Category Archives: Bread

♥ Giving Thanks For Leftovers

I hear a lot of supposedly good-natured ribbing that our Thanksgiving holiday is somehow lacking because we don’t cook a turkey. And I just do a mental eye roll and silently count to ten. Since when does the giving of thanks for the blessings in one’s life and gathering with family and friends only have meaning and significance when done over the mutilated carcass of a gentle and sentient being? Personally, I think the holiday has more value and significance when it is thoughtful and compassionate.

Peace on earth for ALL creatures.

Every year I swear that I won’t do it: that I won’t spend the entire Thanksgiving day (and the night before) in the kitchen cooking . And then, every year, I do it anyway. So much for resolutions. But, on the plus side, we always stretch the leftovers through the weekend. One marathon cooking day equals several days of feasting for us.

A good looking plate of leftovers.

Our Thanksgiving feast wasn’t lacking for anything. We enjoyed a Tofurky Roast baked with turnips, parsnips, fennel root and mushrooms. I made a simple baste for the Tofurky using the recipe on the box, but I added dried thyme and rosemary leaves, in addition to the sage, along with a tablespoon of pomegranate concentrate. Add a generous dollop of homemade cranberry sauce, Momma’s special holiday stuffing and savory red wine mushroom gravy over all. So good!

Sausage chestnut stuffing with mushroom gravy.

No self-respecting holiday meal would be complete without homemade rolls. I adapted this recipe for the bread machine for what is now our favorite dinner roll recipe (and it makes good doughnuts, too). I substitute plain soy milk and Earth Balance for the milk and butter and EnerG Egg Replacer for the egg. I also increase the amount of yeast called for in the recipe. Best of all, the bread machine does the work while the Tofurky and the side dishes are roasting in the oven.

These rolls are so light and fluffy; they practically melt in your mouth.

I like to try a new recipe every year, and this year I chose this recipe, from Urban Vegan. Fig-Pecan Stuffed Acorn Squash will surely make repeat appearances at future holiday dinners. The figs and pecans with the squash are such a delightful combination and perfect for Thanksgiving. I generally followed the recipe (as much as I ever do), but I increased the pecans to 3/4 cup and decreased the agave to 1/4 cup. I also stirred in a scant 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt into the filling before baking.

A side dish so good it should be served on a dessert plate.

As a kid (and still to this day), I detested the standard Thanksgiving side dish of candied yams with marshmallows baked on top. In fact, it is because of this childhood trauma that years elapsed before I willingly made a yam side dish for my own family at Thanksgiving. Now, it’s glazed yams (from fresh and not canned in heavy syrup) with candied nuts in place of the marshmallows, or it’s nothing.

Forget the marshmallows, walnut toffee is where it's at.

The Chinese five spice powder in the glaze makes this exotic side dish something special, and it has become a holiday staple for us. Of course, I don’t follow the recipe exactly. I substitute Earth Balance for the butter and I add a liberal sprinkling of salt and pepper to the glaze. I replace the corn syrup in the toffee with maple syrup and I increase the amount of walnuts to 1-1/2 cups. A word of warning, though: it’s a good idea to halve the recipe if you aren’t cooking for a crowd.

Past Thanksgivings, I made both a cranberry apple pie and a pumpkin pie (yeah, I spent a lot of time rolling pie crusts). Then I discovered this recipe for Pumpkin Cheesecake With Candied Cranberries and now I make just one dessert. The combination of pumpkin and cheesecake with the candied cranberry topping provides the best of our favorite desserts and it is a perfect end to a Thanksgiving dinner.

A perfectly fitting Thanksgiving dessert.

I make my cheesecake with a gingersnap crust and I have found that you can easily halve the amount of sugar and water for the candied cranberries (like the recipe says, though, the leftover syrup is wonderful on pancakes and waffles). I recommend placing the cranberry topping on each slice of cheesecake just before serving (I learned this the hard way this year). Otherwise, the cheesecake gets a little sloppy. Still yummy, but not so pretty.

So, what are your favorite holiday side dishes?

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I hope everyone had a wonderful and memorable Thanksgiving holiday. And that life’s blessings, big and small, are bountiful throughout the year.

