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Archive for the ‘Holidays and Special Occasions’ Category

What are we thankful for this year?  For many things.  We are thankful for the presence of one another.  We are thankful for the fortune that those we love are healthy.  We are thankful that we have been graced with the ability to make better choices than at any other point in the past,  and that these choices have led to more compassionate lives with the prospect of a more healthful future.

Wild Rice and Millet Stuffing

I’ve always made a bread-based stuffing for Thanksgiving in the past but for whatever reason, I just wasn’t feeling the urge to do that this year.  Instead, I wanted to make something earthy and, to my mind, far more wholesome and sustaining.  It also happens to be gluten-free, which gives those with gluten intolerances another option for holiday dressings.  I thought the combination of wild rice and millet would make a beautiful duo when melded together with seasonal fruits and vegetables.  This dish set the tone for a gorgeous holiday meal.

Ingredients:

1 cup wild rice

1 cup millet

2 stalks celery, finely diced

4 golden beets, peeled and cut into bite-sized pieces

2 cups Brussels sprouts, quartered

1 cup dried cranberries

½ cup hazelnuts

½ leek, sliced thinly

2 shallots, minced

6 garlic cloves, minced

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

3 sprigs fresh thyme

1 sprig fresh rosemary

2 sprigs fresh sage

6 cups vegetable stock, divided

Sea salt

Freshly-cracked black pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Add the millet to a hot pot and toast for a couple of minutes.  [You will hear the seeds beginning to pop when they’re ready.]  Add 2 cups of vegetable stock and a pinch of salt.  Bring to a boil and then drop to a simmer.  Cover and cook until the millet is light and fluffy.  This should take about 20 minutes.

In another pot, bring 3 cups of vegetable stock to a boil and add the wild rice.  Reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 35-40 minutes or until the rice is soft.

Place the bite-sized pieces of beet and the quartered Brussels sprouts on a sheet pan.  Place in the oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until the edges of the vegetables have caramelized.

Add a drizzle of olive oil to a pan and add the celery, shallots, leek and garlic.  Cook over medium heat until softened.  Add the fresh herbs. [I like to tie mine together with kitchen twine so that removing the stems isn’t a hassle.]  Add the hazelnuts and dried cranberries and mix well.  Add one cup of vegetable stock and reduce heat to a low simmer.

When the millet is ready, fluff with a fork and transfer to a large bowl.  Drain the wild rice when ready, if necessary, and add to the bowl with the millet.  Mix in the contents of the pan, removing the herb stems.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Lastly, gently fold in the roasted beets and Brussels sprouts.

I served this in a roasted pumpkin.  If this is how you’d like to present this dish then you will need to get a medium-sized pumpkin and cut a round out of the top.  Clean out the seeds and stringy bits with a spoon.  Place the hollowed out pumpkin and the top you removed on a baking sheet.  Place into a 400°F oven for about an hour or until the pumpkin has softened.  Remove from the oven and place upon a plate.  After that it’s just a matter of filling the pumpkin with the stuffing and serving it at table.

 

 

 

Tempeh, Walnut and Roasted Pear Loaf

Roasted pear purée was the key to giving this loaf an amazing seasonal flavor and moist texture.  The ingredient list reads like a Who’s Who of healthful botanical phytochemicals, polyphenols and antioxidants as well as omega-3s.

Ingredients:

16 oz tempeh

4 pears, divided

1 cup shiitake mushroom caps, sliced thinly

1 red bell pepper, diced

½ leek, sliced thinly

2 shallots, minced

2 stalks celery, finely diced

8 cloves roasted garlic

¼ cup ground flax seeds

½ cup whole wheat panko bread crumbs

½ cup chopped walnuts

1 T fresh rosemary, minced

1T  fresh thyme leaves

4 large fresh sage leaves, thinly sliced

sea salt

freshly-cracked black pepper

olive oil

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Cut 3 pears in half and core.  Place them upon a baking sheet and roast for an hour.  Thirty minutes into the roasting time, add the garlic cloves [wrapped up in some aluminum foil with a small bit of olive oil].

Sauté the leek, shallot, celery, bell pepper and mushrooms in a drizzle of olive oil until softened.  Add the herbs and mix well.

Place the tempeh into a food processor and blend until well crumbled.  Add to the sautéed vegetables, mixing thoroughly.

Remove the pears and garlic from the oven and reduce the oven temperature to 350°F.

