Thursday, November 27, 2008

Thanksgiving meal

I love having people over for meals. I rarely have my family over, because they are suspicious of my food. I am slowly winning them over though. And they are big into food that someone else cooks, especially at Thanksgiving time, so I was able to get them over to my new house today for a big meal. My dad did make a turkey out on the grill, though. But that is a small concession to make, I suppose. I didn't eat any of it, and they were happy to have it.

Here's a picture of the meal, except for the garlic roasted brussels sprouts, the turkey and the double-layer pumpkin cheesecake:

The potatoes were mashed with Earth balance and Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream, the sweet potato casserole was based on this recipe from Fat-Free Vegan, and I got the cranberry orange sauce recipe on Rachael Ray's website, although I added a bit of Grand Marnier to mine at the end. The stuffing recipe is the same one I make every year, although this year I left the raisins out in the hope that it would be more appealing to my mom that way. She did try it, but still thought it was weird; hey, at least she tried. Oh, and I also made the dill dip in the same post with the stuffing, but that was pretty well demolished by the time I took my picture.

Here's a picture of my plate, with all the yummy stuff:

So, by switching my dessert (from the pecan pie of last year), I managed to go completely vegan this year. I thought about making some kind of replacement for the turkey, but there was really plenty of food; I didn't miss it.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Almost Vegan Pastitsio

This meal took a little longer to make than many things I do, but it was worth it. It was very good, and both of the kids had seconds! I based this on a recipe in the Weight Watcher's Take-Out Tonight cookbook.

Almost Vegan Pastitsio

I have been eyeing this traditional Greek dish on restaurant menus for a while now, wishing I could try it. With a ground beef filling and a milk-based bechamel, that was not going to happen, so instead I searched out a recipe to veganize. The nutmeg in the sauce disguises the soy taste wonderfully. I know there are egg substitutes that would work in this, but I am not really familiar with them, so I just used the eggs. Feel free to suggest vegan alternatives in the comments.

3 cups soy milk
1/4 cup cornstarch
3 eggs, lightly beaten
4 TBSP parmesan substitute (we used Parma!)
salt and ground pepper
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg

1 TBSP extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3/4 pound ground meat substitute, like Boca crumbles
1 pound plum tomatoes, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced (although I used more--probably 4 or 5)
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
salt and pepper

1/2 pound whole wheat spaghetti or elbow macaroni
2 TBSP parmesan substitute

Cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.

Meanshile, combind the milk, cornstarch and eggs in a large saucepan. Cook over low heat until thickened, stirring constantly. This took me a while, but I think I turned the fire down too low--I was warming, not cooking--so make sure the heat isn't too low. When thickened, remove from heat and add the Parmesan sub, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Place a lid on the pot and set aside while you make the filling.

At this point, you'll want to preheat the oven to 350 degrees and spray a 7 by 11 inch baking dish with non-stick spray.

For the filling, heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the onion until softened. Add the remaining filling ingredients and cook until heated through, and the liquid from the tomatoes evaporates. Stir often.

To assemble the casserole, start with half of the pasta, then top with all of the filling and the other half of the pasta. Pour the bechamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the last 2 tablespoons of Parma. Bake until golden, 30-35 minutes. Allow to cool for a few minutes before serving, to set the casserole.

I was going to roast brussels sprouts with this, but the kids aren't fans, so I ended up skipping them, and we had green beans instead. Lima beans stewed with some olive oil and oregano would have been good, too.

A couple of quick meals

I read a lot of vegan blogs with fantastic gourmet recipes. I love to see people showing that great meals do not need to center around a hunk of rotting flesh, or baby animal milk. People do some truly amazing things. But in general, that is not me.

I just want to get dinner on the table most nights. I want my food to have nutrition and flavor, but I am not passionate about making it just right or gourmet, or taking a long time. There are so many things I want to do in life, and cooking is definitely one of them, but only one. I want to get good food made in the smallest amount of time that is necessary. Sometimes that is not such a small time, but some nights it has to be fast, or we can't do it. Here are some examples of fast meals we have done lately.

First, I described my recipe for fast vegan fried rice awhile back, but here is a picture:

Doesn't that look healthy and delicious? The kids even like it. The boy had seconds and the girl ate hers without too much convincing (although she did try to convince me that she wasn't that hungry, a holdover from a virus she had the week before--she didn't complain about the taste, though). Every time I make rice these days, I make some extra so that we can have this later in the week. It is super fast, nutritious and we all like it.

Here is an even faster way to use up leftover rice:

For this one, I used fried tofu I got from the international foods market, along with a canned Thai soup and frozen green beans. I had to add some sriracha hot sauce to mine, but my friend said it was very good.

So, there you have it: some fast to the table, but still flavorful vegan meals. I hope this gives someone some good ideas for quick family meals that don't sacrifice flavor or your food convictions.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

My Backwards Dinner

The kids are at their dad's for the night, so I had dessert first. I was really excited this weekend to see the coconut milk ice cream at Whole Foods this weekend. I was looking forward to it all day at work, so I decided to dive in as soon as I got ome tonight. Oh my goodness, was it good! So creamy, no soy taste, just about perfect. I had to stop myself from devouring the whole pint, but I am looking forward to being able to have it again, so I was able to take only one serving and put it back in the freezer.

Why do I get to eat dessert first, when I won't let my kids do the same? Because I knew I was making urban vegan's delicious 30 minute Polish meal. I didn't get a picture, but it was awesome! I added cried cranberries to the carrots, and used baby carrots rather than slicing whole carrots, but other than that I pretty much followed the recipe as is. Oh, and the first time I tried to toast some walnuts to throw in the carrots, I accidentally turned off the wrong burner, so they burned, while I lost cooking time for the carrots. It all turned out very good, though, and I caught it before it got too bad. I had to throw out that batch of walnuts, but I didn't ruin the pan or start a fire or anything.

I tell you, having my own house is so good for me--the kids weren't here, but I cooked a real meal and washed dishes, two things I used to avoid when the kids were gone. I ate out a lot, or made sandwiches and left the dishes for the next night. So, healthy delicious eating, saving money, cleaner home. All in all, a definitely good thing!


Yesterday I cooked twice. I worked from home, so I decided to cook lunch, too, and freeze some of the leftovers. I made the Red Lentil and Cauliflower Curry from Veganomican. I had made it before, but just from what I had on hand when I went searching in the cookbook. This time I actually planned ahead to make it and went to the store to buy all the ingredients for it. It was good last time, but this time it was even better. The parsnip was good--I had only had parsnips once before and I don't think that was a good recipe. I remember thinking it was weirdly textured and bland, but it really worked in this recipe. I got an Anaheim chili, which isn't quite as hot as the jalapeno or serrano recommended, because I think the kids may eat some when I thaw out the remainder. I have to warn you, though, they are still plenty hot enough to set your eye on fire if you touch it without washing your hands. I learned that the hard way well after I was done eating, while I was on a work phone meeting. People are asking me questions, and I am trying not to scream while frantically searching for the nearest washcloth to help rinse my eye out, with impaired sight since I couldn't open the one eye. Not something I recommend. Be careful with chilis!
I had it with some garlic naan from Trader Joe's. Doesn't it look delectable?

And for dinner, I made my friend Andrea's favorite dinner (well, her favorite dinner that I cook, anyway): Curried Stir-Fried Noodles with Vegetables. No picture of this one, but I can assure you it was very good, as usual.

See all these fresh veggies? I feel so healthy! And full.