Tag Archives: Christmas

♥ Sausage, Chestnut And Mushroom Stuffing

Happy Christmas . . . five days ago. Yeah, yeah. I’m a procrastinator and a slacker. Guess what my New Year’s resolution is going to be.

It hardly seems like December here in South Lake Tahoe. We should have several feet of snow by now. Instead, it’s unseasonably warm and sunny. The snow machines are working overtime on the mountains. Meanwhile, the beaches are still accessible.

Nevada Beach with Heavenly in the background.

Call me crazy, but I chose to spend the holidays doing this:

Man-made snow at Heavenly Mountain.

Instead of this:

Holiday insanity at a random Walmart.

“Baby” S came home for Christmas, too. I spent a fair amount of time in the kitchen making his requested foods, like the Irish Car Bomb Cake. The traditional holiday cookies. And, the best holiday dessert, ever: Double-Layer Pumpkin Cheesecake. And, of course, our traditional holiday foods.

This stuffing is one of my favorite things about the holidays. By the time Halloween rolls around, I am already jonesing for it. I don’t remember where the original recipe came from, but it wasn’t a vegan recipe to begin with and we’ve made so many changes to it over the years that we now call it our own. But, you don’t have to wait for a holiday to enjoy stuffing. Sometimes I halve this recipe for a regular old Sunday dinner side dish.

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Sausage, Chestnut And Mushroom Stuffing

Ingredients:

1 pound Gimme Lean sausage

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon fennel seed

1 teaspoon ground sage

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon crushed red chili peppers

1 yellow onion, chopped

6 stalks celery with leaves, chopped

1-1/2 pounds mushrooms, halved (quarter the larger ones)

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 stick non-dairy butter

±14 ounces vegetable or No Chicken (preferred) broth

2 8-ounce cans water chestnuts, drained, rinsed and chopped

3 teaspoons ground sage

6 to 8 cups dried, unseasoned bread cubes (I use half sourdough and half whole wheat bread)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325F.

Brown the sausage in the oil over medium heat with fennel seed, sage, salt and red pepper flakes.  Add the onion, celery, mushrooms and garlic and cook until the onions are soft and translucent.

Add the non-dairy butter and the broth and bring the liquid to boiling.  Remove from the heat and add the water chestnuts and the sage; stir to combine.

Pour the sausage mixture over the bread cubes and stir to combine.  Add more broth if necessary.

Bake in a large shallow dish (I use an 11 x 15″ 4-quart Pyrex), covered with foil, for 1 hour and 15 minutes.  Remove the foil and bake an additional 15 minutes to brown.

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Now that the holidays are winding down, it’s time to dust off my copy of Appetite For Reduction and do some serious damage control. Yes, dear readers. That will be New Year’s resolution number 2 for me.

"Baby" S on the slopes. He grew the mustache just to irritate me, I think.

♥ Finding Vegan l The Tahoe Road Trip

Most of the drive from northwestern Washington to northern California was largely uneventful. Rainy, but uneventful. We stopped at our favorite Co-Op in Bellingham and we also hit a Costco along the way to stock up on the basic food necessities for the long drive and the motel room living that lay ahead of us. We drove through a mini blizzard (although it probably wasn’t considered “mini” to the two-wheel drive cars with all-season tires on them) from the Placerville area to South Lake Tahoe. I pitied the poor folks, dressed in their light clothing (shorts – really? Seriously?), underneath their cars in the piles of snow installing those crappy cable chains (I heart my 4WD Xterra!). The Weather Channel called it the “Western Wallop” and we drove straight into it. It was an adventure.

After a good night’s sleep at our motel in South Lake Tahoe, we spent the next two days exploring the hamlets and villages around the north shore of the lake.  We looked at a few available homes in Incline Village, Kings Beach, Tahoe City and Truckee. We saw a lot of local shops along the way that we made a mental note to come back and visit when we had more time (and more room in the vehicle, too). We quickly decided that, although lovely areas all of them, South Lake Tahoe was the place with the best “home vibe” for us. The rest of our time house-hunting and playing tourist was spent in and around South Lake Tahoe.

Some evenings, we fended for ourselves with hummus vegetable plates and wonderfully stinky garlic bread, courtesy of Costco.

Or, we created some fabulous vegan club-like sandwiches with a yummy multi-grain bread from Lake Tahoe Sierra Grains, Yves vegan deli meats, vegan Pepper Jack cheese, Vegenaise, Grey Poupon Harvest Coarse Ground, lettuce, tomato and avocado.

