Vegan Food for a Fun 4th!

July 4th Plant-Based Picnic Menu

July 4th is the time to share a fun and festive outdoor picnic with the kids, family, or friends. When preparing your picnic, focus on foods that travel well, taste great and provide a pretty presentation when serving.  

This portable menu begins with a fresh asparagus salad that gives a welcome pop of green to this delightful ‘end-of-summer’ meal.  To lighten your picnic basket load, try serving a hearty main-dish salad in edible and colorful bowls. 

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On the side, appealing mini-muffins add substance and good taste. For dessert, serve fancy and festive homemade lollipops, adding a bit of whimsy to this breezy meal. (No one needs to know that these portable pops are really easy to prepare!) Whether you are picnicking with vegans, vegetarian or omnivores – they will love this vibrant and scrumptious warm weather menu!

First up - Asparagus makes a refreshing summer salad, adding color and crunch to any picnic menu. It makes a nice light lunch perched on top of a bed of lettuce, or presents an enticing first course to an elegant party meal. Then, appealing pepper “boats” are filling enough to serve as a main dish for any festive summer meal. Perfectly portable, they make a wonderful picnic entree. On the side, cinnamon muffins pair well with the meal and at snack time, too! A bonus: they are so easy to prepare! For dessert? Fun, fun, fun! That’s how I describe these lovely little lollipops! The dates help to hold the pops together while standing in for much of the processed sugar. They’re perfect for any party, whether you are entertaining kids or adults!

Happy JULY 4th!

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Marinated Asparagus Salad

Makes 4 Servings

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tablespoon reduced-sodium tamari

1 clove garlic, minced

1 bunch asparagus, cleaned and trimmed

1 teaspoon lemon zest (optional for garnish)

1. To make the dressing, put the lemon juice, tamari, and garlic in a small bowl and briskly

whisk until smooth.

2. Steam the asparagus until crisp-tender. Put the hot asparagus in a large bowl and add the dressing.

3. Toss gently to coat the asparagus with the dressing. Cover and refrigerate for 3 to 24 hours.

4. Serve chilled, garnished with optional lemon zest and arranged on a pretty platter or over a bed of baby greens.

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Chickpea and Quinoa Salad in Sweet Pepper Boats

Makes 8 servings

1 cup quinoa, rinsed thoroughly and drained

2 cups filtered or spring water

1 can (15 ounces) chickpeas (garbanzo beans), drained and rinsed

½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped

1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes, halved

¾ cup kalamata olives, pitted and sliced

1 teaspoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more as needed

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon chili powder, plus more as needed

¼ teaspoon sea salt, plus more as needed

¼  teaspoon turmeric

4 large sweet red, yellow, or orange peppers

Chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley, for garnish (optional)

1. Put the quinoa and water in a medium sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. Decrease the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for 15 to 17 minutes, until all of the liquid is absorbed. Fluff with a fork.

2. Transfer to a medium bowl. Let cool (see note). Put the cooled quinoa, chickpeas, parsley, tomatoes, and olives in a large bowl.

3. Put the lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, chili powder, salt, and turmeric in a small bowl and whisk briskly until smooth. Pour the dressing over the quinoa mixture and stir gently to incorporate.

4. Taste and add more chili powder, salt, and/or olive oil if needed. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours to let the flavors blend.

5. Right before serving, split the peppers in half lengthwise and seed them. Scoop the quinoa mixture into the pepper halves. Garnish with parsley, if using.

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Cinnamon-Maple Mini-Muffins

Makes 12 mini-muffins

1 cup whole-wheat flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon sea salt

½ cup raisins

⅓ cup plus 1 teaspoon nondairy milk

⅓ cup maple syrup

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.  Oil a twelve cup mini-muffin tin. 

2. Put the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt in a large bowl, and stir with a dry whisk to combine. Stir in the raisins.

3. Stir in the nondairy milk, maple syrup, and olive oil, and mix just until incorporated. The batter will be quite thick. Don’t overmix or the muffins will be tough.

4. Divide the mixture among the prepared muffin cups. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden and a toothpick inserted in the center of a muffin comes out clean. 

5. Put the muffin tin on a wire rack. Let cool for about 15 minutes. Carefully remove the muffins. Serve warm or at room temperature. 

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Chocolate Date-Nut Lollipops

Makes 8 to 10 lollipops 

LOLLIPOPS

½ cup vegan dark chocolate chips (grain-sweetened variety works well)

6 Medjool dates, pitted

¼ cup whole pecans

⅛ teaspoon vanilla extract

TOPPING

2 tablespoons pecans, walnuts, or hazelnuts, ground (optional)

2 tablespoons dark, nondairy cocoa powder (optional)

1. Put the vegan chocolate chips in a double boiler over medium-low heat. When the chocolate has melted, remove from the heat.

2. Meanwhile, put dates, pecans, and vanilla extract in a high performance blending appliance and process to the consistency of soft dough.

3. Transfer the date mixture to a medium bowl, pour in the melted chocolate, and stir until well-combined.

4. Put the date mixture in the freezer for 7 to 15 minutes or until the chocolate has set enough to roll into small balls. 

5. Line a small baking sheet with unbleached parchment paper. Spoon out a heaping tablespoon of the chocolate mixture, and quickly roll it into a ball. Roll it in one of the optional toppings until completely coated. Continue in this way, forming all of the remaining chocolate mixture into balls and coating them in one of the optional coatings.

6. Insert the end of a lollipop stick into each chocolate ball and place all lollipops upright in 2 separate mugs or shallow glasses, making sure they do not touch each other.

7. Chill for 1 to 2 hours before serving.

8. For a festive presentation, wrap each lollipop in cellophane and tie with a pretty ribbon. Stored in an airtight container, leftover lollipops will keep for up to 3 days.