April 19, 2011

Holiday foods | Vegfest | Vegan by the Bay | Vegnews

Swiss chard and broccoli rabe

We hosted a vegan Passover Seder for eight, last night, and except for the matzoh ball failure, all the food turned out just as I hoped. I won't bore you with details of the Seder itself — I'll just get right to the food — but I will tell you a little story related to last year's Seder. About a month ago, Miss E was playing in the little room we call the "TV room," when she retrieved a small, towel-wrapped package from a low shelf. She unwrapped it, and with a little squeal, began to eat a half-piece of matzoh. "I think Miss E found last year's Afikomen," said her Papa. We all had a good laugh, and vowed to do better this year in the Afikomen department. In case you don't know, the Afikomen is a piece of matzoh that is broken off at the beginning of the Seder and hidden for one of the children to find after dinner, when it is supposed to be eaten for dessert. The child who finds it is usually rewarded with money or some other prize. Miss E was the only child at the Seder last night, and her mom took her on an Afikomen hunt. She found it, and was rewarded with three Dora band-aides (she is obsessed with both Dora and band-aids) and a dollar bill.

Since I'm on the subject of matzoh, I'll mention that this year we bought Yahuda whole wheat matzoh, and it's the best I've ever tasted. It actually tastes good. Even the confirmed matzoh haters at our Seder were chowing it down.


Charoset appears on the Seder plate and is part of the ceremony. I made mine with apples, an orange, toasted almonds, dates, date syrup, cinnamon and lemon juice.

After the service, we began our meal with soup. There were supposed to be matzoh balls in the soup but unlike last year, they disintegrated as they cooked, so I rescued whatever pieces I could, and added them to the soup, such as they were. The soup was made with dashi — Japanese stock made from soaking dried shiitaki mushrooms and konbu in water. (I soaked mine overnight.) While not exactly traditional to Passover, it made the perfect base for further enhancement with carrots, celery and baby bella mushrooms. The soup was oil-free but incredibly rich in flavor. Best soup ever. Sorry, no photo.

walnut/string bean paté

After the soup course, the table was laden with holiday foods, some of which are pictured here. At the top of the post is a fabulous Swiss chard and broccoli rabe dish that was brought by our daughter-in-law. I'm not fond of chard, but I loved this version, and highly recommend it. Directly above is the walnut and string bean paté I found on Diet Dessert and Dogs blog. I used to make this exact thing with fresh string beans, but Ricki made it with canned, and I figured with all the cooking I was doing, why not save a little time and try the canned version. We found a no-salt-added can of green beans and I have to say, the result was terrific. Everyone commented on how delicious it was. I used Ricki's excellent recipe but added an extra 1/2 teaspoon of smoked Spanish paprika and some fresh lemon juice for a little extra zip. The picture was taken today of the leftovers, but last night it was served in a larger bowl, covered with sliced green onions.

It's really called mock chopped liver, and tastes like I remember the real stuff tasting, only much better, without any of the bitter under-taste or unhappy animal-associations of the real thing. The recipe is not a newer vegan version of an animal food, it's really quite a traditional recipe coming from the kosher dietary traditions that some Jews follow, that forbid meat and dairy at the same meal. Because it is made with vegetables, it can be served with either meat or dairy. I have a couple of older Jewish cookbooks that contain similar recipes, as well as other "mock" recipes for use at dairy meals. (There are two other versions of mock chopped liver, made with mushrooms and walnuts, on this blog.)

Roasted garlic asparagus with mushrooms

What would a spring holiday dinner be without asparagus? Our youngest son roasted asparagus and garlic, and I stir-fried a lot of sliced mushrooms to serve over the top. I've been craving mushrooms lately, so you'll notice them in more than one dish.

Quinoa pilaf with spinach and olives

Not long ago we tested a recipe for millet pilaf for The Urban Vegan's upcoming cookbook. I loved it, and based last night's quinoa dish on that recipe. Our version contains spinach, celery and black olives, and brings a huge jolt of flavor to the taste buds.

Cranberry-apple sauce

I made cranberry-apple sauce, which Miss E loves, and a large fresh salad with baby greens, red cabbage, cucumber, celery, grape tomatoes, sun-dried tomatoes and avocado (not pictured). I also made a large pan of potato kugel. The stars must have aligned while I was making the kugel because when I took my first mouthful, it was like I was eating my mother's version. I got it right! (For the Passover version, substitute matzoh for bread. I made a double recipe and used three slices of matzoh.)

For dessert we had a raw pineapple-cherry pie garnished with Coconut Bliss mint galactica ice cream. Still full.

If you are observing Passover this week, Happy Passover. If you'll be celebrating Easter, Happy Easter. If you observe neither, Happy Spring.



Yes, it seems like it took place ages ago, but I never got around to recapping Vegfest. What can I say — I ate lots of foods I wouldn't normally eat, along with some things that I'd like to eat again. What usually happens is we taste so many things we can't remember what they were, and I guess that's true for this year, too. Our work station was near to the folks from Theo Chocolate, and they brought over some lovely samples for us to try. Really good samples. Yes, I'd like to try the chocolate again.

