Catching Up: The Winter Blahs, I Has ‘Em

My little kitchen will have to do for now.
My little kitchen will have to do for now.

So, wow, it’s nearing the end of January and the last blog post I made was right before Thanksgiving.

And I never posted pictures.

Sadly, it’s because I never took pictures. For all the excitement I had leading up to Thanksgiving, the day just kind of fell flat. The food turned out well, but by the time it came to eat, I wasn’t feeling very well. I ended up going to bed around 7pm.

All in all, this has been a tough winter for us. It was the first Christmas without my mother in law, and it really hit my husband hard. As for me, the older I get, the more the cold, dreary days of winter seem to get to me.

My job has been going well, but keeping me very busy. My yoga teaching has been going well, too. I’m hoping to expand on it to teach more classes and private lessons. As for our plans to buy a house, my husband and I have decided to wait a bit longer for that. We want to focus on paying our student loans off as soon as possible and put them behind us. We also are considering a move to a different city. I’ve lived in Louisville my entire life, but I’d like to give another city a chance. (I’m very inspired by Luminous Vegans’ cross-country move.) I need to stay at my current job a few more years, but it would be pointless to buy a house now.

All that being said, I’ve let this blog fall to the back burner and I hate that. I’m not going to promise frequent posts, but I promise to get back to blogging more often. I’ve got a few ideas for new posts and just need to get back into the swing of things and create a blogging schedule.

Anyway, I hope you all are well and are having a wonderful 2014 so far. I apologize for the personal, no-so-food-related post, but stay tuned for more foodstuff. Stay warm!!

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Vegan Thanksgiving 4.0: The Menu

thanksgivingI’ve been excited about Thanksgiving for months. I can’t wait to turn on some music, pour myself a drink (or two) and start cooking.

Every year I keep thinking that I’ll change up the menu, but when the time comes, I always go back to traditional dishes. And that’s what I’m doing this year, though I hope to tweak things a bit to make them even better than last year’s dinner.

Here’s what we have planned this year:

Carrot and Apple Stuffing
Green Bean Casserole
Sweet Potato Balls
Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes
Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Butternut Squash
Cranberry Relish (a new dish this year)
Shallot Gravy
Celebration Loaf (store-bought)
Rolls (store-bought)
Pecan Pie
Pumpkin Cake with Cream Cheese Frosting

I plan to post pictures of our meal this weekend. I hope you all are well. Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and be safe in your travels!

Recipe: Sweet Potato Muffins with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts

Okay, I think I’ve bitten off more than I can chew this week. I know I owe you guys some recipes from our Thanksgiving meal. I started an online class on Monday that is offered through an awesome site called Coursera. Have you heard about it? It offers free online courses from top universities. For example, I’m taking the Think Again: How to Reason and Argue class, which is taught by two professors especially for Coursera students — one professor is from Duke University and the other from University of North Caroline Chapel Hill. My husband is taking the Intro to Astronomy course, which is also taught by a professor from Duke University.

Anyway, there are tons of courses available if you’re into continuing education — especially free continuing education. (I promise I’m not getting paid by Coursera — I’m just a nerd when it comes to these things.) But as fun as the class has been, it’s thrown a wrench into my blogging schedule, which was already sporadic at best.

In the meantime, I thought I’d share a recipe that I adapted from “Big Vegan” for sweet potato muffins. The recipe is perfect for any sweet potatoes that you didn’t use from Thanksgiving. These little guys are hearty and delicious — the perfect breakfast for a cool fall morning.

Sweet Potato Muffins with Dried Cranberries and Walnuts
Makes 12

Ingredients:

Vegetable oil spray
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup vegan sugar
1 1/4 cups peeled, cooked and mashed sweet potatoes
12 tablespoons unsweetened rice milk (soy or almond will do)
1/2 canola oil
2 tablespoons ground flax seeds
1 cup dried cranberries
1/4 chopped walnuts

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Combine flours, cinnamon, baking soda and salt into a large bowl.

In a food processor or blender, combine sugar, sweet potatoes, milk, oil and ground flax seeds and blend until smooth and creamy. Add to your flour mixture and combine, being careful not to overmix. Add the cranberries and fold them into the batter.

Fill your muffin liners to the top and top with the chopped walnuts. Spray the tops lightly with the vegetable spray so that the walnuts do not burn.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes (my oven runs hot), or until a toothpick comes out clean.

Enjoy!

Vegan Thanksgiving 3.0: The Food

I can’t believe Thanksgiving has already come and gone. I hope you all had a good one! We decided to make our vegan Thanksgiving spread yesterday since we had family obligations all day on Thursday. I got a little bit of a late start yesterday, but it came together pretty quickly and turned out really well. I’d say, it took me about 3 hours total to make everything, and that’s with a crappy oven and hardly any counter space (one day I will have a new-ish, more spacious kitchen … one day).

