Sunday, December 28, 2014

Our Christmas Eve Dinner 2014...

My Overflowing Plate!

I sincerely hope that everyone had a Wonderful Christmas this year. I’ll be honest, I personally didn’t have much holiday spirit this year. I enjoyed the lights, and the atmosphere as I always do, but the truth is I’ve been busy, and stressed-out, and tired and I just found the whole idea of the holidays to be overwhelming. I did enjoy myself on the actual days in question, but the lead-up to Christmas Eve and Christmas day were exhausting. Of course that didn’t stop me from - against my better judgement - going all out food-wise yet again this year.

It started Christmas Eve. Normally I do desserts and appetizers and we lug it all over to my husband’s aunts house where we always enjoy the Eve. This year however I didn’t feel like making a bunch of food to transport, I find it daunting, and since I was tired and worked Christmas Eve morning and wasn’t in the spirit anyway I didn’t feel much up to going out to a party. Instead I decided to stay home, curl up on the couch with a cup of tea and a good book and admire our Christmas tree. It was peaceful, and relaxing and exactly what I needed, but before my husband left for the party we enjoyed our Christmas Dinner.

I decided to make dinner on the Eve rather then the day simply because it was easier for me. We had a small dinner that came together relatively quickly, and for Christmas Day I decided to do appetizers and finger foods and dessert thinking that would be much simpler. It turned out not to be simpler at all, but I’ll save that for the Christmas post. As for our dinner it was lovely, and beautiful, and insanely delicious!

We started off with a simple yet elegant appetizer. The Fresh Ricotta with Lemon, Basil and Honey Bruschetta from Martha Stewart’s book “Meatless.” the book is not vegan, but this was a simple enough recipe to veganize, and it sounded so good that I couldn’t help but want to give it a try. I veganized it by making the Macadamia Ricotta from Miyoko Schinner’s book “Artisan Vegan Cheese” and swapping out regular honey for the super delicious Bee-Free Honey. Yes, vegan honey exists now!  This may seem like a strange combination to some people, but trust me when I say this was amazing! Even my husband loved it and he’s not a cheese guy. The Macadamia Ricotta was also very good, although had a nuttier flavor then the similar Almond Ricotta from the same book. I thought he wouldn’t like it for this reason, but really, a little cheese spread across the bread with a nice fresh basil leaf and a drizzle of honey, and no one flavor overpowers the other. They all work in perfect delicious harmony!

Fresh Ricotta with Lemon, Basil and Honey Bruschetta 

Most of the other recipes I made came from a Vegetarian Times magazine I picked up on a whim while I was out one day. Everything in the mag looked so fantastic that I decided to try a few things for the holiday rather then use one of my hundred cook books.

Again I kept things pretty simple by making this super-easy Spicy Spinach with Sunflower Seeds. This is a sauteed spinach dish with Jerk seasoning, and roasted sunflower seeds. It contains 5 ingredients but packs a whopping amount of flavor. Plus it looked super pretty!

Spicy Spinach with Sunflower Seeds

I also decided to make the Truffled Mashed Potatoes which sounded really appealing to me as I enjoy the flavor of truffles but never thought of combining it with mashed taters. Again this dish was super easy, only 4 ingredients but loads of flavor, my only criticism is that since the recipe doesn’t call for non-dairy milk or butter the potatoes are kind of dry and don’t mash completely smooth. It’s an easy fix though, I just adding in a dollop or two of Earth Balance, a sprinkle of salt and these were beyond perfect.

Truffled Mashed Potatoes

As another side dish I made Bianca Phillips Mama’s Vegan Cornbread Dressin' from her book “Cookin’ Crunk” I’ve been wanting to make this for years, every time I see Bianca post about it on her blog I think “I have to try this.” and I finally did! This is a really simple casserole, though it does take a bit of advanced planning as you need to make her cream of celery soup first. It’s totally wroth the effort though, and the bonus is that the celery soup makes about 7 cups and the recipe only calls for 2 so you get an extra meal, and the soup is really great stand-alone. My husband particularly raved about it. So aside from the crumbled cornbread and celery soup this recipe also contains onions, whole wheat bread, sage, salt and pepper, which might not seem that exciting but trust me, it is so flavorful you’ll be amazed! My husband and I simply couldn’t get enough of it, and decided that it was our second favorite dish of the evening!

