Friday, November 23, 2007

Much to be Thankful For

Ahhh... how many pounds did everyone gain this year? Thankfully, it was only one for me and I went straight to the gym this morning (but the leftovers have been taunting me all day!). At any rate, although my family was hundreds of miles away this year, my husband and I had much to be grateful for... including an incredible spread! "Feather" from Farm Sanctuary was the honored guest of our feast, as you can see in the background, next to our wonderful Frey vegan wine.

Here is a closeup of the Tofurky that we tried for the very first time this year (at my husband's request). Well, I found out that he is not going to be vegetarian any time soon, but it's not because of this meal - he gave it, "two thumbs up!" The roast looked nothing like a real turkey, thank goodness, but it tasted eerily like it. Even my husband who has eaten turkey much more recently than I (god, it's been over a decade!), said it tasted pretty authentic. He loved the stuffing (it had some wild rice in it), and couldn't stop commenting about the gravy! It was a pleasant surprise, after others had warned us against it. I recommend it highly at your next Thanksgiving meal! The best part? It's ingredients are all organic, non-GMO, and healthy!

Here it is being sliced. Now, of course I wasn't jumping up and down about it, because I don't really want to pretend I'm eating meat, but I had a slice just to try it out.

I know that some vegans hate this holiday, or at least are depressed about it, but I just couldn't feel that way this year. I know it's a horrible day for so many birds (and I shed tears every day about it), but when I think about Thanksgiving, to me it means spending time with family, cooking amazing and comforting food, and not worrying about my weight for one day. It's a celebration of food and cooking and family- three things that are a huge part of my life! But most of all, I'm thankful that my husband has been trying to eat less meat - which means fewer animals suffering and a better relationship for us! He is such a good sport....

At any rate, the side dishes were always my favorite part of Thanksgiving - I never cared much for turkey, and only ate it because I was following tradition. So, here is my plate nowadays. That's corn, two kinds of cranberries, sweet potatoes, and stuffing. I took some plain mashed potatoes later... awesome with the Tofurky gravy! Let's get a close up, shall we?

You can see the two different kinds of cranberry sauce (the nasty, in-the-can style with high fructose corn syrup a.k.a. death by sugar), and my lovely cran-orange relish (which wasn't lacking in sugar, but at least it was natural!). To the side, you see this lovely salad, topped with roasted root vegetables and a balsamic-maple dressing I composed in two seconds to wet the greens. Yes, if you try one thing from this meal, please make the roasted veggies! Here is the recipe real quick-like: One cup each (roughly!) of diced: sweet potato, turnip, carrot, and parsnip. Toss them with 2 Tbsp olive oil and some salt and pepper. Roast them at 400 degrees for 40 minutes, stirring twice. Last, mix 2 Tbsp each of balsamic vinegar and maple syrup with 1/2 cup of vegetable broth - boil for 5 minutes on the stove top and then drizzle this on the roasted veggies and roast for 5 more minutes. Divinely sweet and sour! A great way to eat those veggies you may not really care for!

Every year, I try to make a bread stuffing (or dressing, as some call it - not sure why! It's not liquidy like a dressing and I'm not eating it on salad!), and every year I'm slightly disappointed. Last year, it was too dry. This year, a bit too mushy. The flavors kicked ass though, so thanks to Susan at Fat Free Vegan for the recipe! I'll dice the bread pieces smaller next year, and maybe toast them before. I couldn't get a good photo of it . . .

This is the one dish that I didn't eat this year - green bean casserole. It calls for milk (though we used soy milk) and a can of cream of mushroom soup (definitely not vegan). Yet when when I wasn't vegan and tried it, I wasn't a big fan of this dish anyhow. I am on a mission to find a good recipe for it, for next year. I think Susan might have had one, actually...

