November 28, 2016

Thanksgiving 2016 — cranberry compote in the slow cooker

Our Thanksgiving dinner wasn't held at my house this year, so I could spend the whole day before Thanksgiving happily making cranberry sauce and desserts, and not worrying about the rest of the meal. In theory, anyway. In reality, the cranberry sauce making went on without a hitch, while everything else involved one mistake after another.

Instead of a traditional cranberry sauce, I based my cranberries on a recipe called Autumn Fruit Crock from Robin Robertson's cookbook, Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker. I had tested the recipe when Robin was writing her cookbook, and loved it. It reminded me exactly of the fall fruit compotes my grandmother and mother made when I was a child. Their compotes contained mainly fresh apples and pears, plus dried prunes and apricots. I think there also may have been pineapple. I used to make it, too, but had forgotten about it until I saw Robin's recipe. For Thanksgiving this year, I adapted the recipe to make it more cranberry-centric, and cooked it in my Instant Pot using the slow cooker setting. Right up there with the deliciousness was the fact that once I put the ingredients into the cooker and turned it on, it required no input from me until it was done. Although I used an Instant Pot,  any old slow cooker would be perfect. (Recipe guideline at end of post.) I think everyone liked the cranberry compote better than the cranberries-plus-fruit I usually make for holidays.

With the cranberry sauce happily cooking itself, I turned to the pumpkin pie. It seems that every year since I lost my tried-and-true, perfect, easy pumpkin pie recipe, I try a new one, and this year was no different. I chose voluptuous pumpkin pie, which I saw on Isa Chandra — Isa Chandra Moskowitz's new blog. The recipe is from the Voluptuous Vegan. I used butternut squash, and followed the recipe closely. Though I don't know why it required four teaspoons of oil, I grudgingly added three teaspoons, but I've made great pies in the past and have never added oil to the filling. I wanted to follow the recipe as written, but when I make it again, I'm going to try it without the oil. Do you add oil to pumpkin pie? I like to sprinkle a ring of chocolate chips around the edge just after the pie comes from the oven, but whipped coconut cream, as shown in Isa's photo, would be great. Last year I accessorized my pie with vegan marshmallows.

The filling was pretty straight forward to make — it was the crust (my own recipe) that tried to trick me. I was carefully buzzing the crust ingredients in the food processor to get a workable pastry dough, and instead of adding a teaspoon a water at a time, I accidentally added about 1/3 cup! The dough immediately turned to mush, and I should have tossed it and started over, but I tried to save it by adding a lot of almond flour. I was eventually able to roll out a crust, more or less, and hoped for the best. The pie had to bake for 60 to 65 minutes and there was a warning to cover the crust if it started to brown too fast, but I managed to burn the crust in spite of the warning. It's a Thanksgiving miracle the pie was delicious!

The cake was not blurry in person.

One family member doesn't like pumpkin or cinnamon, so I made a banana cake, too. I used a recipe (more or less) from my blog. I say 'more or less' because I'm as likely to change my own recipes as anyone else's. The cake had been in the oven nearly 10 minutes when I glanced at the counter and saw the flax egg still in the measuring cup. I don't usually curse on the blog, but that's not necessarily the case in real life — especially when a crucial ingredient gets left out of a recipe. I grabbed the cake from the oven, and whipped in the flax with a fork, as best I could. Fortunately, it turned out great, in spite of my absent mindedness.

I forgot to bring my camera to the dinner so made due with my phone camera. There were a lot of dishes, and I didn't get photos of all — the photo of the lovely risotto was blurry, as was the photo of the second salad. And I missed the fabulous appetizer platter entirely — it got dismantled and consumed before I even blinked. But here are some of the other dishes:

There was a whole roasted cauliflower with harissa sauce.

And an arugula salad with roasted cauliflower! Roasted cauliflower was on everyone's mind this year.

