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Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus

This Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus is the perfect fall appetizer or an easy dinner with a side of chopped veggies and chips. This orange and black dip is also festive and perfect for Halloween parties!

Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus

I don’t mean to have you ruin your impression of me but I kind of hate Halloween. There. I said it. I’m pretty sure I’ve felt this way ever since I was too old to go trick or treating. Back when I was a little kid, we’d watch Hocus Pocus and go trick or treating which I could get down with. But Halloween for middle and high schoolers was all about horror movie marathons and haunted houses which didn’t work out well for me since I scare easily and despise being frightened. Halloween for my college years was always dressing up in a slutty outfit while the guys wore something so far out that they weren’t recognizable; at the time, this annoyed me since I couldn’t tell if that was was actually cute or if it was just his Halloween costume and now I’m just annoyed I gave into wearing those slutty suits.

And Halloween in my adult life? Well I’m still trying to figure that one out. I don’t want to give up on the holiday all together since I actually love most holidays. I’d like to make peace with it in the form of fancy orange and black dinner parties. Or fancy fall cheese plates. Or feel good romantic comedy marathons. Can I do that? Can I just make up my own Halloween traditions that have nothing to do with costumes, graveyards, scary movies, overly sweet candy corn, or being scared? I can? Perfect! I’m going to start with this Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus – it’s a Halloween tradition that I could get used to making every year. It could totally even pass at a normal Halloween party since it’s orange and black but without the hokey ghost-shaped crudités.

You know what other tradition I could get behind? This Virtual Pumpkin Party that VV is a part of today! Who doesn’t want an explosion of amazing pumpkin recipes at their fingertips? If this Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus recipe isn’t enough for you, here are the other pumpkin recipes part of the party:

