Friday, January 16, 2015

Ringing In The New Year With Whole Foods....

Republic Of Tea
Double Green Matcha Tea

Wow, I can’t believe I’ve been MIA for so long! I didn’t mean to be, but I guess the holiday’s really wiped me out. I’m so glad they’re over and that a new year has begun. We gorged and gorged over the holidays and by the time January 1st came around I was feeling sick and gross and craving nothing but whole foods. The past couple of years I’ve used January as a sort of cleanse month, and I’m doing the same thing again this year. I had planned to post each day about what I was eating, and how I was feeling, or at least every other day like the past couple years but I haven’t done a very good job of that obviously. Sometimes I just forget to take photos, and often I just can’t be bothered to write about what I’m eating but hopefully now after my little break I’ll get back into the swing of things.

So what have I been eating/doing exactly? Well, I’m not following a particular diet or cleanse - even though there are plenty of them out there - I’m just doing my own thing. I’ve gotten back into juicing and I’m following a mostly raw diet, that incorporates some cooked food. Usually the ‘cooked’ food is store-bought coconut milk, or a legume, or some steamed vegetables at dinner. Stuff like that. Over the past month I’ve been avoiding alcohol, coffee - though I’m allowing caffeinated tea - refined sugar - I use a little bit of maple syrup or agave but keep it limited - gluten - except for last night - processed foods, and limited grains. I’ve been sticking with whole foods, mostly fruits and vegetables, lots of vegetables, lots of salads, and I have to say I feel pretty darn good. Light, and clean, my insides feel very clean indeed, and I feel very positive about it.

Like I said I haven’t been a very dutiful blogger, I haven’t taken photos of everything I’ve eaten over the past couple of weeks but I’ve taken a few. So here is an example of the kind of stuff I’ve been consuming.

Most days I start with a fresh juice, usually grapefruit/orange which as many of you probably know from last year is my favorite combination. Other days it’s a green juice, or a mixed veggie/fruit juice. The other day it was Apple, Lime, Cucumber and that was pretty good though a bit tart.

For a solid meal at breakfast time I’ve really only been eating 1 of 2 things. I either have this delicious raw Morning Scramble from Judita Wignall’s awesome book “Raw & Simple” Or I have a bowl of Cherry Hemp Muesli also from “Raw & Simple.” both are amazing, and like my new favorite breakfast options!

Morning Scramble 

The Scramble is so flavorful and actually tastes like eggs which amazes me because the ingredients are so simple. It’s just a mashed avocado with turmeric, and black salt, topped with diced tomato, and marinated veggies. The marinated veg is spinach, onion, and shiitake mushrooms and they’re simply marinated for 10 minutes in Tamari and Olive Oil. SO GOOD! And surprisingly filling.

The Muesli is also very simple, containing dried cherries, dates, almonds, vanilla, oats, and hemp seeds. Sometimes I also throw in some sesame seeds, flaxseed, and then top it off with blueberries and coconut milk. Today I also threw in a bit of cacao nibs. This stuff is delicious and really hits the spot.

Cherry Hemp Muesli 

Before I got hooked on this muesli I was eating the Power Muesli from the book “Chia” by Lauri Boone. This is also a seriously delicious muesli containing oats, cranberries, goldenberries, hemp seeds, chia seeds, and sunflower seeds. I topped this one with coconut milk and blueberries as well though always neglected to take a picture of it.

Of course, there have been a few days where I wasn’t in the mood for a solid breakfast and on those days I mostly relied on smoothies. Particularly smoothies from “Raw & Simple” My favorites were the Happy Monkey - which is homemade cashew milk, frozen banana, coconut, cacao nibs, cacao powder, and almond butter. I’d sweeten it up with a bit of vanilla stevia. I also loved the Cherry Cacao Smoothie - which was frozen cherries, coconut mana, cashew milk, cacao nibs, vanilla and sea salt, I also sweetened this with a bit of vanilla stevia.

A few days called for something lighter still and so I made the Indian Spiced Orange drink from “Raw and Simple” which is an easy mix of fresh squeezed OJ, Homemade Cashew Milk, and Garam Masala. Strange, but tasty! Or I’d make the Milk and Honey Refresher - which is a whole grapefruit, homemade almond milk, and honey, or in my case I used Vegan Bee-Free Honey. YUM!