And may we have the strength to survive the remaining weeks of the holiday madness. ♥

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♥ Memorial Day . . . In Snow Boots

Memorial Day weekend once marked the beginning of summer for us . . . then we moved to Lake Tahoe. We had ambitious plans for working in the yard over the long weekend, but Saturday morning greeted us in what has become the usual manner:

And it snowed off and on all weekend (and throughout the week afterward, too). Since yard work was out of the question with the frigid cold and frequent snow flurries, J busied himself building deck planter boxes, which I figure that I will be able to use by the 4th of July!

And he made houses and feeders for the yard critters, too.

He even made a cute A-Frame bird house, just like our A-frame people house!

The new squirrel feeders were well received by the smaller Douglas squirrels.

They moved right in and made themselves at home.

“Fatty”, the larger Western Gray Squirrel, had some trouble getting in the hole!

It’s easier to grab the bird feeder and graze mid-air. Apparently.

The birds are so confused!

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By Monday, the snow let up for a few hours. It still wasn’t picnic weather, but we had plenty of picnic food. I managed to get a few pictures of the food on the deck before we came to our senses and retreated to the warm indoors. No coat and boots necessary!

I almost made J’s favorite chick’n tenders feast, but I decided to go the easy route with Tofurky Beer Brats. When served with sauerkraut on homemade buns, these beer brats are better than any greasy lips-and-ass sausage any old day of the week! The potato salad is a loose adaptation of Better Homes & Gardens’ Classic Potato Salad, veganized of course. The mayonnaise is replaced by (less) Vegenaise and the hard-cooked eggs are replaced with nutritional yeast. The pasta salad is (another) loose adaptation, from The Natural Vegan Kitchen. The barbecue baked beans are an old standby, using homemade barbecue sauce. I like this recipe, but I never add the fake meat.

For dessert, I made a S’Mores Pie from Vegan Desserts. Sorry, I have no picture because J placed the pie under the broiler to “toast” the marshmallow topping and he toasted it a bit too long. It still tasted all s’morey and awesome, because of the charred marshmallows (how we like ’em), but it didn’t look so pretty!

I originally planned to make just one dessert, but then I spotted this amazing recipe last Friday: Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Cheesecake. Seriously, chocolate chip cookie dough AND cheesecake? Together?! How does one resist that combination?!

♥ It Really IS A Vegan Burger

It’s been a rough few days in Vegan Land. Unless you are living under a rock, you have already heard about the VegNews scandal. Ad nauseam.

So, VegNews lied. So, VegNews took the easiest and most cost-effective path available to them, despite the  fact that it was outright deceit. They used stock photos of burgers, ribs, stews, etc. to represent vegan meals in their vegan magazine. And, to add insult to injury, VegNews handled their PR nightmare very poorly. But, I’m over it. Really.

What I am not over, however, is the fallout in the vegan community. Call me naïve, but I have never witnessed so much hateful dialogue on vegan blogs and Facebook pages before. And this is among vegans! So, VegNews betrays our trust and our vegan ideals and, in response, we turn on each other?!

To make matters worse, the story was picked up by news syndicates such as CNN, The New York Times, and NPR. The comments on those websites are not  kind to vegans, or veganism, either. The air of smug self-satisfaction is palpable: of course the magazine used meat photos . . . because vegan food isn’t appealing or satisfying! To my thinking, that perception is the real tragedy of this unfortunate situation. And that perception could not be more wrong.

Of course, the general sentiment (as well as a lot of jokes at the collective vegan expense)  is that malnourished vegans are deprived and frustrated wanna-be-meat-eaters. That is, we are deprived and frustrated by our inability to duplicate the taste of meat for our sanctimonious and holier-than-though enjoyment. Heh?! Say what?!

I choose to respond thusly:

My (not professional) stock photo of a vegan "burger".

Okay, I will concede that one (ignorant) point. I haven’t been able to “duplicate” the taste of meat. What’s more, I do not want to! It is true, my Portobello mushroom burger does not taste anything like dead cow. It tastes better! Deprived? No. Frustrated? No. Satisfied? Oh, yes! [And about 1/3 of my total daily protein requirement, too (according to NutritionData.com).]

To enjoy this better-than-beef “burger”: caramelize sliced red onion in olive oil over medium heat and add a generous splash of balsamic vinegar toward the end of the cooking time. In a separate skillet, gently cook the Portobello mushrooms over medium heat and brush them frequently with good quality balsamic vinegar. When  the mushrooms are tender, place the mushrooms and onions on prepared buns with a slice of non-dairy cheese and condiments/burger fixings of your choice.