While I still opted for a traditional spread this year, I did make a few changes from last year. For example, instead of making Sweet Potato Balls, I just made simple roasted butternut squash and Brussels sprouts. Not only did it cut down on time, but the vegetables were a nice change in texture. I also changed up my Green Bean Casserole recipe from last year, and for the better.

But one major change from the past couple of years was that I made my own vegetable stock, and, wow, what a difference in flavor. I used the Simple Stock recipe from “Vegan Soul Kitchen,” and made it on Wednesday evening. (You can find the recipe here.) I poured the finished batch into large pitcher so it was ready to add to my dishes when needed. Prior to this, I had never made my own stock before, but I was so surprised at how easy (and cheap) it really is; I highly recommend it.

The Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes from “Vegan Soul Kitchen” were just as good as I remembered them. I had planned on making a mushroom gravy recipe, also from the same cookbook, but I ran out of mushrooms between the stock and the green beans. Instead, I just made a simple brown gravy that actually turned out really well.

I’ll post recipes for my gravy, along with my Green Bean Casserole, and Sage, Apple and Carrot Stuffing soon. I’ll also post dessert pictures.

I know it’s a little late, but I am so thankful for all of you coming to and reading my blog!

Vegan Thanksgiving 3.0: The Menu

Regular readers of this blog know that I’ve been excited for Thanksgiving for a few weeks now (I clearly need to find a hobby). But as excited as I’ve been, I’ve had a hard time getting my act together in terms of finalizing a menu and shopping for food. I think I’ve been too preoccupied by other cooking-related events leading up to Thanksgiving: We attended a Thanksgiving potluck with friends this past weekend, and I’ve got to make a couple of dishes for a meal my brother is hosting on Thanksgiving Day (this is why we’re pushing our vegan meal to Friday).

Last night, however, we finally made it to the grocery, list and menu in hand. After perusing the Web to find new recipes, I’ve decided to stick with what I know and have settled on a menu that is actually much simpler than what I’ve made in the past. I’m not making my Sweet Potato Balls since I made them for the potluck. In its place, I’m roasting butternut squash. And I’m using some help again for my stuffing. Overall, it’s going to be less fussy this year — I hope.

Here’s my finalized menu. I will post pictures and recipes (more detailed than last year) this weekend. I hope you all have a safe and happy Thanksgiving with lots of love and good food!

Dinner:

Green Bean Casserole
Roasted Butternut Squash and Brussels Sprouts
Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes (from “Vegan Soul Kitchen“)
Sage, Apple and Carrot Stuffing
Mushroom Gravy
Tofurky
Rolls
Cranberry Sauce (in a can, of course!)

Dessert:

Pumpkin Roll (from “Sweet Vegan“)

Vegan Weekly Roundup: Thanksgiving Ideas, Vegan Bacon and Quinoa Wraps

As we move closer and closer to Thanksgiving (it’s less than two weeks away!), I’m starting to get my lists together. Are you guys getting excited? I know I am. So far, I’m planning on sticking to the basics, much like I did last year, but I do want to tweak a few things for a little variation. I’ve been looking at recipes online, and found a few, along with a few other vegan-related items, that I think you’ll enjoy.

I’m making my Sweet Potato Balls for a Thanksgiving potluck between friends, so I don’t think I’m going to include them on my Thanksgiving Day menu this year. In its place, I’m going to make this Savory Vegan Butternut Squash Au Gratin W/Crispy Shallots.

Soy substitutes if you find yourself allergic to it or just wanting to reduce your consumption.

These quinoa wraps look healthy and delicious! (I think I may need to buy this cookbook to help with my never-ending lunch dilemma.)

Whoa. Vegan bacon from king oyster mushrooms.

I love reading about athletes who decide to go vegan — despite criticism from fellow athletes.

Instead of a pumpkin pie or pumpkin cheesecake, I’m going to make a pumpkin roll this year.

No time for cooking a Thanksgiving feast? If you live in Chicago, the Chicago Diner offers a vegan Thanksgiving carryout menu.

And, finally, here’s some music from Ladyhawke to enjoy while you cook. Have a lovely weekend!

 

Product Review: MimicCreme (Revisited)

I love coffee. Love it. I typically drink it black, but recently thought it might be nice to change it up with a little non-dairy creamer. Long ago, I tried the Silk Creamer and found it a little too sweet for my tastes — and I’m talking about the Original, not the flavored varieties.

On a recent trip to Whole Foods, I walked past MimicCreme cartons on the shelf and decided to grab one to try in my coffee. I tried MimicCreme last year during Thanksgiving, but I used it in savory dishes, such as my green bean casserole. It worked perfectly as a substitute for heavy cream and I plan on using it again this year.