Place the roasted pears and garlic into the food processor and blend until homogenized.  Add to the tempeh mixture on the stove.  Add the flax meal and bread crumbs and stir to combine well.  Season with salt and pepper.

Core the remaining pear and cut into slices.   Line the bottom of a oiled loaf pan with them, overlapping each piece with the previous one.   Spoon out the loaf mix atop the pear slices and fill the pan.  Press down with the back of the spoon to compress the contents well.

Bake for an hour.  Allow to cool slightly and then gently invert onto a serving plate, pear side up.

 

 

Persimmon and Cranberry Gravy

I served this over some steamed green beans with roasted chestnuts [pictured above] as well as spooning it over the tempeh, walnut and roasted pear loaf.  This tart, tangy and sweet gravy tastes wonderful with savory dishes.

Ingredients:

3 cups organic unfiltered apple juice

1 persimmon, peeled and cut into a large dice

4 cloves garlic, smashed

4 sprigs fresh thyme

Zest of one orange

1 T while balsamic vinegar

½ cup fresh cranberries

Sea salt

Directions:

Place the apple juice, vinegar, garlic, persimmon, orange zest and thyme into a pan and bring to a simmer.  Reduce volume by half [~20 minutes].  Add reduced contents to a blender and blend until homogenous.  Return gravy to the pan and add the cranberries.  Bring to a low simmer and cook until the cranberries have popped [~10 minutes].  Season to taste with salt.

 

Raw Pumpkin Custard

The notion of a raw pumpkin pie has been tugging at my brain for a long time now.  Thing is, I wasn’t in the mood for a high caloric raw pie crust full of nuts and dates and such things after having such a large meal, so I opted to simply make the filling.  It’s all anyone ever really eats anyway, right?

Ingredients:

a small sugar pumpkin [mine yielded ~2 cups peeled pumpkin flesh]

one young Thai coconut [mine yielded ~1.5 cups coconut meat]

coconut water from the Thai coconut

6 medjool dates, soaked and pitted

¼ cup almond meal

4 tsp pumpkin pie spice

1 T fresh ginger, minced

1 tsp cardamom

½ tsp freshly-grated nutmeg

½ vanilla bean

1 tsp lemon zest

pinch of salt

agave syrup, to taste

Suggested garnishes:  raisins, almonds, roasted pumpkin seeds, citrus zest, freshly-grated nutmeg, cinnamon

Directions:

Seed and peel the pumpkin [I reserved and roasted the pumpkin seeds to use as a garnish].  Cut into a medium-sized dice.  Set aside.

Hack into the coconut [Great how-to video here], reserving the coconut water and flesh.  Set aside.

Add the pumpkin, dates and coconut flesh to a food processor and process until smooth.  Add the coconut water to aid the blending until you get a thick but smooth consistency, remembering that you can always add more liquid but can’t remove it.

Split the vanilla bean and remove the seeds with the back of a paring knife.  Add to the food processor along with the other spices.  Blend well.  Add the almond meal, ginger,  lemon zest and pinch of salt.  Process until smooth.   Add agave syrup to taste.  Place in the refrigerator to chill.

The almond meal will help to thicken the pumpkin pudding just as the coconut water will loosen its consistency.  You can adjust this to your tastes as you wish.

This is really nice served with a ginger cashew cream like the one I made here, and garnished with raisins, zests, nuts and seeds.

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Savory Phyllo Roll

This dish is similar to the Mediterranean Braciole dinner in that it’s a combination of separate dishes combined into one  main course.  It’s very straight-forward and easy to assemble and well worth the time investment when you want to create a memorable and special meal.  The three main components can be made ahead of time so that you can create a beautiful dinner without any stress.

Ingredients:

Greek-Gyros seitan [Half a recipe was used for this]

Tangy Greek custard-style tofu [Half a recipe was used for this]

2 cups cooked greens that have been squeezed dry to remove excess water [I used nettles, but spinach could easily be substituted]

1 package phyllo dough

Olive oil

Directions:

Thaw the phyllo at room temperature while still in the box.  [You do not want to open it until you’re ready to use because it dries out very quickly.]

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Cut the seitan and tofu into blocks that measure roughly one inch by three inches and set aside. 

Unroll the phyllo dough and cover with a slightly damp towel to keep pliant.  Set a baking sheet on the counter in front of you, vertically.  Take one sheet of phyllo and place upon the baking sheet.  Using your fingers or a brush, lightly dot olive oil over the surface of the sheet.  Place another sheet of phyllo atop the first and repeat. 

