Tag Archives: Holiday

♥ 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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♥ Welcome 2011!

“We will open the book. Its pages are blank. We are going to put words on them ourselves. The book is called Opportunity and its first chapter is New Year’s Day.” – Edith Lovejoy Pierce

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I love the first day of the new year (the only thing that would make this day better is half a foot of freshly fallen snow outside). The whole year looms ahead of us; and the possibilities are endless. And yet, today  was a completely lazy day for us. Come to think of it, so was New Year’s Eve. I planned and prepared today’s meal yesterday (slow cooker means very little hands-on time for me) because I intended to spend the day straightening up and organizing (anyone that knows me knows that’s the kind of thing that I really love). But, J’s sweet tooth will not be ignored and he reminded me that we need our “lucky” dessert.

Our traditional meal on New Year’s Day always involves black-eyed peas and some kind of greens and, for dessert, a cake with a coin baked inside of it, to bring good luck to the person that finds it. The type of cake varies by year and the ingredients that we have on hand. We always love a good Irish whiskey cake, but we don’t have enough Irish whiskey on hand this year (Thanksgiving was especially festive, I guess).  So, rum cake it is!

Black-eyed peas and greens are the foods traditionally associated with prosperity and good fortune here in the states, particularly the south, for various similar reasons. The black-eyed peas swell when they cook and/or resemble coins and the greens resemble, well, money. Because we are vegan, we skip the pork element of the black-eyed pea dishes and we use a meatless sausage. Hopefully our little piggie friends will enjoy some good fortune of their own in the new year, too!

But, black-eyed peas and greens aren’t only a New Year tradition in the south. The tradition of eating such things as black-eyed peas, spinach and beets at Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, dates back to about the 5th century. So I guess we have covered all the bases with the leftovers from our New Year’s Eve dinner of Roasted Beet Soup and the greens in the Kale Pastries. Somewhat coincidental, but we will take all the prosperity and good fortune that we can get.

Before going vegan, I didn’t like slow cooker foods. Although I did try. I  loved the concept of throwing everything in the slow cooker and dashing off to work and coming home to a house filled with the delicious aroma of a hot dinner ready and waiting. To my dismay, everything always came out of the slow cooker tasting the same: greasy, mushy and  on the blah side. Back then, my only good slow cooker recipe  was (you guessed it) vegetarian chili. Now that we eat only a vegetable-based diet, that is no longer a problem. We have some truly low-effort and savory dishes, sans the greasy taste.

We enjoyed this easy meal over organic brown basmati rice cooked in brewed green tea, instead of water (my new favorite). On the side of that, we had caramelized red onion and chopped collard greens (sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil) seasoned with crushed garlic, a bit of sea salt and red chili pepper flakes (my always favorite).

Taking pictures in my dark granite and cherry wood kitchen at dinnertime isn’t always a success. Someday I will get that photo box that I have been whining for… But, until I have prettier pictures, take my word for it: these black-eyed peas taste fan-freaking-tastic!

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Slow Cooker Black-Eyed Peas

Ingredients:

1 pound (2 cups) dried black-eyed peas

1 sweet onion, chopped

3 garlic cloves, minced

4 cups vegetable broth

1 Tablespoon white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

1/2 teaspoon onion powder

1/4 teaspoon black pepper

1 Tablespoonbrown sugar

1 Tablespoon molasses

1/4 teaspoon Liquid Smoke

2 Tablespoons non-dairy butter (I prefer Earth Balance)

1 14-ounce package Tofurky kielbasa sausages, sliced in coins and browned in the cast-iron  skillet

Directions:

The day before, rinse the black-eyed peas, picking out any debris, and place in a large bowl. Cover the peas with a few inches of water and soak until bedtime. Before closing the kitchen for the night, drain the peas and rinse them well, picking out any loose skins.  Place the rinsed peas in the slow cooker.

Spray a large cast-iron skillet with a bit of extra-virgin olive oil and heat over medium-high heat. Sauté the onions and garlic until golden brown. Remove the skillet from the heat and, when cool enough to handle, add to the slow cooker along with the remaining ingredients, except the sausage.

Cover and cook on “low” heat overnight and most of the day.  Three  hours before serving, add in the browned sausages and turn the slow cooker heat setting to “high”.

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I adapted this rum cake recipe from Just Add Rum! A Caribbean Cookbook, purchased while we were on our honeymoon in Jamaica. The cookbook author reportedly traded 12 of her cookbooks for this family recipe from a local street vendor. Aside from “veganizing” this recipe, I also added to it: chopped pecans, rum-soaked raisins and a warm buttery rum glaze. The original recipe calls for dark rum, but we always use Appleton . Did I mention that we love Appleton Estate Jamaica Rum?!

The next time that I make this cake, I will replace the cornmeal in the recipe with an equal amount of flour. I suppose that using the cornmeal is a matter of  personal taste. The cornmeal that I do keep on hand is a bit coarse; too coarse for a cake. I am not a huge cornmeal fan anyway; I use corn products sparingly, and  I only use organic corn products now that the detrimental effects of genetically modified corn has become common knowledge.