Cake Over Steak • Quick Pumpkin and Kale Risotto + Arancini
Twigg Studios • Sausage Stuffing Baked in a Pumpkin
Donuts, Dresses and Dirt • Pumpkin Spice Latte Popsicles
Cloudy Kitchen • Pumpkin Cake with Vanilla German Buttercream
Vegetarian Ventures • Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Hummus
Eat Boutique • Pumpkin Scallion Dumplings
A Little Saffron • Pumpkin Stuffed Shells
Two Red Bowls • Pumpkin & Maple Caramel Baked French Toast
Wallflower Kitchen • Mini Pumpkin & Cinnamon Sugar Donuts
Wit & Vinegar • Pumpkin Butterscotch Banana Split
Style Sweet CA • Pumpkin Creme Brulee Cake
Nommable • Pumpkin Biscuits with Mushroom Thyme Gravy
With Food + Love • Cinnamon Raisin Pumpkin Seed Bread
Hortus • Creamy Roasted Squash Soup + Pumpkin Risotto
Sevengrams • Vegan Pumpkin Pie Ice Cream
Jojotastic • 1 Pumpkin, 2 Ways: Pumpkin Trail Mix & Dog Treats
Grain Changer • Pumpkin Spice Baked Oatmeal
Girl Versus Dough • Pumpkin Cranberry Flax Crisps
Earthy Feast • Pumpkin Grits + Pumpkin Home Fries + a Fried Egg
Harvest and Honey • Truffled Pumpkin Papardelle Alfredo
Tasty Seasons • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cake
Broma Bakery • Pumpkin Butter Pop Tarts
Tending the Table • Roasted Pumpkin and Barley Salad
The Sugar Hit • Super Soft Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls
Delicious Not Gorgeous • Waffles with Spiced Pumpkin Butter and Brown Sugar Walnut Crumble
Taste Love and Nourish • Pumpkin Bread Pudding
The Green Life • Pumpkin Spice Chocolate Chunk & Hazelnut Skillet Cookie (Vegan)
Foolproof Living • Pumpkin Creme Fraiche Pasta with Sage
The Monday Box • Pumpkin Mini Bundt Cakes
Design Crush • Pumpkin Whiskey Cocktail
The Road to Honey • Pumpkin Pie & Chocolate Layer Cake
My Name is Yeh • Roasted Pumpkin with Yogurt and Hazelnut Dukkah
Give Recipe • Orange Chocolate Pumpkin Bread
Heartbeet Kitchen • Magic Vegan Pumpkin Pie Fudge
Beard and Bonnet • Marbled Pumpkin Muffins
Eat Within Your Means • Vegan Pumpkin Blender Muffins
Snixy Kitchen • Pumpkin Tapioca Pudding with Candied Pumpkin Seeds
Ruby Josephine • Moroccan Sweet Pumpkin + Beef Tagine
Lab Noon • Pasta Bake with Roasted Pumpkin and Saffron Sauce, Pistachio and Goat Cheese
An Edible Mosaic • Pumpkin Spice Chia Seed Pudding
Hey Modest Marce • Mascarpone Pumpkin Pie
Inspired By the Seasons • Pumpkin Applesauce Smoothie
CaliGirl Cooking • Pumpkin Praline Cinnamon Rolls with Spiked Cream Cheese Glaze
Sally’s Baking Addiction • Pumpkin Cream Cheese Bundt Cake
Well and Full • Spicy Chipotle Pumpkin Hummus
Appeasing a Food Geek • Cheese Fondue Stuffed Roasted Pumpkin
SweetPhi • Pumpkin Chili Biscuit Bake
Warm Vanilla Sugar • Buttermilk Pumpkin Doughnuts
Mademoiselle Poirot • Cinnamon-Pumpkin Mousse on Honey Panna Cotta topped with Hazelnut Brittle
Heart of a Baker • Pumpkin Sticky Buns with Vanilla Bean Frosting
Flourishing Foodie • Massaman Curry with Pumpkin and Chickpeas
Ginger & Toasted Sesame • Pumpkin Jeon
Lindsay Jang • Best Ever DIY Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Fix Feast Flair • Hokkaido Pumpkin + Sage Mac and Gouda
Will Frolic for Food • Pumpkin Kale Patties with Coconut Cilantro Rice
A Couple Cooks • Pumpkin Pecan Baked Steel Cut Oats
Vermilion Red • Pumpkin Pie SouffleBritnell • Vegan Pumpkin Pie
Displaced Housewife • Brown Butter Pumpkin Donuts
Sweet Gula • Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting
La Pêche Fraîche • Pumpkin and Condensed Milk Cakes
Kitchen Konfidence • Pumpkin Ricotta Gnocchi with Rosemary Brown Butter Sauce
Loves Food, Loves to Eat • Savory Pumpkin Bread Pudding
Kale & Caramel • Goat Cheese & Sage-Stuffed Pumpkin Challah
Okie Dokie Artichokie • Pumpkin Chorizo Chili with Sweet Potatoes + Pinto Beans
Salted Plains • Easy Pumpkin Bread
Liliahna • Chicken Legs with Pumpkin and Tortellini=
TermiNatetor Kitchen • Whole Wheat, Pumpkin & Brown Sugar Brioche
Vermilion Roots • Sweet Rice Dumplings with Pumpkin
Celebrate Creativity • Pumpkin Mini Cheesecake Tarts
Serendipity Bakes • Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake
So Much Yum • Vegan Maple-Glazed Pumpkin Spice Doughnuts
The Brick Kitchen • Pumpkin, Pecan & White Chocolate Ice Cream Sandwiches
Lisli • Pumpkin Pie Cake
Cookie Dough and Oven Mitt • Pumpkin Pie Dip
Fig+Bleu • Pumpkin Granola
The Speckled Palate • Pumpkin Caramel Cream Cheese Swirl Blondies
Cook Til Delicious • Fall Cliche Cake (Pumpkin Spice Cake / Maple Cream Cheese Frosting / Apple Cider Caramel Sauce)
Floating Kitchen • Chicken and Pumpkin Chili
The Wood and Spoon • Pumpkin Pecan Cake with Burnt Sugar Frosting
Fork Vs Spoon • Pumpkin Streusel Muffins
Lemon & Vanilla • Pumpkin and Coconut Caramel Flan
Dunk & Crumble • Pumpkin Chocolate Icebox Cake
Chicano Eats • Pumpkin Butter Pan de Muerto
On the Plate • Pumpkin Pancakes, Salted Caramel & Pecans
Rough Measures • Cosy Pumpkin Spice Latte (Caffeine and Dairy Free)
Brewing Happiness • Pumpkin Ginger Breakfast Cookies
A Butterful Mind • Pumpkin Cheesecake with Vanilla Whipped Cream
The Little Loaf • Pumpkin Oatmeal Chocolate Chunk Cookies
Fork to Belly • Pumpkin Gnocchi
The Little Epicurean • Chocolate Hazelnut Pumpkin Pie
Bourbon and Honey • Spicy Roasted Pumpkin with Honey and Feta
What to Cook Today • Spicy Pumpkin Noodle Soup
Food by Mars • Pumpkin Pie (Grain-Free, Diary-Free)
The Bojon Gourmet • Pumpkin Butterscotch Pudding
Oh Honey Bakes • Pumpkin Cake with Gingersnap Toffee
Long Distance Baking • Layered Pumpkin Cheesecake
The Jam Lab • Pumpkin Madeleines Dipped in White Chocolate
The Lemon Apron • Pumpkin Gingerbread Loaf with an Olive Oil Glaze
Sun Diego Eats • Thai Pumpkin & Sticky Rice Cakes
A Cozy Kitchen • Pumpkin Chai Scones with Black Tea Glaze
A Cookie Named Desire • Pumpkin Shrubs
Eating Clean Recipes • Vegan Pumpkin Chia Pudding
Kingfield Kitchen • Vegan Fresh Pumpkin Soup
Drink and Cocktail Recipes • Pumpkin Dirty Chai
The Pig & Quill • Pumpkin Sage Cannelloni (Dairy-Free)
My Lavender Blues • Pumpkin, Banana & Olive Oil Bundt Cake
Betty Liu • Pumpkin + Pear Butter Baked Melty Cheese
Happy Hearted Kitchen • Cinnamon Roasted Pumpkin with Tahini Yogurt + Hazelnut Dukkah
InHappenstance • Pumpkin Scones with Maple Butter
Live Eat Learn • Pumpkin Gingerbread Hot Cocoa

Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus recipe below:

Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed HummusSmoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed HummusSmoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus

Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus
This Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus is the perfect fall appetizer or an easy dinner with a side of chopped veggies and chips. This orange and black dip is also festive and perfect for Halloween parties!
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Vegetarian
  • 2 15.5 oz cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 1 15 oz can of pureed pumpkin
  • 1 Tbsp smoked paprika
  • Juice from 1 lemon
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • ¼ cup olive oil + more for drizzling
  • sea salt / pepper, to taste
  • Black sesame seeds, for garnish
  • Crackers, for serving
  1. Place chickpeas, pumpkin puree, paprika, lemon, and garlic in a high speed blender or food processor. Turn on and slowly add in olive oil while the machine is running. Process until smooth and silky, about 3 minutes. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  2. Transfer to a small serving bowl or rimmed dish and spread out evenly. Use the back of a spoon to create a swirl indent in the dip and drizzle olive oil into it. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  3. Serve right away with crackers or stick in the fridge until ready to serve.

Smoky Pumpkin & Black Sesame Seed Hummus


Chickpea Tomato Minestrone [Throwback Thursday]

This Chickpea Tomato Minestrone is chocked full of fresh vegetables and pasta which makes it a filling and flavorful weeknight dinner.

