Friday, November 21, 2014

Impromptu Pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving Dinner...

My Plate!

Last night my husband and I enjoyed a pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving dinner. There are a few reasons for this. 1) My mother-in-law picked up two 1 pound Celebration Roasts by Field Roast for us to have on Thanksgiving. You see, we normally go to my aunt’s husband’s for the holiday and she wanted to make sure we had something to eat. Of course, I’m already way ahead of the game and I already have an American Thanksgiving Menu planned out. She gave them to us anyway and aid then we could eat them whenever. 2) The weather outside is frightful! It’s so cold, so windy. All I want to do is hibernate in my bed, and on days like that I inevitably end up craving either soup, or comfort food. What’s more comforting then a bowl of mashed potatoes? 3) My husband found out that this year he will in fact be working on Thanksgiving. Not black Friday, but actual Thanksgiving. Which means we won’t be spending the holiday with his family, and we won’t be spending it with one another either. Thank you Corporate American Greed. Thank you Capitalism My husband was pretty bummed out, and I was too.

However, I didn’t want to let morons, holiday madness, and corporate greed ruin our holiday and so I decided we should have a pre-Thanksgiving, Thanksgiving. I’m still going to make my originally planned Thanksgiving Menu - probably Wednesday, but in the meantime, we needed a litlte comfort.

Celebration Roast fresh out of the oven

So, since this was an ‘impromptu’ dinner we didn’t have any appetizers or salad or a fancy dessert. I kept things low-key and simple, and used what I had in the house already, and somehow it just worked out really well.

For sides I made the Braised Red Cabbage with Cranberries from Robin Asbell’s book “Big Vegan” this was a really tasty dish, kind of like a traditional German Red Cabbage. It had onions, apples, bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves, red wine, sugar, red wine vinegar and cranberries. It was super moist, and full of flavor, and looked so pretty on our plate. I’m a big fan of cabbage anyway, so I knew this was going to be a win.

Keeping with the cabbage theme I made the Maple Mustard Roasted Brussels Sprouts from Betsy DiJulio’s book “The Blooming Platter Cookbook” this is not so very different then other Maple Mustard Brussel’s I’ve made in the past, except this one adds a splash of balsamic vinegar to kick things up. I really loved these sprouts, and even my husband loved them. Which is amazing, since he’s never liked Brussel’s Sprouts and will typically only eat them if they’re shredded. He’s never filled his plate with whole roasted Brussels before, so that’s pretty impressive.

Then I made the Mustard Spinach Mashed Potatoes from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “500 Vegan Recipes” this is mashed red skinned potatoes - skin on - with frozen spinach, earth balance, vegan sour cream, salt, pepper, and stone ground mustard. It’s a really simple recipe, but oh my is it delicious!

Lastly the main event, was our Celebration Roast by Field Roast. I have many Field Roast products in the past but never the Celebration Roast so I was excited to try it. I think it turned out really well, it was chewy and tasty, but I’ll save a full review on this product for a separate post. I will say though, that I baked it super simple, just stuck it in a pan with some vegetable broth and Tamari. I didn’t have any aluminum foil to cover it though, and I neglected to baste so the top got kind of crispy, but I actually really liked that effect.

To go with the roast I made a quick pan gravy. My own recipe, it was just something I threw together but it turned out so well that I made sure to jot down the recipe and I’ll post it tomorrow, just incase any of you find yourself in a pinch where you need a quick tasty gravy.

Quickie Pan Gravy

For dessert I made the Pumpkin Scones with Maple Glaze from Fernanda Capobianco’s book “The Vegan Divas Cookbook” these scones were super moist, and so tasty,. The glaze really brings them together, and they tasted especially amazing straight out of the oven.

Not bad for an impromptu dinner celebration right?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Stir-fried Bean Curd and Chinese Flowering Chives in Garlic Black Bean Sauce....

Black Bean Sauce is one of my favorite things in Chinese Cuisine, something about that salty, earthy flavor really gets me. Since I haven’t had it in a while, and we’ve been on an Asian Food kick lately, I was really craving this long-time favorite. I just didn’t know what kind of stir-fry I wanted to make. The thing about Black Bean Sauce is that it requires a hearty protein, something that can really soak up that black bean flavor. You need a sturdy protein that can get coated and glazed in the delicious black bean sauce. Naturally I’d think to use seitan, only I don’t have any at the moment. My next thought was tempeh but wasn’t in the mood for the distinctive tempeh flavor. The next logical choice then is tofu, only I didn’t have the time to pre-bake or pre-fry the tofu to get it really firm. Then it hit me, why not use that package of Bean Curd I’d picked up at the Korean Market the other day? Oh, and why not pair it with those Chinese Flowering Chives I had sitting in my crisper drawer. Perfection!

