November 14, 2012

Dinner for eight ...


I'm always looking for ways to make cooking for a crowd pleasant and stress-free, so I can enjoy the festivities without being in a bad mood. Using the slow cooker is a great way to have the main dish cook itself so I can whip up a few side dishes at my "leisure." Ever since I tested recipes for Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker (review here), I've been trying recipes that I didn't test, and so far, so good. Sunday night I made Black Bean Chili and Sweet Potato Casserole. Above, you can see it bubbling in the cooker just before I served it. The layers of sweet potato and chili were also layered with vegan cheese, and I made a recipe of Low-Fat Chipotle Cheese Sauce from Miyoko Schinner's Artisan Vegan Cheese to use for that purpose. That's what you see all gooey and melty on the top. I started preparing the casserole at one o'clock, and by one-thirty it was in the slow cooker ready to go. The cheese sauce had butternut squash as a main ingredient, and I already had that measured out from the previous night's leftovers, but still, that's a pretty fast prep time for a main dish. When heated, the cheese melts!

The chili isn't juicy here because I photographed it the next day, cold, when there
was a little more light. I heated it before we ate it later for dinner.Same for the
cheese, which gets melt-y when heated.

We served the chili over rice, and I'd have to say it was delicious — spicy, creamy, rich and warming. The rice was a last minute decision when I realized how saucy the chili was, because I had planned to serve polenta fries, but could see they wouldn't be very useful to sop up the gravy. I suppose we could have served the chili in bowls with spoons. I still made the polenta fries, and no one complained about the two starches — the guests loved the fries! They may even have been the most popular dish of the night, so I'm glad they were included in the menu. I should mention that the original recipe made for some very salty fries. (When my husband complains about too much salt, I know the dish must really be salty.) I used less than 1/4 teaspoon this time, and it seemed about right, even though the recipe says 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Also, I used a tube of plain polenta from TJ's and a seasoned tube from Whole Foods, and the texture and taste of the TJ's polenta was everyone's preference.


We also served steamed brussels sprouts, and marinated cucumber and red onion. The cucumber served as a refreshing counterpoint to the heavier parts of the meal. I used my mandoline to slice the vegetables into very thin slices and marinated them in a mixture of olive oil, champagne vinegar and balsamic vinegar. The balsamic vinegar gave the cukes a slight brown tinge, so I might choose a different vinegar next time.


I think the main reason we had the dinner was to lure people to the house to eat a dessert recipe I was testing for Laurie Sadowski's pie book. I don't want to be alone in the house with any of the pies — no way. This one was  a peach and berry crisp, and it was excellent. I'm not really a dessert person, especially a sweet and rich dessert person, but I'd be lying if I said I haven't been enjoying my dessert extravaganza. I feel lots of guilt as I work sticks of Earth Balance into flour and sugar, but what the hell. I can go back to my old ways soon enough.



Your reward for reading the post is a video of Miyoko Schinner making the cheese sauce I used in the chili recipe. I had quite a bit left over by the way, and we made nachos for dinner the next night. I still have some cheese sauce left ... but not for long.

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Have a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!
Here are some tips from Environmental Working Group for a healthy and environmentally friendly Thanksgiving.

16 comments:

  1. What an excellent meal! It all looks great, and I like the idea of using the slow cooker to make the party go more smoothly. It can be hard once guests arrive to keep your focus on the finishing touches and keeping everything warm, and so I can see the slow cooker being a big help. I see that you're continuing the newly discovered nacho love affair! Good for you! :)

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    1. I am hooked on nachos, now. And with Miyoko's nearly instant and melty cheeses, it's easier than I realized to make relatively healthy nachos. Maybe I should forget about the bowl of hot cereal cooling in the kitchen and heat up the rest of the cheese to dip chips into for breakfast.

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  2. You don't want to be alone in the house with pies!! lol! I get that for sure...

    I love the look and sound of that salad! Sounds like a great dinner!

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    1. Ah, the pies. I only agree to test them when I know I can get people over to eat them!

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  3. Your guests were very lucky! The main dish looks SO fantastic. That cheese sauce alone looks like such a treat, but I would have also been thrilled with your dessert. Anything with berries is all right in my book. :)

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    1. I really love the slow cooker cookbook — everything I've made has been delicious. You just have to be careful not to make the dishes too spicy, because Robin loves spicy food. Also, the artisan cheese book is very cool.

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  4. Testing a pie book? You get all the tough gigs. I'd love to have been there when you were inviting people round. "How's thursday? Yeah, I'll be testing out some pie recipes and making some awesome cheese sauce...' Bet those eight people suddenly found their diaries free!

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    1. HA! No one seemed too inconvenienced when I asked them to come taste pie. They didn't know about the other stuff in advance but seemed pretty happy to taste that as well. :)

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  5. mmmm! these look amazing! can you make it dinner for 9, so I can come over too? :)

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    1. Well of course I could, but it might take you too long to get here!

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  6. I am totally stuffed. Totally!

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    1. I've been feeling a little stuffed, myself, lately. I need to take a breather before Thanksgiving!

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  7. What a fabulous dinner! Why have I not tried polenta fries yet? The cheese sauce looks so amazing! With butternut squash! I must make it! Thanks for sharing the video - I didn't know about Vegan Mashup on PBS! You can't see me, but I'm going to be doing a cartwheel in 3... 2... 1...

    Enjoy your dessert extravaganza! :)

    ReplyDelete
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    1. It was a pretty good dinner, if I do say so myself. And I'm glad you haven't tried polenta fries yet, because that means I'm not the last one to try them. I've made several cheeses from Artisan Vegan Cheese and have been pretty happy with all of them. I'm going to whip some up today because my supply is running out and I would like to have some at our Thanksgiving dinner. BTW, I haven't used carrageenan in any of them.

      Our local station doesn't carry the show but I've managed to find some episodeson youtube.

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  8. Oh Andrea, your cucumber salad is gorgeous! It looks soooooo good.

    Thank you for sharing the cheese video--I can't wait to watch it and make some of that delicious looking cheese!

    Courtney

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    1. Thank you Courtney. I love simple foods like that. I wish I had taken better photos of the casserole because it was so good, and it looked great, too, but the night photos always suck.

      The cheese sauce was super easy and really good. I recommend it.

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