November 28, 2017

Thanksgiving was delicious - for days

We had 10 people at the Thanksgiving table this year, including three children, and enough food for about 10 more, but I love Thanksgiving leftovers. On Friday one of our sons came for dinner, and we had leftovers — after my husband and I had already had leftovers for breakfast and lunch. We had leftovers on Saturday and Sunday (breakfast and lunch) too, and I finally finished them off on Monday. Understand that I'm not complaining — as I said, I love leftovers — and am sad that they won't be available tomorrow. We had a lot of food, but I'm happy to say we didn't waste any.

What you see above is our turkey. I found a photo of the veggie turkey online a few years ago and finally remembered to construct it this year. I wish I could remember exactly where I found it, but you can view the photo here. It served as one of the appetizers along with homemade hummus and smokey cheese dip.

Our daughter-in-law brought a large plate of fabulous pickled vegetables as an appetizer as well.

And a bowl of olive tapenade — my favorite. I love tapenade!

One son brought a bowl of chili lime popcorn as an appetizer, and it completely disappeared. Everyone came early so there was plenty of time to nosh before the main meal, and we made quite a dent in the offerings.

From the main Thanksgiving feast, I can only show you some of the food because, as is often the case, I forgot to take photos of everything. There are no photos of the potato stuffing, a fabulous family favorite recipe that originally came from Russia with my great grandmother, and none of the 'main dish', the wild rice pilaf, or the miso gravy, or the savory white bean casserole. One of our sons made the stuffing and beans, and I made the pilaf and gravy. The pilaf was fluffy with wild rice and brown rice and stuffed with mushrooms, onions, garlic, toasted walnuts, air-fried brussels sprouts, peas, celery, soy curls, herbs and spices. I used parsley, sage and rosemary from the garden. The curls were marinated overnight in some of the gravy, and liberally seasoned with granulated onion and garlic as well as chili lime spice from Trader Joe's, then baked a bit before being added to the pilaf and baked in the oven.

I made my usual cranberry compote, which is a favorite with the kids. It's a delicious and easy side dish that can be made the day before, and I recommend it. You can vary the contents to suit your personal tastes, and it cooks itself in a slow cooker while you do other things. (Recipe at end of post.)

New to this year's Thanksgiving table was aloo palak pie in a mashed potato crust — a recipe from Pies and Tarts With Heart by Dynise Balcavage. (I reviewed the book in 2013 when it was first published; you can read the review here if you want to know more about Dynise's cookbook.) I loved, loved, loved the tart, and can't wait to make it again. Because I had permission to publish the recipe when I wrote the review, I'm going to hope and assume I still have permission, and will include it at the end of the post.

Roasted Brussels sprouts and butternut squash was my husband's beautiful and tasty contribution to the meal. We made the preparation of the dish much less time consuming by purchasing already cubed squash. Believe it or not, this was the first time we've bought pre-cut squash, but it certainly won't be the last. What a time-saver —tossed with a little oil and salt, and roasted to caramelized perfection.

Since I failed to photograph the rest of the main course, let's just move on to dessert. Of course there was pie — this year it was sweet potato pie. I used the same recipe I used last year for voluptuous pumpkin pie from Isa Chandra Moskowitz, except I used sweet potatoes, and only two (not four) teaspoons of oil. Because sweet potatoes are more dense than pumpkin or squash, it  required a bit more soymilk. It's a great pie, and easy to make. I always garnish my pie with chocolate chips.

In addition to pie, there was cake. I saw a recipe for chocolate chip pumpkin date bread on Keepin' it Kind, and after reading the story of Kristy's grandmother's famous date nut bread, I got out my copy of But My Family Would Never Eat Vegan, and looked up the original recipe. I didn't want a second pumpkin dessert since one of our guests isn't a fan of pumpkin or cinnamon. I'm not a big fan of nuts in cake, so I decided to use the original recipe from the cookbook, subbing the chocolate chips from the blog recipe, for the walnuts. (I was also planning to add dried cranberries, but forgot.) Not only was the cake dangerously delicious, it kept getting better and better each day. Go make the pumpkin date bread — you won't be sorry. (My review of Kristy's cookbook can be found here. It's filled with delectable dishes, some of which have become staples at our house.)