We enjoy our Portobello burgers on homemade bread machine buns* with  the caramelized onions, Vegenaise, romaine lettuce and pepper jack cheese from The Ultimate Uncheese Cookbook.  And a serving of sweet and tangy sandwich slaw on the side. And J’s “kickass” homebrew in the background.

* Note: I made the buns whole wheat by substituting the total flour amount in the original bun recipe with 2-3/4 cups + 1 Tablespoon white whole wheat flour + 3 Tablespoons soy flour. I also added in 2 extra tablespoons of warm water to adjust for the high altitude.

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If you’re feeling like I am (disillusioned and worn out from the VegNews fallout and negativity), I offer you some diversion therapy: squirrel antics on the other side of the dining room window!

Deprivation. Longing.

Big dude: problem solved.

Big dude: squirrel acrobatics.

Little dude: everyone wins (except the displaced birds).

Little dude: he takes matters into his own hands (paws?).

More deprivation. More longing.

As you can see, there ain’t no deprivation in this vegan house!

Although, the frustrated cats may beg to differ.

♥ Quickie Meals

I would not have made a good professional mover. Aside from the heavy lifting requirement, I have discovered that I am far too organized (anal retentive) to succeed in that field. Apparently. Yes, this from the woman whose label maker still gives her goosebumps, but, c’mon guys: bathroom items packed with living room items and kitchen items packed with garage items: really?! By the time this is over, I will probably have two of everything since I find that it is easier to buy a replacement rather than open half a dozen boxes looking for one single item.

I still have not located all of my cookbooks, but I did find the important ones. Since I haven’t felt very creative lately (living out of boxes can do that to a person), I have been whipping up our favorites from the few books I have located so far. I think Belgian Style Seitan With Dark Beer from Vegan Planet may be J’s all-time favorite dish (it’s that cooking with beer thing again!). We serve it over House Shirataki Fettuccine Noodles.

And another one of our Robin Robertson favorites: Red Hot Chili Tofu from Vegan Fire & Spice (her picture on the blog is far better than mine, but trust me when I say that this easy dish tastes incredible). Just to try something different, I dredged the tofu in almond meal before wok frying it. Since the rice maker is M.I.A., we enjoyed this dish over Shirataki noodles again with some extra sauce.

The great thing about the Creamy Caesar Salad recipe from The Vegan Table is that it makes enough dressing for at least two meals. We tossed our salads with Yves Lemon Herb Chicken Skewers (we removed the skewers and cut the “chicken” into cubes) and garnished each salad with fresh diced tomatoes. We skipped the crouton recipe and, instead, we enjoyed fresh, hot artisan bread with our salads: 100% Whole Wheat Bread With Olive Oil from Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day.

And there are days that even these simple meals seem like too much work. I never tire of the ridiculously easy (and ridiculously delicious) baked potato. I didn’t realize how much I loved baked potatoes until I had a properly prepared baked potato:

Forget the aluminum foil and forget the microwave (two things I try to avoid, anyway). For the best baked potato, all you have to do is remember to put the potatoes in the oven an hour in advance. That’s it!

Scrub the potatoes, prick several times with a fork and roll the still-wet potatoes on a plate liberally sprinkled with kosher or coarse sea salt. Bake at 400F for about an hour, depending on the size of the spuds. Organic potatoes (always eat organic potatoes!) are generally smaller than regular potatoes, so the baking time may need adjustment.

We brush most of the salt off the skin before eating the potato, but the crispy skin still retains a lovely salty flavor. The inside of the potato is melt-in-your-mouth fluffy, unlike the steam-cooked result from aluminum foil or the microwave. We top our potatoes with Earth Balance non-dairy butter, Tofutti non-dairy sour cream, Daiya Cheddar Style Shreds and chopped green onion. J likes vegan “bacon bits” on his, too.

My copy of The Happy Herbivore Cookbook arrived after we did, which is fortunate because if it were packed in one of these many boxes I probably wouldn’t have found it yet! We are loving the quick and delicious Eggless Egg Salad for lunch, served on homemade bread with packaged shredded cabbage tossed with sesame oil and rice vinegar. Easy, filling and oh-so-good!

Someday, I will have a fully functional kitchen again. And my house will be organized and neat. And my broken nails will grow back. And I will be well-rested again. But I do not think that I will be eating any better!