Raw Zucchini Salad w/Creamy Lemon & Dill Dressing

One of my dearest girlfriends recently decided to complete a 35 day juice cleanse, followed by transitioning to eating real food through a vegan diet. I was invited to her 40th birthday picnic on Treasure Island and wanted to make sure I brought something that she and her husband could enjoy – I decided on Raw Zucchini Pasta Salad w/Creamy Lemon & Dill Dressing.

I searched online and found Ashley’s recipe for Lemon Dill Pasta Salad on her blog Edible Perspective. I made ingredient changes – based on the fact that I knew there would already be a sweet potato lasagna at the picnic. I didn’t want to enter more noodles into the mix. I also subbed maple syrup for honey to make it vegan. I know not all vegan’s view honey as a “no” – and I wasn’t really sure what my newly vegan friend’s views were on the subject, so I just went with the syrup to be safe. I also changed a bunch of the measurements and have included them below.

Salad Ingredients:

4 Broccoli Crowns
1 Bunch Asparagus
3-4 Large Zucchini
1 Yellow Bell Pepper
1 Orange Bell Pepper
2 Cups Grape Tomatoes
1/2 Large Red Onion
3/4 Cup Raw Sunflower Seeds
3/4 Cup Raw Pepita Seeds

Lemon Dill Dressing Ingredients:

1 Large Avocado
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
2 Dorat Garlic Cubes – defrosted  or you could use 2 cloves minced
1 Teaspoon Salt –  plus more if needed.
1 Cup Dill – loosely packed.
2/3 Cup Fresh Lemon Juice – might dial this back a bit next time.
1 1/2 Tablespoons Maple Syrup
Black Pepper to taste – I used about 10-15 grinds, I like my pepper.

I purchased as many organic items as I could possibly find between 3 different stores. I was excited to find live herbs in my search.

I got my avocado ready for the blender…

I added all of my dressing ingredients to the blender and let ‘er rip.

I then transferred the sauce into the fridge and got to work on my other veggie prep.

I steamed my asparagus and broccoli in the microwave for about 3 minutes and got them into an ice bath to stop the cooking process. I prefer the thinner asparagus in salads. I find the thick stalks a little too woody.

I chopped up my bell peppers, halved my grape tomatoes, chopped up my red onion, measured out my seeds and spiral cut my zucchini pasta. I did end up cutting the zucchini noodles with kitchen shears – some of the pieces were easily over a foot long. I didn’t catch them all, one party goer got the bonus extra long noodle. 🙂

A cyclone hit my kitchen, leaving an artsy mess in my sink.. I really am a messy cook. I just chuck things into the sink, it drives the husband crazy. Think packaging, paper towels. He doesn’t understand why I can’t just open the cabinet door to put them in the trash. I try to explain… I’m an artist. When I’m in “create” mode, things fly everywhere. The same holds true to my desk at work. Designs hung on file cabinets, a million icons on my computer’s desktop… it’s how I roll. Messy Marvin for sure.

The next step was to add all of my veggies to a large mixing bowl. I spooned the dressing in a little at a time. I probably only used 1/2 the amount. I  didn’t want things to get too soggy, especially with the hour plus drive to Treasure Island. I did end up adding more fresh dill and salt and pepper to the final salad.

I really loved the raw seeds, it added just enough crunch and texture to the overall dish. I am a huge dill fan, you could easily sub for another herb like basil if you aren’t a fan. Ashley used quinoa spiral pasta for her salad and I might try that next time as well.

I think everyone liked the salad and it was a good compliment to the other green salad at the picnic and the sweet potato lasagna – which was delicious! I also made vegan cornbread, recipe coming soon.

I hadn’t been to Treasure Island since I was a kid. My girlfriend planned a photo scavenger hunt and we had a blast.

Cupcakes were also consumed. A very fun day surrounded by great friends, their family and lots of amazing vegan food.

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The Big Party…

Where has the time gone? I last left off menu planning with my brother for my parent’s joint milestone birthday party. Yep, our lives went into full on party planning mode and next thing you know, the party is now behind us and it’s a month later. Wow… Dear Foodiddy blog, I have missed you. xoxo

Let’s talk party…. My brother and I divided up tasks and got to work gathering items. I borrowed serving dishes and party supplies from two different girlfriends, combed through my own decorating supplies, placed orders through various websites and hit up every Michael’s, Jo-Ann Fabrics, Dollar Tree and HomeGoods in the area. Honestly, my favorite part of decorating is hunting and gathering. It’s all about the search… I love the decorating rush when you score the perfect item and it’s a bargain. Yes, I’m a decorating nerd and it is my favorite hobby.

