Oh, Christmas Tree...

The second round of holidays were a mite more challenging than Thanksgiving (kudos to Jenn for making my visit so great!). The overwhelming gist of it all was it felt like I was cooking for about 2 weeks. I started by making food for a friend's party, then cooked for our own party...then made a dish for Christmas Eve, Christmas Day, and had the family over the day after Christmas for dinner. It's no wonder Paul and I have been eating out so much in the new year!

Christmas eve was a bit of a challenge-- there would be nothing I could eat at Paul's aunt and uncle's place, so I made a couple appetizers and a polenta/chickpea casserole that was...well, marginal-- I'm not sure what happened there. It is interesting how traditions can get in the way of ethical eating. I love that Paul's family has traditions-- something we don't have many of in my family. This evening really highlighted the important of tradition, but it also made me wonder if it is possible to adjust traditions to fit a new normal...with that in mind, I veganized my family's french toast tradition the next morning :)

Christmas day was great because my mother-in-law made awesome vegan side dishes, so I was completely taken care of. How great is that? I contributed a caesar salad to the affair, using a recipe from the Vegan Table for that one. I also made these croutons suggested in the book, and they were great-- cubed bread, tossed with paprika, oregano and marjoram. Toast them in the oven, and toss away! The vegan caesar is pretty easy. It uses lemon juice for tartness, cashews for creaminess and dijon for a little zip. I think there may have been capers in there as well to replace the brininess of anchovies. Nancy made this very good bean/carrot side dish. It was creamy, with a little dill and carrot to accent the white beans. So good-- I took all the leftovers home. I think the family was surprised that vegan mashed potatoes could be so tasty too-- they were great!

For the dinner I cooked, I tried a new recipe for Noodle Kugel from Vegan Table (this is a great book for entertaining, by the way). It was a sweet kugel, so there was a smidge of sugar, sweetened almond milk, crumbled tofu, Earth Balance, and I added my signature crispy Sage, cinnamon and brown sugar mix in. It was so good! My dad loved it, and I made it again for a family party in January. I know-- more parties...the list continues...

I felt torn about the meal I made, because I let my dad bring a ham for everyone else to eat along with my sides. It was fine that way, but it smelled like dead pig in my house for 2 days. Oddly, when you stop eating meat, the smell of cooking animals is really no longer appealing. It turned my stomach a bit, but we were hosting for the first time, so I thought I should offer a meat option. In retrospect, I should have taken it as an opportunity to demonstrate that you *really* don't need meat to make a complete meal.

Beyond the kugel, I also prepared sweet potato fries (for the wee ones-- my (step) sister Kelly's kids), steamed broccoli with sauce and I served the seeded rolls from Trader Joe's again. All that meal needed was a hearty stew or bean dish, and we could have done without Porky. Sad. :(

Anyhoo, on to the next, right? An appetizer I played with this season is a moroccan roasted vegetable blend. It included fennel, zucchini, red pepper and a few others, and it was seasoned with curry, cinnamon and...maybe I threw in a bit of ras-al-hanout. The first two times I served them chopped small in little filo cups; the third time, I wrapped them in filo dough triangles and pan fried them. These were served with a maple balsamic glaze from the Eat, Drink and be Vegan book. Everyone loved these, actually, so maybe I'll post more details on the recipe another time.

Even though these crammed-full couple weeks were busy and full of cooking, the holidays were really great this year. We spent so much time with family-- in a good way-- that it really felt like "the holidays" for me. That hasn't been the case in awhile because I'm usually traveling all over the place around this time. There really is nothing like slowing down (speeding up?) and taking time to be with the people you care for. Good fun.

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