The Bachelorette Finale: Meatless Monday Potluck Dinner

Are you watching The Bachelorette Finale tonight? I am! A few friends are coming over for food, drinks and commentary.

Over the last season, I've hosted about 5 such viewing parties and they are always a success. I get a chance to clean my home, have friends over, and the conversation is always great.

Here are a few ideas for potluck dinners you can put together easily that allow grazing while watching the show. 

1. Don't stress
2. Don't do it all yourself: have friends bring a bottle of wine or dessert or a dip with chips
3. Keep it vegetarian for Meatless Monday
4. Use pretty plates and bowls for store bought snacks
5. Don't worry about everything matching

Dinner #1:
Stove top roasted carrots: quarter the carrots lengthwise and saute in olive oil seasoned with salt and pepper until they are golden brown. I kept mine aldente. Garnish with parsley.

Hummus: store bought or make your own.

Beet chips: save the calories from carbs by thinly slicing raw beets!


Baba ganoush.


Sauteed olives with orange zest, red pepper flakes and garlic. {Similar recipe}

Fresh figs and cherries.

Wine: I found a bottle of Moldovan White Cabernet which I really liked.

Dinner #2:
Big Ass Salad: mixed greens, fresh corn, cucumbers, tomatoes, hard boiled eggs, pickled peppers, pistachios.

Cheese and crackers.

Artichoke dip.

Celery, carrots, snow peas.


Chocolate mocha cake.


For tonight's gathering, I'm making deviled eggs, putting out store bought baba ganoush with kale chips, and assembling a dessert with store bought pound cake, fresh berries, and home made whipped cream. 

My friends are bringing over sangria, cold soup, and a few other appetizers. Make sure to check out my instagram for photos later tonight.


Watermelon, Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Salad: National Watermelon Day

One of my favorite summer foods is watermelon! Sweet, juicy, refreshing, and guilt free. Growing up in Russia, we only had watermelon with seeds, but over the last two decades in the US, I got spoiled and hate seeds in my watermelon ;)

What are your feelings about seedless watermelons? Yay or nay?

Today is a National Watermelon Day, so I thought I would share with you a quick salad I put together over the weekend. This is not my typical nicely arranged salad. Instead, I threw things on the plate and called it a day. It tasted great regardless of the appearance.

Watermelon, Fresh Mozzarella & Tomato Salad: National Watermelon Day

watermelon, cut into triangles
heirloom tomato, sliced
fresh mozzarella balls, torn into pieces
salt & pepper


1. Put watermelon and tomato slices on a plate. 
2. Top with torn mozzarella. 
3. Spoon over pesto and season with salt & freshly ground black pepper.

What do you like to pair with watermelon?


Meatless Monday: Eggplant & Kale "Meatballs" With Smoked Cheddar Adapted From Skinnytaste

Need a quick, healthy and delicious recipe!? Do you stick to a meatless diet? Do you want to use a few random vegetables in your refrigerator? Then you'll definitely want to make my Eggplant & Kale "Meatballs" With Smoked Cheddar Adapted From Skinnytaste

I saw Gina's Eggplant "Meatballs" recipe last week on Facebook and decided to make it over the weekend...and actually did!

I made multiple changes to make the recipe my own:
1) I added kale into the "meatballs" mixture
2) Instead of bread crumbs, I used panko crumbs
3) I used a few extra seasonings 
4) Using smoked cheddar and doubling its amount REALLY made this recipe shine
5) Doubling the sauce amount is a must!

Meatless Monday: Eggplant & Kale "Meatballs" With Smoked Cheddar Adapted From Skinnytaste

Makes ~ 22 "meatballs"