I chose a black, ivory and white color scheme. The Birthday banner is from Pottery Barn, as soon as I saw it on clearance, I knew how I wanted the cake/cupcake table to look. I wish I had gotten a better photo of the tissue balls hanging from the ceiling… I had originally bought a bunch of them to hang off market umbrellas outdoors, but the party quickly changed to an indoor party when the weather forecast projected a 108 degree day.

I gave my parents the task of selecting childhood black and white photos of themselves, but didn’t tell them what I was going to do with them. Photographs were used in the centerpieces and displayed in frames throughout the house. I pretty much bought every black and silver frame I could get my hands on from Dollar Tree. I even signed Dan up to help paint the black cardboard letters from Jo-Ann’s – they matched the monogram theme of the napkins.

I found all of the ribbon at Walmart and used it throughout to accent things. I had ordered cupcake boxes online, but they ended up only shipping the inserts due to the boxes themselves being on back order until September. Awesome…can’t wait for those babies to arrive, ha! ha!  I was able to find the adorable black and white polka dot ones at Michael’s. We didn’t even end up using them, the cupcakes were too good for leftovers.

My brother took care of ordering the cupcakes from a local cupcake shop. The flavors included:

  • 10K CravingRich carrot cake filled with sweet pineapple draped in decadent cream cheese frosting.
  • ChampagneWhite cake infused with champagne draped in glittery champagne butter cream frosting.
  • Chocolate FixMoist chocolate cake drenched in delicious chocolate butter cream frosting topped with chocolate shavings. 
  • German Chocolate WishRich chocolate cake topped with traditional German Chocolate Frosting. 
  • Lemon BoostZesty lemon cake loaded with creamy lemon curd covered in lemon butter cream.

My awesome neighbor made the cake. It was a last minute decision, but I wanted my parents to have candles to blow out and something to cut into when we did the champagne birthday toast.

The cake plate was borrowed, but I’ve since purchased one from HomeGoods for a whopping $12.99 – so much fun to change out the ribbon… a pain in the butt to weave it through the slots, but worth the end result. The cake was vanilla with raspberry filling.

It’s all in the details when it comes to party planning… I just love it!

I also love the above photo of my grandma Nonnie holding my Mom… adorable. The table runner is a paper one from Pottery Barn. I was worried that it would look cheap, but I honestly loved how it lightened the dark furniture in the room. My brother, Aim and I bought every bunch of white flowers from our local Costco. My girlfriend Carolyn and I sorted through the 10 giant bunches of flowers and got to work on the centerpieces and other vases.

The round black baskets were found at HomeGoods. I had originally purchased the mason jars from Jo-Ann’s – I wanted jars without the “Bell” label – they were $1.99 each. I needed 16 jars and ended up finding a case at Walmart for $8.00. Thankfully I was able to return the more expensive ones. I hadn’t removed any labels or even unwrapped them. Score!

The mason jars had different ribbons – striped, polka dot and plaid. Each basket housed 4 to 6 hangers from Dollar Tree that held more black and white photos. Party guests really had fun looking at all of my parent’s childhood photos. It was a great conversation starter.

I found fabulous black and white eco-friendly straws online – thank you Amazon… They really looked cute in people’s drinks. We rented tables, chairs, linens, plates, flatware and several different sized glasses – best decision ever! Rinse and throw back into the crates they came in.

We had lemonade, iced tea and water at the drink station. Carolyn was whipping up Arnold Palmer masterpieces  for guests. I think my Uncle sliced over two dozen lemons. He took on the fruit like a champ, prepping everything for the platters. Everyone really pulled it together. Dan and his Dad got balloons and extra ice – we were all scrambling at the last minute before guests started arriving.

Aim made sangria the night before. It was sparkling mango juice and pinot grigio with fresh plums and mango pieces from the farmer’s market.

My brother and I made all of the food – except the Hawaiian rolls… I mean really? Nothing beats a good King’s Hawaiian roll – just ask my niece. We spent the weeks leading up to the party testing salad recipes, marinades, meat rubs, etc. Pretty sure my bro, Aim and my niece were all sick of eating meat leading up to the party.

Rob started grilling right when he got to my parent’s place in the morning. We decided on beef, chicken and shrimp skewers. They were out of this world… he did an amazing job with the flavor profiles and guests kept raving about them. The chicken was my favorite by far.

My corn, asparagus and grape tomato salad was a true labor of love. I shucked and cut the corn from 30 cobs. I had picked them up from the farm stand the day before. My kitchen looked like a disaster. I’m still finding pieces of corn silk weeks later. I didn’t follow a recipe. I just sautéed the raw corn pieces in garlic and olive oil in huge pans on the stove. I cooked them at medium temps for about 8 minutes. I then cooled the corn down for an hour in the fridge. I started cooking at 6:00 a.m. – the party started at noon… I wanted my salads to be very fresh. I steamed 5 bunches of thin asparagus and got those into an ice bath. After they had chilled, I sliced them on the diagonal and started cutting my grape tomatoes in half. I used a champagne vinaigrette and fresh flat leaf parsley, salt, pepper and garlic gold flakes. The end result was delicious, so refreshing on a 100 plus degree day.

