Gourmet Girls are Back!

Holy Smokes! My last post to this blog was in March of 2014! I often run into old friends who ask, "Do you still get together with your cooking group?" To which I answer "Yes! Thankfully, yes!" My lack of posting has not been due to our lack of gathering or our lack of eating. Life just happens and things get busy. However, I'm particularly excited to report in on our latest gourmet gathering, which took place at my house last Thursday, July 23, 2015. I hosted a "Vegan, Whole Foods, No Refined Sugar, No White Flour" gourmet night! Plus we celebrated Miss Jodi's birthday! And guess what? We had a delicious meal with tons of flavor! All of the Gourmet Girls were troopers and stuck to the rules like champs! We even had some bonus friends and they enjoyed the evening as well. We have done some pretty major changing in the way we've been cooking and eating around our house and I thought it would be fun to share it with my foodie friends.

It all started when Gourmet Girl Jodi introduced me to Charity Lighten, a plant-based nutritionist and whole foods blogger (avibrantlife.me). I organized an evening for the women at church to come hear Charity speak, and I was fascinated by what I learned. I shared some of the information with my husband and then we started watching documentaries: Food Inc., Fed Up, Forks Over Knives, Vegucated, and so on. We've spent hours watching these, along with doing other reading. The research has been done and the facts are pretty clear - eating a plant-based, whole foods diet reduces the risks of multiple diseases and is just plain healthy. So, we thought we would give it a try. It's been about a month since either of us have eaten meat (no beef, pork, chicken or fish) and we have dramatically reduced our dairy consumption (almond or coconut milk to drink, no butter, eggs or cheese). We are also avoiding anything processed, including sugar and white flour. We always feel full, have lots of energy (despite being up in the night with a newborn) and we've both lost about 8 pounds each (which wasn't even the primary goal). Plus, with my love of cooking, it's been super fun trying out new recipes!

So, here is a little recap of last Thursday evening . . . 
 The whole crew!
Top to bottom, left to right:
Kim, LS, Jodi, Lara, Mel, Bridget, Andrea and Teresa

Appetizer by LS
She totally made this up. I believe it was sweet potato on the bottom, with avocado, tomatoes . . . and some other ingredients that made it totally delicious

This salad looks beautiful and tastes delicious!

LS snapped a shot of my Stir-Fry prep!

This was our main dish: Veggie Stir Fry
Lots of fresh veggies with cashews and a delicious sauce.

Jodi brought these yummy "Sweet Molases Rolls" from Sprouts.
(Ingredients: wheat flour, whole grain wheat flour, water, brown sugar, wheat bran, malt, cracked wheat, caramel color, oats, barley, corn, millet, flaxseed, vinegar, cultured wheat flour, sea salt, yeast, natural enzymes). Sounds pretty healthy to me!

I had to sneak in a little mid-meal shot with my sweet Olivia Grace!

The link above takes you to her inspiration, however she used 2 cans of coconut milk, 3 very frozen bananas and about 1/4 cup coconut sugar. First, mix all together in Vitamix or Blendtec and then pour into your ice-cream maker and mix for about 20 minutes (with a very frozen bowl). Then let it set up in the freezer for a bit. Delicious! We thought mini-chocolate chips would be better. The darker the chocolate, the less sugar.

Birthday Girl Jodi with Andrea's 2nd dessert, Strawberry Creme Truffles 

Lara, Mel, Jodi and LS

And that's a wrap! Stay tuned! I just might post again sometime soon!

Two Posts in One Night!

Here is a recap of our March 2014 Gourmet Night. We met at Miss Raquel's on Tuesday, March 25 for another delicious meal. Bridget brought a Smoked Salmon Spread (Barefoot Contessa). Raquel's main was Chicken Marsalla. Lara brought a side of broccoli (also Barefoot Contessa) which unfortunately I didn't snap a picture of. LS had major success with her bread! And the highlight of the evening was the Key Lime Pie (Paula Dean) by Jodi! We had a fantastic evening but once again, we missed Andrea and Lynley.

 Raquel's lovely table

Check out Raquel's awesome new cabinets! 

Cabinets Angle 2

Raquel, Lara and Jodi

Bridget and LS

Salmon Spread
I served this with some baguettes

LS's Successful and Delicious Bread

Raquel's Chicken Marsala

Jodi says she made a few alterations. She added 2 tablespoons of sugar to the crust and used 1/2 cup of butter instead of just 5 tablespoons. And she doubled the pie filling. This way it filled the shell perfectly.

Getting Caught Up . . .

We're back! Here are pics and info from our February 2014 gourmet night. We met on Tuesday, February 25 at Laura's for a double gourmet night and birthday celebration for Laura and our good friend Kim. Our evening had a little Asian flair due to Laura's recent trip to Thailand. We had lots of friends, lots of food and lots of fun! I don't have recipes handy for everything, but here are pictures so let me know if you're interested in actually making something you see. We loved having Kim, Teresa & Jill join us. We missed you, Andrea and Lynley!

