I recently had the pleasure of collaborating with Jessica Murnane of One Part Plant on her For Reals Meals series. Jessica is super passionate about her plant based lifestyle, so much so, that it kind of rubbed off on me. Now don’t get me wrong, I love butter and bacon just as much as the next girl, but through this project I did develop an appreciation for “clean eating”.
For Reals Meals is a monthly lunch series that Jessica asks different people to host with the challenge of cooking completely plant based. We met over juice this past summer and she told me all about the project. I was in the middle of getting married so I asked her if we could reconnect after my wedding. When we met up a second time (at Protein bar, of course), I basically told her that I loved her concept but was not interested in hosting a lunch. Why?? Well, the thought of cooking without meat, fish, dairy, eggs, white flour, and processed sugar for a fun lunch just didn’t seem that…fun. Bless her heart, Jessica was so sweet and said, “no problem, it’s not for everyone.” We chatted for a little while longer and by the time we were ready to leave I totally wanted to host the lunch. I was suddenly up for the challenge and wanted to prove to Jessica (and myself) that I could embrace this style of cooking.
Next came the fun part: inviting guests. Jessica asked me to invite 4-5 people that don’t all know each other. That’s the best part about For Reals Meals, bringing people together that haven’t met before. I knew that I wanted to invite other female business owners who inspire me. My group consisted of:
Marianne Sundquist, owner of Mess Hall & Co. Marianne has been one of my besties for about 8 years since our days cooking together at Avenues. Her company is known for their artisanal mustards and cocktail cherries. And I’m so excited that her cherries are available at Crate & Barrel for the holidays…go buy some!
Alexis Cozini, owner of Citizen Stone. I met Alexis when she owned Sarca, a premier women’s clothing boutique. I catered a few of her in-store events. She’s young, ambitious, awesome, and has killer style. We hit it off right away. As a side note, because of this lunch, Alexis is currently eating completely plant based!
Marie Whitney, owner of 2 Penny Blue. Marie’s company makes the most beautiful and stylish blazers, and OMG if ever there was a gift to put on your wish list, this is it. I met Marie at an event and had to know more about her. I reached out about borrowing a blazer for a photo shoot, and as luck would have it, she needed a caterer for her Pearl Jam pre-party she was throwing this summer. It was meant to be.
Amelia Canham Eaton, blogger babe behind The CHICago Life Blog and part of the Purely Fashion team. Amelia is that girl who somehow juggles it all – law school, a popular blog, an awesome job, and oh yeah, planning a wedding. And on top of it all, she’s one of the nicest people ever.
So now that the guest list was set, it was time for the food! My chef Jen and I went to work on creating a fall feast that was hearty and satisfying.
Since Jessica and I initially met over juice to discuss the project, I wanted to start off with one of my favorite infused juices – cantaloupe-lavender. Gold spray painted mini pumpkins add that extra bit of sparkle to my juice tray.
Lunch started with a beautiful beet salad with arugula, dates, orange segments, and sherry-honey vinaigrette; along with french green lentils with roasted root vegetables, fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon juice.
Next I served butternut squash soup in mini pumpkins with toasted pumpkin seeds and ras el hanout oil
For the entree, we made white wine pasta (made with just white wine and chickpea flour) served with baby carrots; and roasted brussel sprouts and cauliflower served in mini cast iron skillets, of course.
Dessert was definitely a challenge but a total success. We made an apple crumble parfait with honey roasted apples, oat crumble and a coconut “sorbet”
And here’s a few photos of the table setup at my kitchen
I’m so happy that I came to my senses and said yes to hosting this lunch. It was a beautiful afternoon spent with good friends and good food. Cheers and Happy Thanksgiving!
*photos by Boutique Bites and One Part Plant