Speaking of Fat Free Vegan, I also tried her Sweet Potato Casserole this year, and both my husband and I couldn't stop commenting on it! The spicy (like ginger and nutmeg, not pepper!), slightly citrusy flavor in the potatoes was incredible! However, the topping was rather greasy - when I pulled it out of the oven there were little pools of oil on the top! I have a similar recipe from Cooking Light that I used in the past, which I will borrow from for next year's topping. Just calls for more flour, basically, which will absorb some of that grease .... but still, this was my favorite dish of the whole meal!!! I look forward to this every year.
I started cooking the sides for the meal on Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, and found myself with a hot oven and minute to spare. So, I whipped up this Cranberry Bread, from Colleen's, The Joy of Vegan Baking. I was so excited about her pumpkin bread and pumpkin pie (coming next in this post), that I wanted to try something else. Well, this cranberry bread fell flat. The recipe, that is, not the bread! The recipe seemed to call for a rather large amount of flour, and the pan was incredibly full, but she called for only one pan to bake it in! I carefully followed her directions, but realized that there was something amiss. Well, I think that she should have stated 'two' loaf pans for this recipe! What do you think?? It's was HUGE!! And, underdone in the middle - but oh, the taste! I will try it again with two pans.

Here it is, cut open - see the underdone spots? Oh well, it was still edible - yum!

Meanwhile, I made the Pecan-Oatmeal Crust from the same book, with no bad outcomes. It was a nice change from the typical pie crust and way easier to make! I enjoyed the texture with the filling, but I wasn't blown away by the taste of the crust (could have been sweeter!).

Here is the pie, all baked and cooling down....

And here is my husband's huge slice with some of the Tofu Whipped Topping from the same book! The pie was incredible - not tofu tasting at all, but could have been a little more firm. The whipped topping tasted nothing like Cool Whip, but it had a nice smooth texture and a great vanilla taste!
And I guess that's it for this Thanksgiving! I have just finished putting up our Christmas decorations, as that seems to extend the warm feelings of this holiday for me - I hate when it is over! I tried a lot of new dishes this year, with fun results - really! It sounds like I had a horrible meal, but I was just picking apart the dishes to tweak for next year, or to help others. I loved every bite and wouldn't do a thing differently (except for the cranberry bread!). And what else did I do today to celebrate the day after Thanksgiving? Well, I didn't shop, thanks for reminding us, Bazu, but I did rake some leaves and... bake! Argh, yes, I am addicted to the oven. I had some overripe bananas and zucchini I just had to use up, so Veganomicon's Banana-Wheat Germ Muffins were just the thing for healthy lunches next week, and Joy of Vegan Baking's Zucchini bread was sooo good. Except guess what - the directions for the zucchini bread don't state, "keep it in the pan for 30 minutes while cooling," so it stuck to the bottom of the pan and ripped - blah!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Happy (Almost) Thanksgiving!

I know I'll be posting again before the week is through, due to the copious amount of food we're planning on making this year (like this year is different - ha!), but I just had to get these up here! I figured they'd entice you to get baking or at least check out my new favorite cookbook!

These are Cranberry Orange Scones, from, "The Joy of Vegan Baking." I got the book because I had some Border's points to spend again, and everyone else had been raving about this book. Plus, I saw some great Thanksgiving treats in it! Well, this book doesn't disappoint. I started with these scones because tomorrow is my class's (I'm a kindergarten teacher) International Thanksgiving Feast. Most other classes do a traditional food feast, but ever since I began teaching, I knew this wasn't for me. It wasn't even an excuse to get out of having a dead bird (oh, I mean turkey) in my room - I promise! It was because I figured they'd be having all these foods at home in a couple of days anyway, so why make parents go through all that trouble twice? So, we've always asked families to bring in a food that is from their cultural/ethnic background. From egg rolls to paella, from a wicked spicy Eritrean (Africa) dish with injera to Georgia peach pie, we've had it all! I usually make something as well, so this year I thought I'd make something from my British heritage. They turned out simply amazing! It was my first time making scones, but they weren't hard at all! I do recommend getting a pastry blender (it looks like a bunch of wires ) instead of cutting it with two knives, like my Mum always did when I was growing up. It's just much easier and faster! These scones were a variation on the basic scone recipe in the book. They were tender and flaky on the inside, crisp on the outside... all that I remembered scones being!