Milk and Honey Refresher 

Unfortunately I neglected to take pictures of most of this stuff.

Often I’m not hungry enough for a real lunch and so I just have juice, some raw veggies, a simple garden salad with vinaigrette, seasoned chickpeas, or leftovers from the night previous. A few days I was hungrier then others and so I enjoyed the Pizza Style Chickpea Flatbread from Heather Crosby’s awesome book “Yum Universe” it’s your typical Chickpea Socca, topped with tomato sauce - I had some leftover from when I made Pizza on New Years, and then I added steamed kale and sauteed onions, along with a little leftover cheese cause also from New Years. So tasty. A couple of times I enjoyed another delicious lunch from “Yum Universe’ the wonderful Chickpea, Tarragon and Cranberry Salad Sandwich. Although instead of having it on bread I either ate a coop on it’s own, or I ate it on lettuce leaves, with a side of Radish and Fennel Chips also from “Yum Universe” Unfortunately I didn’t take pictures of any of that either. Yesterday’s lunch was lettuce leaves filled with Cumin Spiked Pinto Bean Dip from the “Thug Kitchen” cookbook and topped with diced raw tomato, corn and Sriracha - so good!

Rainbow Ribbon Veggie Alfredo 

Dinners have also been relatively simple, I’ve really been enjoying the “Yum Universe” cook book and so most of our dinners have come from there. For example we enjoyed the Traditional Coleslaw One evening which might just rank as one of my favorite coleslaws ever. One night we had the Shredded Brussels Sprouts with Kale and Miso Dijon Dressing, along with Simple Sauteed Snap Peas both of which were out of this world in terms of flavor!  One night it was the Snap Pea and Radish Salad with Ginger Miso Dressing which I absolutely loved. Another night ti was Baby Kale Salad with Blueberries and Chinese Spiced Pecans which was also incredible!  Several nights we had the Rainbow Ribbon Veggie Alfredo which is a vegetable noodle dish that can be made either raw or cooked. I did half and half on it, leaving the zucchini and carrots raw, but steaming the bell pepper, kale and broccoli. This was so freaking good!!!

Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Soup

A couple of nights we had the Carrot-Ginger-Coconut Soup from “Raw & Simple” which was very tasty. I normally don’t like raw soups because I hate the texture and I don’t like cold soup but I let this run a little long in the Vitamix so it was warm then added diced avocado and cilantro for texture and it was fantastic. Last night we had the Yellow Split Pea Lettuce Wraps from “Thug Kitchen” which were fantastic. Kind of an Asian style dish of cooked yellow split peas, mixed with shredded carrot and green onion, seasoned with rice vinegar and tamari. The dipping sauce is more tamari, rice vinegar, a little agave and garlic. So good!

Yellow Split Pea Lettuce Wraps 

I’ve mostly been avoiding dessert but sometimes I need a little something before I head off to work at Midnight and so I’ve been enjoying various types of Chia Pudding. I’ve made vanilla chia pudding, acai berry chia pudding, banana chia pudding, chocolate chia pudding, cardamom raisin chia pudding the list goes on. All of them are sweetened with either dates, or stevia, occasionally a little maple syrup or Bee-Free Honey.

I’ll try to be more diligent about capturing my food from now on. But I think this gives a nice overview.

Thursday, January 1, 2015

New Year's Eve 2014...

Left - Baked Ziti Pizza
Middle - Garlic and Artichoke Pizza
Right - Deep Dish Hawaiian Pizza

I hope everyone had a nice New Year’s Celebration. We didn’t do very much this year. We invited a few people over but I wasn’t feeling particularly social and so after dinner I mostly just ‘hid-out’ with a book, and then I fell asleep at 10pm, though my husband was kind enough to wake me at 11:55 so that I could ring in the New Year with him.

Since his birthday is on the 30th we normally do a combination Birthday/New Years party which means I typically let him pick out all or some of the food that I make for New Years Eve. Last year we did pizza and it went over really well, so this year I asked if he wanted to do that again and he said yes. I went through my extensive collection of cook books and threw out some ideas and he eventually settled on three pies.

