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Practically Raw art party!

November 8, 2012

Last Friday night, Matt and I hosted a Practically Raw party at our apartment! Well, not really – it was actually an art showing event for a friend, Rachelle Gardner (give her a “like”!) – but I catered the soirée, and all the hors d’oeuvres I served are recipes from my cookbook Practically Raw.

Here’s a look at the buffet of goodies I prepared. All page numbers in parentheses are, naturally, the pages in Practically Raw on which you can find the recipe(s) mentioned.

Gluten-free whole-grain rice chips (the only storebought snack on the table) with Zucchini Hummus (pg 110):

Vegetable crudités with Pizza Dip (which is just the coating from my Pizza Kale Chips, pg 102!):

Marinated mushrooms stuffed with Garlicky Guacamole (pg 88):

Mini Sopes con Mole Poblano (i.e. Mexican corn cakes with a spicy chile sauce, pg 150—one of my favorite recipes in the whole book!):

Sweet ‘n spicy Curry-Glazed Cashews (pg 181):

Bite-sized award-winning Caramel-Fudge Brownies (pg 204):

And lastly, Chocolate-Covered Cookie Dough Truffles (pg 203):

This last recipe involves making a raw chocolate chip cookie dough (I did use storebought mini chips here for convenience)…

…then rolling it into balls and dipping them in melted chocolate! These babies would be the star of any soirée.

Even though I sort of pulled the menu together at the last minute (just two days prior to the event), and even though none of the guests were told that all the food would be raw, vegan, and gluten-free, everything was a HIT! I received compliments from almost everyone who attended; I think I was permanently blushing all night. I also learned a lot about small-event catering (<25 people) in the process, and who knows, that could come in handy again someday.

If you’ve got any holiday parties coming up, these are all excellent suggestions for crowd-pleasing dishes you could serve or bring. And since all the recipes in Practically Raw provide dehydrating AND oven-baking directions, you can make all these snacks in any kitchen.


Wedding: Invitations/RSVPs

November 6, 2012

A high school friend of mine, Amy Brennan McDaniel, was kind enough to custom-design Matt’s and my wedding invitations. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, our wedding colors were black and white and our “theme” was…bats!

Amy did a fabulous job! If you love her work and want to commission her for a project of your own, send me an email and I’ll get you in touch with her.

We also did something rather unusual: we enclosed a Frequently Asked Questions sheet with our invitations. Since we were having such a nontraditional wedding, we thought it’d be helpful (and in keeping with the generally irreverent spirit of our nuptials) to satisfy guests’ curiosities about the event in advance (and answer some basic logistical questions we were sure to get asked again and again).

(Click to enlarge)

For more wedding posts, visit my Wedding tab!

Dinner with friends, “Eat to Live”-style

November 2, 2012

In September, my good friend Rachel asked for my recommendation on a good “diet”/healthy lifestyle plan she could follow. I told her I’m a big fan of Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live diet-style, a whole-foods plant-based diet comprising massive amounts of vegetables plus fruit, beans, nuts, and seeds. I don’t claim to follow it 100% myself – I do eat [minimally processed] sweeteners, [healthful] oils, and [good-quality sea] salt, all of which are forbidden on his plan – but any time I need a kick in the pants, diet-wise, I follow EtL for awhile to get back on track. Rachel read the book and was floored by what she learned (Dr. Fuhrman is a master of backing up his recommendations with science), and she’s been “eating to live” ever since.

A couple weeks ago, I got together with Rachel, her boyfriend Tyler, and our friend Brian for an Eat to Live dinner night. Basically, Rachel and I did all the cooking, and the boys enjoyed the fruits of our labor. 😉

We began with a platter of my Curry-Roasted Cauliflower. This lasted all of about 3.7 seconds.

We prepared a batch of my Perfect Marinara Sauce. MAN, I love this stuff. I could (and do) eat it with a spoon.

We spiralized some zucchini for the pasta (I had fun showing my friends how to work the spiralizer; see first photo) and also baked up some meatless meatballs. We used the recipe in Eat to Live, but I posted a good vegan meatball recipe a couple years ago here. (Side note: Brian’s sinister over-the-shoulder stare in the photo below cracks me up!)

Dinnertime! It’s not a very pretty picture (these photos are all from my phone, if you hadn’t noticed), but it was seriously delicious.

For dessert, we whipped up a big pan of Dr. Fuhrman’s black bean brownies. I’ve made other black bean brownie recipes in the past that I wasn’t thrilled with, but this one was pretty good.

I also made us a raw chocolate mousse to use as frosting. (That recipe will be appearing in my second cookbook!) All in all, it was a very successful dinner, and I think the boys were quite impressed (whether they admitted it or not!) that such healthy cooking could taste so good.

