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.

1 comment:

  1. Best husband ever.........oh ya! Love the kitchen aide Mixer!! Your Stollen looked great! as did your other foods..........I really miss my stollen, bought one, it was ok, but I think homemade is the best! Next year I will make one for me and my family!! S.T Happy Mixing to you!!!!