Party Prep: sweets!

For tomorrow's Christmas wine party, I've got a few sweets on the menu. I knocked them out this afternoon...

Gingerbread Whoopie Pies (yet to be frosted)
Chocolate Stout Cupcakes
Tahini Lime Shortbread Cookies



Tonight was cauliflower soup from Supernatural Everyday. It calls for a bunch of white cheddar mixed in and to top, but I replaced it happily with to delicious effect.

Paul was pleased, as you can see. I love simple soup meals by candleight!


Thanksgiving at Home

This year Paul and I decided that we'd host as many people as would visit for Thanksgiving. As luck would have it, somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 people joined us for dinner on Thursday. Zoinks!

There are a couple interesting things about organizing a meal for this many people. Paul kept saying "We've had tons of people over at once, just not family, so this shouldn't be too hard." I agree-- I've cooked a meal of sorts for 30-40 people at my house, but that was more along the lines of a rotating appetizer bar, not a sit-down meal. To that end, you can see my earlier posts about the deliciousness that took place in my kitchen this week-- successfully, I might add. Also of interest is that 18 of twenty people who attended are not vegan or vegetarian.

Of course, everyone knows that the most delicious parts of thanksgiving are those that are served alongside of the turkey. For heaven's sake-- the reason everyone has so much left over turkey after the big feast is that turkey is really-- well, it's a bit bland and a bit dry, and the only way people usually enjoy it is slopped in gravy or cranberry sauce.

But when the first follow-up question for our invitation was "What will be served?", I knew that if I wanted to make this special meal for my family, I'd need to either cook a bird myself or serve one someone else had cooked, even if I wouldn't touch it. So I caved, and far more quickly than I wish I had.

When I went to visit the turkeys at the local organic farm where I picked ours up, I stopped by the huge flock of turkeys just out in front of the processing buildings. Standing there for a moment, I heard the buzz of the electric prod as they separated another 8 or so birds from the flock and herded them toward the "red room," as they proudly call it. There, the birds would be shocked to death, hung to drain out their blood, then boiled and de-feathered. In my arms I held dinner for 18, and on the other side of the fence were beautiful white and rouge birds clucking around in the funny way that only turkeys can. I didn't feel barbaric-- I knew that I was capitulating to the wishes of my family and others I'd come to love and I'd come to terms with it already-- but I did know that I'd never do this again.

After a year of being vegan, I told my husband that I would likely never eat meat again, and I definitely won't after this thanksgiving. To take it a step further, however, I don't think I'll ever prepare meat again after this week (in the past, I've done so on special occasions for loved ones). In the last year and a half, I've watched my friends move from "Really? NO meat? NO cheese?" to "Wow, this is really good," and "You really don't need the cheese on that," and "I don't really eat much meat anymore." I would like to see more of the same from my family, but this is the stuff pipe dreams are made of.

In any case, I regret my decision to serve a turkey for Thanksgiving, but more than that, I regret that I'm the only person in my family and in my circle of friends who seems moved by the cruelties and abuses of animal farming. Even in my visit to this local farm that is about as salt of the earth, natural, and unabusive as they come, that belongs to a family whose livelihood rests upon the well-being and slaughter of the flock-- as I looked through that fence at the turkeys who were waiting for slaughter over the next couple days, it all felt so wrong.


Paul's first vegan cooking!

Paul made some delicious food tonight- pomegranate glazed tempeh, eggplant and sweet potato from Supernatural Everyday. Delicious!

We split the recipe for four between 4 of us, and it was sufficiently filling. Elizabeth thought it might be just a little too tart because of all the pomegranate molasses, and we thought a solution to that might be serving it over brown rice or adding in a smidge more maple syrup. It was already so sweet, though, so maybe not. Of course there's always the option to add more oil, but there was already about 1/3 cup in there and it seemed like a bit much.

In any case, another success from SNE. I'm loving this cookbook more and more each time I use it.


Supernatural, take 2

Tonight I made this interesting peanutty panzanella salad. So far, delicious! It is the roasted cherry tomatoes on top that are particularly fun. They lend a brightness to the salad that makes me want to eat it all night!

I'm totally into this simple cooking thing- it's super fun!



First recipe from Supernatural Everyday...

First vegan ravioli...



Breakfast of champions?

It's my first try at the "unprocessed" challenge...just giving a couple recipes a try. Here is the "It's Easy Being Green Smoothie"- 12 oz. of raw kale!!! Here it is mixed with Oj, mango and banana. Actually, it's quite delicious...and if I have a few more, I think I might need a Vitamix for Christmas!


