Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The Big Thanksgiving Post of 2012...

A picture of the table, taken about halfway through the meal

I interrupt this Mofo to regale you with tales of Thanksgiving....

Green Salad with Creamy Tempeh Bacon Ranch Dressing

I’m sorry I haven’t posted over the past couple of days but my internet was down, until this afternoon. Of course this would have to happen during mofo, but I suppose if I’m being truthful I wouldn’t have posted yesterday anyway since I was busy cooking like a mad woman for Thanksgiving.

Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna with Creamy Bechamel Sauce

I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving this year! As many of you may already know it is my absolute favorite holiday. It’s the only holiday that isn’t heavily commercialized - in Canada at least, American Thanksgiving is very commercial unfortunately - it’s everything Christmas should be and isn’t. A holiday truly about family, friends, good food and giving thanks. Despite the fact that I’ve been living in the United States for the past few years I still celebrate Canadian Thanksgiving every year. It’s the one holiday that matters the most to me, and even though I do celebrate the American Thanksgiving with my husband too it isn’t quite the same. Despite the festivities around me the American Thanksgiving never feels like a holiday to me, it always feels like just any old day, but with better food and more pie haha... Anyway both my husband and my friends are very happy to have a second thanksgiving in which to gorge themselves each year. Particularly since I go all-out for this holiday. This year of course was no exception. I wanted it to be bigger and better then last year and so I ‘hit the books’ and dug up a dozen delicious recipes to cook up.

Green Bean Casserole with Spelt Breadcrumbs and Frizzled Shallots

It was a lot of work, and I didn’t realize until all the food was set out on the table just how much I’d actually decided to make. I tend to over-extend myself and get really stressed on the holidays. I’m always racing against time, fighting to get everything done before the guests arrive. Usually this leads to me having at least one or two comical mishaps. Dishes nearly getting ruined, cooking in my underwear with wet hair, locking myself out of the house, burning myself on hot pans, etc.. etc.. this year however I was mishap-free, because I actually planned out my time. I woke up around six-thirty Monday morning and began. I put on a variety of good music from Mumford and Sons, to Muse, to The Black Keys, and worked at a moderate but steady pace. No rushing, and everything came together brilliantly. By the time my guests arrived around three-thirty I had everything pretty well finished, and I was able to take a half hour or so to just relax and ‘hang out’ before I had to go pop a few things into the oven.

Mashed Red Skinned Potatoes with Sour Cream and Dill

So, what did I make? Well, we started with a salad, which was actually a last minute addition. My original menu didn’t contain a salad course but then I had some tempeh I needed to use and figured it would probably be a good idea to throw some greenery onto the table. I chose the Green Salad with Creamy Tempeh Bacon Ranch Dressing from the book Spork-Fed by Jenny Engel and Heather Goldberg, because it looked so delicious. The Salad used three-quarters of a cup of vegan mayo in the dressing which is kind of a lot, but Thanksgiving isn’t the time for health-food and so I felt less guilty about making it. Plus the salad was a universal winner, everyone liked it which to me is good enough reason to make it. It really was creamy, and bacony, and so, so damn good. For our main course I made the Butternut Squash and Sage Lasagna with Creamy Bechamel Sauce also from Spork-Fed. This was requested by my husband. I gave him a handful of options for the main course from seitan wellington to lentil loaf and he chose this because he is a lasagna fiend. I also liked that this lasagna used whole food ingredients, and butternut squash in lasagna was a new and intriguing concept for me. Everyone seemed to enjoy it, it was definitely creamy but I thought the lasagna could have used more garlic and maybe some onions too. I was looking for a richer lasagna and this one was a bit sweet, thanks no doubt to the butternut. This was not my husband’s favorite lasagna combination but he did enjoy a nice heaping slice.

Shiitake Mushroom Gravy 

To go along with the main course I made numerous vegetable side dishes. I chose the Green Bean Casserole with Spelt Breadcrumbs and Frizzled Shallots from Spork-Fed out of curiosity. Green Bean Casserole is something I had never heard of before moving to the U.S. but apparently it’s a thing here. A much beloved traditional holiday food that everyone expects on their Thanksgiving dinner table. I’ll admit that I’ve never actually had green bean casserole. I’ve seen it of course at plenty of holiday dinners and I’ve never been tempted to try it. First of all I think it looks a bit gross and second I don’t quite fancy eating a dish where everything in it came out of a can. This green bean casserole however is not your mothers, or your aunts, or your grandmothers green bean casserole. The Spork-Fed ladies make their version with whole food ingredients. Fresh green beans, fresh mushrooms that you cook into a thick soup using almond or soy milk and some seasonings. Breadcrumbs made from scratch by toasting pieces of bread and pulsing them in a food processor with spices and then fresh shallots sliced thin and deep fried instead of a can of French’s Fried Onions. Great idea, and I thought it tasted pretty damn good, although despite the fact that I liked this home-made, from scratch version I still fail to understand why this dish is such a ‘must-have’ holiday stable. Oh well, it was well received by everyone anyway, and the only thing I did differently was to use wheat bread for the breadcrumbs instead of spelt, simply because I didn’t have any.