In the mornings we ate plain bagels with peanut butter, bananas, homemade yogurt, and/or J’s favorite homemade granola; both of which I had prepared in advance for our road trip. We used the plastic cups provided by the motel to make our own travel yogurt parfait cups.

Our greyt boy was especially fond of the local off-leash dog park, where he could get his daily run on, and the nearby Dog.Dog.Cat. with the bakery doggie treats.

For human eats and treats, we consulted HappyCow.net for the Lake Tahoe area and we found some restaurant and natural foods store listings with vegan/vegetarian options.  We took our appetites and our cameras (with the flash off – we don’t want to be rude) along with us to check them out.

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Stony Ridge Uncommon Kitchen inside New Moon Natural Foods – Tahoe City

New Moon is a small, but wonderful, natural foods store in Tahoe City with a very vegan friendly deli located within it. We stopped by while we were out exploring the north lake area and we ordered a big lunch (leftovers to take back to the motel with us) and we did a bit of shopping, too.

I ordered the Thai Salad with Peanut Dressing and it didn’t last long. In fact, I remembered to take the photo halfway through the salad.

J ordered the Thai Peanut Noodle Salad, but I don’t have a picture of it because J was apparently very hungry and he wolfed it down while I was digging out my camera. I managed to get one bite from him and there was no mystery why it disappeared so fast.

Sprouted Lentil Dahl – a bowl of protein-packed goodness. I thought this would be good in a wrap or with some brown rice and some additional dressing, too.

Inari – a tofu skin (yuba) pocket with white rice inside it and served with a sweet teriyaki sauce, wasabi and pickled ginger. These didn’t last long, either.

We found our to-go dessert, too: a tub of vegan cookie dough. Vegan cookie dough doesn’t have eggs in it, so it is safe to eat it raw. A sweet luxury like this makes a traveling vegan very happy.

J was happy with the beer that he found at New Moon, too: Triple Exultation, Pliny The Elder and Baltic Thunder – all are hard to find in Washington, and he should know.

One observation that we made while checking out their prepared food selection in the deli: some foods labeled “vegan” contained honey in the list of ingredients. I suppose that is a matter of choice for some vegans (whether honey is vegan or not), but to us it is an animal/insect product so we do not eat it. I was never that fond of “bee puke” in my omnivore days, anyway, so avoiding it now hasn’t been a great hardship.

Sprouts Natural Foods Café – South Lake Tahoe

This place always seemed busy, which is a good indicator of the quality of their food. The staff was über friendly, knowledgeable and helpful; all we had to do is tell them we were vegan and what sounded good to us and we were good to go.

I had the Vegetable Crunch sandwich on a bagel (because their sandwich bread contains honey, he told me. Having it in a wrap is another vegan option). I ordered it without cheese and exchanged the honey mustard dressing for balsamic vinaigrette. I also ordered the Soup Du Jour—which is always vegan at Sprouts—and this particular day it was Hawaiian BBQ. Mmm mmm!

J ordered the Classic Burrito with tempeh, holding the cheese and sour cream. It was so loaded with veggies and salsa that it was impossible to pick up; so he ate it with a fork and knife. Of course, it was wonderful.

Both of our orders came with sesame tortilla chips – SO good. The meals were wonderful and definitely hit the spot. Bonus, we were able to order a beer with our lunch, too.

Freshies Restaurant & Bar – South Lake Tahoe

A bit of Hawai’i in frozen Lake Tahoe, how cool is that? It’s located in a tiny strip mall building but once you step through the door you feel like you are in a Hawaiian plate lunch café, minus the humidity and chickens milling about outside.

They begin serving dinner at 5:00 and we arrived at 4:30. I didn’t look at their dinner menu so I am not sure how the offerings differed from the soup, salad & taco “lunch-ish” menu that we ordered off of, but we were not disappointed.

For starters, we ordered the small (boat) My Tri Fries: freshly cut yams, sweet potatoes and organic russet potatoes fried in California Rice Bran Oil and seasoned with Caribbean spices. Oh…my…gawd.

I ordered the local’s favorite salad (to atone for the fried potatoes appetizer): The Crunch, minus the two cheeses. It’s loaded with crunchy veggie and seed goodness. The creamy basil salad dressing that makes the salad (the waiter says) would have been wonderful, were it vegan, but I swapped it out for balsamic vinaigrette. I added grilled Portobello mushrooms to the salad to make it a real hearty meal. It’s even better with grilled tofu.

J’s meal was mouth-watering to look at and even better tasting: the 2 taco platter with one blackened tofu and one blackened tempeh. He held the cheese and ordered extra salsa in lieu of the chipotle tartar. The tacos came with organic rice and black beans and an out-of-this-world slaw (I detected a hint of roasted sesame oil). I most definitely will be ordering that our next trip back to Tahoe; it was all I could do not to make him switch plates with me.