Chinese Flowering Chives - or Garlic Chives, as they’re also sometimes called - are a relative of the onion family. They look kind of like a thin green onion - or chive - but they have little white flower buds on the end that taste more like garlic. They have a potent smell, but not a particularly overwhelming flavor. They’re great in stir-fry’s. Fried Bean Curd is a kind of tofu, it has a much lower moisture content then the regular tofu you buy at the store, and it’s been previously fried till golden. The texture is very chewy, very meaty, and it shreds rather then crumbles. It’s a great stand-in for meat in any dish, and doesn’t taste anything like regular tofu which may make it more appealing to people who claim not to like tofu. Actually both the texture and the flavor remind me more of tofu skin, then tofu. Fried Bean Curd stands up really well to stir-frying, and it paired amazing with the Chinese Flowering Chives and the Black Bean Sauce to make the perfect lunch.

Most well stocked Asian Groceries should have everything you need to make this dish, and If you love Asian food as much as we do then I urge you to go on a little scavenger hunt, and then make this dish.

Stir-fried Bean Curd and Chinese Flowering Chives in Garlic Black Bean Sauce

1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 Tbsp Minced Ginger
3 Garlic Cloves sliced thin
8oz Fried Bean Curd Sliced into Strips
12oz Chinese Flowering Chives cut into ½ inch pieces
2 Tbsp Fermented Black Bean Paste
2 Tbsp Tamari
2 Tbsp White Wine
2 Tbsp Brown Sugar
1 Tbsp Chinese Black Vinegar
Sesame Seeds to Garnish

- First make the marinade. Add Black Bean Paste, Tamari, White Wine, Brown Sugar, and Chinese Black Vinegar to a small bowl and whisk together. Set aside until ready to use.

- Heat Sesame Oil in large pan over medium-high heat.

- Add in Garlic and ginger and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes until fragrant and garlic is golden-brown.

- Add in Sliced Bean Curd and stir-fry for 8 minutes until golden-brown on both sides.

- Add in the Chinese Flowering Chives and stir-fry for 2-3 more minutes until softened and bright green.

- Add in Marinade, and let cook for 2-4 minutes until slightly reduced.

- Remove from heat, garnish with sesame seeds and serve over a bed of brown rice or eat as is.

*** Note - Make sure you read the labels on your Black Bean Paste. Make sure it is FERMENTED, and made with black soybeans. Do not confuse it with sweet black bean paste which is sweeter in nature and made with mung beans. Fermented black bean paste is more like a miso, where as the other kind of black bean paste is used like red bean paste in pastry’s, desserts, and other confections. *** 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Garlic Sesame Gai Lan with Chestnuts...

My husband and I have been really diggin’ on Chinese food lately. I think every day this week I’ve made something from Donna Klein’s “The Chinese Vegan Kitchen,” and we just can’t get enough. Asian cuisine in general is our favorite, and my husband would be quite happy to live the rest of his life on noodles and rice. So this week when we were doing our grocery shopping I found myself particularly enamored with the fresh Asian greens. The Choy’s, the Chives, the Cabbages, and then there were these huge bunches of Gai Lan that really caught my attention. Growing up in Vancouver - with Chinese food being a particular staple, I’m quite familiar with Gai Lan, but despite having eaten it at many restaurants I’ve never actually cooked it at home. Despite not knowing what exactly I was going to do with it I just couldn’t help but grab a bunch.

Gai Lan - in case you don’t already know - also goes by the name of Chinese Broccoli, and as that name would suggest it’s very similar. Though the stems are longer and thinner, and it has a lot long, flat, spinach-like leaves. The taste of Gai Lan is mild, but slightly more bitter then broccoli. Gai Lan is eaten throughout China, but is particularly common in Cantonese Cuisine. Oh, and fun fact, Broccolini - those cute little baby broccoli’s - are actually a hybrid of regular broccoli and Gai Lan. Cool right? Anyway, you can use Gai Lan in just about any way you like, stir-fry’s, soups, vegetable side dishes. You can boil it, roast it, fry it, or saute it. You can season it lightly, or drench it in a nice sauce. The possibilities are endless, but I decided to go with a very simple preparation for my lunch yesterday. I was really craving sesame and garlic and I knew that combination would taste great paired with Gai Lan. I wasn’t wrong. I also had a package of chestnuts leftover from another dish I made a while back and so I decided to toss those in too. You can leave them out if you prefer but I think they really add something to the overall dish. If you’ve never had Gai Lan I urge you to give it a try next time you see it at the market.