One was the Baked Ziti Pizza from Lane Gold’s book “Vegan Junk Food” I know pasta on pizza might sound crazy to some of you but to me It sounded just crazy enough to try. I mean, who doesn’t like their carbs with a side of carbs? Though this recipe requires you to make pizza dough, sauce, vegan ricotta, and cook the pasta so long as you know this ahead of time and prepare accordingly this pizza comes together really easy. In fact, I was kind of dreading making it but it was such a snap I couldn’t believe I’d been worried about it. Once you have this sucker loaded up it bakes for about 20-25 minutes and it comes out of the oven tasting like magic. Seriously, this was probably my favorite pizza of the night.

Baked Ziti Pizza

Next up we had the Deep Dish Hawaiian Pizza also from “Vegan Junk Food.” I have not had deep-dish pizza in a long time, and I haven’t ever made one before, since deep-dish isn’t my favorite. Being from Vancouver I grew up eating thin or medium-crust California style pizza, because that’s pretty much how we do it on the West Coast, and that’s what I like. I had never had a deep-dish pizza until my first visit to Chicago and I remember thinking it was pretty damn good. All that gooey cheese how can you go wrong? After I moved here, and I guess it took about a year maybe less, I lost my taste for deep-dish. It’s too heavy, it’s all dough, there’s too much sauce! In my opinion the best part about pizza is the toppings so why do you want to take up all that stomach space with dough? So I forgot about deep-dish and stuck to thin-crust, but for as much as people in this city rave about Chicago pizza being the best, Chicago just can’t do thin-crust, and so I pretty well just stopped eating pizza altogether unless it was homemade.

Deep Dish Hawaiian

All that is to say that I found the prospect of making my very own deep-dish pizza daunting, and I wasn’t convinced it was going to taste any good at all. I guess I needn’t have worried because Lane Gold didn’t let me down. This recipe is super simple, and super easy, and if you already have the dough and sauce made then it’s a cinch to throw together. I guess it doesn’t hurt that growing up my favorite pizza was always Hawaiian! Pineapple on pizza is just right, you know? Anyway, this pie uses Daiya mozzarella, and Smoked Tofurky Slices in place of ham and cheese but honestly this tastes pretty damn close to what I remember actual non-vegan Hawaiian pizza to taste like. I don’t know that I could tell the difference in a blind taste test. The only problem with this pizza was the crust on the bottom was a bit weak and so it didn’t stay together very nicely when you tried to remove a slice. No matter though, it tasted great.

Lastly we had the Garlic and Artichoke Pizza from Chloe Coscarelli’s book “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen” My husband goes wild for artichokes and we both love garlic so this seemed like a natural choice. It’s a pretty simple pizza once you have the dough and sauce made. The toppings are sliced tomato, artichokes, thin sliced garlic, capers, red pepper flakes and mozzarella sauce. Which is a ‘cheesy’ cashew based sauce that you drizzle over the pie at the end of cooking. I liked this sauce a lot and liked that Chloe’s pizza didn’t call for store-bought vegan cheese. That made this pie lighter then the others but it was no less flavorful.

Garlic and Artichoke Pizza 

For dessert my husband requested I make him an Oreo Birthday Cake. Ever since that one year I made Oreo cupcakes he’s been hooked! So I used the Oreo Cupcake Recipe from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s book “Vegan Cupcakes Take Over The World” and turned it into a cake. Also since it was his birthday I used the special ‘Birthday Cake’ Oreo’s in place of the regular kind. It turned out really well, moist and delicious and even though we were completely stuffed from pizza we still had enough room for a teeny-tiny slice.
Oreo Birthday Cake

And that about wraps it up, not a bad way to end the year. I hope everyone else had a nice celebration.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Breakfast For Dinner: My Husband's Birthday Celebration 2014...