Inside the Vault

So this morning as I chastised myself for not blogging more regularly (thank you Sarah...), I looked at all the things I'd cooked in the last week that would have made a perfectly good blog-- pepper steak stew with asian spinach salad, mac and cheeze, fresh summer corn chowder, fruity quinoa, tofu feta and watermelon salad...blah blah blah. Missed opportunites? Perhaps. Instead, I thought I might take a look at my fridge and show you what's been made and what's in the hopper. For me, ideas are always popping. When I go to the store, I get everything on my list plus a few random things that were in random recipes I've read this week, thinking "ooh! that sounded so good in that one...where did I read that? Whatever...I'll just get it."

Here, then, is my attempt to remember what's goin' on in my fridge.

Let's start in the middle. That large green-topped tub is the left over corn chowder. I got the delicious recipe from here.  The best thing about it is it really tastes like corn. I know that's because I used the real deal-- freshly cut off the cob corn, but it was quite tasty. I like a smoother chowder, so I pureed more than 1/2 the soup with my immersion blender...I'm glad I did.

Skipping up to the top shelf, last week I tried some "pre-made" stuff from Whole Foods. Their edamame and carrot salad has always been a favorite of mine, but I also indulged in the sesame noodles. They were a smidge oily, but they were SO yummy. I'll have them again when I'm NOT listening to Dr. Neal Barnard and cutting out as much oil as possible. I also indulged in a little freshly chopped mango on that trip, and I threw it into Mango/Lime pancakes as well as smoothies with soy milk and kale. Talk about creamy green goodness. I am in love with kale smoothies. I ran out of bananas and didn't even miss them.

I've pretty much been sold on the Silk brand original, light soy milk. I love that it doesn't have much fat, doesn't taste to soy-ee, and is not so sweet that you can't cook with it. Maybe that's just me, but I'm diggin' it. I also keep some boxed almond milk on hand, but this is my official go-to.

You might also notice a little container of yogurt on that second shelf. That was breakfast this morning-- Peach yogurt with 1/2 apple, 1/2 banana and a bit of museli sprinkled on top (from IKEA, of all places...). Whole Soy is my favorite soy yogurt. It's so rich and creamy, it feels indulgent, but it's oh-so-good for you!

The produce bins are really where it's at in my fridge- they're always teeming over with goodness. There's a little dill sticking out from my watermelon/feta salad there. This is a great summer dish that my dear friend Jim made for us one summer, and we swooned like teenage girls. Chop up half a watermelon, lay it on a cookie sheet and pour some apple cider vinegar over it. Toss to coat and let sit for 15 minutes. Toss again and let it sit a little longer, then drain. Throw this in a bowl with similarly sized chunks of fresh tomato (best with heirlooms, of course), a handful of dill, and a cup or so of vegan feta (I used the recipe from Happy Herbivore). Drizzle with balsamic syrup if you're that kind of person, or just sprinkle with black pepper and serve. It's pretty, tasty, summery, etc. Love it! I think it would be great with some added mint, but I am not growing any this year, sadly.

I am growing all manner of other herbs, though-- Sage, Tarragon, Thyme, Basil (It's doing well!), Cilantro and Rosemary. They are all thriving, so my store-bought herbs are laying to waste in those refrigerator drawers, sadly. I'm also having a heckuv a time growing tomatoes, cucumbers, jalapenos and yellow peppers. My lettuce is begging to be snipped (I'm coming!), and some swiss chard looks nearly ready too. I've got squash and beets in the back wondering if this is for real (they're quite small at the moment). I may not have a bonafide garden yet, but they're growing like I do.

Other delicious goodies in the produce drawers are some left over ears of corn (4 was definitely enough for the soup), summer squash that I'm waiting (for what?) to grill, celery and carrots that wish they were juice in my cup, some dark, dark beets that also would like to be liquidated, and parsley to make that juice feel extra healthy. I've taken a chill pill on the juicing, but only because the juicer was making funny noises at me like it would explode. Now that it has had a rest, perhaps it's time to clear out the bottom drawer? The kale, however, I have found is way better in smoothies, so I don't "waste" it in the juicer anymore. I love the fibrous texture it brings to my morning sips.

You might notice also that there are 2 tubs of miso (yellow and red) and 3 tubs of something from "Oasis." That is now my most favorite brand of hummus. It's truly, truly, truly outrageous. I prefer the roasted garlic most, but I also find myself buying their baba ghannouj and spinach/artichoke versions as well. They are such a great snack, especially with homemade pita chips. Delish. The miso has been going in all manner of things these days. I have been keeping a bit of cashew-miso mayo from Appetite for Reduction on hand for sandwiches, and that's always a treat. Paul loves this stuff. I also seem to be making miso soup for breakfast on occasion, which is both weird and wonderful. I just drop in green onions and it's finished. It's great served in a mug in place of coffee, I've found.

Finally, there is left over pasta from my foray with morels last week. It was a first attempt and very good, but not as good as I wanted it to be. I just sauteed them with a little onion, lemon zest and greens. They were good-- do not mistake me-- but I'd like to be  a morel expert, and I'm not yet.