We typically don’t order dessert when we eat out (and usually there aren’t any vegan options when we eat vegan in an omnivore restaurant), but we couldn’t resist the mousse-like Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie on a homemade graham crust. Definitely another “oh…my…gawd” moment!

Oh, and J was stoked that Freshies has Pliny The Elder on tap.

The Free Bird – South Lake Tahoe

Free Bird is a cute little organic take-out joint no bigger than a Washington espresso stand! In the milder months you could take advantage of the outdoor seating area, though. We ordered their only vegan offerings that day: Curry Potato Samosas with Mango Chutney and French Lentil & Rice Soup to share (more “oh…my…gawd” goodness).

While we waited for the food, we enjoyed some seasonal infused water (lemon slices and sprigs of fresh rosemary – what a cool idea and very refreshing) and J ordered a Cacao Bliss Smoothie (raw cacao powder, coconut milk, almond butter, agave nectar and a pinch of Celtic sea salt). Bliss it was. The smoothie was so good that I probably drank most of what was J’s smoothie and I made sure to stop there again on our way out of town for another one (instead of ho-hum coffee).

Grass Roots Natural Foods – South Lake Tahoe

As I mentioned in the previous post, we found our Christmas dinner dessert, the vegan gravy mix and our dinner rolls (bonus: the leftover rolls made some good road food with peanut butter.) at this cool little natural foods store.

Grass Roots is a small, but well-stocked for its size, store. And the people working there were very helpful: I was thrilled to learn that they will special order for me when I live there. So, with a little advance planning and creative storage, I will be able to do my “specialty” vegan shopping locally rather than traveling to the nearest Whole Foods in Reno, Nevada.

J found some delectable homemade cookies there, too (yes, that is a dinner plate that the cookie is on). We enjoyed that bad boy with a hot chocolate (made with soy milk) and peppermint schnapps.


♥ Christmas Dinner In A Kitchenette

It’s Christmas evening, and our last night in South Lake Tahoe for a few more months…unless the approaching storm strands us here – which would totally suck. Not.  🙂

The vegan-friendly restaurants that we have enjoyed here (a future post, I think) are closed for the holiday (as they should be for the sake of their employees) so we have had to get a little creative about our holiday dinner. Did I say “a little creative”? I mean a LOT creative, considering what we have to work with here in the motel: a very basic kitchenette with 2 electric burners (1 small and one medium), 2 saucepans (1 small and 1 medium), a medium-sized griddle pan, a teeny-tiny microwave (which I try not to use if I can help it, anyway) and a table setting/silverware for only 2 people. No mixing bowls, measuring cups, cooking utensils…well, you get the idea.

South Lake Tahoe has better vegan grocery shopping than I had hoped for, actually: a wonderful natural foods store, albeit small, called Grass Roots Natural Foods and a “regular” grocery store, Raley’s, that I have enjoyed becoming familiar with.

Raley’s natural foods section is very well stocked (it reminds me of the Fred Meyer stores in Washington State). We managed to find a Tofurky roast there (but no Tofurky Giblet Gravy, dang it) as well as organic fingerling potatoes and petite baby peas (must have baby peas with my smashed potatoes), and a Pepperidge Farm Herb Seasoned Stuffing mix , the only one that did not contain any animal products (what I refer to as “accidentally vegan”), along with vegetable broth, non-dairy butter, celery and green onions for the stuffing. We had to settle for canned,  rather than homemade, cranberry sauce (shudder), too.

At Grass Roots, we found our dinner rolls–their own product–as well as a packet of Road’s End Quick Gravy. We also purchased two slices of pie by Earth Cafe for our dessert: Pumpkin Spice Life Cheesecake/Pie and Who’s Your Daddy? Carob Mousse Cheesecake/Pie. But, what’s pumpkin pie without the whipped topping? Grass Roots also carries Soyatoo! whipped topping in a can, which also tastes great with hot Starbucks Mocha Powder mix and peppermint schnapps, too.

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The Tofurky package includes directions for either baking the roast whole or microwaving slices of the roast. Since we don’t have an oven here and we don’t like to cook in a microwave, J came up with the great idea of slicing the roast and frying it on the griddle pan. We basted the roast slices with the olive oil/soy sauce/rubbed sage marinade recipe that is found on the Tofurky package; we mixed it all together in a coffee cup with a fork.