Of course, no holiday meal would be complete without potato stuffing — or potato kugel. This year my son made the stuffing with extra buckwheat, and it tasted great! The original recipe, which came from Russia with my maternal great grandparents, was made with bread, but we now make it with buckwheat, a variation I picked up years ago when I was dabbling in a macrobiotic diet. It tastes great either way.

Here's my (first) plate. I hope that all of you who celebrate Thanksgiving, had a pleasant holiday. We did.

Cranberry compote in the slow cooker (guidelines)
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.
The reason I refer to this as 'guidelines' rather than 'recipe' is because I didn't write down exactly what I did, and am relying on memory. However, you can do pretty much what you want, and adjust to your preferences. I like my cranberries tangy, but feel free to make them as sweet as you wish, and to change up the fruit. I recommend keeping the mango as it adds a lot of natural sweetness, requiring less sugar to be added. 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.
  • 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 teaspoon vanilla
  1. Dice all the fruit (except cranberries and raisins, if using, or frozen mango) 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. Add the vanilla and taste for sweetness.
  5. Chill before serving. Can be made the day before needed. Thickens more as it cools.
You can add a cinnamon stick to the pot before cooking. I have a cinnamon disliker in the family so I left it out. My compote turned out nice and thick, but if yours doesn't, cook a short while longer without the lid.

postscript: My thoughts and donations, especially at Thanksgiving, go out to the water protectors at the Dakota Access Pipeline.

November 17, 2016

Scattered thoughts and random food

I've been sadly disturbed during the recent election process. My angst started in the weeks before the vote, and increased dramatically after the election. I'm just starting to function again, but barely. I wanted to do a post Monday, but just couldn't get myself in gear. It's probably just as well I missed the deadline to sign up for mofo. I'm still feeding and walking the dog, so I'm not completely lost, but the election has taken a toll, so I'm reaching into my 'random' folder and posting photos of things we've eaten lately — or not so lately, starting with a nice, soothing lentil soup with shredded cabbage (above). I made it in the Instant Pot, which I wrote about here.

Speaking of the Instant Pot, I have to say, I still LOVE my Instant Pot. I recently bought a clear glass lid on sale at Amazon, and used the Pot as a slow cooker for the first time. First I cooked pinto beans at high pressure, using the Pot as a pressure cooker, then added the rest of the ingredients to make chipotlé polenta bake from Robin Robertson's Fresh From the Vegan Slow Cooker (reviewed here). (I want to mention that, in an attempt to save money, I first bought a glass lid at Goodwill, but neglected to notice it didn't have a steam vent, and the results were an unfortunate overflow down the sides of the pot and onto the counter. It was also too large. If you want to try a lid from the pile at Goodwill, you need a nine-inch lid with a steam vent.)

Here's another seed bread result — I think after consuming way too much of the bread, then taking a break from it, I'm about ready to make another loaf. I miss it. I started experimenting with yeasted versions but am not yet ready to share the results.

I'm still enjoying making salad dressings sans oil, and one of these days I swear I'll post some of my favorite recipes. I've started writing down ingredients, but then I always add a little extra of this or that, and forget what exactly it was. I'm not meant to be a recipe developer, I'm afraid.

This was a 'cheesy spaghetti squash' recipe from a cookbook, but I won't tell you which one. It was unpleasant. I blame my husband.

Sometimes you just have to order pizza. This is a slice of gluten-free vegan pizza from Razzis Pizzaria. I have to say I never get sick from Razzi's food, which is more than I can say about much of the restaurant food I try. And it tastes good! They have four separate menus for traditional, gluten-free, vegan and gluten-free vegan food.

Speaking of food, I'm pretty hungry so I'm off to the kitchen to dish up some of the leftover chipotlé polenta bake. Maybe I'll make it into burgers.