This was my view looking out from my work station, and looking at real, unadulterated apples kept me centered. Last year I was much too close to SO ice cream and Mighty-O Donuts and had self-control issues ...

You can read other, more entertaining recaps, here and here.


Our youngest son and his girlfriend left today for California, where they are moving. He asked me if I knew any vegan bloggers in the Bay area, so I'm asking — who out there is blogging from San Francisco? He'd like to start reading your blogs! I miss them already, and they haven't even gotten there yet.


VegNews is good news

Vegan hot dog in a vegan whole wheat bun. ©2011 cookeasyvegan.blogspot.com

Now that VegNews has taken responsibility for their actions and pledged to reform, I'm ready to forgive and move on. As a graphic designer, I was somewhat sympathetic to their need to use occasional stock photos, but NOT happy when they misrepresented the very basis of their existence by substituting photos of animal foods for vegan ones. When an organization is cavalier about misrepresenting information in one area, it can lead to questions about their honesty in other areas, but I hope the vegan community will support VegNews in moving forward and regaining credibility. Rebuilding trust is a process. Let's be open to it.


  1. An Afikomen hunt sounds much more vegan friendly than an egg hunt. I don't celebrate much but just spring this time of year. But I love hearing about your celebration. Glad you made a raw cake!

    I was sorry to have missed VegFest. I haven't been in a few years now.

  2. Sounds like a fabulous seder! The exact same thing happened at my friend's house last night--their youngest found last year's afikomen under a sofa cushion! Too funny. And I'm so glad you liked the pate (great new name for it) :)

    I agree with your take on the VegNews fiasco--let's accept and move on (and maybe they'll even purchase your photo up there). ;)

  3. Bitt,
    I think I like raw salad more than raw cake :D but I'll try again!

    I go to Vegfest as a volunteer, because it helps to spread the word about vegan and vegetarian living — it attracts so many people who are curious about being vegetarian.

    I'm glad to hear we're not the only people to have a piece of matzoh hidden for a year and not know it! I love green bean and walnut paté! Making it with canned beans was SO EASY, and it tasted great. Who wudda thunk it?

    HA! I think it's too late to sell my photo to VegNews, now that they've stopped doing that sort of thing. :)

  4. Beautiful post, as always, and I love your sentiment!

    Can't wait to try the pate & the kugel...will get back to you on the matzoh balls after I talk to the gatekeeper.

  5. Wow, what a feast! It all sounds good, and so many things I've never had before.

    It's always difficult to say goodbye to loved ones, I wish them well in SF. Just think though, now you'll have a place to stay in SF, and it's close enough you can be there in a flash and sample all the vegan food there!

  6. Oh, man, that hot dog looks mouth watering! I Must have the recipe for it! :-)

    I love it when you post on Jewish feasts - they all look so yummy. Being Christian, we embrace many Jewish traditions, and I would really like to get a good book on vegan Jewish cooking. Or, just bug you, instead.

  7. i liked reading about your traditions, the hidden dessert sounds like fun:) im sorry your son is moving!! but..it means that you get to go to CA to visit!!! i might be partial to ca after living there for so long...but its the best place ever! and SF will be so welcomng to vegans!

    i didnt know that they changed their mind about putting up meaty pics! thats good! too bad everything got so out of control first. i still feel really bad for people that bought the mag, they must havwe felt so sick and betrayed. when i went to their website i had to leave after i saw some pretty good looking pics...i wasnt sure if they were vegan or not and that made me uncomfortable.

  8. Wow, you had a big feast! All of the food looks great! Some of it was new to me though, which means I learned some new things today. :o)

  9. P.S. Our dog always found our afikomen ;-)

  10. Abby,
    The kugel appears at just about every holiday dinner at our house. There are complaints if it doesn't. The paté is a frequent offering, usually as an appetizer.

    Now, please beg, plead, whatever is necessary, to obtain the recipe! Your photo was too tempting to ignore.

    Their efficiency will be much to small for guests, so I can't stay with them. But I will definitely visit!

    Sorry, top secret hot dog recipe that I can't share. :) But you can bug me about other recipes!

    I'm glad they changed their minds, too, but I think the uproar was so great they had no choice.

    The feast is usually too big, so we're still eating it!

    Better the dog than mice!

  11. I agree with Bitt's sentiment on the vegan-friendliness of the Afikomen hunt! And the idea of being rewarded with band-aids really tickled me. Ah, to be young and easily satisfied! :)

    Looks like lots of delicious food! That soup sounds spectacular.

  12. Best soup ever - no pictures! Oh no! Everything else looks absolutely delicious. I'm not Jewish but I do remember eating a lot of matzoh for some reason as a kid.
    I've seen a lot of chocolate covered matzoh lately but your raw pineapple cake sounds so much better! I've got to try that soon.
    Happy Spring to you!