My Plate

December 30th is my husband’s birthday, and it’s a particularly terrible time to have a birthday if you ask me. With Christmas just barely over, and New Years right around the corner most people are full, tired and ready for the holidays to be over - myself included - the last thing anyone wants to do is go to another party, eat another massive amount of food, and have to shell out more money for more gifts. December is an especially bad time to have a birthday if you live in Chicago, because it’s so damn cold you can’t even have the consolation of being able to go out and do anything nice. Forget outdoor activities in -20 degree weather. So, with this in mind I always try to give my husband the most special birthday I can think of. We’re not big on gifts since we normally by whatever we want whenever we want but I try to pick him up a few surprises that he might not purchase himself. I offer to make him anything he wants for his birthday dinner, and since it’s his day we can do whatever he wants. This year it was simple, we saw some movies, had dinner, went bowling. Bowling is always something that happens on his birthday, because it’s something he enjoys but I do not, except since it’s his birthday it’s the one day of the year I voluntarily and un-grumpily go along.

Last year for his special birthday dinner he wanted sushi. This year, he wanted Breakfast for dinner. Breakfast is probably his favorite meal, and he loves breakfast foods but since I am so rarely in the mood to eat in the morning I don’t normally make breakfast. At first I was disappointed that he wanted breakfast. I was hoping for more of a challenge, I was hoping for something decadent, but it’s his birthday after all and after taking some time to think about it I realized what a relief it would be to make a simple meal after having made so much decadent food already.

So breakfast is what I made, specifically he requested Banana Stuffed French Toast and some kind of Tofu Scramble. He also said he wanted Sweet Earth Bacon and Field Roast Breakfast Sausages, but wasn’t more specific then that. I like to have a little freedom to play around with and so that was a good enough guideline for me.

Field Roast Breakfast Links
Sweet Earth Hickory Sage Smoked Bacon 

I decided upon the Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast from Lauren Ulm’s book “Vegan Yum Yum” I’ve made this before - and posted about it - and we’d both loved it so it seemed the right choice. The only trouble was that the french bread I’d bought was a few days too old and so it was hard as a bloody brick. Needless to say that after much effort I could not cut the bread properly to ‘stuff’ it and so I simply used it to make regular french toast and topped it with the berries and bananas. Still good. I should have known better and picked up a new bread but oh well. My husband offered no complaints as he scarfed down 4 pieces!

Stuffed Banana Berry French Toast 

Since I had never made Lauren Ulm’s Tofu Scramble before and my husband didn’t give me a specific scramble that he wanted I decided to make the Tofu Scramble with Seitan Sausage also from “Vegan Yum Yum” This is a simply seasoned scramble packed with protein. Not only does it have tofu, and seitan but black beans too! Plus broccoli, shredded carrot, wine vinegar, soy sauce, nutritional yeast, turmeric, mustard seeds, and cumin seeds. I really liked the idea of these seasonings and though it’s not how I normally make tofu scramble I have to say this was absolutely delicious!

Tofu Scramble with Seitan Sausage 

Then I decided that breakfast just couldn’t be breakfast without some kind of fried potato and so I dug out my copy of Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book “Vegan Brunch” and decided on her Peruvian Home Fries. It seemed a fitting choice considering we were just in Peru in September. This potato hash uses Peruvian Purple Potatoes, Coriander Seeds, Red Pepper Flakes, Red Bell Pepper, Red Onion, salt, cilantro and oil. I loved the flavor combination on these potatoes, the coriander seeds tasted great and I liked the little pop you got when you bit into one. Though red pepper flakes are used in this dish these potatoes are not spicy, as most Peruvian food isn’t spicy. There is just enough red pepper to give them some flavor without lending much heat. I could have gobbled up the entire skillet if I wasn’t already so full.

Peruvian Home Fries 

Then there was the plate of Sweet Earth Hickory and Sage Smoked Bacon and The Field Roast Breakfast Links. Both of which cook up nice and easy and taste great, especially when dipped into some ketchup and maple syrup. All in all I’d have to say this was a damn successful breakfast dinner, unfortunately by the time we were done eating we were both too full for the cake I’d made. So instead we’re having the cake tonight as the coup de grace to our New Years/Birthday Pizza Party. Until tomorrow!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Our Mini Boxing Day Feast 2014...

