Sunday, November 30, 2008

thanksgiving, parts I and II

Thanksgiving, Part I: The Family Gathering Shindig

Overall it was a very tasty meal, with cranberry sauce, stuffing, rolls, mashed potatoes, Maple-Mustard-Glazed potatoes and beans (my contribution), roasted sweet potatoes, and green bean casserole. As I said in the previous post, I wasn't expecting a vegan dinner, but I was at least able to convince my mom to use almond milk and Earth Balance for the mashed potatoes! I wasn't able to bring my Tofurkey roast because I hadn't thawed it in advance (bah!), but I made a batch of gravy using the recipe on the box. Which I don't recommend. That recipe is kinda nasty. I should've stuck with the chickpea gravy from VwaV, but I wanted to try something new okay!?

Maple-Mustard-Glazed Potatoes and String Beans

2 pounds small Yukon gold potatoes, halved (about 1-inch pieces)
1/2 pound string beans, halved, ends cut off and discarded
1 yellow onion, thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
3 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
3 tbsp Dijon mustard
2 tbsp olive oil

Preheat oven to 400. Place the vegetables in a casserole dish. Mix all of the other ingredients together until the mustard is dissolved, and then pour over the vegetables. Mix well until everything is coated. Cover with foil, and baked for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and toss everything to re-coat with sauce. Turn the oven down to 350, and cook for 25 minutes uncovered. Remove from the oven, toss again, and cook for another 25 minutes uncovered.

As I've said before, this is my favorite recipe out of VwaV, and it went over really well.

Thanksgiving, Part II: The Tofurkey Experiment

The boy and I came home from Thanksgiving with a ton of leftover potatoes. Despite them going over really well, that didn't compensate for the fact that I'd made enough to feed an army. Thankfully that recipe tastes just as good when reheated as leftovers! Maybe even better, since it's been able to marinate in the sauce for a while.

The Tofurkey though? A total letdown. I really wanted to like it, and it had so much going for it: the stuffing looked delicious, the texture of the "meat" part was great, the basting sauce of soy sauce and orange juice was really tasty. Unfortunately it was also incredibly salty. Not just a little over-salty, but a LOT over-salty, like "when I eat this I want to gag a bit because it is so damn salty." I finished what I'd sliced for myself, but I was so disappointed. I guess I'll have to try something else for next year's Thanksgiving feast. Who knows, maybe by then I'll be adventurous enough to make my own seitan. Then again... maybe not.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

dinner on a lazy night #2

When I say dinner on a lazy night, what I really mean is "Still motivated enough to make something instead of hitting up the boxed foods." Because there are definitely even lazier nights than this. I should mention that I found a boxed vegan macaroni & "cheese". :-D Road's End Organics makes a product called "Shells and Chreese", and it's the closest approximation to real (boxed) mac & cheese that I've found yet.

But! This post is not about that. This post is about my attempt at polenta croutons, and my grilled un-cheese sandwiches. So yes -- the polenta croutons were tasty, but still a bit squishy. They browned up more than I expected, so I think I took them out of the oven too soon. They have a lot of promise though, and I'll definitely make them again. If you don't have ED&BV, it's the simplest recipe ever: Use a pre-made tube of polenta, cut off the smooth outer coating, cut into 1/2 inch by 1/2 inch cubes, then toss in olive oil with salt and pepper. Bake for 30 minutes or so.

Instead of the traditional cheddar for grilled cheese, I like to use Tofutti mozzarella slices and sprinkle a bit of dill on top. I worked at a restaurant in the past that made a sandwich like that, and I loved it -- and still do, with my veganized version.

So, Thanksgiving is tomorrow and I'm a little bummed out about the fact that it won't be a vegan one. The more comfortable I become with vegan cooking (and cooking in general!), the less comfortable I am eating any animal products anymore. I was looking at pamphlets at today for something I could give my mom with recipes for vegan cooking/baking, but of course they also have pamphlets talking about the whys of veganism, and the cruelty to animals just makes me cry to read about and look at. But it's important information anyway; a good reminder to me. It's important to know where animal-based food products come from, and to get upset about it, and make more compassionate choices. I never forget why I want to be vegan, but sometimes it becomes a more distant thought. So, it'll definitely be my New Year's resolution to go fully vegan. I think I'm finally getting to a place where that can be practical for me, and given a couple months I think I'll feel confident in that -- even if my meals won't always be awesome, they'll at least be nutritious, and I've gotten the hang of cooking from scratch regularly so I won't be living on boxed Shells & Chreese, haha. Even though I now know that it's an option. ;-)

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

seitan and polenta skillet with fresh greens

I can't believe I made this and forgot to take a picture of it. Above is a picture that I stole from another blog, and since the recipe is posted there I figure it's safe to post here as well. I'm still not sure about the blog-etiquette of posting recipes from cookbooks! Is there anyone more knowledgeable who can fill me in on that? But anyhow, the reason that I forgot to take a picture is because this looked and smelled so delicious that I just DEVOURED IT. My husband was actually looking at me strangely because I was eating so fast. And I ate so fast that I was a bit woozy afterwards from it, ha. I guess I should make food that looks less appetizing when I feel starved!


