Stuffing Myself

First thanksgiving as a vegan, check.

Visiting North Carolina where my sister and mom live for the holiday, I knew that if I was going to survive my first big vegan holiday, I was going to have to bring my game. And I did. Aside from the delicious red pepper hummous and gingery delicious sweet potatoes my sis whipped up for me, I brought the veg celebration to the table. It was great! Here was my portion of the menu:

  • Veganized stuffing (original recipe by Dave Lieberman)
  • Glazed Green Beans (from the Vegan Table)
  • Roasted Garlic Brussels Sprouts (from Vegan with a Vengeance)
  • Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cupcakes (Isa Chandra Moskowitz's recipe)
  • Shepherd's Pie (from Sept/Nov VegNews Magazine)

I don't even know where my sister's recipe came from, but it was so good-- gingered, sweet sweet potatoes topped with a brown sugar nutty loveliness. In any case, the stuffing, according to just about everyone, was the star.

To master this lovely creation, I toasted a big bakery boule of multigrain bread, tossed it in a lovely heated "sauce" of margarine, thyme, sage, baby bella mushrooms, dried cherries and veggie broth.  I think I also threw in some toasted chopped walnuts for added crunch, but not too many. Bake it and love it, baby-- this stuffing is amazing. Of course, it's probably the delicious bread that helps it be this way, but the dried cherries and walnuts also add something pretty special. I'll make it again for Christmas, methinks...

Altogether, I think it was a success. There was a twinge of sadness when my sister made a pumpkin cream pie that I couldn't even taste test, but the evening before thanksgiving, as I watched my sister, father and brother-in-law wrestle with a very large dead bird, I knew that I wasn't going to miss the "real deal" at all. There are days when I think I might someday go back to eating some things like butter, eggs and cheese if I could find them produced responsibly...but Thanksgiving day was not one of those days. And most days are not one of those days, now.

The next project on deck is our holiday party that comes in December. I'm looking forward to planning that menu. Mostly vegan, with a platter of cheese for those who can't imagine a party without it... Wish me luck!


Shepherd's Pie, Chocolate Spice and Chilean Red

Tonight was a night of comfort food. I learned last night that Paul had never had shepherd's pie before. Can you imagine? I can't-- I still remember helping my mom whip the potatoes, having the back of my hand smacked when I snuck a few too many bites of them, and smelling that delicious, savory steam emanating from the freshly scooped serving on my green, ceramic plate (loved the green and red, mom did).

In my youth, shepherd's pie was a staple, usually topped with cheddar and bottomed in delicious ground beef gravy, but it is also something I just LOVED ordering at the pub when I was in England for a summer. There's nothing like a crisp cider and this yummy dish at about 3 in the afternoon-- overcast sky, a good book, etc. You can feel the picture I'm painting.

You can imagine, then, my excitement to see a veganized version in the most recent issue of VegNews Magazine. Knowing that my poor, poor husband had never experienced the joy of this dish, I whipped it up the first chance I got.

This recipe replaced the ground beef with French green lentils, and the gravy was thickened with barley flour. The base was olive oil, mirepoix with garlic,  mushrooms, celery seed, marjoram, paprika, thyme and some veggie broth. It also called for a little vegan worcestershire sauce, tamari and fresh italian parsley. While traditional shepherd's pie would add peas to the mix, I replaced those nasty little buggers with corn. This made for a very satisfying gravy base, and the lentils were just the right texture. This type of lentil keeps its shape pretty well, so no mushiness here-- just little pillows of peppery goodness.

The mashers for the top are pretty basic-- vegan, non-hydrogenated margarine and soy milk with yukon golds. The recipe doesn't ask for cheese on top, something my mom always added. Traditional shepherds' pie doesn't have cheese that I know of (it was, after all, a peasant's dish for the most part), but I imagine it could be good between the lentils and potatoes or on top if you wanted additional richness or texture.