Just a little note about this recipe, it is not in any way meant to be a 'traditional' Chinese recipe, as you might have guessed from my use of Korean Chili Pepper, but it is delicious!

Garlic Sesame Gai Lan with Chestnuts 

1 Large Bunch Gai Len
8 Cloves Garlic Sliced thin
1 Tbsp Toasted Sesame Oil
1 ½ Tbsp Soy Sauce
1 Tbsp Agave
3oz Roasted Chestnuts Chopped
1-2 Tbsp Sesame Seeds
1/4 Gochugaru (Korean Red Chili Powder)
Sea Salt and Black Pepper to taste (Optional)

- Slice the ends off the stems of the Gai Lan and discard.

- Remove the stems from the leaves, set the leaves aside and slice or chop the stems.

- Heat the Sesame Oil in a large pan over the stove, when hot add in the sliced garlic and chopped Gai Lan stems. Saute on high for 5-6 minutes until garlic is golden and fragrant and stems are bright green.

- Add in the soy sauce, agave, and Gai Lan leaves. Saute for 2-3 minutes until leaves are wilted.

- Add in the Chestnuts, sesame seeds, gochugaru, and salt and pepper. Saute 1 minute.

- Remove the pan from the heat and serve with additional Sesame seeds and gochugaru if desired.

*** Note - You can make this Gluten-Free by making sure to use a Gluten-Free Soy Sauce. You can make this Soy-Free by making sure to use a soy-free sauce like Bragg's Liquid Aminos, or Coconut Aminos***

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal...

As I think I’ve mentioned before I pretty much love pumpkin flavored everything. I’ve also been on a real oatmeal kick lately, and so I’ve had the idea to combine these two things for weeks now, only I’ve just been to lazy to actually do it. Finally this morning as I was enjoying a piping mug of peppermint hot chocolate and watching the snowflakes fall I decided it was time to give creativity a whirl.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect when it was all said and done, but I figured adding traditional pumpkin pie flavors to a bowl of oatmeal couldn’t go too wrong. I was right. This is a really warming comforting bowl of morning oats, full of autumnal and winter flavor. Perfect for any cold morning or any day you’re craving a bit of a pumpkin fix. Even my husband who despises all things pumpkin loved this sweet soothing breakfast. If you like your pumpkin pie a bit on the spicy side you can increase the ginger to 1 tsp, and up the nutmeg as well. I’m pretty picky when it comes to nutmeg which is why I only used a 1/4 tsp. These oats are fantastic topped with maple syrup and dried cranberries but you could use dried cherries as well or another sweetener of your choosing, and if you’re interested in kicking up the pumpkin another notch serve this with one of the delicious non-dairy pumpkin spice milks instead of regular old almond, soy or rice milk. Trust me on this!

Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal 

2/3 C Steel Cut Oats
1 15oz Can Coconut Milk
½ C Pumpkin Puree
½-1 Tbsp Blackstrap Molasses
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
½ tsp Ground Ginger
1/4 tsp Cardamom
1/4 tsp Ground Nutmeg
Pinch of Cloves

To Serve 

Maple Syrup
Dried Cranberries
Chopped Pecans or Walnuts
So Delicious Pumpkin Spice Coconut Milk - or your favorite non-dairy pumpkin spice milk, or any regular non-dairy milk.

- Combine Oats, Coconut Milk, Pumpkin Puree and Molasses in a medium sized saucepan and bring to a boil.

- Once boiling reduce to a simmer and add in all of the spices.

- Let simmer gently on the stove top, stirring occasionally for 30-40 minutes until oats are tender and much of the liquid has been absorbed.

- Divide the oats into bowls and top with Maple Syrup, Dried Cranberries and Your Choice of Non-Dairy Milk.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Product Review - Almond Dream: Pumpkin Spice Almond Drink...

Fall is by far my favorite season. I love the weather; love the feel of the cool breeze on my face, love the smell of decaying leaves as they flutter from the trees. I love the howling nights, and the wet afternoons. I especially love fall food. Stews, one-pot meals, casseroles, scones, pies, lots and lots of coffee and tea. These things are comforting, warming, soul-soothing. I especially love pumpkin favored goodies, cinnamon spiked treats, and nutmeg spiked drinks. I love the culture of fall, I love dressing in layers, I love spending time in nature to witness the changing beauty, I love giant pumpkins, and I love Halloween. As October crosses into November many people get sick of the typical fall foods like Apple Pies and Pumpkin everything, they’re ready to move onto stuffing and cranberries, and spinach salads that have walnuts and pears. Not me, I’m quite happy that pumpkin is a fall-winter cross-over food.