My Plate

After the gluttony of Christmas Eve and Christmas my husband and I are normally too full and tired to do anything for Boxing Day. Which is okay with me. This year however I went a little overboard with plans for delicious Christmas Day appetizers. I overestimated my ability and underestimated my time. In the end I wasn’t able to make all of the things I’d initially wanted to, but some of them were already half prepared and sitting in the fridge. So not wanting to let anything go to waste we decided to have a mini mid-day feast on Boxing Day this year.

One of the things I was most excited about were the BBQ Chip Crusted Tofu Bites from Lane Gold’s book “Vegan Junk Food” I’ve been wanting to make these for a while and it just seemed like the perfect omni-friendly finger food. Too bad the omnivores didn’t get any, since it was only my husband and I on Boxing Day. These were actually very simple to prepare. All you do is cube tofu, dredge it in cornstarch, make a batter with flour and water then dip them, then roll them in crushed up BBQ chips. Then you fry them in a deep skillet. To some it might sound strange, to some it might sound gross but trust me, these were incredible! My husband and I couldn’t stop eating them. Since the tofu is first frozen, then thawed, then fried I thought the resulting texture was very ‘chicken’ like, in fact these reminded me a lot of chicken in flavor as well. Since the bites are fried they didn’t have an overly BBQ chip taste, it was more of a subtle sweet, tangy spice which was perfect. We served these with the Creamy Vegan Ranch also from “Vegan Junk Food” which I’d mentioned us having on Christmas Day with the hot wings.

BBQ Chip Crusted Tofu Bites

Next I made a recipe that I’ve been dying to make ever since I first got the Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg’s book “Spork-Fed” It’s the Pear, Fig and Sage Tarts with Roasted Garlic Aioli. These have always appealed to me, and for every party I consider making them but my natural aversion to working with pastry dough and puff pastry always makes me second guess myself. Not this year though, this year I was determined to try all those things I normally put off trying do to my perception of their difficulty. Surprisingly this was actually a very quick and easy recipe to make. It came together fast, and though there are only a few ingredients these little puff pastry bites tasted amazing. So full of flavor! I was so happy that I finally got around to making them. The sweet pears combined with the earthy figs and the tart and tangy aioli provided a truly wonderful flavor combination.

Pear, Fig and Sage Tarts with Roasted Garlic Aioli

Next I made the Coconut and Lime Sietan Skewers also from “Spork-Fed” I’ve been wanting to make these for quite a while too and just never get around to it. I so rarely have occasion to make appetizers for just my husband and I that I normally skip over the appetizer section in most cook books. This too was a super simple recipe to put together. Though it requires the advanced prep of making seitan - unless you use store-bought. I decided to do home made seitan and made a batch of Thai inspired seitan sausages a few days earlier. Since I cooked the sausages by steaming rather then boiling I thought sausage shapes would be easier to steam, and easy to skewer. Otherwise I may have just done chunks which would have looked more authentic. Of course taste is the most important thing and these tasted pretty damn good. They weren’t my favorite but they were good and my husband loved them. My favorite thing about them was the super simple coconut milk, and lime marinade, and the fact that once the skewers are cooked you roll them in coconut flakes. Who doesn’t love coconut in a savory concoction? I think they would have been even more delicious with a side of peanut dipping sauce.

Coconut and Lime Sietan Skewers

Lastly I decided to make the Seitan Baby Back Ribs from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “The Complete Guide To Vegan Food Substitutions.” This is another recipe that I’ve been wanting to try for years but have always found it intimidating. Much to my surprise the recipe is actually rather effortless. You make a seitan dough flatten it out into a pan coated in BBQ sauce, drench the top with more BBQ sauce and then bake. Simple enough. Once the seitan has baked you can then eat it as is, or grill or broil it to make It seem more ‘authentic.’ Since I prepared the baked ribs several days in advance I decided to pop them in the broiler for a few minutes on Boxing Day. I decided against using the optional fake bones just for convenience. Unfortunately I should have paid a little closer attention to the ribs when they were in the broiler. I left them in a touch too long and they got a little crispy on the outside. No matter though, we just cut the crispy part off, slathered some more BBQ on top and went to town.