 "The Group" sans Teresa
"The Group" sans Bridget

 Laura's Lovely Table

The Drink Table

Potstickers by Raquel via Costco
(Some days are just like that!)

Asian Salad by Jodi
Bread by Teresa

Main Dish by Laura

Side by Lara

"Three Ingredient Dessert" by Kim

Dessert #2 by Bridget
White Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake
from Our Best Bites

Throwback to July 2013

Here's another gourmet throwback - this time to July 16, 2013. Five of us met for yet another delicious meal at Miss Raquel's. I don't have all of the recipes handy for these yummy dishes, but I do have pictures! So let your mouth water. If something looks really good, email me and I'll track the recipe down.

Raquel never disappoints with her cool table settings
Bridget, LS and Lara

Raquel and Jodi

Appetizer #1 by Jodi

 Appetizer #2 by Jodi


by Lara

Strawberry Spinach Salad and Homemade Poppy Seed Dressing
By Bridget (from Six Sisters Stuff )

2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire
Dash of fresh ground pepper
1 Tablespoon minced red onion
10 ounces fresh spinach, rinsed, dried and torn into bite-size pieces
1 quart strawberries, cleaned, hulled and sliced
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Bacon bits (I cooked fresh bacon and chopped it up)
Red onion slices for the top (optional - I didn't do)
Feta cheese or bleu cheese to sprinkle on top (optional - I used Feta) 

In a blender, process sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sugar, olive oil, vinegar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, pepper and minced onion. Blend until the onion is pureed. Pour the dressing into a bowl, cover, and chill for at least an hour.

In a large bowl, combine spinach, strawberries, walnuts, bacon bits, red onion slices, and cheese. Toss lightly. Pour dressing over salad right before you are ready to eat so that the spinach does not wilt.

Salmon by Raquel

Green Beans by LS

We missed you Andrea and Lynley!

Gourmet Throwback

Okay, now that I'm back in business with blogging, I thought I'd update by posting some of our gourmet nights from last year. All seven of us met at Lara's on Tuesday, June 4, 2013 for a fantastic meal. I brought Peach-Watermelon Salsa (recipe from Savoring the Seasons with Our Best Bites.) Raquel did this crazy fancy stack-able salad with apples. I'm trying to track down the recipe, but check out the pictures; that is some serious work of art! Lylney brought some delicious crusty breads. (So sorry we didn't get you in any of the pics, Lyn!) Lara's main was Shakshuka from The Shiksa in the Kitchen. LS did a yummy side of Broiled Vegetables With Toasted Israeli Couscous. Jodi made a yummy dessert and Andrea brought all of us fancy olive oils from a recent trip to Arizona.

Lara's lovely table

LS, Raquel and Jodi

Raquel, Lara, Bridget and Jodi

Andrea and Bridget

Peach-Watermelon Salsa 

4 peaches, peeled and diced
1 cup diced watermelon
1 small jalapeno pepper, seeded and minced
4 Toma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 orange bell pepper, seeded and diced
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1 medium lime, zested and juiced

Combine peaches, watermelon, jalapeno, tomatoes, bell pepper, red onion, and cilantro.  Add sugar, salt, pepper, and the zest and juice of the lime. Toss to combine and chill a minimum of 1 hour. Toss again before serving.

Raquel's fancy salad


No-Fry Fried Ice Cream Cake with Raspberry Sauce Topping

1 cup butter
1 cup brown sugar
3 cups crispy rice cereal
1 cup sweetened, flaked coconut
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
1/2 gallon vanilla ice cream (recipe recommends the square boxes so you can just open up and slice)
Raspberry sauce (see recipe below)

In a saucepan over medium heat, melt butter. Ad brown sugar and mix until dissolved. In a large bowl, combine cereal, coconut, and nuts. Pour melted butter and brown sugar over cereal mixture and stir until coated. Press half of cereal mix in the bottom of a 9x13 pan. Cut ice cream in 1-inch slices and spread evenly over mixture in pan. Spread remaining cereal mixture evenly over ice cream. Place in freezer for at least one hour. Cut into squares and serve with raspberry sauce. If you don't like raspberries, you can also top this cake with hot fudge, caramel, strawberries, or any other topping you like!

Raspberry Sauce
2 Tablespoons cornstarch
3/4 cup water
1 pint fresh or frozen raspberries
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup orange juice

In a small bowl, whisk water and cornstarch until blended. In a medium saucepan, combine raspberries, sugar, and orange juice. Slowly add cornstarch mixture. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 3-5 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened.

Andrea brought us all a special treat 
from her recent trip to Arizona; fancy olive oils!

The cutest guest of the night! (Henri.) Sorry, Loic.