Glazed Beets with Maple Balsamic Sauce

I also made Mashed red skinned potatoes with sour cream and dill. A recipe I developed last year and posted on the blog. I wanted something a little different then the standard mash and it really hit the spot. Especially served up with the Shiitake Mushroom Gravy from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book Color Me Vegan. The gravy was so thick and delicious with a really unique flavor courtesy of the shiitake’s and the sesame oil. The only thing I did differently there was to add some red wine into the gravy because that’s how I like my gravy - rich. I also added a tiny bit of almond milk for a slightly creamier consistency. I took her suggestion and blended the entire gravy. It was so amazing!

Polenta, Sausage and Mushroom Stuffing

Since I was feeling in the mood for beets, and because beets are a relatively festive and particularly autumnal food I decided to make the Glazed Beets in Maple-Balsamic Sauce from Zel Allen’s book Vegan for the Holidays. I thought they turned out pretty well, though I added a bit more maple syrup for that extra maple edge.

Red Wine Roasted Brussels Sprouts 

I recently purchased a copy of Mark Reinfeld’s latest book The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of Europe. In it he has a recipe for Yorkshire Pudding. Now, Yorkshire Pudding was one of my favorite holidays foods growing up. No meal would have been complete without them. My grandma makes killer Yorkshire Pudding - seriously they’re the best - she used to make them for holidays but also for Sunday dinners along with a big roast and all the fixings. I haven’t had a Yorkshire Pudding since I moved to the United States - Nobody I know here even knows what they are! - and after going vegan I thought I’d never have one again, until I saw this recipe. I knew immediately that I’d have to make them! If you don’t know what a Yorkshire Pudding is it’s kind of hard to explain. It’s not a pudding, it’s not a muffin though it’s cooking in muffin tins, and it’s not really a bread. It’s bread-like, but spongy, and very moist. It’s the perfect gravy sopper upper. My good friend E had an interesting way of describing it last night. He said it was “Cornbread’s Caucasian Cousin.” and flavor wise I suppose this is a little bit true. Anyway it’s traditional British fare, created apparently in Yorkshire, England - hence the name - sometime in the 1700's. These ‘pudding’s didn’t look like my grandma’s, and they didn’t taste exactly like hers either but they sure had the consistency and texture hers do. This recipe uses spelt flour which gives the ‘pudding’s a slightly more grainy flavor and feel which is nice, and I liked them but next time I think I’ll make them with all-purpose flour and see if they resemble my grandma’s a little more closely.

Yorkshire Puddings

Of course if that weren’t already enough the feast continued with two dishes I made out of Nava Atlas’s book Vegan Holiday Kitchen. Since I thought our holiday table could use a little corn I decided to make Nava’s Polenta, Sausage, and Mushroom stuffing which was pretty excellent. I used home-made Italian sausages from Isa Chandra Moskowitz’s book Vegan Brunch. Which I actually made and froze a month or two ago. They were really fantastic, and worked well within the context of the stuffing. Though as good as the overall dish was I think I still prefer a traditional bread stuffing. I also made her Red Wine Roasted Brussel’s Sprouts which were out of this world incredible. The sprouts are roasted with carrots, garlic and red bell pepper in a mixture of red wine and agave with some tarragon and thyme. Simply scrumptious.

Key Lime Pie

After all that food - and some good wine - we needed to relax and digest before tucking into dessert.

Pumpkin Pie

I went a little crazy with dessert this year because I couldn’t decide on which pies to make. All three of the pies I chose were from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s book Vegan Pie in the Sky. Since no Thanksgiving celebration would be complete without Pumpkin Pie that was the first one that naturally came to mind. Of course my husband doesn’t like pumpkin pie and so I needed something else. As I was flipping through the book I was drawn in by the Sweet Potato Pie with Brazil Nut Crunch Topping, and knew I had to make that. Sweet Potato pie is another one of those American traditions that I had never heard about before moving here, and again I have never actually eaten a sweet potato pie until now. I thought it was fantastic and delicious. This recipe in particular is really good because it has lime and coconut and really warming winter spices. It reminded me a lot of the pumpkin pie but with a crunch sugary topping. Of course because it was so similar to pumpkin pie, and because it had nuts - of which my husband is also not a fan - I realized I should make a third pie as back up just in case. After some careful thought I chose the Key Lime pie because he loves Key Lime Pie and we haven’t had it since going vegan. I’m so glad I made it because it was amazing! As much as I love pumpkin pie I think this was my favorite of the three, but only just barely. I loved it for being more tart then sweet, and for it’s pudding-like texture. The pumpkin pie I loved because it was mildly spiced and not to sweet, nor too pumpkiny. The sweet potato pie was just a tad bit too sweet for me because of the topping which is probably why the key lime won out in the end. I’ll usually pick tart over sickly sweet, and I usually pick ‘fruit’ pies over other kinds.

Sweet Potato Pie with Brazil Nut Topping

So that was Thanksgiving and after all the eating was done I felt like I was going to explode, but that’s what holidays are for right?

The Three Amigos - With Rice Whip Cream

1 comment:

  1. Your dinner looked awesome! The desserts look MOUTHWATERING!!!! S.T.