Chickpea Tomato Minestrone

And I’m back with another installment of my Throwback Thursday series where I make and re-photograph an old recipe. My archives are just crawling with my fantastic recipes that have been buried with time. I whipped up this Chickpea Tomato Minestrone the other night for dinner and decided to snap a few photos of it since it’s the second most viewed recipe on VV (right behind my Chickpea Dumpling in Tomato Curry recipe). Honestly, I can see why you guys like this recipe so much – it’s loaded with healthy vegetables, mega-comforting with the pasta, and keeps me full all night long from the chickpeas.

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Persimmon Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting

These Persimmon Cupcakes with Matcha Frosting are a perfect fall treat infusion of my southern Indiana persimmon pulp and the chinese green tea super powder, Matcha.


Last month around this time, my neighbor, Susie, and I took our boyfriends on what we said was going to be a ‘quick stop on the way to get some pizza’. What we didn’t tell them is that we had signed up to pick the day’s supply of persimmons from a friendly couple’s tree (known to the locals as ‘the giving tree’). With me bringing my small apple picking basket and Susie a reusable bag, the joke was on all of us when we got there to find out that the tree has dropped 30 pounds of persimmons that day (!!!). Unlike when Susie and I “picked” persimmons last year in the form of sneaking onto private property after dark to pick up half rotten fruit from the under a tree, this was a big production. The couple had built a giant net contraptions under the tree to catch any fruit that ripened and fell. There were poles keeping the net up that they could then release to let the fruit drop into big buckets.

In case you’ve never picked your own persimmons before, let me give you a small description of how this went down. American Persimmons are ready when they fall from the tree and seem overripe; because of this, they go bad very quickly if they aren’t washed, pitted, pureed into pulp, and frozen within a day or two.  After getting a small tutorial on how to work the poles and the net, we managed to fill 4 bins (equalling between 30 and 40 pounds) from what had fallen onto the net that day. Thank goodness they had the net system because that was only the beginning of the process. From there, we had to take the stem off of every piece of fruit and dunk it in water to wash it. Between the four of us doing this in an assembly line fashion, it took us about 45 minutes. From there, we divided the harvest in two so that Susie and Ryan got half and Wyatt and I got the other half. Back at home, with the stereo blaring Alannis Morsette, I used a cheesecloth bag to extract the pulp from the pits. All in all, my 15 to 20 pound bounty yielded 8 cups of pulp. So far I’ve used 1 1/4 cup of that pulp and the rest resides in the freezer. Guess I’ll be serving Persimmon Pudding for any gatherings that come up for the rest of fall.

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Iced Cocoa Coffee Smoothie (Vegan Option) + A Giveaway

This Iced Cocoa Coffee Smoothie is the perfect morning or afternoon booster with iced coffee, blended dates, chocolate OLLY Smoothie powder, and vanilla all coming together to create a healthy iced coffee concoction.

Iced Cocoa Coffee Smoothie

I’m going to start out by mentioning I’m not a smoothie girl. Sometimes, because this is a meat-free blog, VV gets grouped into these ‘special diet’ categories with all the other folks working on their yoga poses, superfood salads, and beautiful smoothie bowl game. Don’t get me wrong, I’m down with all those things on occasion but I just don’t identify with them. You know what I do identify with? Chocolate. You know what else? Coffee. Dang – do I love coffee. This drink I’m sharing today is called a ‘smoothie’ for lack of a better word – really, it’s like a super mix between a light chocolate shake and a dang fine cup of iced cold brew.

I first discovered a similar shake (smoothie? frozen coffee concoction? frappucino?) a few months ago at a juice bar in Minneapolis. Our host didn’t have coffee but she had a big jug of a similar drink in her fridge. I still can’t remember exactly what was in it but I remember thinking it tasted like the best iced coffee I’ve ever had. I started making my own version when I got home and couldn’t get over how sweet that dates made the drink with zero refined sugar (and gave it a little creamy vibe as well). I usually make this for an afternoon pick-me-up with any leftover coffee I still have lingering on the stove. When OLLY mentioned they’d be sending me some nourishing chocolate smoothie powder, I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought to put chocolate into it earlier. The OLLY powder gives both an additional nutrition boost AND an indulgent jolt from the chocolate.

Afternoons can be rough for me. I wake up beyond excited to start the day and find my mind the clearest and most creative in the AM. From there lunch is great because well…I’m eating and I love to eat. But then around 3 or 4, I tend to crash – I’ve tried eating big lunches (to see if they would get me through dinner but they just bog me down even earlier) and light lunches (which leave me starving and without energy by 3) so I’ve accepted my body needs something else in the afternoon. This healthy drink has been the answer for the last couple months – it doesn’t leave you with a sugar crash and I get a little bit of caffeine boost without the afternoon shakes that would come from a strong cup of coffee. Oh and I bet the boost of vitamins from the OLLY powder is a big help as well. You ever feel the afternoon slump as well? Try this drink – it positively could change your afternoon energy level forever!

Note: Some days I’ve had enough caffeine by 11 AM to know when enough is enough. This drink is just as delicious with decaf if you’d prefer to switch to that in the afternoon. Also, I sometimes only blend together 1 cup of ice and reserve the rest to throw into my drink after to give it more of an iced coffee vibe – totally your call on how you’d like to do it!

PSS Don’t worry, I’ve already been recipe developing a warm version of this for the colder months. I’m hoping to share that recipe later this season!

BONUS! OLLY was kind enough to offer a giveaway for a chance to win over $1000 in prizes. To say thanks for playing, they’ll send you a $5 off coupon for target.com! ENTER HERE by Monday, October 17th!

Iced Cocoa Coffee Smoothie recipe below:

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Walnut-Crusted Brie Mac and Cheese with Apples

This Walnut-Crusted Brie Mac and Cheese with Apples is the ultimate cheesy, carby, and slightly tart comfort food for chilly fall nights.

