Well, I pulled it off.  I prepared an entire vegan meal, including appetizer and dessert, and it was delicious!  Everyone liked it (or at least politely said they did).  So, want to know how I did it?  Here’s the rundown.

For an appetizer, I kept things very, very simple.  I don’t like making appetizers, so I purchased flatbreads and hummus from Trader Joe’s.  I cut the flatbreads into pretty triangles, and served them with a Mediterranean hummus and White Bean and Basil hummus, along with a bowl of mixed dried cranberries, walnuts and pepitas for some color.  The White Bean and Basil hummus was particularly delicious!  Here’s a photo of how I served it up:

Next came the main course.  This was a bit more of a challenge for me, since I wanted to make sure we had protein, I couldn’t use cheese (a favorite ingredient of mine), and it needed to be delicious.  I turned to a few dishes I knew I could do well, maybe with a tweak or two to “veganize” them, and then threw in one extra new recipe for fun.  I went with two cold salads, and two warm dishes.

First, I made the California quinoa salad I wrote about in an earlier post.  I had made this salad a couple of times with success, so I knew it was tasty.  I simply omitted the blue cheese and substituted brown rice syrup for the honey.  Voila!  Instant vegan dish with protein.  Here’s a photo:

The next cold salad I served was the Wheat Berry and Bean Salad from the blog Oh She Glows.  I forgot to take a picture of this one, but honestly, her photos are much prettier than mine.  It was also delicious – a very refreshing taste, and packed with protein because of the beans.  I used garbanzo beans, too, just like she did, and if you like them, it’s a great substitution.

Even on a hot day, I feel like dinner needs to include something warm.  My first warm dish were simple grilled veggies.  We eat these a lot as a side dish, so I knew how to prepare them and that they would be tasty.  I simply sliced sweet onion, red and orange peppers and zucchini and tossed in a bowl with olive oil, sea salt and pepper.  Hubs threw in the grill basket and grilled on medium-high heat for about 20 minutes.  Perfection!

My next hot dish was another one we enjoy a lot at our house.  In fact, it’s Real OC Daughter’s FAVORITE dinner.  And it includes leafy greens!  You may want to consider trying it with your kiddos.  We discovered this dish at our favorite restaurant in Monterey, Cafe Fina (amazing, delicious Italian seafood restaurant, if you’re ever in Monterey).  The chef was kind enough to share his recipe with us, and we have eaten it many, many times.  Here are the ingredients:

First, you need some baked potatoes.  When it’s hot out or I’m short on time, I cook them up in the microwave wrapped in a damp paper towel.

While the potatoes are baking, finely dice a white or brown onion and peel two cloves of garlic.  If using whole greens (not prepackaged, as pictured here), wash and chop your greens.  You can use spinach, kale, chard, or any combination of those.  I used the prepackaged kale here, to make things a little easier, but I will say I think the chard tastes better.

When the potatoes are all cooked up, squeeze the potato out of the peel and into a bowl, and mix with a can of cannelini (or white kidney) beans.

In a large skillet, add about 2 Tbsp of olive oil and heat over medium heat.  Add onion and garlic and saute until translucent, about 3-5 minutes.  Add greens and cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.  Add potato and bean mixture and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

When I’m making this dish non-vegan, I will add cooked bacon or shredded roast chicken to make it a full meal.  I also enjoy topping it with parmesan cheese.  But even as a vegan dish without the bacon, chicken or cheese, it was very, very yummy.

Last, but not least, I succeeded in making an edible vegan dessert.  Our guests enjoyed it so much they went back for seconds!  I found the delicious recipe on the Broke and Chic Project website, which is a great resource for those of you who enjoy throwing dinner parties.  Her vegan dinner party menu looks divine, but I was not feeling ambitious enough to try all new recipes, or make my own ravioli.  Maybe next time, though!  I did, however, make her Simple Banana Cake with Chocolate Drizzle (at bottom of vegan dinner party post), and it did not disappoint!  I will say that I used the Trader Joe’s chocolate chips, since I knew they were vegan, and they did not melt to a consistency of drizzle-ability.  So, I went with it, and spread it all over the top like icing instead.  Not as pretty, but still very yummy!  And really, when was a little more chocolate EVER a bad thing?!?

So, there you have it – my first, and certainly not last, vegan meal.  Cheers!