Using a pizza cutter or knife [If using a knife be careful not to tear the dough, applying pressure from above rather than drawing the knife across it], gently cut the phyllo down the center, vertically so that you create two pieces.  Place a piece of seitan on either half of the phyllo three inches from the bottom edge of the sheet.  [You want to have enough room to be able to bring the phyllo up and over the filling.] Place a piece of tofu atop the seitan and then add a final layer of cooked greens.

 

Roll the phyllo up and over the filling and roll over a couple of times.  Tuck in the sides and continue to roll until all the phyllo has been used.  Rub the outside with oil and set upon a separate baking sheet. Repeat until all the rolls have been created.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until the phyllo is golden brown on the edges.

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Easter has been on my mind for a while now because it, along with Thanksgiving and Christmas, are important holidays where people gather for food and community.  These days can be especially stressful for vegans because you’re expected to do something a little extra special on these occasions and omnivores are used to substantial, rib-sticking meals that are centered around meat.  I’ve seen that many vegans and vegetarians are resorting to commercially made products that simulate roasts and thought, again, why not create something gorgeous that has identifiable ingredients and is made from scratch?  Why not, indeed.

I used the gyros-style seitan because when I think of traditional Easter foods, lamb comes to mind.   Back when I used to eat lamb,  I’d season it with bold herbaceous  flavors and lots of lemon.  Since I wanted to create a dish that shared these  flavors,  to my mind, Mediterranean was definitely the way to go.

 

 

This meal is essentially three dishes rolled into one,  and aside from the seitan, everything can be made a day or two beforehand to help de-stress the holiday.   Alternatively, you could make and bake the entire braciole a day or two ahead, refrigerate it and then slice and brown it up the day of the meal.  The longer it has to cool and set after baking, the better the roast will hold together.

For the braciole you will need:

1 recipe Gyros-style Seitan, uncooked in dough form

Mashed Potatoes with Celeriac, recipe follows below

Braised Mustard Greens, recipe follows below

Briny Cashew Cheese, recipe follows below

roasted red peppers

 

***

 

Mashed Potatoes with Celeriac

You will only need about a cup’s worth of this mash for the braciole but it makes a great side dish to fill out the meal, so make plenty to accompany the roast. 

Ingredients:

Russet potatoes

celeriac [Use half the amount as potatoes.]

roasted garlic, to taste [ 1 head garlic drizzled with olive oil and wrapped in foil.  400 degrees/45 minutes.]

Directions:

Whenever I make these root vegetable mashes, I always use twice the amount of potato as I do other vegetable.  Simply peel the vegetables and then cut into chunks.  Place in a pot with cold water.  The celeriac will probably float.  Simmer until vegetables are fork tender.  Drain and return to the pot to evaporate off any residual water.  Add in roasted garlic and mash.  Season with salt and pepper,  to taste.  Set aside for later.

 

Braised Mustard Greens

Ingredients:

1 lb mustard greens

1 onion, diced

3 garlic cloves, minced

olive oil

red pepper flakes

Directions:

Sauté the onion in a drizzle of olive oil until softened.  Add red pepper flakes and garlic and cook until you can smell the garlic cooking.  Add the mustard greens and toss to coat.  Add ¼ cup water and cook until wilted down but still bright green.  Remove from heat and let cool.  Place greens in a cheesecloth or clean kitchen towel and squeeze to remove all excess liquid. [You don’t want your braciole to be soggy inside.]

 

Briny Cashew Cheese

This makes a great appetizer as well slathered on flatbread crackers.

Ingredients:

1 block firm silken tofu

1 cup raw cashews

Juice and zest of one lemon

1 T capers

10 Greek olives, pitted and diced

1 preserved lemon, diced

Directions:

Place the tofu and cashews in a food processor and run until smooth.  Add in juice and zest.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl and stir in remaining ingredients.  Add salt and pepper to taste. 

 

Assembling the braciole:

Once you have mixed the wet and dry ingredients together to create the seitan dough, place upon a rolled out sheet of aluminum foil [2 feet long to give you ample room] and press out into a rectangular shape that has a thickness of about ½ an inch.  It’ll be roughly a foot long by 8-9 inches wide.  This is what you shall place subsequent layers upon and then roll the entirety into a log and bake.  It is important to leave a couple of inches of seitan bare on the right-hand end so that when the log is rolled you will have seitan-seitan contact and the log will seal.   