One 18-ounce tube polenta
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
Cooking oil spray, optional
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 pound seitan, cut into bite-sized pieces or strips
4 large or 6 medium stalks bok choy, with leaves, sliced crosswise*
5 to 6 ounces baby spinach**
4 scallions, sliced
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, or more to taste
1/4 cup oil-packed sliced sun-dried tomatoes, optional
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste


1. Cut the puckered ends off the polenta, then slice 1/2-inch thick. Cut each slice into 4 little wedges.
2. Heat a wide nonstick skillet. Add a drop of the oil and spread it around with a paper towel to create a very light coat, or use cooking oil spray. Add the polenta wedges; cook in a single layer over medium heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes on each side.
3. Transfer the polenta to a plate. Heat the oil and soy sauce slowly in the same skillet. Before they get too hot, add the seitan and stir well. Raise the heat to medium-high and saute, stirring frequently, for 5 minutes. Stir in the bok choy, spinach and scallions, then cover and cook until just wilted, 1 to 2 minutes.
4. Sprinkle in vinegar to taste. Gently fold in the polenta wedges and sun-dried tomatoes, if using. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at once.

* I had no bok choy when making this, but it was still really good.
** When I saw this number I was like "Holy crap, that's a whole package of spinach!" But I learned something new about cooking -- spinach shrinks down a lot when it wilts, so even though I felt like I was putting in a ton of spinach I probably could've thrown in more (I put in about half a package, ~3 oz)

Sunday, November 16, 2008

saucy italian "sausage" and noodles thing

Continuing on the theme of my last post, this is yet another "lazy dinner." I had just so happened to randomly purchase Tofurkey Italian sausage during my most recent trip to the health food store, and remembered this recipe from Adventures in Vegetarianism sounding really easy. So, voila, dinner in about 20 minutes! It was very tasty, and very, very filling.

As you can see, this picture and the last both have garlic bread. I'm still perfecting my garlic bread recipe. I'd like to try the one from ED&BV, but I never have whole garlic cloves on hand. So what I do is take frozen Texas toast, spread on a liberal layer of Earth Balance vegan margarine, then spread on a light layer of crushed garlic, and top it with a little nutritional yeast. I always end up thinking it's a bit too dry, but I'm scared to put on more margarine. I mean, I know garlic bread isn't a health food, but I'm trying to find a happy medium.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

dinner on a lazy night

This is what I make after I've had a really long day and am feeling frugal enough to not just say "hey, let's eat out." Although this dish looks extremely plain, it has a lot of flavor. Its the Lemon Garlic Pasta recipe from Dreena Burton's ED&BV. The first time I made it I thought it was just okay, but I've found that the key is to use fresh lemon juice. Yes, the recipe already calls for that -- but I thought it would be okay to use the kind in the little plastic bottle. Don't do that. Just give in and buy a lemon, it makes all the difference in the world. I still haven't quite figured out how to juice a lemon, though. I'm sure it would've been quite humorous if someone had been watching me attempt to cut a slit in the lemon and then stick both of my thumbs inside, pulverizing it all against the rind, with the juice dripping down my hands into the bowl. I'm sure there's a better way. But, it was a learning experience!

Friday, November 7, 2008

updated altar

I posted awhile back about how I was having difficulties with my altars: Creating one that was functional as well as aesthetically pleasing, making it something I could connect to, and most importantly, finding a place to actually put it! After a great deal of rearranging I was able to carve out a corner of the bedroom, and this is how it has looked for the past couple months. I am pleased.

On the wall above are pictures of God and Goddess forms I've felt an attraction to. From left to right: Persephone, Hekate, the Star Goddess, Freyja, Thor, Artemis, Shiva/Shakti, Dionysos, Durga. Framed are pictures representing God and Goddess, male/female duality, and the cycle of the seasons.

This altar feels a lot more personal and "me" than the last one, and I'm really happy with it. I feel very comfortable sitting in front of it -- and now it's actually at a position where I can sit, finally! I like all of the little trinkets. The goddess candle made for me (and other coven members) as a Yule gift by the head priestess of our coven, as well as a stone she gave me during my training period. A found key. A small wooden Artemis figure carved just for me, for winning a candle-making contest that was held to honor her light-bringing aspects.

I still plan to work on it a bit more, but now it has room to grow organically.

Saturday, November 1, 2008

warm potato spinach salad with pine nut dressing

This is another one from ED&BV. Minus a couple key ingredients: red bell peppers, which I didn't have on hand, and olives, which I hate. It kind of felt like it was missing something, so I would definitely make sure I had a pepper next time, as well as fresh basil instead of dried. I really liked the vinaigrette for this recipe, though! I've come to adore the taste of pine nuts. And artichokes. Mmm, the artichokes were my other favorite part of this recipe.

On a side note, I should have really cleaned up the side of that bowl before taking a picture!