 Seitan Baby Back Ribs

When I was an omnivore I never much cared for pork products, but I always loved ribs. Even though I haven’t had ribs in years and don’t miss them in the slightest I have to say these seitan ribs were delicious! The texture is very close to what I remember pork ribs being like, and the flavor was fantastic. My husband and I were so full that we could only manage two thin slices each, but the leftovers made great sandwiches the next day!

So that was our mini-feast, and after we were fully stuffed we washed it all down with a couple of beers, watched an episode of “Hannibal” and took a nice long food-coma inspired nap together. Hope you all had as relaxing a Boxing Day as we did.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Christmas 2014...

My Amazing Cook Book Haul from this year!

Christmas this year started out the way that Christmas usually does in my house. I got up early - although not as early as I normally do, this year I slept till 7am - and started cooking. By 9:30am or so It was present time! I got some lovely stuff, a toque and money from my mother, a TON of awesome Vegan cook books from my Parents-In-Law and Brother-In-Law, and some delicious tea, a really great loose-leaf tea thermos, and some cool DVD’s from my husband - but the gift that really made Christmas was my husband - despite us setting a $60 limit - bought me a 5 Quart Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer! Man I have wanted one of these things for years and years and I always put off buying one because I say “It’s too expensive.” It’s always next time, next time, next time and then I can never bring myself to actually spend the money because I figure at this point my whisking arm is so strong why bother. Still, every time I pass by one in the store, I think “Some day kitchen aid, some day” and This Christmas was that day! I can’t wait to use it on something!

I have the best husband in the world!!!!

Now, enough about gifts, what you really came here for was the food right? Well, as I said we did our Christmas Dinner on Christmas Eve this year, and so on Christmas Day we were just planning on munching finger foods and dessert. Our breakfast was light, Stollen as is tradition in my house. I believe I mentioned last year that my Oma is normally the one that bakes stollen in my family and she gives one to all her kids and grandchildren. However since she past away last year at Canadian Thanksgiving there was noone to make Stollen anymore, and so I took it upon myself last year to make some. I used the same base recipe this year and made my substitutions and while I think it turned out well, it somehow wasn’t as good as last year. I think I was too cocky this year. Last year I hovered and I was fussy about it because I wanted them to turn out perfect. This year I was preoccupied and busy and I paid less attention and so the bottoms got a little over-cooked. Not burnt but just more brown then they should have. Overall they still tasted great, but I learned a valuable lesson about patience and baking!  I made two stollen again, one with almonds for me, and one without for my husband. I actually also made 3 gluten-free stollen. One for myself, one for my gluten-free friend D and one for my friend NB. At first I thought the gluten-free version wouldn’t be able to hold water to the original, but it surprisingly turned out pretty good, more dense then a traditionally stollen but just as tasty! So that was a nice surmise I only wish I’d remembered to take a picture of them. Sorry!

Almond Stollen

Almond-Free Stollen

So, with breakfast done, and peasants done, and the cleanup taken care of I went back to working on the finger food, which inevitably took longer then initially expected. I did however have enough down time before guests arrived to shower, change, and take a few peaceful breaths. Then the family was over and after a bit of mingling it was time to eat!

Stollen - Sliced and Buttered

I was quite excited to try out this Korean BBQ Satay from Joni Marie Newman’s book “Fusion Food In The Vegan Kitchen” It’s a simple broiled tofu recipe, but what makes it special is it’s marinated and slathered in Korean BBQ. The sauce is made with roasted red peppers, red pepper flakes, sesame seeds, green onions, ginger, garlic, sesame oil, soy sauce and rice vinegar. At first the combination seemed strange but it was amazingly delicious. Not a single one of these slices was left over.

Korean BBQ Satay

I couldn’t resist making the Caramelized Onion and Apple Tart which is one of the few savory options from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Easy as Vegan Pie”- I’ve been wanting to make this for forever and so I’m glad I finally got around to it. It’s very simple, you caramelize red onions, add sliced apple, thyme, white wine, and balsamic vinegar then spread it onto some puff pastry and bake. The recipe also calls for chopped walnuts but I left those off since my husband doesn’t like them. This tart also went over like gangbusters and almost none of it was left.