Walnut-Crusted Brie Mac and Cheese with Apples

And my accidental fall virtual cookbook tour continues (three cookbook recipes in a row? Promise I have an original recipe coming next week)! This week, I whipped up a cozy comfort recipe for Walnut-Crusted Brie Mac and Cheese with Apples from Molly Yeh’s new cookbook, Molly on the Range. I honestly don’t even know where to begin with this book. I was expecting, based on the name of the book, another Pioneer Woman story about moving to a farm to build a country chic empire all while whipping up casseroles and ringing the cowbell for family meal time. Instead, it’s an intimate look at Molly’s city / country hybrid life in the form of funky illustrations, pie chart recipes, cleverly named cookies (Lindsay Lohan cookies, anyone?), and an entire chapter on cake. It’s the most intimate cookbook I’ve ever owned (with chapters split up by her life events) which is exactly what  makes it so unique and approachable. It reads so casually that it makes you feel like you are sitting right next to Molly at a slumber party and she is revealing all of her silliest secrets to you.

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Sweet Potato And Peanut Soup

This Sweet Potato, Lime, & Peanut Soup was adapted from Anna Jones’ newest cookbook, A Modern Way to Cook. This subtly sweet soup is sure to warm you on a cool fall evening and pairs beautifully with a fresh baguette.

sweet potato lime and peanut soup

It’s fall! Which also means it’s cookbook season! Woot woot! I’m also starting to feel like I got my photography groove back. I love shooting dark and moody photos and am so glad to be done with the bright and airy summer vibes (for now, at least). Now if only the temperature would dip below 80 degrees during the day, here in the Midwest, so it would start feeling like fall…

I’m sharing with you another cookbook recipe today from Anna Jones’ new cookbook, A Modern Way To Cook. As you probably remember, I shared a recipe from her first book a few springs back and raved about how it was one of my favorite books of the year. A Modern Way to Cook is along the same lines as her first book with a ton of simple and nourishing vegetarian recipes. Some of the recipes are a little vague but, as a seasoned cook, I appreciate the casual vibe of them and take it as an open invitation to create my own versions of her recipes. I’ve already book marked a ton of quick dinners (you can see the book marks peeping out in the photo at the bottom of this post) which I’m excited to have on busy work nights.

This soup is mash-up of her Sweet Potato Peanut Stew and her Coconut Corn Chowder. I really wanted that smokey coconut topping in my life so I figured it couldn’t hurt to put it on a fall soup. And guess what? It didn’t disappoint. Subtly sweet and smokey, this soup is just what I needed to welcome in the cooling fall evenings.

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Triple Coconut “Tres Leches” Cake With Mango & Lime

A Tres Leche cake is traditionally soaked in a mixture of condensed milk, evaporated milk, and heavy cream giving it a texture somewhere between cake and custard. This Triple Coconut “Tres Leches” Cake With Mango & Lime gluten-free version from Alanna Taylor-Tobin’s cookbook, Alternative Baker, uses coconut milk to create a creamy cake worthy of any occasion.

Triple Coconut "Tres Leches" Cake With Mango & Lime

Today I’m sharing a recipe from Alanna’s new gluten-free cookbook, Alternative Baker. This book is extra special to me because I’ve been a huge fans of Alanna’s blog, The Bojon Gourmet, since before I can remember. Photos are what always draws me in and her magazine-worthy photography always has me swooning. I had the pleasure of hanging out with Alanna in Minneapolis in July and previewing a copy of her book at that time which made it all more exciting. The cookbook, to put it simply, is irresistible. The photos, of course, are stunning but the recipes also sparked an inspiration inside of me that I haven’t felt in a long time. An inspiration to want to bake everything, to learn new techniques, and to master working with flours and ingredients I’ve never tried.

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Chocolate Sheet Cake With Berry Frosting

This Chocolate Sheet Cake With Berry Frosting is a simple and elegant sheet cake that is perfect for feeding a crowd at your next gathering or party.

Chocolate Sheet Cake

Hiiii! I’m back after a little summer break and it feels so good to be back. I know, I should have mentioned that I was going to go a little quiet for a few weeks but I figured that it was the end of summer and you all are super busy doing your own things as well so I wouldn’t even be missed. And I was *mostly* right – my stats tell me that you have still been checking in and that I even have some new comers (hi!) which I’m stoked about.

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Garden Tonic Punch

This Garden Tonic Punch is worthy of any summer cocktail party. It’s made up of the herb and vegetable bounty found in my own backyard. A cold-pressed tomato simple syrup combined with an easy herb syrup creates a refreshing summer gin cocktail ideal for big batches.


Guess what!? Today I am celebrating these two things with this Garden Tonic Punch: 1. #drinkthesummer which is a fun little virtual cocktail party where all my favorite bloggers get together and mix up something fierce (see the full list of cocktails below) and 2. Vegetarian ‘Ventures FIVE year anniversary! Can you believe this space is FIVE years old (okay, it *technically* happened last week but who is keeping track)? Like imagine this space was a kid – she’d be HUGE by now… wanting to play dress up to look like mom and picking out her own ice cream flavors. But really, back to this space being a blog, this little space has grown up to host thousands of pictures, 534 posts, thousands of comments, millions of views (!!!), writing in the form of dreams and desires,  fears and worries, and a whole heck of a lot of recipes. Pretty cool, right?

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Bakery Style Berry Vegan Muffins [Throwback Thursday]

This Bakery Style Berry Vegan Muffins Recipe is loaded with strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries. These crumbly muffins are perfect for breakfast or as an afternoon sweet.

BerryMuffins-4-of-6 copy

Hi! It’s Thursday and I’m here for a second post of the week, what is up with that? Well, in my reader survey last month, I asked people if they wanted to see more than my traditional one post per a week and I was relieved to see most people say ‘No. One is enough’. With that being said, I did have someone mention that they would love to be reminded of old recipes sometimes because my archives are so large and can be a bit daunting to sift through. I loved this idea; I get so sucked into working on new recipes that I honestly usually forget to go back and make old ones that I really enjoyed. So, long story short, I’ve decided to create a ‘Throwback Thursday’ series where I re-make an old recipe with updated (read: better) photos and a fresh take on the recipe. I doubt this will be a weekly series as I struggle with just keeping up with one post but I do hope to do the feature at least a few times a month.