I also made my Pearl Couscous Salad because I knew my parent’s liked it the first time I made it for a family gathering. It was kind of cool to already have it on the blog, I ended up sending the link to several party guests.

By the end of the party the memory and card boxes were filled with warm wishes from family and friends. Carolyn was in charge of people photos… still need to get those from her so I can create a memory book from the party.

My brother and I honestly could not have pulled this off without the help of our loved ones and our dear friends and family. Moving the party indoors was the best decision we could have made. It allowed for guests to actually enjoy themselves and their meal in the comfort of air conditioning. It was well worth the extra effort that included moving all of the furniture out of my parent’s upstairs great room –  the night before the party. We needed space to accommodate all of the 5 foot round tables and chairs.

The after party cleaning went very smoothly too. So many people stepped in to help… dish duty, table clearing, furniture moving… we got everything back to normal before the night ended.

My Mom and Dad are two of the most incredible people I know. They mean the world to us and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor their milestone birthdays. Plus… my Mom did mention these words – I want a big party! 🙂 Done and done… We did it bro! We hosted a magnificent party that will be etched in memory forever. Happy Birthday Mom and Dad – We love you!

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Roasted Corn Salad

I got a text from my brother that asked if I could bring roasted corn salad to his house for a BBQ that we had planned. No problem… I consulted several magazines and websites and ended up combining a bunch of them together to create my own recipe.

Some corn salads contain beans, some don’t. I knew since we were going to use it as a side or topper for street tacos, I wanted mine to have beans. I also knew that I didn’t have a ton of time in the kitchen to spend on my creation. We overbooked ourselves and I improvised with frozen already roasted Trader Joe’s corn.

The Ingredients:

Dressing Ingredients:
1/4 Cup Balsamic Vinaigrette
Juice from 1 Lime
2 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1-2 Tablespoons Chopped Fresh Cilantro
1/4 Teaspoon Ground Cumin
1/8 Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper
1/8 Teaspoon Salt

Salad Ingredients:
1 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Clove Garlic – I used a frozen Dorat cube
1/2 Medium Red Onion – chopped
1.5 bags Trader Joe’s Roasted Corn
1 Can Black Beans – drained, rinsed and patted dry
1 Jalapeño – finely chopped
1 Red Bell Pepper – finely chopped
6 Green Onions – chopped
Zest from 1 lime
1 Avocado – chopped

Directions:

  • Heat 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil, garlic, red onion and corn in a large pan – sauté on medium heat for a good 15 minutes, stirring frequently. You want the onions to become translucent and the corn to be heated through.
  • When done, set mixture aside and let cool.
  • Chop your jalapeño, red bell pepper and green onion – then drain and rinse your black beans.
  • In a large bowl, mix all salad ingredients except the avocado together. Then add the dressing.
  • Stir mixture to really coat the corn and beans well… refrigerate for a minimum of 4 hours – can be chilled overnight to blend the flavors. Leftovers the next day were wonderful.

 

I should have put the onions and garlic into the olive oil  first, but I mistakenly threw the corn in first… it ended up working out fine.

I rinsed and drained my black beans, chopped up my jalapeño, red bell pepper and onions,  then started on the vinaigrette.

Olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lime, cilantro, cayenne pepper, cumin powder, salt and pepper.

I mixed my beans, cooled corn mixture, jalapeño, lime zest, green onion and red bell pepper together and then poured in the vinaigrette and let it sit in the fridge for about 4 hours before packing it up for the drive.

I may or may not have also eaten a huge plate with tortilla chips for lunch to “test drive” it… I actually liked it warm too.

I loved the flavor combo – just enough kick and the balsamic addition was a really nice change over traditional corn salad/salsa dishes I’ve had in the past.

I would like to try it with corn that I actually roast myself next time… but this was a fabulous side/topping to my bro’s screamin’ good tacos.

He introduced me to Trader Joe’s packaged Carne Asada and Pollo Asado and wow… I will definitely be buying those for future meals – especially to grill ahead of time on the weekend for mid week lunch tacos.

We ended up with quite the spread…

My brother whipped up a chipotle slaw and I haven’t stopped thinking about these tacos since. I brought avocado to dice up and include in the corn salad/salsa… but got distracted with the delicious homemade guacamole set out.

Speaking of distractions… besides the tacos and good company, we had this adorable puppy to distract us from pretty much everything. My bro and his family got to play with this cute 11 week old yellow lab for 2 weeks while puppy sitting for a friend.

Adorable…

 

 

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