Caramelized Onion and Apple Tart

I also made the Spicy Seitan Buffalo Wings from Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg’s book “Spork-Fed” this is another one of those recipes that I’ve been wanting to make for forever, but I so rarely have cause to make buffalo wings, and whenever I’m actually in the mood for such a thing I typically get it at a favorite vegan restaurant in the city. The seitan I made in advance using my standard go-to chicken style seitan recipe. I tried to shape the pieces into ‘wings’ but they came out looking more like cocktail sausages. Oh well! These were delicious. I liked the Spork-fed girls buffalo sauce which was hot but not too hot, and this was a pretty simple preparation. These also went over super well and I served them with the Creamy Vegan Ranch from Lane Gold’s wonderful little book “Vegan Junk Food” Seriously this was probably the best vegan Ranch dressing I’ve ever had - homemade or otherwise. Actually it just might be the best Ranch ever. It is so rich, so creamy, so decadent and so delicious. Everyone agreed!

Spicy Seitan Buffalo Wings

Creamy Vegan Ranch

Next up I made a platter of delicious crostini. On the left is the Butternut Bruschetta with Caramelized Onions and on the right is the Smashed Avocado and Roasted Beet Crostini both from Chloe Coscarelli’s book “Chloe’s Vegan Italian Kitchen.” Both of these appetizers were delicious and both went over very well. The beet Crostini even won over a few avid beet haters and people who were previously indifferent to beets! Both recipes were also super simple but packed loads of awesome flavor, it’s hard for me to decide which one I liked better but I’ll say it never would have occurred to me to use squash on crostini or to pair avocado and beets together in this way. I really love all of Chloe’s books for their simplicity, originality, and deliciousness, she never disappoints me or my guests!

Butternut Bruschetta with Caramelized Onions
Smashed Avocado and Roasted Beet Crostini

Since a holiday can’t be a holiday without a ‘cheeseball’ of sorts I decided to make the Walnut and Current Veganzola Ball from Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman’s book “500 Vegan Recipes.” I’ve actually wanted to make this for sometime as well but never find reason to. Recently though I saw Joni post about it on her blog and I thought “Yes, this year I’m making it!” it’s a fairly simple recipe using tofu, olive oil, flaxseed, miso, garlic, liquid smoke, walnuts, currents and salt and pepper. I expected this ball to be a little sharper in taste, like a Gorgonzola as the name kind of implies, but it was a very mild tasting ‘cheese.’ In fact I added a touch of lemon juice and a pinch more salt and miso to give it a bit more ‘umami.’ but it was still rather mild. Good, but not what I was expecting. I also didn’t have enough currents, I only had about 1/4 C when the recipe called for ½ C so I subbed in raisins but rather then go with regular old black raisins I used golden and I think this actually worked really well. Even my husband who normally doesn’t like cheese of any kind - vegan or dairy - dug into this ball with enthusiasm. In the book they suggest crumbling leftover cheeseball over salad, and I actually think that’ll taste really good, so I plan to use what I have left over on a kale salad tonight!

Walnut and Current Veganzola Ball

The cheesy trend continues as I decided to make a few dishes from John Schlimm’s book “The Cheesy Vegan” I’ve been eying the Blue Moon Dip for some time now and thought this was the perfect opportunity to make it. This is suppose to be a blue cheese dip of sorts and I think it tastes very much like blue cheese. It’s super simple to make, just crumble some tofu into a bowl of vegan mayo, add lime juice, tahini, garlic, onion powder, and apple cider vinegar. So amazing on crackers or bread and it went so well with the Flying Buffalo Dip - also from The Cheesy Vegan. I just couldn’t resist making the buffalo dip even though I already had buffalo wings on the table. It just looked too good and it seemed to me that the blue moon dip and the buffalo dip were a team of sorts. Can’t have one without the other. This was also a really simple dip to make tofu, vegan cheddar, vegan mayo, lemon juice, cider vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper and hot sauce all mixed into a bowl together for yummy, decadent perfection!