I hope you had a happy thanksgiving. Here are the recipes I promised for cranberry compote and spinach pie. Just a note: when I made the pie I used three, five-ounce packages of fresh baby spinach for the pie filling.

Quarry Books has graciously allowed the recipe for Aloo Palak Pie to be reprinted. It is copyrighted material. Please do not reproduce without permission from the publisher.

Aloo Palak Pie with Mashed Potato Crust

Mashed Potato Pie Crust (one 9-inch crust)
We usually think of vegetables as pie filling and not pie bases. But I like to flip things upside down on occasion. Some vegetables, like the potato family, make wonderful savory crust bases. Carbolicious and comforting, mashed potato crusts are economical and an interesting way to transform leftovers into a literal meal base. You can use mashed white potatoes, sweet potatoes, or even mashed turnips or rutabagas. Or mix and match.

  • About 5 potatoes, peeled and baked, or "nuked"
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons (28 to 42 g) margarine
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons (30 to 60 ml) nondairy milk (to bind, if needed)
  • ½ teaspoon salt or more, to taste
  • Freshly ground pepper, to taste
Place the potatoes in a large bowl. Mash with the margarine and milk until creamy. (Use a potato ricer to save time!) Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

Aloo-Palak Pie
Aloo palak without ghee is one of the darlings of vegan Indian cuisine lovers. This 'reconstructed' version uses all the flavors of aloo palak that you love, in an unexpected pie presentation. It’s loaded with vitamins and it’s cheaper than takeout.

(Makes one 9-inch (23 cm) tart)
For Spinach Filling:
  • 1 tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 1 to 1½ teaspoons garam masala
  • 1 teaspoon black mustard seeds
  • ½ teaspoon turmeric
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red hot pepper flakes (optional, but I use the full Monty!)
  • 7 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon salt
  • 12 cups (360 g) roughly chopped, trimmed spinach or baby spinach, preferably organic
  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF (180ºC, or gas mark 4).
  2. Press the crust into the pan. Set aside.
  3. To make the filling: In a large sauté pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the spices, then the garlic and onion, and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle with salt if the mixture starts to dry out.
  4. Add one-fourth of the spinach, let it wilt, stir, and repeat until all of the spinach is in the pan. 
  5. Cook for about 10 minutes. Spread into the crust.
  6. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, or until firm. Let cool for 15 minutes before slicing.
Full disclosure: I received a free review copy of the book. All opinions are my own. I was not paid for my review.

Cranberry compote in the slow cooker  
Adapted from Autumn Fruit Crock in Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker, by Robin Robertson, and memories of my mother's and grandmother's kitchens.
I think of the recipe as a 'guideline' rather than a 'recipe' because although  this is close to what I did — I used two pears and one apple this time —you can do pretty much what you want, and adjust it to your preferences. I believe my mother always added pineapple chunks to hers. I like my cranberries tangy, but feel free to make them as sweet as you wish. This is a great dish to serve anytime, any holiday — all fall and winter. You can change up the type and quantity of the fruit except maybe for the cranberries, though I recommend keeping the mango as it adds natural sweetness, and goes so well with the cranberries. Leftovers are great for breakfast with yogurt or oatmeal.
  • one-14oz box of fresh cranberries
  • two medium baking apples
  • one ripe pear
  • handful of dried apricots
  • handful of prunes or raisins
  • one cup of cut frozen mango or fresh mango
  • 1/4 cup (or more or less, to taste) dark sugar (I used coconut sugar)
  • 1/2 cup frozen orange juice concentrate
  • two tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • one cinnamon stick 
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • one teaspoon vanilla
  1. Dice all the fruit (except cranberries and raisins, if using) to approximate size of cranberries. I didn't peel my fruit.
  2. Add all ingredients, except vanilla, to a slow cooker.
  3. Cook on low 5-1/2 to 6 hours, until fruit is soft. (Depending on what variety of apples you choose, the apples may retain some firmness.)
  4. Stir in the vanilla and taste for sweetness.
  5. Chill before serving. Can be made the day before needed. Thickens more as it cools.
My compote turned out nice and thick, but if yours doesn't, cook a short while longer without the lid.