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large eggplant, diced into 1/2" pieces
1 bunch of kale, ribs removed and discarded, leaves chopped
salt & pepper to taste
red pepper flakes to taste
1/4 cup water
oil spray
1 egg, whisked
1 1/2 cups panko crumbs
2 tablespoons Italian seasoning
2 teaspoons garlic powder
1 tablespoon chopped parsley
0.2 pounds (4 ounces) smoked Cheddar, shredded
2 28 ounce cans of tomato sauce
4 garlic cloves, smashed
10 thyme sprigs
basil for topping
ricotta (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 375F.
2. Heat olive oil in a large skillet. Add eggplant, kale, salt & pepper, red pepper flakes and water, and cook on medium heat until the vegetables are tender.
3. Allow the mixture to cool slightly and then add to a food processor and pulse a few times. I left mine a little bit chunky. You don't want a paste.
4. In a large bowl, combine the egg with panko crumbs, Italian seasoning, garlic powder, parsley, smoked Cheddar, and eggplant/kale mixture.
5. Spray a baking pan with oil. Form "meatballs" using an ice cream scoop and then rolling them into uniform balls.
6. Bake the "meatballs" for 25 minutes.
7. Meanwhile, simmer tomato sauce with garlic and thyme sprigs in the same skillet you sauteed the vegetables. Make sure to cover the skillet with a lid to avoid tomato sauce splattered all over your stove.
8. Once the "meatballs" are done, remove the garlic and thyme from the tomato sauce, add your "meatballs," and simmer covered for about 10 minutes. 
9. Serve the "meatballs" with fresh ricotta and basil.

This was such an easy recipe to make. My condo smelled amazing, and I'll be having these "meatballs" for lunch with roasted butternut squash this week. Of course you can serve them over spaghetti or rice, and they'd be great in a sandwich topped with even more smoked Cheddar!


Weekend Dreams: Tomatoes


What To Do With Ginormous Summer Squash: Vegan Succotash!

If you are a gardener and have ginormous summer squash, I have a great dish for you: Vegan Succotash!!

Check out the 11 inch squash I received in my order of produce from Washington's Green Grocer. That thing could feed a family of 5 :)

I decided to cube the summer squash and turn it into a vegan succotash with a few other summer vegetables. Cured olives add a bit of interest and a great amount of saltiness. This can be breakfast, lunch or dinner, or a great base for frittata or an omelet.

What To Do With Ginormous Summer Squash: Vegan Succotash!

2 teaspoons olive oil
1 large summer squash, cubed (about 2-3 cups)
1/2 large onion, sliced
1 orange pepper, chopped
kernels from 1 corn on the cob
salt & pepper
red pepper flakes
10 black cured olives, pitted
fresh dill

1. Heat a cast iron skillet. Add olive oil and allow it to heat.
2. Add squash, onions, and pepper and saute until translucent.
3. Add corn, season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes and saute until all the vegetables are tender and golden brown.
4. Serve topped with olives and dill.


Meatless Monday: Avocado Toast Meets Elote

Love avocado toast? Want to step up your breakfast? I have you covered with my Avocado Toast Meets Elote idea. This works great for a Meatless Monday meal!

This past Saturday night I was sitting on the couch, watching Moana and contemplating what to make for breakfast on Sunday. 

I'm almost always thinking about food. 

I mentally tried to picture the contents of my refrigerator and a few of the items stood out: avocado, fresh corn, and queso fresco. That's when I thought it'd be fun to combine a few of my favorite things: avocado toast and elote

Avocado Toast Meets Elote
sourdough bread, sliced and toasted
avocado, mashed
corn kernels sauteed in olive oil seasoned lightly with salt
queso fresco, crumbled
cilantro, chopped
tomato, sliced & salted
iced coffee 
half & half

1. Top toasted slices of bread with mashed avocado, sauteed corn, sriracha, queso fresco and cilantro.
2. Serve with slices of tomatoes and iced coffee.

This was an awesome breakfast. Slightly messy. Satisfying. Pretty. 

What's your latest avocado toast creation?


Best TV Watching Food: Picnic Dinner

If you love watching TV and eating food as much as I do, I have a strong feeling you'll want to lick your computer screen or your phone screen when you'll see the photos below.

My friends Elizabeth and Sarah have been coming over to my condo on Mondays for The Bachelorette (no shame!) night, and other than catching up and watching the show together, the other highlight of our evenings is the food!!

Here are the photos from our last get together. Keep it simple: finger foods, something you can graze on, and a fun drink are the key ingredients to a fun picnic dinner.

Quick Sangria
Sliced Strawberries
Sliced Peaches
Leftovers? Make popsicles!