November 07, 2016

Little pumkinish pie tarts

Well look at this — here I am taking my own advice and making the little pumpkin tarts that appeared in my last post. Only those were, in reality, little sweet potato tarts, and the ones I just made are little butternut squash tarts. I like pumpkin pie, I really do, but over the years I've come to prefer pumpkin pie when it's made with something other than pumpkin. In a pinch, if I really need a pie fast, I might use canned pumpkin, but foods like sweet potatoes and winter squash (dry winter squash like kabocha or butternut) are sweeter and more flavorful than pumpkin. Pie pumpkins also work, but I like butternut!

I have a set of eight, four-inch tart pans that I found several years ago at an estate sale, and they make the cutest little tart shells. They are non-stick, and it's thrilling to me that they actually work. Don't you just love it when the tart shells pop out of the pans like they're supposed to?

I made six tarts, and although I served them whole, I think half is probably enough for a serving. The problem was the chocolate topping I made was hard, and difficult to cut through. If I were planning to cut them in half, I would probably opt for a soft chocolate topping, or perhaps a dollop of coconut whipped cream, as in the original recipe. The chocolate sure was good, though. WAIT. Did I just say half a tart is enough? Scratch that. I just ate a whole one and it was just right. You can make the tarts the day before you need them; they taste even better the next day.

Well, here it is the day before election day. (Not to mention it's been the most stressful, horrible election I can remember. I can't sleep, and I've been nursing a headache for two days.) Think about who would be the best candidates for President, Senate, and Congress, and GO VOTE! Then make yourself little tarts as a reward.

Butternut squash tarts with hard chocolate tops
makes six four-inch tarts with gluten-free crust

pastry shells
  • 1 cup almond flour
  • 1/2 cup sorghum flour
  • 1/2 cup oat flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cardamom
  • 1/4 cup mild oil (I used avocado oil)
  • 2 tablespoons maple syrup or agave syrup
  • 1 to 2 tablespoons cold water, if needed
  1. Whisk together the flours, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. 
  2. Mix in the oil and maple syrup, to form a cohesive pastry. Add water one tablespoon at a time if needed to form a press-able dough. Use your hands!
  3. Divide the dough into six equal balls and press each one into a tart pan, making sure to fill the top edges of the pans.
  4. Bake in a pre-heated 350˚F oven for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden. Cool about 15 minutes, then pop the shells out, and refrigerate until ready to fill.
  • heaping 1/2 cup of raw, unsalted cashews soaked at least four hours, and drained. Soaking over night will make the filling easier to blend.
  • tightly packed, rounded 1/3 cup of soft, pitted medjool dates. If your dates are dry and hard, soak them while you are soaking the cashews.
  • 2 tablespoon ground chia seeds (I ground mine in a high speed blender, but you can use a spice grinder)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup baked butternut squash (I used leftovers from dinner, pressed into the measuring cup) or sweet potato
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg (fresh ground is best)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger 
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup almond milk, as needed 
  1. Grind the cashews in a food processor until they are pulverized.
  2. Add the chia and dates and continue to process.
  3. Add the vanilla and the squash, and process
  4. Add the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and salt.
  5. Add up to 1/4 cup almond (or other plant-based) milk to make processing easier. 
  6. Process until the mixture is smooth and creamy. This may take a while. Taste to see if the filling is sweet enough for you. If not, add a tablespoon of maple syrup.
  7. Divide the filling among the six tarts. There will be a small amount left over to eat the next day as pudding.
  1. Place 1/3 cup of vegan semi-sweet chocolate chips in a small glass dish, and microwave for 30 seconds. Check to see if they are melted. If not, microwave for 30 seconds more.
  2. Stir until smooth and top each tart with melted chocolate.
  3. Refrigerate several hours before serving. The longer the tarts are refrigerated, the firmer and more pumpkin pie-like the filling will be.
The recipe was adapted from one for mini pumpkin pie tarts from Danielle Walker's Against All Grain blog. The original recipe was a guest post by Beth from Tasty Yummies.