You may recall my post about Califia Farms  new Pumpkin Spice Latte from a few weeks ago. Well, I discovered yet ANOTHER pumpkin flavored beverage This one is Almond Dreams, Pumpkin Spice with Cinnamon nondairy beverage. I was super excited to discover this because almond milk probably tops my list of favorite non-dairy milks, yet aside from the awesome Califia Farms line of almond based drinks, most almond milks lack inspiration. Don’t get me wrong, I love chocolate and vanilla almond milk, but where’s the flurry of holiday almond based beverages? Where’s the Chocolate Peppermint Almond Milk? Where’s the Gingerbread Almond Milk? Know what I’m saying?

Anyway, I very excitedly scooped up a carton of this the minute I saw it on the shelf and I couldn’t even wait to get home to try it. I cracked this baby open in the car and took a long hearty swig, much to my husband’s amusement. Unfortunately, Almond Dream’s Pumpkin Spice didn’t blow my socks off. Now, don’t get me wrong, this is a rather tasty drink, it’s just not what I was hoping for. It didn’t tickle my tastebuds the way other pumpkin flavored drinks do. It didn’t wow me. As much as I like nutmeg, I find it to be an acquired taste and for me the line between just enough and too much is a very fine one. In the end I just thought the spiciness of this drink was not to my liking, and this particular pumpkin spice was somewhat thinner then I would have liked. Thicker then rice milk mind you, but a little thinner then your average almond milk. I did like that it wasn’t overly sweet, and that it’s lower in calories then many other holiday beverages. Although I found that the spices kind of muted the pumpkin flavor in this drink, and that it ended up tasting more like an eggnog then a pumpkin spice beverage.

So in the end, my conclusion is that if you really love pumpkin this drink may be worth giving a try. Certainly if you have allergies to soy, or coconut, or simply don’t like coffee this is a good option for you to meet your pumpkin needs. If however you’re somewhat picky like me when it comes to fall spices this may not be the right drink for you. Though, you never know until you try and I urge you to test it yourself and make your own decision.

As far as the practicalities are concerned Almond Dream’s Pumpkin Spice is soy, gluten, and dairy free, and contains 50 calories per serving. It has 2% sodium, 1g Protein, 7g sugar, 10% Vitamin A and Calcium, 25% Vitamin D, 30% Vitamin E, and 50% Vitamin B12.

You can learn more here Almond Dream

Friday, October 24, 2014

Super Easy Superfood Oatmeal...

Quinoa for breakfast is nothing new. In fact, combining quinoa and oats for a delicious protein rich breakfast isn’t new either, but it is new to me. As quinoa continues to grow in popularity here in the United States I continue to come across new and interesting uses for it. Of course, I never have time to try all the recipes I see, or even half of them, and when it comes to breakfast food I’m usually at a disadvantage anyway since I’m not much of a morning eater anyway. Which is why I normally opt for a fruit or green smoothie.

Of course, there are those rare days when I wake up with breakfast on my mind, and today was one of those days. Normally when I crave breakfast it’s something carby, or decadent. It’s always something that requires work and effort and it’s very seldom wholesome. Today was different, maybe it’s the cool autumnal weather, or the fact that I’ve been feeling less then ideal lately, but I woke up craving oats. Actually, that’s a lie, I’ve been craving oats for days now actually but I’ve just been to lazy to make them. Since I woke up extremely early this morning for no apparent reason, and have the day off I decided that if I wanted oatmeal then there was no time like the present.

The original idea was just to make a basic pot of oatmeal that would be large enough to last me through the weekend, but as I was standing in front of my pantry I thought “why not try that whole quinoa breakfast thing?” So I decided to add some quinoa to my oats. Then I started thinking about what else might be good. I had a single apple sitting in my fruit basket, and that always tastes great in oatmeal, I have bags of random Superfood burning holes in my pantry shelves and so why not add them too for a super nutrient dense, antioxidant rich breakfast? See how it is? Once you get started down a certain path you can’t stop, and I ended up with one of the most enjoyable bowls of oatmeal ever. The goji and mulberries really added a nice element to the oatmeal, a subtly sweet and complex blend of flavors. Even my husband who is no fan of oatmeal, but reluctantly agreed to try it, loved it!

The beauty of this oatmeal is you can literally do whatever you want with it. There are so many things you can add in, so many variations, an endless amount of options to keep you interested. This morning I chose to add the blueberries, cherries, flaxseeds, sunflower seeds, maple syrup, pomegranate molasses, and unsweetened almond milk to my bowl and it was divine. My husband meanwhile chose blueberries, cherries, flaxseeds, chia seeds, raisins, maple syrup, pomegranate molasses and vanilla almond milk.

