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Thanksgiving, Part 2

Having a holiday completely devoted to food means that I can’t celebrate just once. So after our small Thursday meal, Dan and I joined friends at Megan and Jay’s for way too much food on Saturday. First up from me were mini empanadas, adapted from the Veganomicon recipe, with red kuri squash and black bean and seitan sausages. (I used this recipe, subbed black beans for the pintos, omitted the fennel seed—yuck—and paprika, and added a tsp of cumin. The leftovers were great on buns with avocado, pickled jalepenos, salsa, and a mustard/Veganaise sauce.) They were served with cranberry gaucamole, which sounded like a great idea at first, then I had a minor freakout thinking it was going to be really gross and completely inedible. But luckily I was wrong and everyone liked it. It was a nice balance for the super spicy empanadas.

Cranberry guacamole with pastry chips.

Some sort of stuffed mushroom. Not sure what it was or who made it. I was pretty jittery and starving by the time this made it to my mouth.

Again, not sure who made this or what exactly it was. Both were delicious though.

Mary’s pumpkin rolls. These were so much better than I expected. So full of pumpkin flavor and wonderfully soft. Truly amazing.

Jay’s fall classic. Very tasty. In involved squash and pasta and I have no idea what else. Maybe I should have been paying more attention.

Cas’s mac & cheese.

Jerk tofu with sweet potatoes and pineapple—Megan. A really good sweet/savory balance.

Everybody loved Keith’s wild mushroom gravy, obviously. I, however, hate wild mushrooms, so I passed.

Kandiss’s salad.

Megan’s seitan roulade. It held together beautifully.

I think this was ginger cranberry sauce—Steven.

The thing that made the car ride to Megan and Jay’s smell like farts, a.k.a Brussels sprouts poached in cider with apples and onions—me. Stinky but tasty.

Cas’s cornbread stuffing.

Steven’s green bean casserole. Possibly the first time in all my years such a concoction has ever been consumed by me. Cream of mushroom soup generally means run away. This was good though.

And the reason we eat large amounts of delicious food, so we can then eat large amounts of delicious dessert. I made little chocolate pumpkins following these instructions. I had a few problems, as the mixture warmed very quickly, making it stick to everything, but after a few minutes in the refrigerator it was wonderful. Maybe it was because I cheaped out and used chocolate chips instead of straight chocolate. But they came out cute and tasted like tootsie rolls, so I was happy.

And of course there was pie. I tried to veganize Cook’s Illustrated’s recent pumpkin pie recipe (transcribed here), and the result was delicious but didn’t set up too well. So I’ll just call it pumpkin/sweet potato pudding pie and no one will care. It’s pudding pie! It’s supposed to be wiggly! I’m genius, obviously. The flavors were perfectly balanced; none of that over-spiciness from too much cloves. Luckily the only crust issue this time was that the pretty, perfectly fluted edge shrunk and got all wonky when I pre-baked it. Next time I’ll just have to take a picture before I bake it and pretend it’s perfect.

Pumpkin Sweet Potato Pudding Pie

1 package firm silken Mori-Nu tofu
1/3 cup soy creamer
1 tsp vanilla
1 can pumpkin puree
1 cup sweet potato puree
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 tsp freshly grated ginger

Since I obviously haven’t mastered pie dough, I’ll just say to use whatever works for you. Prepare dough and refrigerate for at least 15 minutes, then line with foil, fill with pie weights or dried beans, and bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Remove foil and weights and bake for 5 to 10 minutes (my crust puffed up at this point, but it deflated as it cooled a bit and was fine). Set aside and assemble filling. Mix tofu, soy creamer, and vanilla in a blender until very smooth. Combine pumplin, sweet potato, brown sugar, salt, and spices in saucepan and cook over medium heat 10 to 15 minutes. I may have cooked it less than this, but it needs to reduce and darken a bit and be warmed through. Remove from heat and add tofu mixture. Mix thoroughly then strain mixture through a fine-meshed seive (this will take some coaxing and patience, but it will help the texture). Pour strained mixture into prepared pie crust and bake at 400 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to 300 degrees for 30 to 35 minutes. At this point the top of the pie should look set and crack a bit, but the inside will still be jiggly.

Finished pie, with cinnamon Soyatoo and chocolate leaves.

After being smushed in the car, then devoured.

I didn’t get a picture of Megan’s gingerbread trifle before the wolves pounced on it, but it was incredible.