  13. All this looks and sounds so good, especially (to me right now) the walnut/string bean pate! Mmmm....and swiss chard *and* broccoli rabe...must try soon...it seems like there was plenty of excellent food even if the matzoh balls didn't quite work out (in my experience though people are pretty forgiving when it comes to carbs). I like matzoh, but have never tried the whole wheat kind, and am sure you're right, it must be awesome.

  14. Oh man...I wish I could have come to your Seder! Everything looks SO good. But "confirmed matzoh haters"--what?! Who doesn't love matzoh?! In ball/soup form, crackers, in kugel, etc. I have never met a matzoh I didn't like :-) Have you ever tried spelt matzoh? I think that is my favorite...


  15. Kelly,
    Band-aids go a long way with Miss E — especially if they have a picture of Dora on them. But really, any band-aids will do. :D

    You know how some things just get eaten before you remember about the photo. So went the soup.

    But CHOCOLATE COVERED MATZOH!!! I was going to make some for dessert and completely forgot until I read your comment. Gah.

    The paté was great — I recommend it. I could only find a 14.5 ounce can of green beans though Ricki said to use a 19-ounce, but you're both in Canada, and maybe the cans are different sizes than here. It worked fine. And my string beans weren't French cut like Ricki's, though I doubt that really matters.

    I've had whole wheat matzoh that tasted like cardboard, but the brand I got this year, Yehuda, tastes all toasty and wheat-y.

    I'd happily invite you but now I live even farther away from MN than I used to.

    I like matzoh, too, but some people think it is tasteless and cardboard-y. I saw spelt matzoh meal and looked for spelt matzoh, but didn't see any. I'll have to look again.

  16. Oh, that kugel! We are just planning a "Happy Spring" feast here (although the fresh snow outside makes it a bit surreal for me) and your kugel will make an appearance this year. It looks divine!

    P.S. Love the hotdog!

  17. Christina,
    I LOVE potato kugel. I hope you get some spring weather there soon, and I wish the same for here. :} I want to be too warm.

    And thanks for noticing the hotdog! I thought it was kind of funny but I hope I haven't offended anyone with my smirky attitude.

  18. Andrea

    I wish I had written down the brand name of the spelt matzoh--it was really good. I got it at the Wedge last year, but when I went back this year to get it again, they didn't have it. I was bummed. They just have whole wheat (and regular, of course). I should have bought more than 1 box last year!


  19. What an impressive feast! The Afikomen hunt sounds like fun, little Miss E is a professional Afikomen finder! :)

    I'm not one to hold a grudge, and I'm looking forward to checking out the next issue of the new and improved VegNews.

  20. What a wonderful family feast! The food looks so great (and the soup SOUNDS great :)) and I love the way everyone contributes.

    Exciting, but sad, about your youngest moving so far away. (I'm a Mother, too :) ). Do you have Skype? I've just signed up for it (though I haven't actually used it yet) and I believe it's a great way for families to keep in touch. (Though our two are still at home.)

    I'm SO envious of your VegFest!

  21. What an awesome looking feast! Everything looks delicious and you're killing me when you describe such yummy food but then there's no photo. :-) Like the hot dog pic though! I have my hand up as having a SF Bay Area blog. :-)

  22. I had thought about making a Christian Seder this year, but then I got busy with going out of town, etc. I had started researching food choices, etc., but I didn't really understand what foods were imperative to the meal or whatever. I do want to teach the kids about feasts and traditions such as this. If I decide to do this next year, I'll come back to this post.

    That hotdog looks like something I have to "eat" on a regular basis. I "eat" a lot of wooden and felt food, too.

  23. Courtney,
    I should have written down the name of the spelt farfel — it was probably the same brand.

    Miss E is a professional scene stealer — the setting is unimportant. :D

    Alan Roettinger (veganascent.com) has some interesting thoughts on the VegNews issue. I don't hold any grudges either.

    We do have skype and it's great, but not as good as the real thing. The kids won't have Internet until Thurs. so I've been sending text messages and calling. We could have blogger conferences on skype. :)

    Chow vegan,
    The problem with food that's too yummy is it may get eaten before I remember to get the camera. The hot dog, on the other hand, is always available. :)

    Thanks for reminding me that you're in the Bay area! I've sent your blog url to my son.

    There are certain ceremonial foods, like the haroset, horseradish and matzoh, but the complicated part is what you're not supposed to eat. It's definitely confusing.

    I have to "eat" a lot of mac and cheese, birthday cake and cookies.

  24. Okey, now I want to eat every little bit of what is pictures above (although, not the VegFest people...)!

    I totally agree with you on the VegNews thing. it was really sad that they used real meat-pictures, but I want to give them a second chance, they're doing a lot of great things too in their magazine.

  25. Saravixen,
    I'd like to eat it all again, too, except maybe the hotdog and bun. :D

  26. Gauri Radha गौरी राधा5/7/11, 2:20 AM

    Pineapple cherry pie looks very good!!

  27. I'm happy that VegNews is taking the opportunity to change things, and as a result, give me more work! They're hoping that I will be more involved in the food photography department, so I'd say that's ultimately a happy ending to a potentially very sad story.

    And about all of the above food, I can only think of the following comment: YUM.


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