Next, I ventured on to make the Pumpkin Spice Bread, which I had already made in school with my kids for their fifth grade buddy class. The best part about that experience was letting them lick the batter bowl - no raw eggs to worry about!
This recipe didn't disappoint either. In fact, it blew me away. The spices smelled amazing while cooking, and while eating ;) They were stronger than other pumpkin breads I'd made in the past. And the best part - the breads rose!! I have the hardest time veganizing traditional quick bread recipes like these - they always seem so flat! But these turned out gorgeous. (The kids loved the ones we baked at school, by the way! Not that I was surprised). Despite having a copious amount of egg replacer, they didn't taste funny at all. I can't wait to share these with more people!! What an amazing cookbook. This week, I plan on making her pumpkin pie, zucchini bread, and cranberry bread, too!

Finally, I gave Isa another chance at seitan, with this Seitanic Red and White Bean Jambalaya. I was trying this out before I make it for an upcoming holiday party, and boy I can't wait to make it again! It was super easy to make, despite me not having a Dutch oven (please, Santa?). The flavor was pretty good, although we added some hot sauce like she recommended. Thanks, Veganomicon!

The best part about this weekend, however, was when my husband said, "I think I'm going to go vegetarian." I nearly fainted. We're having Tofurkey for Thanksgiving, too! Good luck with your holiday cooking and baking everyone! Wish all the world celebrated Thanksgiving like we vegans do!

Sunday, November 11, 2007


After a week of waiting, I finally had the weekend free to cook again.... and to give Veganomicon a second chance. I didn't mean to start baking the day after I had a 104 degree temperature, but after a day of lying on the couch, watching, "America's Next Top Model," and football, I was ready to run screaming to the kitchen (yes, I enjoy both.... but in slight moderation!). Oh yeah, and I spent part of that day reading through the entire volume of Veganomicon, so I was itching (in a good way) to try something else out! It was a great read for being sick, actually, as I wasn't sick to my stomach and Isa and Terry's sarcasm and wit kept me giggling! (My husband didn't care for me reading excerpts aloud every other minute, though).

With a normal temp this morning, I still didn't want to risk relapsing, so I didn't workout - yuck, I hate skipping! But anyhoo, there I was with the tome in my hand, and I knew I had lots of carrots in the fridge. So, I found a can of pineapple and got to work on the above beauties: Carrot Pineapple Sunshine Muffins. They reminded me a lot of the Maui Muffins from the Candle Cafe Cookbook, but not as good because there was no ooey, gooey, sticky sauce over them. So, they were a lot healthier, but still moist and delish!

But then I realized that I still had some pineapple leftover. If there's one habit I'm trying to break, it's having leftover bits of a meal (not the meals, just the individual parts that were not needed) going bad in the fridge. Half of a silken tofu block, half of an onion, part of a tomato, you get my drift! So, I dragged out The Everyday Vegan, Dreena's first book, and pulled out a recipe that had enticed me to buy the book in the first place: Carrot Pineapple Muffin Tops! Here they are. The lumps are the raisins :) They were really runny and spread out really quickly, and didn't rise very much but oooh were they good! The best part? I finally ground my own nutmeg! Dreena always comments on how important and good freshly ground nutmeg is, and I had some in my spice cabinet. I didn't have a microplane or kitchen rasp, so I just used the roughest part of my box grater! It smelled like heaven! The scent lingered in my mouth after each bite.
Both recipes were great because they used whole wheat (pastry) flour, and very little sugar or fat (and unrefined sugar, in Dreena's case). So, in comparison, Isa's muffins were 'sunnier' as their name totes and more moist (they were whole muffins), but Dreena's muffin tops flavor kicked ass as the perfect fall treat. So funny to find them as I now have Dreena's third book!