Post Script ...

During dinner ...

After dinner ...

Gobble gobble

This post contains Amazon links.

November 13, 2017

Random food I loved but never managed to blog about

I'm going to start with a gargantuan salad, because I just had it yesterday, and haven't yet forgotten anything about it. It was as big as it looks. We had gone out to lunch with a bunch of vegan friends, and I wasn't feeling very hungry, so I ordered a salad. We were lunching at Next Level Burger, a very casual,  all-vegan, organic burger joint inside of Whole Foods. I guess I thought since the emphasis was on burgers, the salad wouldn't be a BIG deal. I must not have been paying attention. I ate about 1/4 of it, and we had most of the rest with dinner. I also ordered a delicious child-size vanilla shake. Everyone in our group  seemed pleased with their burger choices, and I have to give a special shout-out to the wonderful, very knowledgeable, staff. As for gluten-free choices, in case you were wondering, almost everything on the menu is gluten-free and you can request a gluten free bun. Plenty of choices for everyone. Even the shakes can be made with either soy or coconut soft serve.

Here is a nacho bowl with homemade cheese sauce. Sometimes I'm just too lazy to look up a recipe (like, for cheese sauce) so I just throw things into the blender that I think will taste good, and it usually works. It worked this time, topped with green onions, and served over kidney beans, tomatoes and chips.

I love tahini sauce — I've been making versions of tahini sauce for more than 30 years. Sometimes I add lemon juice, sometimes miso, sometimes umeboshi paste, etc. Lately my husband has started making it — a lot. Here's a plate of noodles with air-fried tofu, roasted cauliflower, red peppers and tahini sauce. Tahini sauce. Did I mention the tahini sauce? Just kidding, Ken. You are getting seriously good at making tahini sauce.

We do love our noodle bowls around here, and I have to say having the air fryer has upped the stakes on the deliciousness of the tofu. It looks like the bowl contains tofu, shiitake mushrooms, cucumbers, scallions, carrots, peanuts and romaine — a Vietnamese bun salad — probably a version of this one.

The last one is a puzzle. It's a scallion pancake, obviously, and I vaguely remember trying to make a gluten-free version of this beloved favorite. I learned to make scallion pancakes long ago in a cooking class taught by a Chinese chef, and the pancakes were perfection. I sort of remember craving scallion pancakes, and trying to recreate them with gluten-free flour. I looked through the note pad where I scribble my recipe experiments, and I found one for scallion pancakes but there's no mention of whether it worked or not. Was it gummy? floury? weird? I don't remember. It looks good, though, doesn't it? If you feel like making traditional scallion pancakes, you can find the recipe here.

October 24, 2017

Red Curry Veggies

Red curry veggies. Photo by Andrea Zeichner.

Last month I reviewed Celine Steen's newest cookbook,  Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes With a Kick. We had a great time trying out the delicious, intensely-flavored dishes, but at the time I wrote the review, I didn't have permission to post any of the recipes. I'm pleased to be able to share one of our favorites with you now — red curry veggies. (The recipe calls for eggplant, but I used zucchini.) I hope you'll try it and enjoy it as much as we did. If you want to know more about the other recipes we tried from the cookbook, you can read my review, here.