Island Rum Cake

Ingredients:

Cake:

1/2 cup golden or dark raisins

1/3 cup rum

1/2 cup chopped pecans

12 Tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) Earth Balance non-dairy butter

1 cup organic sugar

Egg replacer to equal 5 eggs (below)

Zest of 1 lime

3 Tablespoons fresh lime juice

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1-1/2 cups whole wheat pastry flour, sifted (I didn’t have any all-purpose flour on hand)

1/2 cup organic yellow cornmeal (or an equal amount of flour)

1 Tablespoon baking powder

Egg Replacer To Equal 5 Eggs:

Scant 1-1/4 cups lukewarm water

5 teaspoons canola oil

2-1/2 Tablespoons tapioca flour

2-1/2 Tablespoons potato flour

1-1/4 teaspoons EnerG baking powder

1/4 + 1/8 teaspoon Guar Gum (may use an equal amount of Xanthan Gum, but Xanthan Gum is derived from corn)

Warm Rum Glaze:

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) Earth Balance non-dairy butter

1/2 cup sifted powdered sugar

2 Tablespoons rum

1/3 cup rum

Directions:

Place the raisins in a small bowl and pour the rum over them. Stir to combine and set aside (the longer the better!).

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray a bundt pan with non-stick cooking spray, sprinkle the chopped pecans in the bottom of the pan and set aside.

Cream the non-dairy butter and sugar together in a large bowl with a hand-held mixer on medium speed; set aside.

Sift the dry ingredients for the egg replacer into a small bowl; whisk to combine. In a medium bowl whisk together the lukewarm water and the canola oil for the egg replacer. While constantly whisking, sprinkle the egg replacer dry ingredients into the water/oil mixture. Whisk vigorously to combine, then pour into the butter/sugar mixture in the large bowl. Beat for an extra 30 to 60 seconds.

Scrape the sides of the bowl with a large spatula and then add the lime zest and the lime juice. Beat an extra 30 seconds and scrape the sides of the bowl down again.

Add the rum and the raisins, the cinnamon and the allspice; beat an extra 30 seconds or so.

Sift together the flour, cornmeal (if using) and the baking powder and gradually beat into the butter mixture (it will be thick). This is the point where you add the clean coin, if you are using.

Pour the batter into the prepared bundt pan, using a spatula to spread it out evenly. Place in the pre-heated oven and bake 50 to 60 minutes or until the skinny end of a bamboo skewer or cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Allow to cool about 10 minutes on a wire rack in the bundt pan before inverting  the cake onto a plate or a cake stand.

While the cake is cooling on the rack, prepare the rum glaze. Melt the non-dairy butter in a small saucepan over medium-low to medium heat. Whisk in the sifted powdered sugar and then the 2 Tablespoons of rum. Remove from heat when the mixture begins to bubble and then whisk in the 1/3 cup of rum. Allow to cool slightly before glazing the cake.

Using the skinny end of the same bamboo skewer, carefully poke several holes over the top of the still-warm cake. Give the rum glaze one final whisking and carefully and slowly pour it over the entire cake. Enjoy!

♥ Farewell To 2010

You can’t help but feel a sense of accomplishment at the close of each year. Although, “accomplishment” is a subjective term and it means something different to each of us. So, what did I “accomplish”? Well, I survived another year of the girl in high school, the boy moving across the state, a deposition on behalf of my former employer (and a gaggle of attorneys) and a couple of surgeries (nothing serious, but it was an excuse to lay around on my butt and be waited on hand and foot by J). Oh, and I made it through yet another deployment (which means living man-less for months on end and dealing with every appliance/vehicle/plumbing failure that occurs in his absence and, what’s worse, always seems to happen all at once).

I’ve never known J to make New Year’s resolutions and I make the same resolution every year: “be happy & be content.” It sounds easy enough in theory, but it isn’t always easy in practice! It’s easy to be content, though, on a night like this with a full belly, a good bottle of wine and our well-worn copy of It’s A Wonderful Life. It’s becoming a tradition for us.

We enjoyed a simple, but wonderful, dinner:  we made roasted beet soup, in our continuing effort to use up the several pounds of homegrown beets that J’s parents gave us. Luckily, we never tire of beets (and our greyt boy loves them, too). I adapted an “omnivore” appetizer recipe in a magazine (I don’t remember which one) and came up with this new favorite soup recipe.

To go with the soup, we made one of our favorite puff pastry recipes that I found at Vegan Spoonful. I tweaked it a bit (of course, don’t I always?):  I use half the amount of olive oil and nutritional yeast called for in the recipe and  I use frozen kale because I always have that on hand (which also means the water in the recipe may be reduced or eliminated). We had some leftover kale filling, which J discovered is darn tasty as a garnish on the hot soup (that’s my bowl in the picture below with the chopped green onions).

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Roasted Beet Soup

Ingredients:

4 medium beets, scrubbed and peeled and quartered

4 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1-1/2 teaspoons sea salt

2 Tablespoons ground coriander

3 cups No Chicken broth

1 cup unsweetened So Delicious coconut milk

Chopped green onions for garnish

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 425F.

Whisk together the olive oil, white pepper, sea salt and coriander in a measuring glass; set aside.

Prepare the beets and place in a medium bowl. Pour the marinade over the beets and toss to coat. Place the beets in a small roasting pan and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Bake for 60 minutes, or until the beets are soft and easily pierced with a fork. Allow to cool to room temperature.

Scrape the cooled beets and the marinade into a blender with the broth and purée until smooth, then pour the soup into a large sauce pan or pot. Or, if you prefer a chunkier soup, place the beets and the marinade in a large saucepan or pot with the broth and use an immersion blender to blend the soup to the desired consistency.

Turn the heat on to medium and add in the coconut milk. Cook, while stirring, until the soup is heated throughout.

Garnish with chopped green onions and serve hot.

♥ 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.