Speaking of food and parties, I’m hosting a Practically Raw party tonight! Well, not really – it’s actually an art showing event for a friend, Rachelle Gardner (give her a “like”!) – but I’m catering the soirée, and all the hors d’oeuvres I’m serving are recipes from Practically Raw. On the menu are:

  • Vegetable crudités with Zucchini Hummus (pg 110) and Pizza Dip (which is just the coating from my Pizza Kale Chips, pg 102!)
  • Marinated mushrooms stuffed with Garlicky Guacamole (pg 88)
  • Mini Sopes con Mole Poblano (i.e. Mexican corn cakes with a spicy mole sauce, pg 150)
  • Curry-Glazed Cashews (pg 181)
  • Award-winning Caramel-Fudge Brownies (pg 204)
  • Chocolate-Covered Cookie Dough Truffles (pg 203)

Sounds good, huh?! Here’s hoping the night goes smoothly and everyone loves the food. 🙂

Have a great weekend, everyone!

Phantom’s Feaste 2012: Feaste of Frankenstein

October 31, 2012

Happy Halloween, everyone! It’s my favorite holiday, so I’m a happy camper today.

Every year that we’ve been together, Matt and I have attended Phantom’s Feaste at the Kansas City Renaissance Festival. It’s a pre-Halloween, “R-rated” interactive dinner theatre production with a different theme every year. This year, they echoed the theme they did in 2009: Feaste of Frankenstein! Per their website:

Join us for the thrilling and blood-curdling Feaste of Frankenstein! Only 150 guests each night will be invited to pass through the Castle gates, past the Fountain of Blood, and along the torchlit path to the Laboratory of Castle Frankenstein. The Good Doctor wants to share his latest scientific achievements along with a six-course meal prepared by the castle chef. Enjoy the food, the drink, and the bloody spectacle that has been prepared for those brave enough to attend. The Creature isn’t completely finished, but with your help, he will be ready very soon. You’ll be screaming “It’s alive!” before the evening is out! The horror of Victor Frankenstein’s monster is just beginning…

As I said last year, one thing I LOVE about Halloween-time is that it gives me an excuse to don certain clothes and accessories that I only rarely get to wear anymore.

Anyone who knows us (or has seen some of our wedding photos!) knows that Matt and I are still goth kids at heart. 😉

The event begins at dusk.

After darkness falls and we’re led through the haunted fairgrounds, we arrive at the theatre tent and are greeted with water, wine, and hot apple cider…

…as well as warm dinner rolls.

The [always delightfully gory] play continues as we chow down on our multiple courses.

Just like last year, we’d called ahead and asked for a vegan/plant-based dinner, and Chef Frank outdid himself once again. Instead of a boring deli-meat-and-cheese appetizer platter, we got this plate of awesomeness, which included (clockwise from top) crackers, blanched green beans, mixed marinated olives, celery sticks, capers and dried cranberries, baby carrots, red grapes, and a bowl of black bean-corn-roasted red pepper hummus. SO GOOD!

Next, we received a broth-based tomato-basil soup, whereas everyone else’s was cream-based.

Frankenstein’s monster came alive right about then!

The soup was followed by a small palate cleanser of cranberry-lime juice.

A toast!

Everyone else had roast beef and mashed potatoes for their main course, but Matt and I got greens beans with truffle sauce (!)…

…and spaghetti with marinara sauce and steamed vegetables.

The non-vegan dessert was chocolate fudge cake with white chocolate drizzle. I did have several bites of this, and it was fantastic.

But Chef Frank also prepared us another dessert: sliced strawberries (including some chocolate-coated pieces) with slivered almonds. Yum!

It was another devilishly delightful and frightfully fun Phantom’s Feaste. I already can’t wait until next year’s!

Are you doing anything fun for Halloween tonight?

Wedding: Venue & Ceremony

October 30, 2012

Matt and I had our ceremony and reception at Club 1000, a historic building in the Quality Hill neighborhood of downtown Kansas City. The 6th-floor penthouse event space features breathtaking views of KC with a panoramic horizon of the downtown skyline, plus huge picture windows, soaring 18-foot ceilings, and a fantastic skylight over the dance floor.

I awaited the ceremony in a private room in the back.

I carried a bouquet of…purple kale!

Matt and I both walked down the aisle “unassisted.”

First him, then me.

Matt’s friend Mat officiated for us. He’s not a minister or anything; we just went outside the ordinary and got legally married at the courthouse a couple weeks prior. That way, our ceremony could be purely- well, ceremonial!