Reprinted with permission by Page Street Publishing Co. Photo by Celine Steen.
Red Curry Veggies
Gluten-Free. In A Hurry. Oil-Free

Have you noticed that different brands of red curry pastes vary wildly in heat and flavor? I bought one to make an earlier version of this curry and kept on havingto add extra paste to get some semblance of flavor. It's like purchasing a small jar of nothingness! That's why I decided to make my own (page 185) for the most reliable results. Note that a few testers made this using the store-bought paste they’re accustomed to. So fear not: it will work if you already have a favorite. You can always add more paste later, even after the coconut milk is added, so start with the lower amount of paste if you’re not familiar with its intensity yet.

Yield: 4 servings
  • 2 to 3 tbsp (30 to 45 ml) reduced sodium tamari, divided
  • 9 oz (255 g) trimmed and cut green beans (1-inch [2.5-cm])
  • 4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 red onion, trimmed and peeled, diced
  • 4 baby eggplants or 1 small eggplant (10 oz [283 g] total), trimmed and cut into thin half moons
  • 1 bell pepper (any color), trimmed and chopped
  • 1 to 3 tbsp (15 to 45 g) Red Curry Paste (page 185) or store-bought, to taste
  • 2 tbsp (30 ml) lime juice
  • 1 tbsp (5 g) dried shiitake powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp ginger powder
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground coriander
  • 1⁄2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 (14-oz [414-ml]) can unsweetened coconut milk or coconut cream
  • 1⁄2 tsp coarse kosher salt, or to taste
  • Cooked brown rice, legumes, potatoes, noodles or peas, for serving
  • Fresh basil or cilantro, for serving
  1. Place 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of tamari, the green beans, garlic and onion in a large pot. Heat on medium-high and sauté for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the eggplant and sauté until browned, approximately 4 minutes, stirring frequently.
  2. Lower the heat to medium. Add the bell pepper, curry paste to taste, lime juice, shiitake powder, ginger, cumin, coriander and turmeric. Sauté 2 minutes to toast and release the flavors, stirring frequently. Add another 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of tamari and sauté for 1 minute.
  3. Add the coconut milk, stir well and simmer until the veggies are tender to taste, about 8 minutes. Have a taste to add the salt if you feel it's needed.
  4. Serve on top of rice or other choice of grain or potatoes. Add a chopped herb of choice, and adjust the amount of tamari to taste.

Reprinted with permission by the publisher, Page Street Publishing Co., from Bold Flavored Vegan Cooking: Healthy Plant-Based Recipes With a Kick, written and photographed by Celine Steen.

    October 12, 2017

    My favorite granola

    The recipe makes two large pans of toasty, crunchy granola.

    In the fall of 2010, I was gifted several coupons for free, and discounted make-your-own-books on, and I had the great idea to create cookbooks as holiday gifts for my immediate family members. I already had loads of photos, recipes and text from my blog, plus I was a graphic designer — it would be a piece of cake, so to speak. In my excitement, I 'forgot' that all the photos were sized for the Web, and would have to be re-edited for print. The text had to be edited, too, and the Blurb software was nothing like the professional layout software I was used to. I was constantly frustrated by not being able to design the book exactly as I wanted, and not to have access to my favorite fonts. But, I worked day and night — literally — until I had produced a 120 page, lavishly illustrated cookbook. Good thing I had all the coupons, as the cost of buying one of the books at actual price is substantial. I just looked on Blurb to see if my book was still there. It is, and a paperback copy sells for $46.99! (Granted, Blurb did a fabulous job on the printing, and the paper is beautiful, but, seriously? Who buys a cookbook for $46.99?) They even have an online preview where you can look at every page of my book in miniature. (If you're curious ... just click on the book and the pages turn) I see that Blurb now offers a way to design a book with Adobe InDesign. It's also possible to create the book using whatever software you prefer, make a PDF, and use the PDF to print the book. I guess the PDF feature was available when I made my book, but I was too far into it before I realized the personal  limitations of the free Blurb software, and the thought of starting over when I found out about the PDF option, was worse than just finishing what I had already started. In spite of the huge amount of work, and the frustrations, the end result was worth it. Everyone who received a copy seemed pleased, and in spite of all the difficulties, I was glad I had done it. The Blurb software, while a bit frustrating to me, would be fine for someone not as invested in professional design as I was at the time. If you start now, you should be able to finish a book in time to give as a holiday gift to a special someone. It doesn't have to be a cookbook— poetry, photography, stories — anything, really. There are many more choices of personal online printers now besides Blurb, some of them much cheaper. Blurb will give you great results, though. They now even offer lay-flat binding — for a price.