And now, the first recipe in this series: Bakery Style Berry Vegan Muffins. I felt so natural to go back to a vegan baking recipe since it’s really what got me into the kitchen in the first place. I received an Isa Moskowitz vegan cookbook as a gift when in college and I was immediately hooked. I ended up swapping out the canola oil for melted coconut oil and also reduced the sugar to 1/2 cup (since my berries were pretty sweet) but kept true to the recipe other than that. The dough is very dry which ends up resulting in an almost biscuit-like muffin top (which is, of course, freaking amazing).

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Tomato Basil Tarts with White Bean Puree

These Tomato Basil Tarts with White Bean Puree are a quick meat-free summer meal packed with protein-rich white beans and flavorful heirloom tomatoes and basil.

Tomato Basil Tarts with White Bean Puree

To be completely honest with you, I meant for this recipe to be a lot more complicated than it ended up being. Ever since the dead of winter, I’ve had this idea to brûlée tomato slices (similar to how you see brûléed grapefruit). I thought for sure they’d look gorgeous all shiny and darkened in spots. However, it ends up tomatoes don’t brûlée as well as you’d think. I put tablespoons of sugar on top of sugar over the tomatoes (until they were almost inedible which, obviously, totally defeats the purpose). I tried both a kitchen torch and the broiler but found no luck; the end result was just a mess of the sugar dissolving into the tomatoes to create even more watery tarts than when I started. In the end, I’m sure it was meant to be since the tomatoes right now are just too darn delicious to be masking under a pound of sugar or a broiler.

Instead I created a quick and simple tart that is stuffed with protein-packed white bean and basil puree and then topped with heirloom tomato slices and pepper. The pre-made puff pastry allows this tart to be whipped up in less than an hour and gives you a flaky and buttery crust that would be hard to replicate on a time crunch. Use the freshest tomato and basil you can find since they are the star of this dish. Simple summer munching at it’s finest!

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Spicy White Bean & Sweet Corn Gazpacho

This raw and flavorful Spicy White Bean & Sweet Corn Gazpacho is perfect for hot summer days when it’s too warm to turn the stove on. The protein-packed white beans make it filling enough for a meal or it can be served in shooters for an easy appetizer. 

Spicy White Bean & Sweet Corn Gazpacho

I came back from my trip last week to my garden absolutely exploding. My Ma comes down each spring and we go plant shopping together at a local nursery. We usually split everything since most of the plants come in fours but we must have somehow got the plants mixed up when sorting because I ended up with a TON of little sweet yellow tomato plants and no Roma plants.They are so sweet and flavorful that I didn’t want to ruin their glorious flavor by throwing them into a cooked dish but needed to use them up asap before the fruit flies made homes out of them.

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Twin Cities Boss Babe Fest Food Blogger Retreat

StPaulTripSM (52 of 69)

As you probably saw on Instagram, I spent the last week up in Minnesota on a food blogger retreat with nine friends. BUT before I get into all the exciting details about that, I’d like to take a second and ask a huge favor. Is there any chance you could please please please fill out this really short reader survey? I sometimes come to this little space I call VV feeling super scatter brained and wishing I knew more about what YOU guys wanted to see. I really want you to feel like a part of this veg community and I want to hear more about you. You can fill out the quick 9 question survey here. Thanks so much in advance for taking the time to give me your feedback!

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Corn Mint Fritters with Lavender Peaches

These Corn Mint Fritters are a sweet twist on traditional corn fritters. It’s a bright dessert bursting with summer produce.

Corn Mint Fritters with Lavender Peaches

So my official book deadline to get everything in (photos, bio, etc) was July 1st. I waited until the very last week to schedule my author photo because I wanted to have long beach hair with a sun-kissed tan in it (or that is what I told myself when I kept putting it off). I got the photos back last week and immediately joined a gym. Sigh. My workaholic attitude may be good for my bank account but it’s sure taking a toll on my figure. As usual, I didn’t want to join the gym alone so I talked Wyatt into signing up as well. At first, I thought he was going to resist (after all, he is a stick) and whine about having to wake up early to go and I would have to point out the ‘it’s for our health’ card but he signed up without any sign of protest.

At 26, I still feel like we are playing adult. You know – that ‘adult’ you always imagined you’d grow up to be: confident, educated, stable, rich, and so put together. Wyatt giggled when they handed us our scannable passes to put on our keychains at the gym. He joked on the way home that we are ‘that couple that gets up early and heads to the gym. We are so adult these days’. I almost believed him in that moment. But then I remembered we spend all of our tiny paychecks on Indian takeout and rent and I was reminded that we are still trying to figure it all out.

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Amaretto Cherry Shortbread Cookie Slices

These Amaretto Cherry Shortbread Cookie Slices are easy shortbread slice cookies studded with fresh cherries and scented with amaretto liquor.

Cherry Shortbread Cookie Slices

First off, I apologize for my absence last week. I had planned to post a recipe on Thursday but it felt so inappropriate with all the shootings last week here in America. I won’t dive deep into it all but I hope you are all staying safe and being kind to others. <3

Moving on to lighter topics, let me just start by saying that I 100% realize the vibe of this post is not very summery at all. It’s honestly been so rainy the past few weeks that I decided it was time to just embrace the moodiness. Instead of denying that the summer showers won’t go away, I hope this post inspires you to embrace them. Let the dark hang over your house, open the windows to let the rain patter on your windowsill, throw on your apron, and begin baking with all bountiful summer fruit popping up at the markets.