However you choose to eat it, I hope you enjoy it!

Super Easy Superfood Oatmeal 

1 ½ C Steel Cut Oats
½ C Quinoa
5 C Water
1 Granny Smith Apple Peeled and cubed
4 Tbsp Goji Berries
4 Tbsp White Mullberries

Optional Add Ins per Serving 

2 Tbsp Fresh or Frozen Blueberries, Raspberries, or Blackberries
8 Fresh or Frozen Whole Pitted Cherries
2 Tbsp Ground Flaxseed
1 Tbsp Raw Sunflower Seeds
1 Tbsp Hemp Seeds
1 Tbsp Chia Seeds
1-2 Tbsp Raisins
1-2 Tbsp Walnuts
Sliced Banana
½ - 1 Tbsp Maple Syrup
½ - 1 Tbsp Pomegranate Molasses
Almond, Coconut or other favorite non-dairy milk

- Combine the Oats, Quinoa and Water in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Once boiling reduce heat and let simmer on the stove for 40-60 minutes, stirring occasionally until the oats have thickened and are tender.

- Ten minutes before the end of cooking add in the peeled chopped apple and stir to combine.

- Five minutes before the end of cooking add in the Goji and White Mullberries and stir to combine.

- Remove the cooked oatmeal from the heat, and spoon out individual servings. Top each serving with desired add-ins.

*** Note - To ensure this is Gluten-Free use GF oats. *** 

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Product Review - Sweet Earth: Hickory and Sage Smoked Seitan Bacon...

Look out folks there’s a new vegan bacon in town! Sweet Earth Natural Foods has just come out with a Hickory and Sage Smoked Seitan Bacon, that’s pretty darn good. I don’t normally buy pre-packaged vegan bacon as I prefer to make it at home myself but you know how the novelty of a new item always makes me want to try it at least once.

Personally I think seitan is probably the best candidate for making the most realistic vegan bacon. Of course that doesn’t do much to help those who follow a gluten-free diet, but for the rest of us I think seitan makes for the closest and most accurate bacon texture. If you like soft - think wilted - chewy bacon, seitan can do it, if you like crispy hard bacon, seitan can do it, if you like something a little in-between seitan can do it. Where as Tempeh doesn’t really do ‘soft’ and tofu never does crispy without becoming super chewy. Shiitake, coconut, and eggplant bacon are all great as well, but none of them ever stack up texture wise. So Sweet Earth has really achieved something unique with their seitan bacon, the texture is fantastic, and the flavor is pretty darn good too. When they say smokey they mean smokey for sure! Though I didn’t taste much sage. Overall this is a very savory product and satisfying to the palate, although I think - since I like a bit of sweetness with my bacon - next time I’d drizzle a bit of maple syrup over the strips as they’re cooking.

Now the nitty-gritty nutritional details. For 2 slices of seitan bacon it’s 90 calories, 30 calories from fat. 7% sodium, 2% carbohydrates, 1 g sugar, 1g fiber, 10g protein, 8% Vitamin A, 2% Vitamin C, Iron and Calcium, 50% Vitamin E and also contains several B vitamins in varying percentages. Unfortunately this is not the most allergy-friendly product out there as it contains wheat, soy, and coconut, however the only soy listed on the ingredients list is soy sauce. The ingredients are pretty basic, mostly spices, maple syrup, a bit of sugar, wheat gluten, red beans, and buckwheat groats, and the product is non-gmo, with no nitrates. According to their website Sweet Earth also works hard to ensure their products are sustainable so you can feel good knowing that too.

For all the vegan bacon lovers out there, this is a nice addition to the vegan bacon market, and tastes great served up alongside a tasty tofu scramble. I enjoyed it drizzled in a bit of maple syrup served with the Tuscan Tofu Scramble from Chloe Coscarelli’s latest book “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen.” My husband loved it too, saying it’s one of the best commercial vegan bacon’s he’s tried, and I’d have to agree. Though honestly when it comes to any commercial vegan bacon I prefer my own homemade stuff, but this is a nice change of pace once in a while or great if you don’t want to go to the trouble of DIY.

My only real complaint is the packaging is horrible to open. It's like opening a tempeh package. You need to get our your scissors and because of all the marinade it just makes a freaking mess. So be warned.

If you want to learn more about Sweet Earth you can check them out Here.