    The liquid and dry ingredients are best mixed together by hand, as in, use your hands.

    My husband got out the cookbook recently to find something to make for dinner, and I started looking through it. I hadn't gotten very far when I found my old favorite granola recipe which appeared on this blog in March, 2009. It's been years since I've made, or eaten, granola, and I was eager to revisit the recipe. Another blogger I know had recently posted about making granola, and although I never got around to checking out her recipe, the word "granola" was etched in my brain. Granola. It just has a delicious ring to it.

    The recipe was just as good as I remembered, and I've been crunching it for breakfast all week. It's a breakfast that really satisfies, and keeps me full for hours.

    A bowl of crunchy granola with soy milk.
    Crunchy granola
    (updated recipe)

    • 7 cups rolled oats, GF if needed*
    • 1 cup hemp hearts (GF if needed)*, OR 1 cup hulled sesame seeds, OR 1 cup raw wheat germ
    • 1 cup raw cashews
    • 1 cup raw sunflower seeds
    • 1 cup raw walnuts, in halves or pieces
    • 1 cup shredded, unsweetened coconut
    • 1/2 teaspoon fine sea salt (opt.)
    • 1 cup apple juice (I add 3-4 tablespoons of frozen apple juice concentrate to a one cup measure, and add water to make 1 cup)
    • 1/4 cup maple syrup (or agave syrup, or sorghum, or 1/3 cup rice syrup)
    • 1/3 cup almond butter (or other nut or seed butter)
    • 1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon (opt.)
    • 1 teaspoon ground ginger (opt.)
    • 1 cup pitted, chopped medjool dates
    • 1 cup raisins (or 1/2 cup raisins and 1/2 cup unsweetened dried cranberries)
    • 1/2 to 1 cup non-dairy dark chocolate chips (optional, but, what can I say, recommended) (I used 3/4 cup this time)
    1. Mix together the oats, hemp hearts, cashews, sunflower seeds, coconut and salt in a large bowl.
    2. Mix the apple juice, sweetener and almond butter in a small pot and warm over low heat, whisking to dissolve the almond butter. Remove from the heat and add the vanilla, cinnamon and ginger, if using.
    3. Add the liquid to the dry ingredients and mix thoroughly. I used my hands for this because the spoon was too slow. Be sure to mix up the dry ingredients from the bottom of the bowl.
    4. Divide between two large baking pans and bake in a 325˚F oven for ABOUT 40-45 minutes. While it's baking, stir about every 10 minutes to toast evenly and to prevent burning. The bottom and edges will toast first, so stir them in.
    5. When it turns golden brown, turn off the heat and allow to sit in the oven about 30-40 minutes to continue drying.
    6. Remove from the oven and stir in the fruit. You will probably have to break up the dates if they are very soft. Let cool completely, then stir in the chocolate chips if you dare. (It's breakfast, after all. Be sensible!) If you do add chocolate chips, really let the granola cool well before stirring them in or the chocolate will melt. Yes, it will. I guess I didn't wait long enough because my chocolate chips melted. They still tasted great but the surprise of crunching on a chocolate chip was sacrificed for the taste of chocolate flavored granola. 
    7. Serve with your favorite plant milk. 
    *Bob's Red Mill sells certified gluten-free rolled oats and hemp hearts. Although neither item contains gluten, cross contamination can be a problem with oats and hemp for those with celiac or severe allergies.