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Elderflower Lemonade (Vegan Option)

This tart and floral Elderflower Lemonade is a refreshing homemade drink that can be made alcoholic by adding a splash of gin or St. Germain.

elderflower lemonade

This past weekend, Wyatt and I took a quick trip up to Chicago. It has been too long since we went there without a work assignment and to just wander around. The main highlight was hitting up the Green City Market which made me feel like a little kid in a candy store; it had the best homemade bread I’ve ever tasted, rows of beautiful flower bouquets, edible flowers galore (yes!), and any berry or green you could ever want (plus some you didn’t even realize existed). It really put our tiny town’s market to shame and I’m already wondering if it’s too ridiculous to move to a city just for their farmer’s market? I think not?

It’s no surprise that I have a thing for elderflower (I use the cordial constantly in cocktail recipes like St. Germain Spritzer and Garden Tonic) so when I stumbled upon the chance to purchase fresh elderflowers, I couldn’t pass them up. The white flowers are tiny but abundant and grow in large bunches. Most recipes I found for using it where to make a cordial; it sounds delicious but I didn’t want to seek out citric acid. So, instead, I went an easier route and created a simple syrup out of it that would still preserve it’s flavor but could be used for both non-alcoholic and alcoholic drinks.

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Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles

These healthy Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles for #popsicleweek are sure to cool you down for a refreshing snack or even an on the go breakfast!

Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles


Did you plant lavender in your garden this year? I’ve got all the standards – tomatoes, jalapenos, basil, thyme, tarragon, chives, rosemary, mint, and…lavender. It’s been so hot, humid, and rainy these past few weeks that everything is growing like crazy and I’ve found a good use for most of it but the lavender. First off, I’m not a patient person and you have to go through the whole drying process before you can use it which totally annoyed me. After I finally let the flowers dry out for a week, I left it on my counter for another week pretending like an idea for it would come to mind. Honestly the wait process almost made me lose interest until I was reminded that #popsicleweek was coming up. The thought of lavender popsicles was so lovely and plus, these little Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles were invented!

These Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles are relatively healthy with a plain yogurt base and a honey simple syrup for sweetener. Roasting the blueberries concentrates their flavor for an extra punch that don’t leave the pops watery at all. If you aren’t growing lavender in your garden then you can usually find dried flowers in the bulk section of most grocery stores. However, if you are having trouble finding it then you can definitely make these without adding lavender into the simple syrup for a less floral flavor.

Roasted Blueberry Lavender Popsicles below:

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Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta

This Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta is the perfect appetizer or starter to feed a crowd. The tart cherries and salty feta works perfectly on top of the savory polenta rounds.

Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta

Good ol’ Father’s Day. I’ve been fortunate enough to always have a wonderful father in my life. We’ve haven’t always agreed on everything and it’s taken him a long time to come around to my creative lifestyle but we’ve found a good grove for ourselves over the years. I’m proud to say I received my wanderlust from him taking us all around the country to National Parks when I was a child and my goofy way of teasing people endlessly with sarcastic lies and jokes.

My mom and dad divorced before I was one but the one thing I’ve come to realize they shared in common (and probably what also ruined their relationship) is their struggle to show intimacy. We were never a touchy feely family growing up and I was taught, through watching them, that the best way to express emotion in any form is to hide it (the good old modest passive-aggressive Midwest mentality).  I still remember the first time I cried over a boy in front of my father. I was sulking on the couch and he came from work and started asking how my day was. When I refused to engage in the conversation, he frustratingly barked “what is wrong with you?” and I burst into tears. He got up and right when I thought he was going to come over and give me a big hug, he walked past the couch I was sitting on and left the room. When he returned a few minutes later, he sat down close to me and goes ‘Want a piece of gum? Will that make you feel better?’ and I remember smiling through tears at how far off from the solution that question was. It was an absurd response to the situation but I know now that was his way of dealing with a crying teenager.

Through the years since I moved out at 18, I’ve noticed him softening more and more. Perhaps it’s because I’m not around as much or maybe I’ve learned to navigate his passive way of saying “I’m proud of you” but the “I love you”s come more frequently and the time spent together cherished more. I wasn’t able to get you on the phone today, Father, but I know that is just because you are out exploring the woods just like we did when I was a kid and knowing you are doing that makes me just as happy as having a quick phone chat with you. <3


And now let’s quickly talk about this Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta. I went to the store the other day with full intentions of picking up some strawberries for a strawberry-bruchetta situation but found these gorgeous cherries gleaming at me instead. I added a touch of honey to them as my cherries were extra tart but you can skip that part if you have sweeter cherries on hand. Enjoy these Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta as an afternoon snack or as a starter at your next gathering.

Cherry Mint Polenta Bruschetta recipe below:

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Vegetarian Baked Ziti With Chorizo-Spiced Chickpeas

This Vegetarian Baked Ziti With Chorizo-Spiced Chickpeas recipe is packed with vegetables, protein-rich beans, gooey cheese, and deliciously carb-y pasta.

Vegetarian Baked Ziti

Wyatt, who is not at all opinionated and very rarely comments on anything VV related, turned to me last week and goes ‘You should have a posting schedule for your blog so your readers know when to expect a new post’. I normally would have been glad for the suggestion but I was just so surprised to hear him taking an interest in my ‘readers’ that I was a little bit taken aback. In my mind, I already had a schedule of posting every Monday and Thursday. I defensively told him this and the moment the words came out of my mouth, I regretted them. They immediately held weight that I would have to keep up with this schedule now that I had acknowledged out loud that it was real. Fast forward to last night, I sat down at 10 PM (2 hours before my Monday “deadline”) and stared at the blank screen. What is it about structure and deadlines that so easily destroys creativity?