Well, after trying the Original Unsweetened in my morning coffee, I’m hooked. The creamer provides a nice, rich creaminess to my morning cup(s) of coffee without any sweetness. But if you do like a little bit of sweetness with your caffeine fix, there are Hazelnut Biscotti and French Vanilla flavors available.

Vegan Weekly Roundup: Fall Soup, Halloween Treats and Musical Inspiration

I don’t know about you guys, but I am already dreaming of Thanksgiving food. Last year’s feast was a big success, and I’m already planning this year’s menu. In perusing the Web to find recipe ideas, I came across some vegan finds that I think you’ll enjoy. I hope you’re having a great Monday so far.

A simple, healthy fall soup.

A healthy alternative to a stuffed potato.

So happy to see that Lauren Ulm is back to posting on her fabulous site, Vegan Yum Yum.

Cannot wait to pick up Terry Hope Romero’s new cookbook, “Vegan Eats World” (as if I need another cookbook).

No-bake vegan Halloween treats.

Bryant Terry talks about the music that inspires him in the kitchen.

And, finally, here’s a little music to get your week started off right:

Vegan Thanksgiving 2.0

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving, everyone!

Well, we pulled off our second all-vegan Thanksgiving and, I have to say, I’m pleased with the results. A few weeks back, I had mentioned that I was going to make a spread featured in an issue of Vegetarian Times, but, true to form, I ended up changing my mind. It was mostly because it was going to be really expensive to make.

So, this year, we decided to veganize very traditional dishes, some of which I made last year, but I was able to improve upon this year. Here’s a breakdown of the dishes you see on the table:

Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

These mashed potatoes were taken from the Vegetarian Times spread I originally wanted to make. They aren’t the prettiest mashed potatoes (they look a lot different than the picture in the magazine), but they were tasty. The cumin and cayenne added a nice kick to the buttery Yukon Gold potatoes.

Green Bean Casserole

This is my take on the traditional green bean casserole. I first sautéd the onions and garlic in olive oil and a little Earth Balance. I then added the mushrooms and a little vegetable stock to deglaze the pan. After everything was browned and caramelized, I removed them from the pan so that I could create the cream base. I started by making a roux. To do this, I melted more Earth Balance in the pan and added flour. I then added the cream.

This year, I thought I’d try a new (to me) product, Unsweetened MimicCreme. My only complaint was that, out of the container, it had a very sweet, almost marshmallow-like smell despite being unsweetened. It made me a little nervous, but once I incorporated it into the roux and the sautéd onions and mushrooms, it took on a much more savory aroma. I’ll definitely be using this again for anything that calls for heavy cream.

Once I had the mushroom cream base, I added frozen haricot verts and warmed them a bit in the pan. I then added some of the fried onions to the green beans and then transferred the entire mixture to a casserole dish. I baked uncovered for about 25 minutes at 350 degrees and then topped it with the rest of the fried onions. I put it back into the oven to bake for another 10 minutes.

Sage and Apple Stuffing

My stuffing last year wasn’t all that great, so I wanted to make up for it this year — and I think I succeeded. I used a little help by picking up a couple of packages of vegan stuffing from Whole Foods that already contained some seasoning.

I started by sautéing onions, celery and carrots in olive oil. I then added a clove of garlic and cooked the mixture a bit longer. After that, I added two Honeycrisp apples, chopped into small cubes. After sautéing a little longer, I added the stuffing mix, a couple of teaspoons of sage, and salt and pepper. From there, I started ladling in the vegetable stock until it was at the desired consistency. I then scooped it all into a buttered casserole dish and baked it alongside the Greenbean Casserole.

Sweet Potato Balls with Caramel Sauce (sauce not shown)

It would not be Thanksgiving in my family without this decadent sweet potato dish. My mom makes these every year. My husband doesn’t quite understand my family’s obsession with them, but he’s just weird. How can you not like mashed sweet potatoes wrapped around a marshmallow, rolled in crushed corn flakes, then baked until the marshmallow melts and topped with a rich caramel sauce? It’s like dessert for dinner. Does it get any better than that?

But, needless to say, the original version of these little beauties is not vegan. So, for a Thanksgiving potluck with friends last year, I set out to make them my own. Last year’s effort turned out well, but I made a few tweaks to make them even better this year. For example, I opted to make them a little smaller and I made sure to stick with Kellogg’s Corn Flakes, instead of the Whole Food’s brand I used last year. The Kellogg’s Corn Flakes are lighter and make for a crispier coating.