Since so many people have asked, I’ve decided to share the near-full text of our ceremony (minus our vows, which we’ll keep private with our family and friends) with you all. Our ceremony, like our entire wedding, was very non-traditional, personalized, unique, and extraordinarily meaningful. We wrote a ceremony that we thought fit our personalities and our love perfectly. It was full of emotional moments, and there were very few dry eyes in the house. Enjoy.

Amber & Matt’s Wedding Ceremony, 9/8/2012

Opening words
Officiate: “Welcome family and friends. We are gathered here today to celebrate the union of Matt and Amber. Marriage is the promise of hope between two people who love each other, who trust that love, who honor one another as individuals in that togetherness, and who wish to share the future together. It enables two people to share their desires, longings, dreams, and memories, their joys and laughter, and to help each other through their uncertainties. It provides the encouragement to risk more and thus to gain more. In marriage, Matt and Amber will provide mutual support, stability, comfort, and love to share for the rest of their lives.

Linguist and cognitive psychologist Steven Pinker has this to say about love:
“The thought of a loved one can turn our wits upside down, ratchet up our heart rate, impel us to slay dragons and write corny songs. We may become morose, obsessive, even violent. Lovesickness has been blamed on the moon, on the devil, but whatever is behind it, it doesn’t look like the behavior of a rational animal trying to survive and reproduce. But…nothing so primal could have been created out of thin air as a mere custom or product. To the contrary, romantic love is a human universal.
Don’t accept a partner who wanted you for rational reasons to begin with; look for a partner who is committed to staying with you because you are you. Committed by what? Committed by an emotion. An emotion that the person did not decide to have, and so cannot decide not to have. An emotion like romantic love.”

Writer and philosopher Ayn Rand once said:
“Love is the expression of one’s values, the greatest reward you can earn for the moral qualities you have achieved in your character and person, the emotional price paid by one man for the joy he receives from the virtues of another.”

Author and most genius of wordsmiths Vladimir Nabokov wrote:
“When that slow-motion, silent explosion of love takes place in me, unfolding its melting fringes and overwhelming me with the sense of something much vaster, much more enduring and powerful than the accumulation of matter or energy in any imaginable cosmos, then my mind cannot but pinch itself to see if it is really awake. I have to make a rapid inventory of the universe, just as a man in a dream tries to condone the absurdity of his position by making sure he is dreaming. I have to have all space and all time participate in my emotion, in my mortal love, so that the edge of its mortality is taken off, thus helping me to fight the utter degradation, ridicule, and horror of having developed an infinity of sensation and thought within a finite existence.”

Poetry readings
Officiate: “Amber and Matt would like to share a pair of poems with you today. Amber will begin with e. e. cummings’s ‘Somewhere I have never traveled.’”
Amber: (turns toward audience and reads)

“somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
any experience,your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which i cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will unclose me
though i have closed myself as fingers,
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skilfully,mysteriously)her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, i and
my life will shut very beautifully ,suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility:whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(i do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens;only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody,not even the rain,has such small hands”

Officiate: “Matt will now read Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet number 17.”
Matt: (turns toward audience and reads)

“I do not love you as if you were salt-rose, or topaz,
or the arrow of carnations the fire shoots off.
I love you as certain dark things are to be loved,
in secret, between the shadow and the soul.

I love you as the plant that never blooms
but carries in itself the light of hidden flowers;
thanks to your love a certain solid fragrance,
risen from the earth, lives darkly in my body.

I love you without knowing how, or when, or from where.
I love you straightforwardly, without complexities or pride;
so I love you because I know no other way

than this: where I does not exist, nor you,
so close that your hand on my chest is my hand,
so close that your eyes close as I fall asleep.”

Unity ceremony: PB&J
(Officiate moves PB&J table in between Matt & Amber)
Officiate: “Matt and Amber will now give a brief demonstration to symbolize their union. On one hand” (officiate gestures towards Amber, who is spreading PB onto a slice of bread) “we have peanut butter: sometimes smooth and sometimes crunchy, always pleasantly nutty. On the other hand” (officiate gestures towards Matt, who is spreading jam on another slice of bread) “we have jelly: sweet, colorful, and rather fruity. Two very different tastes, textures, and personalities. The bread symbolizes shared interests, goals, and dreams; common values, beliefs, and lifestyle choices. When anchored by these shared values and combined into one unit, Amber and Matt complement and balance each other like peanut butter and jelly: that is to say, each component is wonderful on its own, but the whole is even greater than the sum of its parts.”
(Amber & Matt put the sandwich together and take a simultaneous bite of the sandwich. Officiate applauds to encourage audience to applaud.)