As I sat there wondering why no words were coming to fruition, I thought back to when I was a kid and had decided to embark on writing my first ‘novel’. I was somewhere in the range of late elementary school / early middle school (I was old enough to have my own computer in my room thanks to my computer engineer step-father building it for me but was too young to be spending Friday / Saturday nights out with friends). I would shut myself in my room late at night, turn my IM (instant messenger) on to chat with my best friend, and work on my novel. I’d get into the flow of writing and bouncing ideas around on IM until 1 or 2 in the morning. I’d be shocked to find the time had slipped away so fast but pleased that I’d written another 5 or so pages. That novel was about two human-like wolves that were abducted by friendly aliens and I was so proud of that 30 page manuscript which took months to compile.

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Spicy Watermelon Soda [Vegan]

This homemade sweet and spicy watermelon soda is the perfect fizzy non-alcohol drink recipe to quench your thirst on a hot day.

Spicy Watermelon Soda

When anyone asked me where my favorite restaurant was when I was a kid, I always said The Root Beer Stand (our local drive-up diner). There was something about that drive-up experience that made me go crazy with excitement, like a dog waiting for his first walk of the day. Maybe it was the gallon (yes, gallon. Not liters – gallon!) of homemade root beer they brought out along with frosted mugs or the little trays that hooked onto your car window perfectly or that fact that we were allowed to eat in Mom’s car (for once) that made the unique experience so excitingly unforgettable.

This novelty didn’t just get me when I was a kid either. Our local root beer stand closed down when I was in middle school but there was one in the town over that was a hot spot due to it being right by the beach on Lake Michigan. My two older cousins lived with us on and off when I was growing up and there were a few times where I’d convince my cousin, LM (her real name is Linda-Marie but we call her LM for short), to call into my high school pretending to be my mom and say I was sick. Back then I was dating this really fun troublemaker of a boyfriend who ditched often (without even bothering to have someone call him in) so he was totally down to hang out with us on those day hangs. We’d go to the town over and to the beach to avoid bumping into anyone we knew. We’d spend hours walking around the lake, bowling, and wondering antique malls. I remember demanding that we had to go to the root beer stand for a root beer float after hanging out at the beach and them teasing me for being so obsessed with the novelty of it.

I can go all winter without touching soda but as soon as the weather starts to warm up, I begin to crave root beer because of those root beer floats. Despite the New York Times putting out an article this week about the negative effects of sugar (and soda in particular), my body still craves it. I decided to compromise and make my own homemade soda mostly made out of natural sugars (juice from the watermelon) to please my craving without totally throwing in the towel to sugar. This spicy watermelon soda is subtly sweet with a punch of spice for an insanely delicious and thirst-quenching refreshment.

Note: I don’t like my drinks very sweet and I’m a total wuss when it comes to spice (lame, I know) so I kept the simple syrup level rather low. Feel free to start with that amount and add more to taste.

Spicy Watermelon Soda:

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Cocoa Ricotta Muffins With Chocolate Streusel

These Cocoa Ricotta Muffins With Chocolate Streusel are dense and fudgy. This recipe is easy to whip up and perfect for an on the go breakfast, served with afternoon tea, or enjoyed as dessert.

Fudgy Cocoa Ricotta Muffins

I’ve been in full summer reading mode with my permanent evening perch on our porch with a cup of peppermint tea. I have a long list of titles I’ve written down from podcasts, blog posts, and reviews that I’ve slowly been working my way through. Without even meaning to, I’ve had a few self-help books in there that have kept my interest enough to finish them but made me raise my eyebrows more than a few times. After weeks of being told that the key to productivity is planning out your day by the hour, that self-restraint will lose you weight, and that loving your self is the end goal, I really really just wanted a freaking piece of chocolate cake. Or maybe the whole cake. It was all so wholesome and even a little bit far fetched at times for me – these guides to life were all too perfect that I needed to wash it down with a big fat piece of instant-gratification cake. I’m sure this subconsciously means my life is messy and spiraling out of control because I can’t commit to being perfect or whatever but oh well… I’ve never been good with people telling me what to do anyway so why would I think a self-help book would change that?

Hence, this cocoa ricotta muffin comes into play. I wanted cake but the new self-loving me (uh huh…) decided that muffins were a healthier choice because…well they are a breakfast item, yeah? No regrets with these muffins as they were better than a lot of moist pieces of cake I’ve ate before. They were dense and fudgy with the flavor profile of a rich brownie but texture of a moist cake. The streussel on top gives each bite an extra crunch. Try to avoid substituting low-fat ricotta or milk here as it will change the final muffins.

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Garden Harvest Vegetable Bread Loaf

This Garden Harvest Vegetable Bread is the perfect recipe for sandwiches, thick toast, or to eat fresh by the slice while still warm out of the oven. This yeasted bread is packed with carrots, zucchini, olives, smoky paprika, and oregano to create a loaded savory homemade bread.

Garden Harvest Vegetable Bread Loaf

I have this “thing” (lets call it that as some people would label it as a problem and others as a habit) where I insist on throwing in twice as many vegetables as a recipe calls for. I’ll ask Wyatt what he wants for dinner or I’ll send him along links to three recipes and tell him to pick one. He’ll excitedly pick the most indulgent option (pizza! pad thai. pizza! buttery pot pies. pizza!) and I’ll dash of to the store to pick up the ingredients. On the way, without even meaning to, I’ll start brainstorming ways to make the recipe “better” (which, in my head, means brainstorming how I can stuff more vegetables into it) and come home with ingredients that slightly resemble what I was supposed to grab. An hour later, I’ll serve him what I whipped up and he’ll reluctantly start questioning what is on his plate: “Was their supposed to be zucchini in this?” “I thought there was Alfredo sauce in the recipe…” “Did you mean to only give me vegetables?”. I’ll take a bite and exclaim that it’s delicious and he’ll mutter “Yeah but I think the original recipe that had nacho cheese would have been better”. I’ll then promise to follow the recipe next time and give him the small victory of picking the Netflix show we watch while we eat.