PS: One of the craziest things about this bacon is that when you cook it, it actually smells like bacon. It’s not like when you cook tofu and tempeh or other vegan bacon’s and you just smell that salty, blackening smell. This actually smelled like bacon - but without the grease. Weird.

Product Review - Califia Farms: Pumpkin Spiced Latte Flavored Cold Brewed Coffee with Almond Milk...

You know it’s fall, not only when the leaves begin to yellow and the weather grows chill, but when you can’t seem to throw a rock without hitting something that’s ‘pumpkin spice.’ The words Pumpkin Spice are now synonymous with fall;  it’s the kind of winning, warming, comforting combination that almost everyone loves. Pumpkin Spice Scones, Pumpkin Pie, Pumpkin Spice Cake, Pumpkin Spice tats, and perhaps most famous - and most beloved - pumpkin spice coffee. Of course, pumpkin spice is not always easy for us vegans to come by because so many of these delicious fall treats are loaded with dairy, but fret no more as the world of vegan holiday drinks has recently been expanded!

That’s right, Califia Farms - who I’ve posted about before, Here and Here - have tossed their hat into the ring once more and developed a Pumpkin Spiced Latte Flavored Cold Brewed Coffee with Almond Milk. As far as I know there’s two other vegan pumpkin spice beverage on the market, and they’re made by Silk, and So Delicious, of course these are both pumpkin flavored beverages sans Coffee. So Califia is unique in that respect since as far as I know it is the only Vegan Pumpkin Spiced Coffee Beverage on the market.

So lets get down to the nitty-gritty stats. For an 8oz serving this Pumpkin Spice Latte is 100 calories, 35 of which come from fat, 17g carbohydrates, 1g protein, 1g Fiber, 14g sugar, and 50% of your daily calcium. It’s gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, non-GMO, Kosher, and the bottle is BPA-Free. The only allergens are almonds, and coconut. It is a little high in sugar though which may be a turn off for some people.

How does it taste? Pretty decent. However in my opinion the spices are a little heavy, and the pumpkin is hard to distinguish. It gets a little drowned out by the nutmeg, and the nutmeg makes this taste a lot like eggnog. I respect the effort that Califia Farms put into making this product for all of us pumpkin spice lovers out there, but I think I’ll probably stick with their regular cold brewed coffee. Of course, who knows, you might love nutmeg, or you might not love an overwhelming pumpkin flavor and so this would be right up your alley. Or maybe you’ll just love it regardless. I actually think this would be great used as a creamer in a cup of strong coffee but I haven’t gotten around to trying that yet.

However you decided to use it, I hope you enjoy it, and regardless of my own feelings it’s always nice to have someone out there ‘vegan representing’ you know?

You can learn more about Califia and their products Here

Happy Fall!

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Celebrating Thanksgiving 2014...

My Plate

I hope everyone had a nice Thanksgiving Weekend, full of delicious vegan food and good company. Thanksgiving as you probably know by now is my favorite of all holidays, and so I look super forward to it every year. This year was no exception, and I had my menu planned out weeks in advance, I just get so excited around this time of year. Fall produce is abundant, the weather is generally good, the wind is blowing, the autumn colors are resplendent, what’s not to like? Add a big elaborate meal on top of that and it’s magical.

The Dinner Table 

As usual I had a really hard time deciding what to make, obviously the obligatory pumpkin pie but what else? I did a seitan roast last year which turned out amazing but I didn’t feel like doing that again this year. Instead I decided to go with something slightly more simple, and yet completely elegant. Stuffed pumpkins! But now, I’m getting ahead of myself, we should start with appetizers right?

Top - Creamed Onions and Root Vegetable Puree
Bottom - Marinated Beets and Shaved Brussels Sprouts 

Since I have more then 100 cook books in my arsenal finding recipes - especially for special occasions - can be something of a challenge. Now that I’ve been vegan a while I’ve made most of the ‘fancy’ recipes in my ‘go-to’ books and so for varieties sake I needed something a little different. I wasn’t initially sure what that might be until I started digging around in the book shelf and found the copy of The Millennium Cookbook that I bought several months ago and never used. For those of you who don’t know Millennium is a very famous vegan restaurant in San Francisco, I’ve never been there myself but would love to go some day, and so I bought the book second hand so that I might ‘treat myself’ to a little Millennium at home. It seemed like the perfect book to break out for Thanksgiving, and so I started with the Smoked Pimento Pate, and Mushroom, Walnut, Rosemary Pate from the appetizer section.