Thanksgiving, Part 1

I never liked Thanksgiving food all that much. Sure, pie is always good, and my grandma could make the hell out of some pie, and I always loved the sweet potatoes (but only because they were simply roasted with butter, none of that marshmallow crap, which sounds truly disgusting to me and I will never try), but nothing else was of much interest. But once I was able to cook the food for myself and realized that this was a holiday (two whole days off of work) completely devoted to food and shopping, I was in. Dan and I usually make Thanksgiving an opportunity to make food that is a bit more complicated than our everyday meals. And I always have to include as many seasonal foods as possible. Squash and cranberries? Yes, please! This year I set out to conquer pie dough once and for all with two pies, one sweet, one savory. But first up was a soup that I made once before a few years ago, Nigella Lawson’s Lentil Chestnut Soup. I was initially amazed that Nigella had any recipes that were even remotely veganizable, so I had to make it. And every year since, I’ve thought of it over and over. But since peeling fresh chestnuts could send me straight to a mental hospital in less than half an hour, it had to wait for a sale on canned chestnuts. But this soup might have made chestnut-peeling insanity worth it. It’s so velvety and packed with flavor, despite its sad, muddy appearance.
The main course was a butternut squash and caramelized onion galette. The original recipe had some sort of stinky cheese in it, but it was perfect without. And the dough turned out so flaky. Truly worth all the effort. The Brussles sprouts and golden beets up there, though, not too memorable.
Seeing that beautiful galette crust, you’d never know that earlier in the day I’d had a huge fight with some dough, throwing it against the wall and ripping it to pieces before finally sacrificing it to the trash can. Which is pretty much the experience I’ve had with pie dough for the past eight years or so. And amazingly, it’s because I tried to listen to Martha Stewart. While she’s given me invaluable advice on other things, girl just doesn’t do shortening. When I first learned how to make pie crust, it was from a recipe my mother had given me that came from my pie-making grandma. Years later I discovered that this might have actually come from the side of the Crisco can, but it made some damn flaky and easy to work with crust. But then I saw Martha. Her dough was so beautiful and thick and it never cracked. But of course using margarine did not work at all. So over the years I’ve tried more and more crust recipes, most of them with disastrous results. This time I went for Martha’s “alternate fat” recipe using shortening. And it was HORRIBLE. It didn’t stay together, it was impossible to roll out, it ended up in the trash. So then I went back to my grandma’s recipe. And everything was perfect. No sticking, no cracking, no banging my head against the countertop. The conclusion? A food processor is no place to make pie crust. It has never ever worked for me. And pastry blenders are just fun to use, so why use anything else?
For the filling I went with a Martha recipe that I knew was great: Autumn Havest Pie. I made it a few years ago and it was incredible. This time, not so much. The Granny Smith apples were just too tart, and combined with the cranberries it was a bit much. But the natural remedy for this tartness was a scoop of Temptation vanilla ice cream, which helped achieve a perfect sweet/tart balance.
But the highlight of the day was breakfast. Pumpkin cinnamon rolls. Holy crap are these things amazing. I never make cinnamon rolls because the idea of waiting for dough to rise in the morning when I could just make scones and by nibbling on breakfast and doing a crossword puzzle in half an hour is crazy to me. But I planned ahead and make these the night before, putting them in the refrigerator for the second rise and baking them in the morning. They were perfectly moist and just incredible. Dan said the only thing that could them better would be cream cheese frosting, but I’m sure that would have me keeled over with the sugar shakes halfway to lunch.

VeganMoFo #7: Love for Isa

I had the best intentions of blogging the hell out of VeganMoFo. But as always, complications arose. First off, my oven broke, making a recent trip to the farmer’s market a new kind of hell where everywhere I looked I saw beautiful fall vegetables just begging to be roasted. But today, thanks to $180 and a man named Ivan, I’ve got an oven again. After nearly three ovenless weeks, what’s a girl to bake? Cookies! I decided that in between making Matilda’s Halloween costume (my first very amateurish adventure in this kind of frightening arena) and finally getting up another blog post, I’d throw together one of my favorite easy cookie recipes, pumpkin oatmeal cookies from Vegan with a Vengence. They have flax seed, walnuts, molasses, and oats in them, so they’re practically health food, right? Well, except maybe for the white flour, sugar, oil, and chocolate chips. But that’s at least a balance of good and bad, so I’m going with it. I can’t wait to eat some tomorrow, as they are way better the next day, nice and chewy.

And while I’m proving that roughly 82% of my culinary repetoire relies on Ms. Isa Moskowitz, I might as well write about last night’s dinner, seitan chops smothered in apples and ginger. I had to saute the apples, since the oven was not yet fixed, but they turned out great. And even though I think I misread the seitan instructions just a bit (I formed the dough into four chops before boiling, meaning I had very thick chops in the end) and had a bit of trouble getting the breading to stick (that never quite works for me), they turned out great. The inside was so tender, a little like a super dense bread. Maybe due to the altered boiling technique, maybe due to the chickpea flour, but this seitan was very different from any other I’ve made, and I loved it. Spongy yet toothsome. It was a nice balance, as were all the flavors in the dish. I took it easy on the ginger, as I’m just getting over a long-held hatred of the stuff, but it came out totally mellow and warm and wonderful. And really, what’s better than getting to eat apples and cranberries for dinner? It was sort of like eating a totally sophisticated version of my oh-so-high-class childhood favorite, pork chops and applesauce.

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