Friday, November 27, 2009

A Tale of Two (Vegan) Thanksgivings

It is a long held tradition in my family that we have our Thanksgiving on the Sunday before the official Thanksgiving. It was started long ago as my parents ran a farm and didn’t really have holidays per se. I guess it doesn’t really matter what the business was, if you own it, then calling in sick and taking vacation is not a viable option to often.

Nevertheless, this tradition still holds after more than 25 years since my parents sold the farm.

I try to help out in providing food as my 80+ year old mother should not be held responsible for feeding upwards of 20 mouth that have a hard time staying shut (present company NOT excluded).

I’ve been exposing my family to my vegan cooking gradually over the past year. Some dishes have been hits and some have been misses. I can’t really say that I improved my win-loss percentage with this latest attempt (2 wins and 2 losses…which could almost be considered 2 draws instead) but I believe that I did accomplish something worthy…that I can (at some undetermined point in the future) host my own Thanksgiving and satisfy just about everyone.

Through Erik Marcus’s website I have been exposed to a veritable gold mine of information. Most recently, some amazing recipes from Robin Robertson. Mr. Marcus posted links to her 2008 & 2009 Thanksgiving recipe collection.

Although I wanted to make and eat them all I carefully chose 4 to present to my family:

Roasted Wheatmeat
with Oyster Mushroom and “Sausage” Stuffing
Brown Gravy
Garlic Smashers
Ginger-Dusted Pumpkin Cheezecake

I made a trial version of the seitan & stuffing last Friday night for my live-in food critic (which she responded to with rave reviews). I assumed some factor of safety and waited until Sunday morning to make the gravy, smashers and cheesecake (which proved to be a good assumption on my part).

So, a few people tried the seitan (my sister even asked to take some home), more enjoyed the mashed potato, no one consumed the gravy (only because I neglected to pass it…oops) and everyone who sampled the cheezecake became wide-eyed and displayed an expression reminiscent to that of a teenage boy watching his prom date descend the staircase (which apparently only happened in Disney movies from the 1970’s).

I made these same dishes 4 days later for my wife's family on Thanksgiving, but with not much better of an acceptance percentage. I must given my test subjects the benefit of the doubt though. Many of these dishes are my first try at them and they are being compared to dishes that they have been eating for almost 50 years.

But I won't give up, I'll keep on coming back. After all, Christmas dinner is coming up soon...

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

New England "Clam" Chowder

I have an old recipe for New England Clam Chowder from a previous life. It was always a hit at parties, but for obvious reasons I haven’t made it in quite a while, but over the weekend I decided to give it another shot.

I picked up some MimicCreme at the Vegetarian Expo in Saratoga Springs, NY this fall in anticipation of re-structuring my old recipe.

Here is what I came up with:

2 packages of mushrooms (I used a medley of oyster, cremini & porcini)
3 large carrots (washed, peeled & diced)
6 stalks of celery (washed, peeled & diced)
1 onion (diced)
2 cans of sliced potatoes (drained)
32 oz MimicCreme

I sautéed the mushrooms in some Earth Balance until they had “wilted” a bit (do mushrooms wilt?) and then set to the side while I sautéed the carrots, celery & onions in some canola oil (as with most other recipes, I let them go until the onions were translucent).

I threw all o f the sautéed ingredients in a large pot with the MimicCreme & potatoes. I added a few drops of liquid smoke (my previous recipe called for bacon, hence the smoke). I covered the pot and let simmer on medium low for about 20 minutes.

I checked (and stirred) it often as this was the first time I had worked with MimicCreme and didn’t know what to expect.

The final product passed the test I value the most…my wife’s delicate palette. She answered my question of “How is it?” with the eyes of a child on Christmas morning. I took this as a positive response.

Normally I would toss a few handfuls of oyster crackers in but the pantry was bare. What I found out was even better was some Italian bread with some Earth Balance spread...mmmm.

Friday, November 13, 2009

They say it's the most important meal of the day

I've come up with a new favorite for breakfast.

If I don't eat a good breakfast my mornings typically result in me staring blankly at the vending machine by 10 o'clock...and that never turns out well.

Lately I've been using a recipe that borrows from a few differnt sources. I really enjoy the breakfast burrito from Nancy Berkoff's Vegan Menu for People With Diabetes and I found a great recipe for a vegan sausage & "egg" sandwich on VegFamily Vegan Forums that is delicious.

After combing a little from both and a little something else, here is what I ended up with:

1 tube of polenta

1 package of extra firm tofu (diced)

2 tbs of white vinegar

1 tube of Vegan Sausage

1/2 package of hashbrowns

black salt

vegan cheese

10" tortillas

I prepared the polenta & tofu (as suggested by the recipe from the VegFamily Forum) by bringing the tofu, 2 tbs of vinegar & 6 cups of water to a boil for 2 minutes. I then drained the tofu and let it dry & cool on some paper towels for a few minutes. While the tofu was boiling I diced up the polenta into 1/2" wide pieces and microwaved them to soften them up a bit.

After all of that had cooled a little I mashed them together in a bowl.

I then broke the "sausage" up into bite sizes pieces and fried them up in some oil in a skillet over medium heat (maybe 5 minutes). When they were done I added the polenta & tofu mixture and let go for another 5 minutes stirring and blending together.

After this I took a half bag of hashbrowns and prepared them as suggested.

When all of this was done I mixed all of the ingredients together. I then placed a heaping serving spoonful of this mixture onto a tortilla with a little bit of nutritional yeast, some black salt, and some vegan cheese (I've been using Diaya lately).

I wrapped them up individually in some tin foil and I soon had enough for my wife & me for the rest of the week (about 10 in all).

4 days into this and I've yet to grow tired of them.

What I like best is the classics tastes from my childhood all wrapped up in a neat little package that really holds me over until lunch.