A Dinner Party Is Conceived: Open Call For Vegan Recipes


Round two of my dinner party series, only this time with a challenge: it has to be vegan AND gluten free. Quite the heavy basket, let’s hope I don’t get Chopped!

So let me tell you how I learned to cook – well at least how I started cooking.  It started when I moved out on my own as a young adult, like most people’s kitchen experimentation did. (Only for me it wasn’t just a phase, cooking would come to be a way of life.) I was 22 and had moved in to my first NJ apartment with two roommates plus my future husband, so yes cramped quarters. It was a tiny, shoebox of a dwelling, furnished in plastic Ikea chairs  & thrift store tables but we had a yard with space for a grill and parking was never an issue. (Yes, I’m side-eying you, Yonkers….)  You can imagine finding space for everyone to stash their groceries was difficult (we converted a hand-me-down curio cabinet in to a pantry,) and in the mini-kitchen, it wasn’t ideal to have each person cook their own separate dinner each night. The only logical thing was to have everyone share most of the foodstuffs and toss together as many “family meals” as possible.

Only one complication to this plan – my housemates were vegan and I was not.

Really, this complication posed to be no complication at all. I was growing out of my childhood plain, picky eating habits and was more willing to try things and also as I’ve said before – food is community. If it was a choice between alienating my friends or skipping the meat and dairy for the evening, the choice was simple.  So out of wanting to change things up and experiment in the kitchen – a love of cooking was born.

Of course it wasn’t always cookie baking and rice & bean eating.

Despite roommate struggles, one VERY badly botched  batch of vegan brownies and all of us eventually moving on from the little apartment on Patterson Street – we’re all still in each other’s lives in one way or another.  This all means that this upcoming weekend when we former roommates and some of our other old friends gather together for dinner, I will have to reach in to my old recipe bag of vegan tricks.

Except I don’t have one.

Now that I’m older, wiser and more equipped I want to serve more than frozen French fries and a tub of hummus (which yes, was the foundation of our collective diet back then.) Damn you long-lasting friendships! Curse you camaraderie! Forcing me to push myself to the very brink of my culinary expertise!Increasing the challenge, one of my friends is also Gluten Free. So clearly – I’m in need of some help.

Please help me impress my meat & dairy (and gluten!) free pals and avoid failing a foodie challenge  in my own kitchen.

-Christina Halpin


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  1. I did an all-Vegan Christmas Eve dinner this year. We started with an arugula salad with dates, almonds and grapefruit, then had Dan Barber’s Fennel Soup, and for the main course we had parsnip steaks, kale with pine nut butter, maple-roasted squash and cranberry-orange relish. Delishy! LMK if you want recipes.

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