Saturday, November 29, 2008

Post-Thanksgiving Report

How was your Thanksgiving, vegan America? I hope it was delicious!

Once again this year I made my Mini-Wellington recipe (from Vegan Lunch Box)into one big Wellington for our Thanksgiving centerpiece dish. I decorated the loaf with branches, leaves, and acorns made from extra puff pastry. Isn't it pretty?

I know, I've caught some slack over the years for using puff pastry (yes, Pepperidge Farms frozen puff pastry is indeed vegan, but it's certainly no health food!)

This year the idea of eating transfats with my Thanksgiving feast just didn't sound like any fun, so I tried something new: at the same time I made the puff pastry version for my family, I also took the same loaf mixture (without the peanut butter or sage, plus extra Dijon), wrapped it in cabbage leaves, and baked it with tomato sauce and lemon. Ta da! Vegan Cabbage Rolls, lower in fat, healthier, and absolutely to-die-for. People who tried both even liked the cabbage version better!

We also enjoyed veggies with vegan ranch dip, sushi rolls, fat-free vegan gravy and mashed potatoes, and my sister made a perfect batch of Best Brussels Sprouts. For dessert, my mom made apple pie and huckleberry pie with organic shortening in the crust.

How did your feast go? Did anyone have Tofurky?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Around the World: Caribbean Beans and Rice

It's a taste of the tropics! Today I made Caribbean Beans and Rice: black beans and rice cooked with coconut milk and spices. Cooking beans and rice with a touch of coconut milk is a common practice in Jamaica and other parts of the Caribbean. (That's a green onion curl in the middle, trying to look all fancy-shmancy. Mine doesn't look as good as the one in the instructions picture...)

On the side is Spinach Bhaji, an Indian-style spinach recipe from the island of Trinidad. There is a large Indian influence on much of the cooking of Trinidad, where hundreds of thousands of Indians came as indentured servants to work the sugar plantations.

And for dessert, fresh pineapple with googly-eyed flamingo food picks. (I love these flamingos! They appeared in my birthday cake this year and made me squeal with delight -- their little eyes even roll around!)

It's all pictured in a Lunch on the Go lunch box from Bed Bath and Beyond (bought cheap with the coupon!).

Seriously, best beans and rice EVER. That little touch of coconut milk transformed it from a humble meal into something so tasty and satisfying! Beans and rice and greens was a perfect combination. 5 stars.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Around the World: Chick'n Paprikas

Paprika is serious business in Hungary. Unlike here in the states where paprika is paprika, in Hungary it is available in a wide range of heats from mild to hot. The sweet-hot flavor of paprika is essential in Hungarian cooking, as in this vegan version of Hungarian Chicken Paprikas -- chicken-style seitan simmered with tomato, green pepper, and paprika. A small container of vegan sour cream is on the side to stir in at lunchtime.

Below the paprikas is another Hungarian dish: Noodles with Poppy Seeds. Normally this dish would be made with egg noodles; I substituted campanelle. Next to the noodles are steamed kohlrabi and peas, one of shmoo's favorite combinations. And for dessert, tender stewed apricots cooked in orange juice.

Verdict: Shmoo loved the seitan chicken, but not the green peppers. My husband loved the green peppers, but not the seitan. I liked a bit of both, and we all enjoyed the noodles, kohlrabi, and apricots. Something for everyone! 3 stars.

Friday, November 07, 2008

Around the World: Kasha Kupecheskaya

An old Russian proverb says, "You can't feed a Russian without kasha." Here is kasha kupe- cheskaya: cooked toasted buckwheat kernels, carmelized onions, and tofu (taking the place of the traditional hard-boiled eggs).

I would add to that old saying that you also can’t feed a Russian without mushrooms. I have never eaten mushrooms as delicious as those made for me by a Russian immigrant friend, who told me of how they would hunt for wild mushrooms in her native country, and how mushrooms were considered an important meat replacer during the Orthodox fasts. These are chanterelles (I don't know if it's the same everywhere, but our local Costco has 1 lb. fresh chanterelles for $8.99!!).

The other containers hold a small salad with dressing, a pear, and two Russian Tea Cakes (little cookies rolled in powdered sugar).

And could it be? Yes, it's another new lunch box! This is the new three-tier To-Go Ware container. To-Go Ware has a brand new look, with two-tier and three-tier containers and, best of all, the small stainless steel dressing containers we've all been hoping for. The new lunch boxes also come apart so you can carry just the top tier for a light snack.

Verdict: Ochen' vkusno! (very delicious!) The chanterelles were heavenly, especially with the kasha. 5 stars.