college clip: vegan dinner party in an on-campus kitchen

Asparagus Pizza

If you’re coming from my YouTube channel, welcome!  If not, check out my video that goes along with this post:

One of my goals for my second semester at college was to host a small dinner party for some of my friends.  Although I cooked a lot in my dorm room (videos and blog posts about this linked down below), I was always itching to cook in a real kitchen.  I also love cooking for other people, so a dinner party seemed like the perfect idea.

My friend Mia has a kitchen access at her dorm, the same place where we made cookies and pizza, so that’s where the gathering happened.

I began by planning a menu.  I decided I wanted to use as many seasonal and local ingredients as I could, so I based all of my recipes around local ingredients that would be available at that time (early May), such as greens, asparagus, and the remains of last year’s root vegetable crop.  Here is the Italian-inspired menu I decided on:

Sparkling Italian Soda (from Whole Foods)

Lemon Italian Ice
Green and Cannellini Bean Soup
Asparagus Pizza
Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables
Mushroom Lentil Loaf – Making Thyme for Health
Lemon Italian Ice – Joy Filled Days

Because I did not have time to create and test every recipe, most of them are not my own.  Here’s what I did come up with:

Green and Cannellini Bean Soup
  • 1 large leek, chopped
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, cubed
  • 4 cups water
  • 1 vegan boullion cube
  • 14-oz can Cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1⁄2 cup fresh beet or radish greens, ripped into small pieces
  • 1/4 cup almond milk
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Cook the leek and shallots and together for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the potato and the water and bullion and bring to a boil, then cover the pot and simmer for 20 minutes.
  3. Stir in half of the cooked beans.
  4. Stir the greens into the soup and cook a few minutes until wilted, then blend the mixture.
  5. Add the remaining beans and heat.
  6. Stir in the plant milk and season the soup with salt and pepper if desired.  I served it with a little extra almond milk on top.

(loosely adapted from Sorrel & Bean Soup by Style At Home)

Green and Cannellini Bean Soup, Asparagus Pizza

Asparagus Pizza

  • Basic Vegan Pizza Dough – Vegan Richa
  • Béchamel Sauce (made with 6 oz firm, silken tofu instead of cauliflower) – Forks Over Knives The Cookbook
  • thin asparagus
  1. Roll out the pizza dough on parchment paper.
  2. Add thin layer of the béchamel sauce, and then a long row of whole asparagus (see picture).
  3. Bake for about 15 min & enjoy

Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto

  • 1-box angel hair pasta
  • Basil Pesto (made with half basil, half arugula) – Forks Over Knives The Cookbook
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions.
  2. Mix pesto into pasta – that’s it!
Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

  • seasonal vegetable variety (I used beets, onions, garlic, carrots, and potatoes)
  • fresh rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of your favorite seasonings (I used salt, pepper, dried oregano and parsley)
  • 1-2 tablespoons olive oil, if desired
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. Chop vegetables to desired size.  Finely chop about 1-2 T of rosemary.
  3. Combine vegetables, rosemary, seasonings, and oil (if using) on a baking sheet.
  4. Cook for 20-35 min (depending on the size of your pieces) until a knife can be inserted fairly easily into all of the vegetables (you could also just taste it).
  5. Serve as is and enjoy.
Mushroom Lentil Loaf

After planning the menu and testing a couple of the recipes, I set the date: Tuesday May 2nd.  It was during finals week, but I knew it would be no problem since I only had one final on Monday and a paper due Wednesday, which I could have mostly completed before Tuesday.

Then came the concussion.  The Thursday before the dinner party, I fell, supposedly hit my head (I have no memory of this, but the doctors say it must have happened), and somehow got a concussion.  Of course, typical me decided to put off going to the doctor, power through finals, and go through with the dinner party which I had put so much time into planning.

Things never go as planned.  Having just had a concussion and being the physical and emotional wreck that comes with having a concussion, the dinner party was a massive struggle for me.  Headache.  Instead of biking to the kitchen, I ended up taking Uber because I knew I couldn’t make it on bike.  Motion sickness.  Then, the kitchen we wanted to use (the one with all the nice stuff – stand mixer, loaf pans, mixing bowls, plates, silverware, etc.), was being used for another event, and we had to use other one which did not have all those nice things.  Looming anxiety.  And finally, all the confusion about getting there, which kitchen we could use, and how I was going to get a few last minute ingredients pushed everything back about two hours, and there was no way I could cook all that food with so little time – my friends had finals the next morning!  Helplessness.

Angel Hair Pasta with Arugula Pesto, Mushroom Lentil Loaf, Roasted Seasonal Vegetables

Thankfully, my friends helped me out.  I had wanted to do all the cooking and cleaning myself to give my friends a nice relaxing time, but my concussion-induced overdrive was not helping anyone.  So, my friend Adam did a lot of the cooking alongside me, and everyone helped me clean up.  Although it wasn’t the evening I was expecting, all the food got made and eaten, and we still had a good time.  If/when I host another dinner party, I think I’ll be a little less ambitious with the menu, and plan for the unexpected.

Asparagus Pizza

If you are looking for more information on dorm room cooking, check out these three blog posts – 1, 2, 3 – or head over to my YouTube channel where I have several dorm room recipe videos.  My Instagram @littleplantperson is also full of quick dorm room recipe ideas and cooking tips.  More posts and videos on this subject are coming soon, so stay tuned!

early spring market finds and easy potato recipe!

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One of my goals when starting this blog was to provide seasonal vegan recipes for those living in the northern US climate.  While I have put some recipes up since then, I am hoping to make recipes the main focus of this blog as we get more into spring and especially summer and fall.

Here in Michigan, we have gotten some unseasonably warm weather, which probably explains some of the amazing foods I found yesterday! To begin, I went to the farmers market in Detroit.  While there is always plenty of non-local produce to buy there, and some things preserved from the fall, I came across these beautiful, local purple wintergreen onions and a small mixed basket of new Michigan potatoes.  I also made it there in time for spinach grown inside (it pays to go early!), which I was absolutely thrilled about.  Unfortunately, in my excitement, I only bought a tiny bit of these things (especially the potatoes) and am now wishing I had purchased more to last.  When I got home, I found another thing that really surprised me.  Rosemary was growing in our garden outside!  I brought a little inside to cook with my potatoes.

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These plates of food were made with entirely local ingredients.  While they were good as they were, you know (from this post) how Patrick feels about sauce, so I made this ketchup-type sauce to go with it.  Not local or fresh but still tasty and definitely better for our bodies than regular ketchup.

This is how I made the potatoes:

  1. IMG_2635wash and cut potatoes
  2. steam potatoes until mostly cooked
  3. chop white/purple part of several onions
  4. cook chopped onion in pan (I used a nonstick wok)
  5. chop a little fresh rosemary
  6. add potatoes and rosemary to pan
  7. cook until potatoes are starting to brown
  8. chop green part of onions
  9. add amount of desired additional onion
  10. cook everything a little longer
  11. add pepper (optional but recommended)
  12. place hot potatoes on a bed of spinach and enjoy!

This is what I mixed together for the ketchup sauce (which I am planning on tweaking and perfecting and measuring over time):

  • 1 small can tomato paste
  • spoonful of sugar (I used local sugar!!)
  • splash of apple cider vinegar
  • sprinkle each of garlic and onion powder
  • dash of ground mustard
  • tiny pinch of ground cloves
  • black pepper
  • water to thin

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Let me know in the comments how you feel about informal recipes like this one versus the more official and measured ones that I have written for other recipe posts.  Have fun!