there will be no brownies left. I once was able to feed people chocolate pudding made out of avocados with them none the wiser. It was very satisfying.

(Side note: if someone has an allergy, obviously you should tell them what’s in the food. Other than that, I think these white lies are just fine.)

Savvy Planning: Make double of the chili, wrap the leftovers and some avocado in tortillas, and you’ve got yummy burritos for lunch or dinner.

Sweet Potato Black Bean Chili

Adapted from Alida’s Kitchen

You Need:

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound peeled and diced sweet potatoes
  • 1 chopped onion
  • 1 chopped green bell pepper
  • 2 tablespoons chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon Trader Joe’s 21 Seasoning Salute (not necessary, but it gives a great punch)
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 2 cans drained and rinsed black beans
  • 2 cups veggie broth

Get Cooking!

  1. Heat oil in medium saucepan, and saute onions, bell peppers, and sweet potatoes for 5 minutes.
  2. Add garlic and spices and saute for one more minute.
  3. Add tomatoes, black beans, and broth. Bring to a boil before simmering for 30 minutes.

So get your friends together this week, grab a new game, and have some fun! (But only play a zombie-themed game if you’re comfortable yelling at each other.)

Photo Credit: Rachael Pace