Mama’s Vegan Cornbread Dressin

To round out our vegetable side dishes I also made the Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes with Walnuts from Stewart’s book “Meatless” this recipe was naturally vegan which was nice. I’ve roasted grapes before to put into a farro salad, but I’ve never thought to roast them with sprouts. This was a super simple recipe that used sprouts, grapes, walnuts, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper and thyme and yet it was so tasty! The grapes added the perfect pop of sweetness to contrast the earthy sprouts. My husband loved it too, he’s gone from Sprout hater to lover in almost no-time at all.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Grapes

For our main course I made the Seitan Timbales with Chestnut Champignon Stuffing from the Vegetarian Times Magazine. It looked and sounded so elegant that I couldn’t resist. Yet despite the elegance it was super simple to prepare, only since it was just my husband and I eating I didn’t see any reason to make individual timbales. To save on time and space I put the whole thing into one big casserole and cooked it that way. I think it turned out perfect! The seitan is a simple preparation, and once it’s mixed together you place it on the bottom of your greased dish and then pour water or broth over top. I used Vegan Chicken broth and then you bake for 30 minutes. While you bake it you make the stuffing on the stove top. Bread, shallots, carrots, celery, mushrooms, garlic, chestnuts, wine, parsley, and herbs de province. When the seitan has finished baking you top it with the stuffing and bake another 40 minutes until the stuffing is browned. Man was this good. Seriously, I wish I had a better picture to share but you’ll just have to trust me on this one. The texture of the seitan was incredibly. It was moist, and flakey, and reminded me very, very much of chicken. I don’t know how that happened, guess there was some strange kitchen magic going on that night, but it was damn good I tell ya.

Seitan Timbales with Chestnut Champignon Stuffing

For dessert on Christmas Eve we enjoyed a vast array of holiday cookies. I went a little baking crazy this year. I enjoyed making Christmas cookies so much last year, and they were so well-received that I kind of lost it this year. I couldn’t decide what to make, and then I wanted to make everything all at once and now I’m left with dozens of cookies even though so many got eaten, and so many were given away.


Now, I didn’t take pictures of each cookie individually as I did last year, nor was I very proactive in taking pictures of the cookies on the actual day in question. I took this picture rather after the fact with only a fraction of what I had left over, but it’s a clear enough picture so you get the idea.  Starting in the top left, with that single, lone oval shaped cookie we have the Chocolate Chip Chai Spiced Shortbread from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero’s book “Vegan Cookies Invade Your Cookie Jar” I’ve been wanting to make these a long, long time and I’m so glad I finally got around to it because they’re AMAZING! Seriously, probably my favorite cookie of the whole bunch. Next are Gluten-Free Sugar Cookies that I got off of one of the many I blogs I follow - only I”m blanking on the name at the moment! Sorry! - These were excellent, and tasted just like any regular sugar cookie. Next to those are Cranberry White Chocolate Cookies. They were suppose to be biscotti also from “Vegan Cookies” by Isa and Terry, but the recipe was fussy, and I was running short on time and so I turned them into cookies and no one was the wiser. They were delicious and turned out great. Next to those are Gluten-Free shortbread which I believe came from the same blog as the sugar cookies. I’ll have to double check and edit this later. I accidentally forgot to put the cornstarch in them, and so I don’t know how that might have altered them but they tasted delicious, if a bit more ‘spongy’ then a regular shortbread. Next to those are the Double Chocolate Macadamia Nut Cookies from Chloe Coscarelli’s book “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts” these were absolutely excellent! Maybe my second favorite cookie of the bunch. In the top right corner next to the Macadamia cookies are the Greek Kourabiedes from Kelly Peloza’s book “The Vegan Cookie Connoisseur” these were quite tasty, I liked that they were light and airy, and I loved the hint of orange flower water. Now in the bottom left corner we have Gluten-Free Gingerbread Men from Carla Reed’s excellent blog “Fork and Beans” these were so good, and tasted just like any other gingerbread men. Beside them are the Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies from Colleen Patrick-Goudreau’s book “The Joy of Vegan Baking” these were so good, probably tied for my second favorite of the bunch. You can’t go wrong with chocolate and mint right? The little rounded ‘snow-covered’ mounds below those are the Nutty Wedding Cookies from “Vegan Cookies” by Isa and Terry. I’ve been wanting to make these a long time too and they were quite good as well as simple to throw together. Lastly in the bottom right hand corner we have the Chewy Ginger Molasses Cookies from “Chloe’s Vegan Desserts” which I made using the Gluten-Free variation. These were super soft, and delicious, but I expect nothing less from Chloe. I also made the Almond Butter Chocolate Chip cookies from Angela Liddon’sThe Oh She Glows Cook Book” but none of them survived for the photo, every single one was eaten up! They really are that good, trust me!

So, just incase you were wondering - I made several gluten-free cookies because this year I gave some of my baking away to friends as a gift. My friend D is gluten-free - as is the rest of his family - and so I wanted to make several nice Christmas theme cookies that he could enjoy. Then there is my friend NB - not to be confused with my other friend N - who is not gluten-free himself, but his wife is, and since I wanted her to enjoy the cookies as well I tried to make a variety of gluten and non-gluten containing cookies for everyone. Since neither my husband, or I, or anyone else in our family is gluten-free when I had them displayed at home I just threw them all together since contamination is not an issue and it was just easier for me to keep my cookies altogether then go to the trouble of separating them for no reason.

So that was our Christmas Eve Dinner. Tomorrow I’ll give you the rundown of what we ate on Christmas Day so stay tuned!

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