October 20, 2011

Holiday feast cooking class

Two years ago around this time we attended a vegan holiday cooking class at PCC Natural Markets, and this year we did the same. It actually wasn't our first choice, but was the only class with openings. I like to discover new dishes for our holiday table, but I've learned that some of my guests are disappointed if the foods they expect to see are altered or replaced. For example, after the last holiday class, I made a new version of cranberry sauce that I thought was amazing, and was told that my usual sauce is better. So much for upping the holiday dinner stakes, and making changes to the traditional menu. We enjoyed all the food we had in class, but I'll have to think twice about whether or not it will appear at our Thanksgiving table.

We started with a fiery pear salad with caramelized spiced nuts (photo above). Something like this would be no problem introducing to my guests, but the dressing was way too much trouble to make, in my opinion, and too oily. The salad mix, though, with its mix of various greens, pears and pomegranate seeds, would be a perfect starter. I doubt I'd hear any complaints, and I could concoct my own dressing.

We had a wild mushroom and hazelnut paté which was very tasty, and which I might use on another occasion, or perhaps as an hors d'oeuvres for Thanksgiving.

The paté was accompanied by wilted seasonal greens with roasted beets, and I can definitely see using this as our vegetable — if I can get past the roasted veggies we normally serve — and I doubt that I can. But I may incorporate some of the ingredients, like dried cranberries, apples and pumpkin seeds into our usual veggie mix.

The dessert, gingered and cider-caramelized apple pie was a big hit with my husband, who admired the very flaky crust. The crust was made with spelt flour and a lot of coconut oil, and though it was indeed flaky, I felt like I was too aware of the fat content as I ate it. I don't mean the idea of too much fat, I mean the sensation I get when I eat a high fat food — I don't like the taste.

All of the food was very beautiful and would make a lovely meal, but there's something about tradition that makes holidays special. Do you serve new foods at holiday dinners, or are you steeped in the tradition of what your family usually expects on special occasions?


  1. Hm, we definitely have dishes that need to be at each respective holiday table but it is nice to change things around a little bit - it's probably best to start small like you say - with a salad or an hors d'oeurve. Actually, last Christmas my sister made a new salad similar to the one you show here with pomegranate seeds which was really nice.
    That pate sounds pretty interesting. It looks almost quinoa based.

  2. We have our usual Thanksgiving dishes we make. And then maybe I'll one or two things new that I've seen around blogs, etc. I really like the look of everything you made in class. My husband would never want me to dismiss roasted veggies at Thanksgiving. They are a must.

    I think that's why I buy the premade pie crusts. I can't handle seeing how much fat is in the recipe. I'm also to the point I don't think I like oily dressings at all. I've made a few lately trying to be a good cook and follow a recipe from a book that includes a salad dressing. And I use it that one time and never finish it. I like the creamier, no-oil dressings better.

  3. Foodfeud,
    I guess it's easier to add a new dish than to replace an old favorite that everyone is looking forward to. Or change up something like salad, that doesn't seem so specific. The pate is quinoa-based, with lots of mushrooms and nuts. Very tasty!

    Roasted veggies are a favorite around here, too, and not just on Thanksgiving.

    I know what you mean about not wanting to know how much fat is in the recipe. I may make the HH version of fat-free pumpkin pie again this year, but amp up the flavors.

  4. That pate looks especially good!

    I do best not eating many high fat foods. The taste always is "off" to me, like I can taste the fat rather than other flavors.

    We do make our own food for the holidays sometimes, but only if we feel like it. We really don't celebrate them too much.

  5. Oh I have always wanted to attend a vegan cooking class! Living in WY it isn't a local option. Looks amazing.

    For holidays I often use a few vegan staples and try some new stuff as well.

  6. Molly,
    I know what you mean by "tasting the fat." Ick.

    Maybe you will have to teach the class! I met up with another vegan blogger in Sheridan this past summer, but I know Wyo. is not a hotbed of vegan activity. :D Have you seen the blog, Mehitable Days? The url is http://laloofah.blogspot.com/

  7. Tradition, shmadition! I get so weary of the same thing every single holiday. If I had my way we would have a totally different meal to look forward to. Unfortunately, not a single member of my family agrees with me, so I never do have my way!

    Gosh, these items look great, though, particularly the beets and greens!

    I like fat a lot, as you know, but coconut oil seems so...solid somehow, like a big chunk o' grease. The pie really does look awesome, however, and anything with "caramelized" in it pretty much guaranteed to be delicious, IMO.

  8. Zoa,
    Well I'd make all different things, too, but I feel bad when everyone else is disappointed, so tradition it is. The beets and greens were especially good, and I may figure a way to incorporate some of their essence into the holiday dinner.

    Don't you mean USED to like fat? You're reformed now. Coconut oil IS a big hunk of grease, though a tasty one to be sure. The apple pie was a little too mushy for me — I prefer my apples to be tender but still hold their shape, but the crust was flaky, flaky, flaky.


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