Some of you may remember last year when I did a series of posts called The Conscious Chef Challenge written after attending the book launch party for Chef Tal Ronnen‘s The Conscious Cook. What started out as a fun party led to several enduring friendships, and a challenge that would change my opinion of animal free meals forever.

Entertaining then and now
A few of my fellow party attendees asked me to prepare a vegan dinner party for them. When you have a classically trained, internationally celebrated chef like Tal preparing the food it is practically guaranteed to be scrumpdilicious, but what happens when a non-classically trained novice to the cuisine tries her hand at it? I suggested that I invite them to myhouse as guinea pigs before letting them hire me to cook for their friends.”

Trying to coordinate our schedules has been tricky, but I FINALLY got it together last night. It was one of those magical evenings with a perfect mixture of people, flowing conversation, and divine food – even Daisy was on her best behavior. The best part of all – I got to enjoy it too, the entire meal was made in advance, (we all attended a lecture before dinner), so all I had to do was heat to eat when we were ready.

“Cream” of Mushroom Soup



Gardein Beefless Bites

First Course

“Cream” of Mushroom Soup

Main Course

White Bean, Kale, & Butternut Squash Stew
Brown Rice Spaghetti
Mixed Green Salad
Homemade Balsamic Dressing
Chicken Pesto Salad
(for any die-hard omnivores)


Banana-Rum Cheesecake
Pecans & Rum Sauce

I wanted to do mostly my own takes on vegan food, but I have to admit – when it comes to dessert it is impossible to top Sarafina Magnussen’s Banana Rum Cheesecake, so I prepared an encore of that decadent treat.

Encore of the Banana Rum Cheesecake

Just as I feel it is rude to throw a dinner party without a selection for vegetarian guests, I decided we needed a chicken salad in case there were any die-hard omnivores. Then coincidentally, the lovely Kristin at Gardein emailed me an appetizer recipe to try with their product, and asked me to share it with all of you. The timing could not have been more perfect!

Gardein Beefless Bites

Servings: 6
  • 1 package Gardein beefless tips, thawed
  • 4 ounces onion marmalade
  • 1 15 ounce package pre rolled puff pastry (vegan options are available)
  • fine sea salt, to taste
  • black pepper, to taste
  • 4 ounces vegan butter
1). Bring puff pastry sheets to room temperature 2 hours ahead of time to thaw.

2). Preheat conventional oven to 400ºF.

3). Cut ¼” thawed puff pastry into 3” x 3” squares, place 1 tsp onion marmalade in center of square and top with one Gardein tip. Pull all four edges of puff pastry over the top of the beefless tip, pinch and twist to cinch the pouch.

4). Brush the outside of the pouch with 1 tsp of butter (this will help to caramelize). Place pouches on parchment lined bake pan, bake at 400ºF for 15-20 minutes until golden brown.

Note: I’m personally not crazy about onion marmalade, so I substituted 4 ounces of mango chutney for the onion marmalade, and it was delish.

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