Cheese Plate
Triple Cream Brie

Mostly Vegetarian
Ranch dressing

Not pictured: cherries for dessert.

What is your favorite TV food?


Meatless Monday: What To Do With Pea Shoots? Vegan Green Salad.

Last week I received a bunch of gorgeous green pea shoots in my latest order from Washington's Green Grocer. They were almost too pretty to eat. Almost.

I decided to create one of my big ass salads with everything green! You can of course add other vegetables, but I think it's fun to make a monochromatic meal from time to time. This salad is healthy, perfect for Meatless Monday, vegan and most importantly light and summery and tastes great.

The above photo is taken in front of my condo door (inside) which I've recently painted Laser Lemon. I'm in ♥ with how it turned out.

Vegan Green Salad

Boston lettuce
cucumbers, sliced thinly
avocado, sliced
pea shoots
olive oil

Arrange the first five ingredients on a large platter, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt.

For a non-vegan twist, drizzle the salad with Ranch dressing! :)

I've also used these pea shoots on top of a turkey, cheese, and avocado sandwich, and on top of an egg salad sandwich. Check out my instagram


What To Do With Leftover Sangria: Boozy Popsicles

Do you have a pitcher of leftover sangria? I know it's a relatively crazy question, but you all know I'm a lightweight when it comes to drinking.

Unlike white wine that can last a while in the refrigerator, sangria will probably go bad after a day because it has fresh fruit in it. So.....blend it and freeze it in popsicle molds!

My latest sangria was made with rose, strawberries and peaches.


That's a bit of red, white and blue for your 4th of July!


Strawberry & Almond Bread: Fruit By Nancie McDermott

Did you pick up fresh strawberries and want to turn them into a sweet treat for breakfast or an afternoon snack? Then you will definitely want to make Nancie McDermott's Fresh Strawberry Bread.

I received a copy of Nancie's latest cookbook called Fruit for a review and although it doesn't have any photos, it's full of easy to follow and inventive recipes featuring blackberries, cantaloupe, damson plums, figs, mayhaws, grapes, pawpaws, peaches, persimmons (featured on the cover), quince, strawberries and watermelon that are typically grown in the South. Personally, I think an addition of tomatoes would have been clever ;)

Each fruit chapter begins with an overview of the fruit, a few gardening tips and cooking suggestions. The recipes that follow don't have an overwhelming number of ingredients and can be made in a few simple steps.

I chose the strawberry bread, which let's be honest is more like a cake, because I don't like bananas, and that's the type of fruit that's most often featured in such breads.

I made two minor changes to the recipe: toasted sliced almonds instead of pecans or walnuts and oil instead of butter to butter my baking pans.

Strawberry & Almond Bread
Slightly Adapted from Fruit By Nancie McDermott
Copied with a permission from the publisher

2 cups whole strawberries
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 cups plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 cup sliced almonds, toasted
1 1/4 cups vegetable oil
4 large eggs, beaten well

1. Preheat the oven to 350F.
2. Oil two 9x5-inch loaf pans.
3. Coarsely chop strawberries, place them in a small bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of sugar.
4. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, remaining sugar, cinnamon, salt and baking soda.
5. Incorporate nuts and strawberries into the flour mixture.
6. In a separate bowl combine oil with the eggs and incorporate them into the flour/strawberries/nut mixture until you can't see the flour bits.
{NOTE: at this point the batter looked more like cookie dough, which made me very nervous, but magically the bread puffed up in the oven and turned out delicious!}
7. Divide the batter between two loaf pans and bake for 45-60 minutes or until the top is browned and a toothpick inserted in the center of the loaves comes out clean.
8. Cool the loaves inside the pan on a cooling wrack before turning them over.

This bread had such a lovely aroma! I really liked the combination of strawberries and almonds with a slight hint of cinnamon. Use this recipe as a template and experiment with other fruit such as peaches and blueberries or figs! Let your imagination run wild.

This would be a great dessert to slice and freeze, but I decided to bring it to work and share with a few coworkers, to their great delight.

Disclaimer: I was sent this book for review purposes free of charge, but not compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.