This dish is obviously hearty enough to be served alone, but I always feel that a "meat" and potatoes dish can go over a bit like sweatpants at the salon when it's not served with a salad. I threw together some fresh spinach, roasted sunflower seeds and dried cranberries with an apple balsamic vinaigrette, and warmed up a seeded roll from Trader Joe's (these are delicious-- you have to try them). We topped the meal off with a recently acquired bottle of Chilean red from a shop in Birmingham, Talulah Too. A great deal for a delicious wine.

The pie recipe, written by Allison Rivers Samson, was a delicious adaptation of a family classic. I'll totally make it for family at Thanksgiving (because it's hearty enough to make turkey-eaters jealous), and I know my sister, equally Anglophiled, will love it.

As a post script to our dinner, I threw together some chocolate chunk spice cookies, a recipe from Eat, Drink and be Vegan. These turned out great-- like all her cookies seem to. A little sugar, a bunch of spice, some chocolate, chocolate chunks, maple syrup and a little oil to bind it together- primo!


Weekending Up North: Thai Sundays

Sunday, Halloween, was an adventure at the cottage. We thought we'd get away this time around and escape the usual celebrations that involve clogged pores (makeup) and too much alcohol and have a peaceful respite at the cottage. Sure-- what could go wrong there?

The good news is that most things didn't go wrong. I found myself laying on the sofa much of the day, catching up on some work and watching lots of television (including one of my favorites, Tootsie). By the time dinner rolled around, I was ready to stretch my legs, move away from the well-tended fire Paul had put together for us, and cook up something warming and cozy to go with our mood.

Peanut sauce was on the docket, served over brown rice with chopped tomatoes and green onions. I'd have used tofu, but I forgot it at home, so I replaced it with some marinated, sliced portabella mushrooms sauteed garlic and olive oil. An improvement, really. I start cooking the rice, get a few things going on the stove, and go out to chill in the living room for a brief break.

Paul was sitting near me-- here is a transcript of our conversation:

What the bat looked like swooping around upstairs...
Paul: "Is that--."

Suz: "What? Is What?"

Paul: "Is that-- a bat?"

Suz: "NO. Shut up."

Paul: "Is it...? Yes. That is definitely a bat"

Suz: "Shut up.  No. There is not a bat."

Paul: "There's a bat."

Suz: "Nooooooo. Oh my gosh. What are we going to do? I don't know what to do. Paul, I don't know what to do."

During this meeting of the genius minds, a small, winged creature soared around in swooping circles in the loft of the cottage, seemingly looking for either a way out or someone's blood to suck.

As I freaked out and put the dog in one of the bedrooms so he wouldn't *get rabies* (because that is obviously what would happen if he was left out...), Paul put on a parka and a baseball cap, covered his hands with windsurfing gloves, and grabbed a broom from the garage (longer reach than a tennis racket).  I shut off all the burners for dinner (except the rice-- gotta love the slow cooking food!), hoping that we would get back to it before the bat breath in the house polluted my delicious meal.

What the bat was probably *actually* like..
Paul crawled upstairs and fought with the now invisible bat, and to no avail. We shooed the bat, we opened one of the skylight windows, we opened the front door and turned off the lights, we rattled forks against empty plastic containers. We were a sight. We were hilarious.

The bat, now safely nestled between one of the log rafters and the center beam of the house, wouldn't budge. He wanted to hole up for a little nap, and even soapy water wasn't going to get him out. Eventually, hunger, impending office hours and my own dwindling fright led us to leave the bat to his own devices, taking turns watching for him to begin circling again.

I finished dinner-- it was a delicious feast, even better than the first time I made it, and we were satiated and comforted by its warmth in our bellies.

We slept on the first floor and left the cottage before the bat could resurface the next day. Did we get away? Yes. Did we celebrate Halloween? Not really, but we certainly got a taste of the season that no party in metro Detroit could have provided.