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In the Vegetarian & Vegan News...
   Paige Newman | Vegan Wedding

A Vegan Wedding Everyone Will Remember
by Paige Newman

I see why our state was named Colorado - colorful in Spanish. The yellows, reds and orange autumn trees seduce many tourists and residents, and weddings are popular at this time of year. While we wish we had married here in Durango, the season brings back memories of our delightful Pacific Northwest wedding two years ago, especially the tasty meatless Italian food.

The bride with her mom Marti, who inspired Paige to be a lifelong vegetarian

I chose to be a vegetarian at four years old because I couldn't stand the idea of animals being killed, and I have been vegan for eight years. I couldn't imagine loved ones chomping on steak at this long-awaited event I hoped would represent my individuality and our unique lifestyle. Stubborn as usual, I hadn't considered having anything other than a vegan wedding. Some family members were not thrilled with the idea, as the majority of the guests were not even vegetarian.

Finding a person capable of carrying out my vision of a vegan wedding was easy. After I called some Seattle catering companies and requested someone familiar with vegan cooking, I was referred to Catering by Phyllis.



Caterer Phyllis serves up some ravioli for Pete, Paige's dad
When the time came to plan a menu, Phyllis asked us to create a dream list full of our favorite foods, flavors and spices. The list turned out to be strongly Italian-food inspired: tomatoes, roasted red peppers, polenta, eggplant, nutty raviolis, crusty bread, garlic, rosemary, and basil.

With some brainstorming and experimentation, a menu was devised and Phyllis' cooking at the pre-wedding tasting blew us away.

We didn't tell many people the wedding dinner was vegan, since people not versed in veganism tend to judge the food as flavorless or weird before tasting it. The food was not only delectable but the elegant presentation on buffet tables with heaping portions and bold flower arrangements made the whole affair seem more sensual and hedonistic -- anything but bland.

Offering a variety of flavors pleases more palates and breaks veggie food stereotypes. Guests helped themselves to sumptuous plates of Caesar salad with sage croutons, saffron ravioli filled with walnut and tofu, and a seasonal crudite platter with roasted bell peppers, eggplant, and Portobello mushrooms.

Guests were surprised to learn vegan food is both delicious and nutritious. People said they felt like they had been treated to something healthy, rather than leaving with the heavy-in-the-gut feeling common at meat-filled receptions.

Paige and friends enjoy the Italian dinner

We wanted the dessert, like the meal, to be wholesome as well as tasteful. Colorful fresh fruit platters adorned each table, and a chocolate vegan cake, decorated with flowers, was baked by an acquaintance of Phyllis.

Paige the bride and Dan the groom trying out the vegan wedding cake

The cake was moister and more flavorful than most vegan cakes I had tried. Rather than being one of those "natural" desserts full of soy margarine, white flour and white sugar, the cake had nourishing ingredients like beets and carrots, much to my delight. I assume people liked the cake, as there was barely enough remaining for us to follow the freeze-the-leftovers tradition!

While wedding planning in general is known to be stressful and trying, making the event vegan didn't present additional challenges. My main suggestion for anyone wanting a vegan wedding is to thoroughly use resources in your community: health food stores, restaurant chefs, caterers, and bakeries. The Internet is also educational - try the vegetarian wedding guide, with many links, including a list of vegan bakers, at www.about.com - do a search for "vegetarian weddings" or "vegan weddings."

If you choose filling, flavorful and diverse foods and use a caterer who is familiar with vegan cooking, people may not notice the meal is free of animal products. And if you are vegan, you will be able to eat everything on your plate - imagine that -- and have a great time to boot.

Paige Newman writes for various veggie publications
and likes to search for other vegans in her Wild West
town of Durango - so far she has met three.

Saffron Ravioli with Walnut and Tofu Filling
Recipe by Catering by Phyllis

Serves 4

Ingredients for ravioli filling:

6 T extra virgin olive oil
3 cloves minced garlic
1/2 cup finely diced Vidalia sweet onions
4-6 threads Spanish saffron
1/2 cup toasted walnuts (or almonds, brazil nuts, pine nuts or other nuts/ nut butters)
8 oz. firm mashed organic tofu
1-2 T fresh lemon juice
1 t miso (light miso best)
1/4 cup finely chopped Medjool dates
2-4 T toasted ground sunflower seeds
1 package wonton wrappers (see below to make your own pasta)
1 t gray sea salt
Fresh basil and lemon zest (optional)

Sauté olive oil, garlic, and onions together until onion and garlic are translucent. Add saffron and gently cook for 3-5 minutes.

Grind toasted nuts in Cuisinart or blender - add mashed tofu into mixer. (If substituting nut butter, mix it with tofu.) Add lemon juice (enough to maintain firm texture), miso, dates, and sunflower seeds in a bowl. Add sautéed onion mixture. Mix thoroughly.

For ravioli pasta wraps: use 1 package wonton wrappers (makes about 40 ravioli). Nonna's Italian Kitchen by Bryanna Clark Grogan has vegan ravioli recipes for creating pasta from scratch. Arrange wrappers on a clean flat surface covered with wax paper. Put 1 teaspoon of filling in middle of wrapper, being careful not to get any filling near edges as it makes sealing process impossible.

Wet edges of wrapper with pastry brush dipped in tepid water. Take another wrapper and lay on top of wrapper and filling. Important step: press firmly around edges on both sides with fork to make sure completely sealed.

Bring water to gentle rolling boil with dash of sea salt and 1 Tablespoon olive oil. Drop 6 raviolis in boiling water, one at a time, and boil 5 minutes or until raviolis float to top. Do not pack too many raviolis in the water!

Use a wire mesh ladle to strain ravioli when done. Toss in bowl with olive oil. Add favorite marinara sauce or a homemade sauce with Roma tomatoes. Garnish with a chiffonade of fresh basil and lemon zest.


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