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.