First the Smoked Pimento Pate, it sounded really interesting, and how can you go wrong with pimento anything? The pate uses pimentos, cashews, liquid smoke, lemon juice, nutritional yeast and some other seasonings. This all gets blended with a bit of water in a food processor and then you have to boil some agar, add it in and let it firm up. I wasn’t initially sure how this would turn out. I have worked with agar in the past - primarily in desert recipes - and it’s always been fine but, one always wonders. I guess I needn’t have been concerned, the pate firmed up with no problems and was perfectly sliceable. It had a tangy, slightly sweet and smoky flavor that reminded me ever so slightly of cheese.

Smoked Pimento Pate 

Next up was the mushroom, walnut, rosemary pate. This was a blend of mushrooms, onion, walnuts, rosemary, red wine, sage, thyme, soy sauce, and balsamic vinegar. The recipe also called for the use of agar but I decided to skip that step for this pate as I prefer a more spreadable ‘meat’ pate versus one you can slice. I think this was the right call.

Mushroom, Walnut and Rosemary Pate 

I served both of these pates with Millennium’s Chickpea Flatbread, which is basically a socca dough - made with water, chickpea flour, salt, and spices - baked in the oven until firm. The contrast between the savory chickpea flatbread, the tart pimento pate, and the earthy mushroom pate was brilliant. I think overall I liked the mushroom pate the best, but I also loved both of the pates when paired together.

Chickpea Flatbread 

This year - unlike years previous - my appetizers did not require a lot of work or prep-time but they were delicious, and they really paired well with the overall meal.


Next we had a salad, because no holiday dinner can be complete without some sort of salad. I normally do a winter greens + fruit + nuts kind of salad at the holidays, think cranberries and pecans or pears and walnuts but I wanted to do something different this year. So instead I chose the Deviled Kale Salad from Terry Hope Romero’s newest book Salad Samurai. The salad is really simple, it’s basically kale, then you make some massaged red onions - in lime juice, salt and sugar - and some homemade croutons to top it. The dressing is a garlicy, tangy, roasted red pepper dressing, that uses cashews to achieve a creamy base. Pretty much every salad I’ve made from this book has been a win, and this one was no different. I loved the dressing and it paired really well with the heartiness of kale. The onions and croutons took it to another level.

Deviled Kale Salad 

For our main course I went back to The Millennium Cookbook by Eric Tucker and John Westerdahl, and made the Pumpkins Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon. Pumpkin are so festive that it just seemed like the perfect thing to make, and who doesn’t like a good bourguignon? Not to mention my husband loves polenta. The presentation on this dish is awesome, and it’s not complicated to make, but it is rather involved. First you make the stew, then you roast the pumpkins then you make the polenta, then you layer the pumpkin and then it’s back into the oven for a little re-heat. It’s all worth it though when you take that first bite. This is a slightly less traditional bourguignon then I normally make - because this recipe calls for a lot of root vegetables - but it is highly delicious, and ranks among the best bourguignon’s I’ve ever made. The sage polenta was creamy and flavorful as well and was a great pairing to the stew.

Pumpkins Stuffed with Sage Polenta and Seitan Bourguignon

You can't see the polenta but I assure you it's there
under all that yummy, saucy stew!

For side dishes I made Millennium’s Root Vegetable Puree as an alternative to having yet another mashed potato dish. This dish uses the same basic concept of mashed potatoes but is made with a selection of other root vegetables - I choose parsnips, celery root, and turnip. - then you add in some white miso, and tahini to kick up the flavor and it was truly scrumptious and so creamy thanks to my food processor.

Root Vegetable Puree 

Next I dug out the secondhand copy of Vedge by Rich Landau and Kate Jacoby, that I just bought last month and hadn’t had the privilege to use yet. For those of you who don’t know Vedge is also a famous vegan restaurant in Philadelphia. I’ve never been there either which is why I bought the book after reading the high praises it received upon release.  I went with two side dishes from Vedge, the first was the Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Warm Mustard Sauce. I love, love, love Brussels Sprouts and no Thanksgiving table can be complete without them so I knew this was a must the minute I saw it. The warm mustard sauce was just a bonus because in my opinion B. Sprouts and Mustard were meant to be together. This recipe really did not disappoint, and even my husband - who’s not normally a fan of the sprout - loved it and ate it up!

Shaved Brussels Sprouts with Warm Mustard Sauce 

Next I decided to try the Chioggia Beets and their Greens with Nigella Seeds and Sherry, also from the Vedge cookbook. It sounded very interesting and since I have Nigella seeds and almost never use beet greens I felt compelled to try it. Unfortunately my local market did not have Chioggia beets - or candy striped beets as they’re sometimes called - and so I settled for regular beets, but the dish was still good, just less of a visual presentation. Probably this dish could have used a tiny bit of sugar since sherry vinegar is quite potent, but I loved the nigella seeds. I never would have thought to pair them with beets, and they actually work really well together.