This weekly scene is the exact reason I love this vegetable bread recipe. I stuffed so many vegetables into this bread and it still came out pillowly, moist, and tasting slightly like pizza (I’ll thank the dried oregano for that). The briny olives give the perfect contrast to the savory oregano and smoky paprika. I sliced this bread and ate it warm with plain yogurt and more olives but it would also make delicious sandwiches or the perfect toast for topping with a poached egg and herbed butter.

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Smoky Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice

This Smoky Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice recipe is loaded with up melt-in-your-mouth vegetables that are tender and packed with flavor.

vegetarian red beans and rice

If in the US, I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day. Sure feels like it switched from rainy spring to hot hot hot sunny summer vibes overnight for us Midwesterners. Most of the flowers in my neighborhood are shriveling fast and I picked as many as I could this weekend to enjoy their colors before the summer heat drops them and leaves all the bushes just lush green.

At the beginning of May, I made it a goal to post more entree and meal type recipes around VV as I was starting to notice my go-tos are breakfast and sweets recipes. Since then I’ve posted about Chorizo-Spiced Chickpea Fajitas, Vegetarian Spring Curry Ramen, and Green Tomato Stacks. And today I’m here with one of our all time favorite Sunday night meals: Red Beans and Rice! I started making this beyond easy recipe two winters ago when I saw Guy Ferrari (you know, the guy with the great hair) make it on a Food Network special. He managed to take a relatively simple item (beans) and pack them with an extraordinarily amount of flavor – we were hooked from the first bite. Since making it that first time, I’ve adjusted this recipe dozens of times until I found the perfect balance of savory, spice, and texture.

The secret ingredient in this vegetarian red beans and rice recipe is chipotle peppers in adobe sauce; they are smoky, spicy, and my go-to when wanting to add an extra depth of flavor to any soup or stew. You only use one or two in recipe so lay the remaining out, leaving space between each pepper, on a parchment lined baking sheet and stick in the freezer until frozen. Then wrap the peppers in that parchment paper, transfer to a sealable freezer bag, and stick into the freezer. Freezing the leftover peppers guarantees you’ll always have them on hand when needed and it cuts down on waste since you never actually need that entire jar in one sitting.

The other thing that makes this vegetarian red beans and rice recipe so flavorful is that the beans cook in the spices for several hours. I know, that sounds like a long time to make dinner but I promise it’s all hands-off time. You could be simmering the beans in the background while you go off and read a book, do some laundry, take a nap with your pup, or chill out with some Guy Ferrari television. It’s my favorite recipe to make on a Sunday afternoon when I know I’ll be around the house lounging for a few hours.

Last but not least, keep in mind that salt slows down the cooking process for beans and could even make them tough so resist the urge to add it until after they’ve cooked.

Smoky Vegetarian Red Beans and Rice recipe below:

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Green Tomato Parmesan Stacks with Red Pesto

Green Tomato Parmesan Stacks with Red Pesto is a seasonal twist on Eggplant Parmesan that replaces the breaded eggplant with firm green tomatoes and wedges it between layers of mozzarella, Parmesan crisps, and red pesto sauce for a delicious meat-free main.


I’m not a patient person. We planted our garden three weeks ago and all I do every morning when I take Tuko outside is anxiously see if anything is ready yet. No, not yet? Well darn. I get that same anxious feeling at the farmer’s market as I avoid the grocery store for days before going because I think I’ll find a bounty of fresh produce. I then head to the market only to find out that most things aren’t ready yet – there are plants available and a few baby strawberries but not a bounty full enough to keep me sustained for the next week.

It’s just too early for those juicy, flavorful tomatoes to be making an appearance but I’ve noticed green tomatoes starting to pop up. What the heck are you supposed to do with them if you don’t want to deep fry them though? Well, I recently discovered (through more trial and error than I’d like to admit) that they make a wonderful substitute for eggplant in “Eggplant Parmesan” (or, er, “Green Tomato Parmesan”). They aren’t juicy like ripe tomatoes and their firm text holds up beautifully when dipped in an egg batter and smothered in breadcrumbs. I tried cooking these both on the stove top and also in the oven; both methods were successful but I found the oven to be much less messy and easier to handle; because of the ease of baking, I’ve included that method in the recipe below but you can also just add a little olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat and cook these little slices that way.

Also, since it seemed a little repetitive to put tomato sauce on tomatoes, I switched up the sauce for a red pesto made out of jarred roasted red peppers and almonds. I then made some insanely simple Parmesan crisp to wedge between it all and viola! A ridiculously simple dish that is a total show stopper! Don’t let the final product intimidate you, there are three very simple parts that can be made in under an hour for a filling and delicious meat-less meal.

*Side note: Reminder that not all Parmesans are vegetarian! Please look for a version made with vegetarian rennet – my favorite is Organic Valley’s Grated Parmesan.

Green Tomato Parmesan Stacks with Red Pesto recipe below:

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Rosé All Day Spritzer

Rosé All Day Spritzer is a tropical spritz cocktail perfect for a humid summer evening on the porch or for sipping by the pool.

Rosé Spritzer recipe

My love for bubbly alcohol runs much deeper than I probably need to admit. Honestly, I wish someone had introduced me to spritzers a long time ago. Back in college, I was obsessed with the $4 bottles of champagne you could buy at the local liquor store. I’d pick one up before heading out to a basement show or house party and everyone could count on me always being there with a big warm grin on my face, much too short skirt on, and a bottle of Andre in hand. I’d wear it like a handy purse that, no matter how intoxicated I’d get, I’d never lose the bottle or forget it in another room. They were college parties so no cups were required and I’d drink straight from the bottle all night long – offering a swig to anyone who I struck a conversation with like I was offering up a sip of the finest wine on the market. I’d sip on it like for hours straight, like many of my friends would do with a 40, until it was warm and the carbonation was gone.

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