Speaking of which, here is my first posted recipe from that book, Eat, Drink, and Be Vegan: Palak Soyabina Panira. I was a little annoyed at how the tofu burned to the bottom so quickly. This happens so often to me! I always have to turn the heat down a ton, and add more oil or moisture. But I tried not to this time, and just scraped hard at the bottom while I cooked. The meal came together pretty quickly, after I chopped and measured the many spices and ingredients. And it was well worth it! My husband thought it wasn't creamy enough, and perhaps he was right, but I was blown away by the flavors! Four stars**** for this one.
I made two other recipes from ED&BV this weekend, starting with the Black Bean Orange Hummus, which is my lunch for the week and
was sunny itself - very original flavors and super easy to make! Rating: three stars ***(I packed it up right away in my little lunch kits, so no photo!). The other recipe was the Monkey Minestrone. This soup was actually made by my husband! He made it while I was sick (also hence no photo), and there was nothing better than sipping on that good veggie soup while I lay on the couch! I love you, babe! PDA aside, it really was good, and we rated it: Three stars*** (maybe three and a half). His only comment was that he can't stand to read cookbooks, because they have all the directions in paragraph form. As he reads and then cooks and then checks back, he finds himself lost in the sea of words, trying to find where he left off. He pleads with every cookbook author to consider writing in bulleted or numbered list form! I agree, but how many books are written like that? Anyway, here's to new cookbooks!

Monday, November 05, 2007

Once Upon a Time and Some Bling

Once upon a time, there was a girl who was taught how to cook by her mother and father. Her father was a stay at home dad for a while, and he cooked on the fly, adding hotdogs or spaghetti to meatloaf, but also making all baked goods, including homemade whoopie pies, from scratch. The girl learned to value a home cooked meal, and the love it represented.
Her mother was a better baker than cook. The lesson the girl learned most was to always measure carefully, and never measure ingredients over the mixing bowl! Very, very carefully, she would weigh ingredients on a small postal scale, and level off flour with the back of a knife.
As time went by, the girl kept cooking and baking, always remembering the lessons she had been taught. But perhaps the most valuable lesson she was taught, was one she taught herself. Having a 'fast' personality like her father, meant that she often skimmed recipes and got half into them before realizing she had forgotten to buy an ingredient, or had misread the directions. Yet she learned from these (many!) mistakes, by substituting other similar ingredients, and laying out all her tools and food before she began.
Fast forward to the present. Above, you see the delectable Thai Chik'n Pizza, a third-place winner in the annual Vegetarian Times cooking contest. However, although we followed the recipe to a tee (well, ok, I didn't have tamarind paste, so I looked it up online and saw that I could use lime juice and molasses or sugar), it was very disappointing. The flavors were spot on. But between the hardness of the crust (the dough was homemade, then frozen in the freezer for a couple of months), and the dry, crumbliness of the topping (it wouldn't stick to the 'sauce'), I couldn't believe that this had won even third place! So, here's my suggestion....try the 'sauce' (very thick!) on a tortilla, like a hummus, add the pizza toppings, and roll up! I loved the spread so much, I just have to try this for lunch next week.....So that's what I learned.

Moving on to a new recipe from Isa's latest cookbook, Veganomicon, which FINALLY came from Amazon :P.....
Seitan with Mushrooms and Spinach..... quick and easy but it burned too quickly and WAAAAAYYYYY too salty! From now on (Isa Pizza from VwaV had the same problem), I will watch the salt flavorings in all savory dishes from her cookbooks. Sorry, but I was disappointed after waiting all that time!! However, once again I haven't given up, but merely learned from my (0r other's) mistakes....

Finally to the bling! I treated myself long ago to these two cookbooks, and I am treasuring each time I open their pages. There is nothing like a new book of any kind, to make it feel like Christmas (even textbooks, what a nerd I am!). You can never draw out long enough, the first moment you open their covers. Any suggestions from fellow vegan bloggers for what to try first from either one? (well, the seitan dish was my first!).

And now onto the real bling....the most beautiful necklace I have ever laid eyes on. Funnily enough, I saw it in a magazine, and was intrigued to look for it online. When I saw the message imprinted on it (Peace, Love and Recycle), and the fact that 100% of my money would go towards planting trees through American Forests, I knew it was the perfect gift from me to me.... and to the Earth. Don't you want it now?? The photos don't do it justice. (If you go to Tina Tang's website with the above link, click on the necklace image to see the reverse side with the words).