Officiate: “Matt, do you take this woman to be your wife? Will you love her, comfort her, honor and protect her, forsaking all others to be faithful to her for as long as you both shall live?”
Matt: “I do.”
Officiate: “Amber, do you take this man to be your husband? Will you love him, comfort him, honor and protect him, forsaking all others to be faithful to him for as long as you both shall live?”
Amber: “I do.”
Officiate: “Matt, please recite your vows to Amber.”
Matt: (reads his vows)
Officiate: “Amber, please recite your vows to Matt.”
Amber: (reads her vows)

Rings & Kiss
Officiate: “Matt and Amber will now complete the ceremony by exchanging rings.”
(Matt gets the rings out, hands his ring to Amber)
Matt: (slides ring on Amber’s finger) “You’re the queen and I’m the king…”
Amber: (slides ring on Matt’s finger) “…Nothing else means anything.”
Officiate: (Looking at Matt) “You may kiss the bride.”
(Amber & Matt kiss as exit song begins)
(Audience applauds)
(Amber & Matt exit)

(Remember, you can check out our wedding video for live-action glimpses of the ceremony.)

Prepping the peanut butter and jelly sandwich for our unity ceremony

Note the custom-framed his-and-hers bat art, handmade by my amazingly talented friend Emily! Bats were our theme, if you haven’t picked up on that. 😉

Finishing the sandwich


The kiss

The exit

Immediately after the ceremony, while the guests enjoyed cocktail hour, Club 1000 allowed me, Matt, and our photographer to have a private half-hour photo session on the roof of the building. It provided a beautiful backdrop for pictures and a comforting interlude between our ceremony and reception.

For more wedding posts, visit my Wedding tab!

Creamy Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal (single-serving)

October 26, 2012

I held off as long as I could, but I finally did it: I “broke the seal” on my pumpkin usage this fall. It had to happen eventually.

I made and enjoyed this creamy, satisfying oatmeal just this morning, and I’m already planning on having it again tomorrow. The recipe makes a single serving, but can easily be doubled.

Creamy Pumpkin-Pecan Oatmeal

dairy-free, egg-free, gluten-free, soy-free, single-serving

1/3 cup rolled oats (gluten-free, if desired)
2/3 cup nondairy milk (such as hemp, almond, or coconut)
1/4 cup canned pumpkin purée
2 tablespoons unsweetened applesauce
(optional; see Chef’s Notes)
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon (or more, as desired)
Pinch of sea salt
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sweetener of choice, to taste
(see Chef’s Notes)
1 tablespoon chopped pecans

In a small saucepan, combine the oats, milk, pumpkin, applesauce, cinnamon, and salt; stir well to combine.

Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium-low heat and cook for 5 to 7 minutes, until the oats have softened and the mixture is creamy.

Remove from the heat and stir in the vanilla and your sweetener of choice.

Transfer to a bowl, top with chopped pecans, and enjoy.

Yield: 1 serving
Per serving: 279 calories, 9.8g fat, 43.4g carbs, 8g fiber, 8.5g protein

Chef’s Notes
– Applesauce: I include applesauce in this recipe to add a little natural sweetness and to bulk up the serving size a bit. You can easily leave it out.
– Sweetener: You can use 1 tablespoon maple syrup, agave, or coconut nectar, or a packet of stevia.
– Milk: This can be made with water in place of the nondairy milk, but the final product won’t be as creamy.
– Nuts: Feel free to use any other nut besides pecans; walnuts would be lovely.

Here’s to delicious mornings!

Wedding: Dress

October 24, 2012

Before I even started shopping for a wedding gown, I knew that any old dress just wouldn’t do, and that it could be extremely difficult to find the right dress to fit my style. Early on, I decided it would be worth it to have one custom-made for me. Here in Kansas City, we’re lucky enough to have a local designer who works exclusively with eco-friendly fabrics; after one meeting, I hired Janay Andrews of Janay A Handmade to create my dress.

Made of eco-friendly hemp-silk fabric, my A-line fit-to-flare dress had a sweetheart neckline, scalloped black lace trim, a black waist sash, a ruched corseted bodice, tulle underskirt, V-back with corset lacing, black lace sleeves and panels on the skirt, French bustle, and a matching veil and garter. It was exactly what I wanted: a unique and elegantly gothy gown that fit my style and personality perfectly.

Janay also blogged about my dress here.

For more information on Janay’s creations, visit and/or the Janay A Handmade Facebook page.

Other Accessories & Details
Shoes: cheapies from DSW ($12!)
Bat necklace: FableAndFury, via Etsy
Black nail polish (fingers and toes): O.P.I.

For more wedding posts, visit my Wedding tab!