Top the seitan with a thin layer of mashed potato and celeriac, remembering to stop within a couple of inches of the right-hand end.  Next, layer with some roasted red pepper and then some mustard greens [Don’t pile them too high, remember you have to roll over this].  Finally add a strip of cashew cheese down the center from top to bottom.  If you want an entire layer of cheese that is fine, I wanted mine concentrated in the center of the roast and therefore only placed the cheese at the center.

Turn the braciole so that the right-hand end is now at the top and using the aluminum foil, begin to roll it upon itself until the log is formed.  Use the foil to maintain the structure and seal the braciole.  Add additional foil if necessary to cover the ends and fully seal the roast.

Bake for 90 minutes at 325°.  Remove from oven and allow to rest for at least 20 minutes.  Slice and serve as is, or as I prefer, brown the slices [or even the entire roast if you have a large enough fry pan]  in a pan with a drizzle of olive oil.

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Like many others around the country today, D and I decided to have a more traditional New Year’s Day dinner full of foods that represent luck, prosperity, and comfort.

Colcannon (steamed cabbage, mashed German Butterball Potatoes, unsweetened coconut milk, salt, and pepper)

Braised apples with sautéed kale and currants

Black eyed peas cooked in vegetable stock with mirapoix, bay leaves, and cinnamon stick, with chopped carrot tops for garnish.

Whole wheat cornbread with whole kernel corn and minced serrano peppers

We are happy. We are stuffed. And now, we’re in desperate need of a nap. 😀 Ah, yummy bliss.

Happy New Year everyone!

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This is the meal D and I had for Christmas Day dinner. Coincidentally, it was so good and there was enough left over that we had it again tonight! I said to D, after scooping the last bit in my bowl onto my spoon, “I don’t know how anyone could not like collard greens.” Sure, where I’m from in the South, collard greens are a sloppy, almost brown in color, inedible side dish served in some generic chain restaurant (like Cracker Barrel), and most people I know wouldn’t touch ’em with a ten foot pole. But, I betcha if they’d all try it like this, their opinions would change. I know mine did. The currants in the dish add a lovely, nice, sporadic touch of sweetness.

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Christmas Eve Chutney

Citrus and Roasted Heirloom Tomato Chutney

1 lb Heirloom Tomatoes
1 c red onion
1 grapefruit [+ zest]
1/2 c fresh cranberries
5 cloves garlic
2 preserved lemons
olive oil
turbinado sugar
Thyme
Basil
Freshly-grated nutmeg
salt
cracked black pepper

Directions

Halve tomatoes and toss lightly in olive oil and 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar. Roast at 400 degrees for @ 45 minutes or until tomatoes have carmelized. While tomatoes are in the oven, saute onion and garlic in a wee bit of olive oil until onions are translucent. Add grapefruit segments, cranberries, preserved lemons cut into 12ths, 6 fresh thyme sprigs and nutmeg. Adjust liquid volume with water to maintain a loose chutney and simmer until cranberries pop. Add roasted tomatoes and their juice. Allow to cool and remove thyme sprigs. Add salt and pepper to taste and then fold in fresh basil and thyme just before serving.

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We’ve bitten the bullet and decided to start blogging. Actually, it was my idea, since my Facebook page had started to become a showcase of our yummy food more than anything else. Veganism provides such an excitement for me, and I want to show off everything D or I make, almost as if to say, “Hey, look! Our food is just as yummy, beautiful, and normal to eat.” So, while I’ll still post pictures there for my friends, this blog will provide a more appropriate medium in which to discuss the foods and the issues of being an herbivore. Who knows? Maybe someone out there lurking will become inspired not only to cook these meals, but also to delve more into a plant-based way of life. Take it from us, it’s incredibly worth it.

For meals that are our own, I will post the recipes. For the recipes of others that we use, I’ll post a link to direct you either to their website or cookbook. With that, I’ll leave you with a picture of the meal I recently made for our 8th (although D says “9th”…silly D) anniversary. The dinner consisted of the Southwestern Tofu Burger and Boston Baked Beans from The Vegan Table by Colleen Patrick-Goudreau and Grilled Pear, Walnut, and Cabbage Salad from Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm. I apologize in advance with the fuzziness of the picture. It didn’t look that way when I took it, I promise! =)



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