Here’s the recipe:

Ingredients

3 lbs sweet potatoes
3 tsp Ener-G Egg Replacer
4 tbsp water
1 tbsp almond or soy milk
3 cups crushed Kellogg’s Corn Flakes
Dandies Vegan Marshmallows
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 cup Unsweetened MimicCreme
1 tsp flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Directions

Peel and chop sweet potatoes into even cubes. Boil until soft. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk the egg replacer and water until frothy. Mash the cooked sweet potatoes with a potato masher and then add the egg replacer/water mixture and the milk to the potatoes.

Take two marshmallows and mash them together so that they stick together. Form the mashed sweet potatoes around the marshmallows, then roll in the crushed corn flakes. Place into a lightly greased pan. Repeat until all the mashed sweet potatoes are gone. I made my balls a little larger than a golf ball and I was able to get exactly 15 of them out of the recipe. Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes, or until you see the marshmallow oozing out.

To make the sauce, simply combine the brown sugar, MimicCreme, flour and vanilla into a saucepan and whisk over medium heat until combined and the sauce thickens enough to coat the back of a spoon.

Spoon the sauce over the sweet potato balls. Try not to eat too many in one sitting. I dare you.

In addition to the recipes above, we included a Field Roast Celebration Roast. I also made a delicious brown gravy recipe that I got from “Vegan Diner.”

And what Thanksgiving feast would be complete without the cranberry sauce? I like my cranberry sauce the old-school way: out of a can. I’m not sure if the canned kind normally contains gelatin, but the Whole Foods brand does not.

And now for the best part: dessert.

Pumpkin Cheesecake With Pecan Crunch Topping

This is the second recipe I’ve made from “Vegan Pie In The Sky” and it did not disappoint. The cheesecake was really, really easy to make and turned out beautifully. Oh, and it was delicious! Each bite brought hints of pumpkin, banana and a touch of orange from the extract. The pecan crunch topping added the perfect flavor and texture to the cheesecake. I cannot recommend this dessert enough.

So, that wraps up our vegan Thanksgiving. It turned out really well and we have tons of leftovers, which is my favorite part.

If I can offer any tips, it would be to make the cheesecake the night before. Thanksgiving day, make the greenbean casserole, stuffing and sweet potato balls first and don’t bake them until close to the end. Make the gravy and caramel sauce next. Finally, while the potatoes are boiling for the mashed potatoes, go ahead and put the greenbean casserole and stuffing into the oven. After about 20 minutes, put the sweet potato balls into the oven too. And, if you can fit them, throw in the Celebration Roast (I put mine in a dish with vegetable stock to keep it moist) and the rolls last.

Enjoy!

Vegan Doughnuts and Thanksgiving Plans

So, who travels across the country to San Francisco and comes home with a doughnut pan as a souvenir? Why, I do, of course.

I had to go to San Francisco for work last week and stayed an extra couple of days for fun. My friends and I ventured over to the Ferry Building, which has tons of gourmet food and wine shops, including a  Sur la Table.

My husband and I have been wanting a doughnut pan so that we could try out the vegan doughnuts featured in “Vegan Yum Yum.” For some reason, our Bed Bath & Beyond doesn’t carry doughnut pans, so I couldn’t resist when I came across one in Sur la Table. The pan I purchased is for full-size doughnuts and her recipe is for mini doughnuts, but it wasn’t an issue.

I didn’t have any chocolate chips to melt, so we stuck with basic powdered-sugar doughnuts. They were so easy to make; I had fresh doughnuts in about 20 minutes. And it only took about 5 minutes to devour them all.

On another note, I cannot believe that Thanksgiving is right around the corner! Last year, my husband and I put together our very first 100-percent vegan Thanksgiving meal. We stuck with the basics and I was so pleased with the results.

This year, we’ve decided to step it up a few notches and try a spread that was featured in the November/December 2009 issue of Vegetarian Times. The recipes come from the book, “Vegan Soul Kitchen” by Bryant Terry, which I don’t have in my collection, but I’m planning on purchasing soon.

I’ve been wanting to make this meal for a long time, so I’m really excited to give it a shot. The menu includes:

Butternut Squash-Bartlett Pear Soup
Citrus Collards with Raisins
Smothered Seitan Medallions in Mixed Mushroom Gravy
Carrot-Cranberry-Walnut Salad
Cumin-Cayenne Mashed Potatoes with Caramelized Onions

The only thing I’m changing is the dessert. The spread in the magazine features a delicious-looking Chocolate-Pecan Pudding Pie, but I’m going to switch it out for the Pumpkin Cheesecake With Pecan Crunch Topping in the new “Vegan Pie In The Sky” from Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.

If all turns out well, I hope to have lots of pictures (hopefully better than the blurry shot I took last year) and lots of comments about the food.

I hope everyone is well!