    October 06, 2017

    Spicy hemp breakfast sausage - vegan, gluten-free

    From the air fryer.

    A few years ago, Nov., 2014, to be exact, I came across a recipe in Vegetarian Times for Spicy Hemp Breakfast Sausages.  I was intrigued. All the vegan sausages I'd ever made in the past depended on gluten, as in vital wheat gluten, for their texture and stability. The recipe used hemp seeds and masa harina to make the sausage dough. (You can find certified GF masa harina, and hemp seeds, but you can't assume all brands are GF due to contamination. Bob's Red Mill sells both.)

    Mashing the beans into the spice liquid to cook until dry.

    First you make a spice mixture, rehydrate the masa harina with some of the spice liquid, then stir in the hemp. Next you cook and mash the beans a little at a time with spice liquid until all the liquid evaporates, then you stir the bean mixture into the hemp hearts and masa harina. Refrigerate overnight, then shape and cook the sausage patties. I cooked some of the patties in my air fryer, and those were my favorites. The rest of the sausage patties were baked in the oven then frozen for future use. I baked them on parchment paper on two large pans, cooled them, then cut the paper into patty-sized squares and used the squares to stack the patties and pack them into a freezer bag. I've also cooked them in a small amount of oil on a cast iron griddle, and they turned out great. Yesterday, I reheated a frozen one in the air fryer, and it worked perfectly.

    Refrigerate the mixture overnight before shaping into patties.

    So, if I've been making these for three years, why haven't I ever mentioned them? Sometimes I question what 'easy vegan recipe' means. Does easy also mean instant? The sausage recipe is easy enough — anyone could do it — but it does take a little patience to work through all the steps. I never shared the recipe because I thought it might not fit with the 'easy vegan' theme, but it's so good, you might want to add it to your repertoire at least for special occasions, even if you consider it too much trouble for a regular rotation. I'm thinking of incorporating it into a Thanksgiving recipe, for example. The texture isn't the same as if it contained gluten, but the seasoning is spot on, and the taste and texture are great.

    Toasted Olivia GF bread, garden lettuce, hemp sausage, dijon, jalapeño-stuffed olive.

    As I mentioned earlier, the recipe originally appeared in an issue of Vegetarian Times, so I contacted the magazine to see if they would grant me permission to reprint the recipe. It took some time (a long time) to hear back from them, but they said no. That means if the magazine ever stops publishing, and takes down it's Web site, linked recipes will no longer be available. This has happened to me in the past when I linked to a recipe on a blog, so I prefer to share the actual recipe rather than a link. But for now, here is a link to the recipe. I'd rather share the actual recipe, but a link is better than nothing. The sausages are satisfying as part of a breakfast plate, or as a sandwich filling at lunch, or with veggies and a grain or potato at dinner. Do they sound like too much trouble? I admit, I'm often put off if a recipe has too many steps or requires chilling overnight, but this recipe makes a LOT, so you can eat some now and freeze some for later. You can also store the mix in the refrigerator for a few days, and fry some for breakfast each morning. This works especially well if you make just half a recipe. If you follow a gluten-free diet (or even if you don't) and have been longing for a sausage recipe, I encourage you to try this one.

    Note: I just want to remind people that although it's tempting, it's not okay to reprint someones recipe or photos as your own. You can share a list of ingredients, but not the directions. You can adapt a recipe, but changing one ingredient isn't enough. You can also create a new recipe based on one you admire, and say you were 'inspired' by the original. In all cases, you should link back to the original recipe. When I searched for the spicy sausage recipe, I was surprised to find it, including the original photo, on a few blogs, without so much as a link back to Vegetarian Times. One blogger merely changed the order of ingredients, slightly changed the directions, and took credit for the recipe. I also found a slight variation of the recipe using chickpea flour instead of masa harina. If you have questions about what the rules are for sharing recipes, you might find this post helpful.


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