Beets and Their Greens with Nigella Seeds and Sherry

Next, you can’t have Thanksgiving without stuffing, and since I’ve made many a stuffing over the years and wanted to try something new I decided to go with the Green Apple and Cashew Sourdough Stuffing recipe from Spork-Fed by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg. I’ve been wanting to make this recipe ever since I first bought the book but for some reason or another I never get around to it. I was so happy to finally be able to try it and it didn’t disappoint at all. It was a super delicious stuffing, tangy - from the apple cider vinegar and sourdough - and full of flavor with a bit of roasted goodness from the cashews and sweetness from the apples. This may just be up there among my favorite stuffing recipes.

Green Apple and Cashew Sourdough Stuffing 

Lastly, as our final side dish I decided to try the Creamed Onions with Whole Wheat Bread Crumb Topping also from Spork-Fed. I have always found this recipe intriguing but never had any real cause to make it before. I’d never heard of creamed onions before but apparently it’s ‘a thing’ in America. Since I love onions, and had a ton of them on hand I thought ‘why not?’ and I have to say I was pleasantly surprised by this dish, it was creamy, and oniony, and just plain good.

Creamed Onions with Whole Wheat Bread Crumb Topping 

That brings us up to dessert, and the obligatory Pumpkin Pie. Since I’ve made many vegan pumpkin pies over the past few years I wanted to try a pumpkin pie that I hadn’t already made, and so I went with the recipe in Chloe Coscarelli’s book Chloe’s Vegan Desserts I’ll admit that at first I was a bit nervous about this because it’s the first vegan pumpkin pie I’ve ever made that hasn’t called for tofu. All her pie is, is pumpkin, coconut milk, spices, and cornstarch and I just thought there was no way it would actually work and firm up. Boy was I wrong, I don’t know what kind of magic Chloe is working but this was probably one of the most perfect pumpkin pies I’ve ever made, and totally no fuss! I made the crust gluten free using a mixture of Chickpea Flour, Almond Meal, Quinoa Flour and Brown Rice Flour because I plan to give some of the leftovers to a gluten-free friend of mine, and I’d have to say that my crust combination really worked out. It was moist, and flavorful, and held together very well. Originally I was going to make my own homemade coconut whipped cream but after so much work I got lazy and decided to buy rice whip to top it instead. So what.

Pumpkin Pie 

Of course no elaborate dinner can be complete with only one dessert and so I went back to the Millennium Cook Book yet again in order to make their Pumpkin Cake with Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache and Cinnamon Coffee Sauce. That sounded too good to pass up and so I was quite excited to try it out. The cake was overall pretty good although perhaps a little heavy on some of the spice. The coffee syrup was amazing, though something about pouring liquid onto a cake - Tiramisu style- always makes the texture feel weird to me. Lastly the ganache had a wonderful flavor only I think this would have been better if made in my vitamix rather then the food processor as the recipe suggested. It wasn’t as smooth as it could have been. Oh well.

Pumpkin Cake
With Chocolate Hazelnut Ganache
and Cinnamon Coffee Syrup 

Also from Millennium I made the Warm Caramelized Apple Galettes which are a bit involved because there are several steps, however they’re not particularly hard. The dough is actually really easy to make - probably one of the easier dough’s I’ve worked with. Then you make your own homemade apple butter which is fun, and then caramelize some apples to top it off. A lot of maple syrup is used for this recipe but it’s the only sweetener, and trust me when I tell you that all the effort is worth it in the end. This was probably my favorite of all the desserts I made. We served it with some coconut milk ice cream which was also a nice pairing.

Caramelized Apple Galettes 

Finally from Millennium I made the Fig Tarts with Red Wine and Pear Cream, only as it turned out my local market was all out of figs. In fact everyone was out of figs. Since I’d already made the pear cream and tart shells before going shopping for figs I didn’t have the option of simply not making the tarts so now they’re just pear tarts with red wine and pear cream. Oh well, they wee amazing even without the figs, and surprisingly easy to put together. I chose to serve these with the suggested Blackberry Coulis which was a really delicious pairing, and super simple to make. All it is is blackberries blended with sugar and black pepper but it was so good! I’ve still got plenty of it left over and I think I’ll drizzle it over my morning breakfast, yum!

Fig Tarts with Red Wine and Pear Cream
and Blackberry Coulis 

So, as my Oma - who passed away at this time last year - would say “If that was dinner then we had it.” and we did. Afterwards I could barely move and fell promptly into a food coma, but it was a wonderful holiday!