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Dining with one’s friends and beloved family is certainly one of life’s primal and most innocent delights, one that is both soul-satisfying and eternal.

   -Julia Child

Wise words there, Julia. Wise words.

Though Julia Child’s food is decidedly not-vegan-friendly, I wholeheartedly agree with the famous chef on this point.

There’s not much better in the world than enjoying delicious food in the warm company of good friends and family.

Had to get creative and place the tables diagonally to fit 12 people in our dining room!

A couple of weeks ago, my husband Hanes and I got to bask in that joy when we set our table for 12 and held a Vegan Italiano Shabbat dinner party at our house.

(Shabbat is the Jewish Sabbath, the day of rest, that starts on Friday night and ends Saturday night. It’s often begun with a celebratory meal with friends and relatives.)

Wondering “what I vegan’d” at our Vegan Italiano dinner party?

To be honest, in the hustle and bustle of getting ready and then socializing, I forgot to take pictures of the main dishes we made that night!

Never fear! I have pictures from previous times when we made the same recipes, so here they are!

We lit candles, blessed the wine, then had soft, delicious vegan challah:

Vegan Challah

How does one make “egg bread” without the eggs?

With a secret ingredient…banana! Shhhh! This challah is a favorite of many of our friends who have had it, and I’ve shared the recipe with them. I’ll share it with you too later in this post!

A friend brought a vegan Caesar salad with superb, tangy, home-made dressing to start:

Romaine lettuce topped with home-made vegan Caesar dressing and vegan parmesan cheese!

Here’s the super easy dressing recipe that my friend shared with us because we loved it so much:

Vegan Caesar Dressing:

6 tbsp vegan mayo (Veganaise is the best in my opinion)
4 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/4 tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp sugar
sprinkle of parsley flakes

Then just mix it all together, toss with romaine lettuce, vegan croutons, and sprinkle with vegan parmesan!

Next, we enjoyed an olive and pepper plate appetizer, Roman-Style Marinated Broccoli, and home-made hummus with veggies, all brought by generous and talented friends. Regrettably, I inhaled these so quickly that I forgot to take pictures. Sorry, y’all!

For the main course, we served two of my favorite dishes: Veggie Lasagna and Avocado Pesto Pasta, pictured below:

Veggie lasagna filled with Cashew Ricotta and topped with “Almesan,” a home-made vegan parmesan.

Cashew ricotta is a versatile filling made of cashews, tofu, basil, garlic, olive oil, lemon juice and salt, blended in a food processor. It’s super easy and super tasty!

(I lick the spatula after I’m done making it – it’s that good. Don’t worry, I get a new spatula to spread it into the lasagna!)

“Almesan” is almonds, toasted sesame seeds, salt, and lemon zest all blended together for a home-made version of vegan parmesan. (Both recipes are from the cookbook Veganomicon.)

Avocado Pesto Pasta (shown with quinoa spiral noodles and squash, but that night for our dinner party we made it with linguini wheat noodles and no squash)

This Avocado Pesto Pasta, made with fresh avocados, basil, pine nuts, garlic, lemon juice, and more,  by Chef Chloe Coscarelli is a creative twist on traditional pesto. It’s easy to make, beautiful, creamy, and crowd-pleasing. Get the recipe here!

Another friend made delicious garlic bread to go with the main courses – forgot a pic of that too. FAIL!

For dessert, we had two options: one healthy and one not so much.

For the healthy, our friend brought an amazing Autumn Fruit Salad, featuring pears, plums, toasted walnuts, dried cherries, thyme (unexpected and delightful!), and agave nectar (instead of honey, to make it vegan for us – so sweet! Literally!). Here’s that recipe!

It wouldn’t be a vegan Italiano dinner without some tiramisu…cupcakes, that is!

We baked these to-die-for Tiramisu Cupcakes from one of my fave cookbooks: Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.

Tiramisu Cupcakes from Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World

These show-stoppers are vanilla cupcakes, with a cone cut out of the top. You then pour espresso and Kahlua into the cut-out, fill it with rich, vegan cream cheese icing, dip the cone in the espresso-Kahlua mix, put in on top, add another dollop of icing, and top with sprinkled cocoa powder, and a chocolate-covered espresso bean.

Cupcake perfection, if I do say so myself.

Two of our guests even said they were the best cupcakes they’d ever eaten! Sharin’ the vegan cupcake love, oh yeah!

After everyone had their fill and went home, a friend posted on their Facebook wall:

“was blown away by an awesome tasty yummy vegan Shabbat dinner (I too am surprised by this). It was tasty and far better than I could have made with animal products, which has me thinking…”

To me, it’s the cherry on top (or should I say espresso bean on top?) to be able to share how delicious vegan food can be with friends I love.

But don’t let me have all the fun! Why not host a vegan potluck at your place to share the experience with your beloved friends and family?

It doesn’t have to be fancy, and you’d be surprised at how willing people are to try a vegan recipe to bring.

Let me know how much fun your vegan potluck is in the comments below.

To the delight of dining with friends!

Sarah

P.S. Here’s that vegan challah recipe! I wouldn’t let you down.

Vegan Challah

(Makes two loaves – we usually halve it.)

Ingredients
2 1/2 Tbsp dry active yeast
1/3 cup warm water (“wrist” temperature)
6 cups flour (I usually do a white:whole wheat ratio of 4:2)
1 cup soy flour
1 Tbsp salt
1/2 cup brown sugar or dry sweetener
1/2 cup vegetable oil (canola oil is ok, too)
2 overripe (mostly black) bananas
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
another half cup of boiling water for brushing braids
sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or sea salt to top

Directions
1. In one small bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water, put to the side to
stand for 5-10 minutes.
2. Mash bananas in another small bowl.
3. In a large bowl mix: oil, sugar, salt, and boiling water, stirring so
it’s all mostly dissolved.
4. Add the cold water to the large bowl (the mix should be warmish now but
not hot). Stir in yeast mix.
5. Add mashed bananas.
6. Add flour, one cup at a time (don’t forget the soy flour!).
7. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-10 min, dough should
be smooth, not too stiff or too runny. Add flour as needed.
8. Lightly coat the large mixing bowl in oil, turn the dough in it to just
coat it with oil, place a towel over the dough in the bowl and let it rise
for about 1 hr, ’til double in volume.
9. Punch dough down, turn out and knead again 2-3 min. Divide dough into 2
balls, divide each ball into 3 sections, roll each section into long ropes
and make 2 braids. Preheat the oven to 350.
10. Let the braids rise 45 min. Boil a little more water. Just before
putting braids in the oven, brush them with boiling water, then sprinkle
with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or sea salt.
11. Bake 30 min. You’ll know they’re done when you tap them on the bottom and
they sound hollow.

Let cool on a drying rack for 10 minutes before slicing.

If you want to use a bread machine which makes one loaf (this is so easy, it’s dangerous!), do the following:
Put the below ingredients in the bread machine in this order:
A tad less than 1 cup warm water (like my exact-ness, don’t you?)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 overripe banana
3 cups flour
1/2 cup soy flour
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 1/4 tbsp yeast
Set machine to dough, then when it’s done, start at step 9 above.

ENJOY!

P.P.S. You can make this challah round for Rosh Hashanah too. See below!

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