03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated Nov 17, 2011

First Impressions

I always have a party the Saturday after Thanksgiving and this year I had 22 plant based virgins!! What to feed them?! Should I tell them? So many decisions but I knew two things for sure. My mission was to introduce delicious healthy food without any vegan/vegetarian labels. And to make sure it didn't look like mud. So I enlisted the help of my dear friend Michael Guerrieri. Michael grew up on Long Island and had his first restaurant there and now has 2 restaurants in Lisbon Portugal, Mezzaluna and La Brushcetta. Needless to say he is an amazing chef. When he was at home this summer he came over and I introduced him to some plant based ingredients and we cooked up a feast. I told him that the most important thing we needed to do aside from delicious food was for people to realize that a plant-based diet isn't just nuts and berries -- it's a whole lot more and a lot of it is food that they eat already.

So we decided on our menu. Fritters made with quinoa, couscous,whole wheat pasta and roasted eggplant with a tomato dill sauce. Then to follow a seitan stew with mushrooms and tomatos in a red wine sauce. Vegetables would be broccoli rabe and fresh carrots from the garden that were the most beautiful color we served them whole and they were almost to beautiful to eat!! For dessert, vanilla cake with chocolate frosting, apple pie, ice cream and chocolate chip cookies. We cooked for 2 days and were pooped! It is so easy to make delicious food and plant based substitutes are so easy to work with.

Everyone wanted to know what was for dinner and I said it's a surprise!! Yikes I had no idea what to say. As we were eating the fritters everyone asked for more so I took advantage of the moment and explained what we were eating a plant based dinner, and it went over very well. Now on to the seitan -- a bit trickier!! Well the fritters had set the stage so beautifully that everyone was so open to new culinary delights, they devoured it. The desserts were gone in minutes and everyone was asking when they could come back for more and what restaurants to go to to experience more healthy fare.

If change is presented in an easy way the chances of success might be better. My friend Elizebeth says that to whisper change is a lot better than beating someone over the head with it! Food is food. It's part of our lives, how we nurture ourselves, how we survive. I also think once people realize how many plants they eat already to integrate more of a plant based diet might not seem daunting but then again for some it might be huge. One of my dearest friends in life, Katie, is a serious carnivore and she is now going to have a meatless day once a week. She enjoyed dinner so much she came back the next day for mung beans and rice.

Another way to help with the change is read the news!! Yet again there is a report out (, Dec 2) about how two-thirds of the whole broilers sold in stores contain Salmonella and or Campylobacter, which causes foodborne disease. That along with all the beef recalls might make a meatless day once a week a bit easier!

Mother Nature always takes care of her own, maybe that's just what shes doing. But then again, we all need a little help sometimes!