We alternated the two sauce pans to make the rest of the dinner: the gravy in the small sauce pan and the stuffing in the medium sauce pan in two separate batches. We kept the stuffing warm in a foil roasting pan with a lid, that we found at Raley’s, while we steamed the fingerling potatoes and the baby peas.

Luckily, I had the foresight to bring a bottle of Snoqualmie Chardonnay with us that we were able to enjoy with our holiday feast. The meal was surprisingly good.

And, of course, we didn’t exclude our boy: he enjoyed his own Christmas doggie plate feast. We spread some peanut butter on a dog biscuit shaped like a turkey leg from Dog.Dog.Cat. and placed it on a plate with small pieces of Tofurky roast, potatoes and peas. He snarfed it down in record time.

Last, but not least, the dessert: I usually like my own creations better than any store-bought variety, and we typically don’t eat raw food desserts, but these two cheesecake/pies were both very good (and quite rich, too, one slice can easily be shared) and they definitely hit our sweet spot. I was skeptical about the carob mousse pie, at first, because my childhood memories of carob (the last time I  remember touching the stuff) are so not good. But, I am happy to report that I am open to carob again; but since dark chocolate is vegan, why?!

A warning about the Soyatoo! topping: I usually buy Soyatoo! in a carton and whip it like regular dairy whipping cream (minus the powdered sugar). One would think that the canned topping would be easier, but it’s not. The nitrous oxide crapped out after topping just one slice of pie and then it became real work (with not very pretty results) to top the second piece of pie. The can is still mostly full, but nothing comes out. I would like to report that this is a fluke, but we have experienced this the two previous times that we have purchased Soyatoo! in a can. My advice is to stick to the carton version because it always whips up well.

Yes, okay, I admit it: I am a food snob. I do not like convenience foods, not at all. My opinion has always been that it only takes slightly more time to prepare the same foods from scratch that not only taste WAY better, but you can actually pronounce the ingredients of the food that you are eating, too.

All that being said, however, our kitchenette Christmas dinner was very, very good – even though it was mostly convenience food. But, hey, we didn’t spend all day in the kitchen(ette), either. Instead, we were out playing in the snow with our sweet boy. Life is good!

♥ Hot (Not) Buttered Rum – Hell, Yeah!

Baby, it’s cold outside. We have spent the last several days looking at houses and cabins around Lake Tahoe (mostly vacant and, therefore, mostly cold) and that requires wading through un-plowed driveways and climbing over a few snowbanks.

Our greyt boy waits patiently for us  in the warm Xterra, and we reward him for his patience with a trip to the D-o-g   P-a-r-k  (yes, we do have to spell it out in his presence because he is just that clever).

And, because it is Christmastime, our evening stroll along the snowy sidewalks generally requires a stop at a great (greyt) local pet store (Dog.Dog.Cat.) that sells some delicious-looking bakery treats just for dogs.

After all that, it is definitely time to settle in for the night in our motel room and enjoy some hot adult beverages while we watch the traditional crap-tastic Christmas movies. Our seasonal favorite adult beverage–Hot Buttered Rum–is another old family recipe, “veganized” of course. After you try this homemade mixture, you will never want to go back to that crappy store-bought batter again.

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Hot Buttered Rum

Ingredients:

1/2 pound (2 sticks) non-dairy butter ( I prefer Earth Balance)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg (or fresh if you have it)

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 pound (about 1-3/4 cups) dark brown sugar

1/2 pound (about 1-7/8 cups) powdered sugar

1 pint non-dairy vanilla ice cream (we love Coconut Bliss Vanilla Island)

Directions:

Melt the non-dairy butter over medium-low to medium heat in a large saucepan.

Add the cinnamon, nutmeg and cloves; stir to combine.

Stir in the sugars and continue to cook until well-dissolved and the mixture is  a bit bubbly (do not overcook!).

Lastly, stir in the non-dairy ice cream and continue to cook until the ice cream is  thoroughly melted into the butter/sugar mixture.

Remove the saucepan from the burner and pour the mixture into a freezer-safe container with a tight-fitting lid.  Place in the freezer for a few hours, at least, before using.

To serve: heat water in the tea kettle and  scoop 2 to 4 Tablespoons (depending upon how sweet and rich you like ’em) of the batter into a large mug.  Pour boiling hot water into the mug (make sure that you leave room for the shot of rum) and stir to dissolve the batter.  Now, add a shot of good rum (dark or spiced rum works well) and stir. We prefer Appleton Estate Rum; we developed a taste for it while on our honeymoon in Jamaica. Garnish with a bit of ground cinnamon or nutmeg, if desired, and enjoy (responsibly).