Blue Moon Dip

Flying Buffalo Dip

Lastly from I decided to also try Schlimm’s The Sailor’s Spinach Dip. This was also a really easy dip. Cashews are used as the base and they’re soaked in wine and vegetable stock after being toasted. Once that’s done you combine them with frozen, thawed spinach, garlic, onion, lime juice, pepper, and cider vinegar. This dip was a bit more tangy then I normally like my spinach dip and so I added a bit of salt, a touch of miso, and a dollop of vegan mayo to kind of even it out a bit, and it ended up tasting amazing. This recipe made a lot though, and I’m not sure that the omnivores at the party liked it quite as much as their gross store-bought non-vegan spinach dip, but what do omnivores know anyway?

The Sailor’s Spinach Dip

Somehow in the whirlwind leading up to Christmas I decided that one cheeseball simply wasn’t enough and so I decided to make the Sage and Gouda Cheeseball from Namely Marly. Despite the fact that I follow a lot of vegan blogs I rarely if ever have the time to make anything from them, but this just looked too good to pass up. Unfortunately I couldn’t find Daiya’s Smoked Gouda Block anywhere and so I subbed in their Jalapeno Havarti and added some Liquid Smoke instead. That was the only substitution I made here and I think the end result was delicious. Of course my ball isn’t as pretty or well formed as Marly’s but oh well. People dug into this with gusto, and even my husband enjoyed it, which was a shock to me as it contained pistachios and pumpkin seeds both of which he doesn’t like. I also already mentioned he doesn’t like cheese, and this ball unlike the Steen and Newman’s ball was very pungent and strong, Much more cheese-like, but my husband at it up like it was going out of style. His tastes are changing all the time and it constantly amazes me!

Sage and Gouda Cheeseball 

So that’s it for the finger foods portion of this post. We ate a ton, and truth be told I had actually originally intended to make much more. In fact I bought all the ingredients I needed to make about 15 different dishes but it became clear as I was cooking on Christmas Day that I just didn’t have the time, nor did I have the space to store all of them and so I ended up nixing some of the dishes from my list. Of course, since some of them were already half prepared - such as pre-made seitan that was marinating etc.. - and since I had the ingredients on hand anyway my husband and I decided to have a mini Boxing Day Feast. - Boxing Day is the day after Christmas for you Americans by the way.

But, of course no celebratory meal is complete without dessert. This year since I went so crazy with baking cookies I didn’t go to wild with desserts. I only made two pies, both of which came from Hannah Kaminsky’s book “Easy as Vegan Pie” the first pie I decided to make was the Strawberry Cereal Streusel Pie which was phenomenal. It’s your basic strawberry pie filling but instead of a regular flour crust the crust is made with four, walnuts, cornflakes, sugar, cinnamon, and vegan butter. The crust was so good you could have eaten it with a spoon on its own, but paired with the pie filling it was a real treat. This went over pretty well, especially with my husband.

Strawberry Cereal Streusel Pie

Then because I like to do things that are a little out of the ordinary I decided to make the Chestnut Crunch Pie. I personally love chestnuts I think they’re insanely delicious and so I’ve had my eye on this pie for a while but was never sure about whether or not anyone else would like it. I like weird things, but not everyone feels the same. Somehow chestnuts really seemed to suit this Christmas and I thought ‘to hell with it’ I know another chestnut lover and so if the pie didn’t go over I could split the pie between me and my friend. Lucky for me the pie did go over well, in fact I think people liked it even more then the strawberry pie. At first everyone kind of looked on it as that strange ‘vegan’ thing but after one brave soul tried a bite and began raving non-stop, everyone had to try a bite. This was actually super simple. You make a chocolate cookie crust then a chestnut pudding, pour the pudding into the crust and top it with candied cacao nibs. Then you let it sit and it’s done. Easy, and so, so good. This just might be one of my new favorite deserts and I loved that it wasn’t overly sweet.

Chestnut Crunch Pie

So, that was our Christmas. By the end of the night I was so full I didn’t want to ever look at food again. We ended the night peacefully by watching “It’s A Wonderful Life” which is one of my favorite films and certainly my favorite “Christmas” film. Now, you’ll have to wait until tomorrow to hear all about our Boxing Day Mini Feast.