Ooh-- in case you missed that lingering bottle on the top shelf, that's a bottle of Short's Sustenance Ale from a lovely trip up north last week. Please, Paul, drink up before I steal it back. :)


Asparagus, Jicama and Yams

As part of my recent efforts at detox, I'm lightening up dinners at home this week.

Tonight, I cooked mostly from Neal Barnard's book Get Healthy, Go Vegan. It's a great collection of low-fat recipes...I'm working my way through slowly. For the main course, we had the creamy asparagus soup...

 Let me just pause here to say...I don't care who you are or what you normally eat-- you need to make this soup. It is AMAZING.

Key flavors here are asparagus (shocking), lemon and thyme. It adds up to excellent spring goodness. I've included the recipe below.

Along with the soup I made the Black Bean, Jicama and Cucumber salad. It is surprising that red onion is not mentioned in the name of this recipe, because there's a lot of it in this salad. Basically these ingredients are chopped up with a little fresh mint, seasoned, and soaked in some rice vinegar. The vinegar does a decent job of quieting the onion (recipe calls for a whole red onion, sliced), but next time I'll only use half so that the other ingredients stand out more. In any case, it was a refreshing accompaniment.

left overs
To offer some further substance to the meal, I roasted some sweet potato spears with a smidgen of sunflower oil (1t) and the amazing Hickory Crisp seasoning from the Alden Mill House.

On a personal note, it's been an interesting two days. I've cut out nearly everything made of flour, and I find myself having these headaches in the afternoon that are very intense. I've heard that this can happen with detoxing, but I've never experienced it...even when I first cut out meat and dairy. Or...maybe I just have a headache. Who knows...

Since the semester is over and I have a little more time on my hands, I've also discovered a couple interesting blogs in the last two days. Here are a couple if you're interested: Manifest Vegan and Vegan Dad.

And...since I know all of you will make this, here's the recipe for Creamy Asparagus Soup, straight from Barnard's book (above). Check it out!

more please!
3 cups sliced asparagus (1 inch pieces or so-- about 1#)
2 cups vegetable broth (use 1 1/2 c. for a thicker soup)
3/4 t. chopped fresh time
1 bay leaf
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 T whole wheat pastry flour
2 c. plain soy milk (I used "original light")
Pinch of ground nutmeg
1 t. salt (you may want less-- it was fairly salty)
1/4 t. grated lemon zest
1/2 T. lemon juice
freshly ground pepper to taste
hot sauce to taste (optional)

Combine asparagus, broth, 1/2 t. thyme, bay leaf, and garlic in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 10 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Place the asparagus mixture in a blender, cover, and puree until smooth (careful to vent the blender chamber or it might burst!).

Place the flour in a large saucepan over medium heat. Gradually add the soy milk, stirring with a whisk until blended. Add the pureed asparagus mixture and nutmeg and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from heat and strain. Add the remaining 1/4 t. thyme, lemon zest and lemon juice, salt, and stir. Season with pepper and hot sauce to taste and serve.

(from Neal Barnard's Get Healthy, Go Vegan!)


Going British

Hosting my book club last night, I decided to pick up the British mantle and make a meal that matched our author's home country. This, of course, was partially because I didn't figure I had time to prepare a vegan seder meal...

Shepherd's pie a new way from Veg news for the main and a Banoffee pie for dessert. Pie number one, Shepherd's pie, was ok...not as good as the earlier recipe I used. The Banoffee pie, however was outrageously good. It required a little finicking...had to figure how to make vegan whipped cream (who knew??), and also had to make "toffee" with no butter, no eggies...etc. 
This is "Lee's" pie-- mine looked quite the same, though!

Here is the recipe for the Banoffee. I used a recipe similar to this one for the whipped cream, but added more powdered sugar and a bit of Tahitian vanilla. The pie's base was made with McVittie's oat biscuits, which I was happy to learn are in fact vegan! Hurrah! Nice and crispy, topped with fresh bananas- I used 3, a tofu/maple syrup/soy milk toffee (totally weird- right?), and then the coconut whipped cream on top. While the Shepherd's pie was a bit lukewarm (in delight, not temperature), people licked their dessert plates for this one. 

It looked something like this...
The shepherd's pie was a slight disappointment, and I think it has to do with making the gravy for the veggies separate from the veggies themselves. While in the past I have made a mess of root vegetables and shrooms, thickened only with a little WW flour, this time I poured the recipe's starch-thickened gravy (very tasty one!) over the vegetables then topped with taters. I think it weakened the deliciousness a bit. Plus, I threw in soy crumbles rather than the usual green lentils, so it did have that salty, fakey taste to it. Not so bad that we won't eat the left overs, but not a wow version of a usually quite delicious dish.