T-Day with Vegan Cookbooks

December 1, 2009 at 10:46 pm | Posted in Nonfiction, Slow Food, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

This year I hosted Thanksgiving dinner for the first time.  I’m 34, and I got married a few months ago, so I guess my mom decided it was time to pass the apron.  Without cookbooks, I would have been in big trouble, because I never really learned to cook as a kid.  I’d also never so much as contemplated cooking for so many people at once!  I wanted to give thanks for the books I used, for anyone who might be hunting around for what to make next year.

I cooked for a mix of vegans (my parents and me), omnivores, and guests with allergies to gluten, citrus, and potatoes.  My husband served a turkey breast, but otherwise everything was vegan.  I was pleased to see that nothing got left behind on anyone’s plate!  (Especially since I committed the ultimate sin of serving untested recipes to guests).

Thursday (for 6).  My husband said, “You kicked Thanksgiving’s a–!”

The Candle Cafe Cookbook by Joy Pierson and Bart Potenza:  Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh.  A hit, and my omnivore family are begging me to make it again.  I did the baking part the night before and fried them at the last minute.  Incidentally this cookbook also has the only tofu scramble recipe worth making.

You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan! by Lacey Sher and Gail Doherty:  Marinated Stuffed Mushrooms with Tempeh Sausage and Garlic Aioli.  A giant snarfing sound.  The aioli recipe made at least 4x what was needed, but it would be good to eat with other things like artichokes.  I did them the night before.  Sauteed Greens.  I did these with kale, something I don’t think most of the guests had ever eaten before, and they snapped it right up.  In fact we just made it again last night and ate it all in one sitting between the two of us.

The 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes by Kris Holechek:  Sweet Wheat Rolls.  My husband made these because I’m useless at breads.  He forgot to put in the flax seeds he’d ground moments before, but you’d never know it – if they were being used as an egg replacer they weren’t necessarily needed.  Delicious, and we’ll do them again.

Vegan Planet by Robin Robertson.  Rapini with Figs, Garlic, and Pine Nuts.  A great recipe from one of my favorite cookbooks, by one of my favorite cookbook authors.  You just can’t lose with her stuff.  I made this with one bunch of rapini and one of chard, because that was what I had, and it worked fine.

The Millennium Cookbook by Eric Tucker & John Westerdahl:  Allspice-Roasted Butternut Squash.  Surprise hit of the meal.  “It tastes like pumpkin pie!”  (Which was good, because the actual pumpkin pie… didn’t).  Baked Hazelnut-Crusted Pears.  I made these the night before.  The reduction had a bit too much black pepper, but otherwise they came out great.  There were a couple left that got eaten the next morning, standing up in a bowl of oatmeal.  Pumpkin Pie.  Can we not talk about it?

We also had mashed potatoes (my husband’s recipe), cauliflower,  steamed broccoli, a family recipe of sweet potatoes with canned peaches and cranberry sauce with pecans (they like it, don’t ask), this gravy my hubby made at the last minute out of mostly bouillon cubes, and a fantastic brussels sprouts recipe I found online.  My mom, who has hated Brussels sprouts for 50 years, said if she could choose only one side dish she would have chosen that one!  I’d never cooked them before, everyone at the table was an avowed hater, and yet they cleaned the pan.

Saturday (for 10):  My dad said, “That may have been the best meal I ever had.”

The Millennium CookbookMushroom, Walnut, & Rosemary Pate’.  I made this the day before and forgot it was in the fridge until the last minute.  It didn’t set up, but that’s okay because some pate’s [that’s supposed to be an accent mark, not an apostrophe] are spreadable.  It was good but I would definitely recommend putting it out as an appetizer – it didn’t really get eaten with dinner.  Curry-Crusted Tempeh with Pomegranate Sauce.  I caught my omni stepdaughter trying to snag the last two of these on leftover day instead of the turkey.  Argument over whether they are “just as good” without the sauce.  Another argument over whether they are better than the Cornmeal-Crusted Tempeh from Thanksgiving.  We’ll be making this again, too.

Vegan World Fusion Cuisine by Mark Reinfeld and Bo Rinaldi.  King Janaka’s Maple Glazed Seitan.  This was a bit simple for me, but the guests loved it and it looks like it will become a regular dinner staple.  Kaya’s Kosmic Korn Bread.  This was amazingly moist and lightly sweet (we used the agave nectar).  I was going to use it for the apricot stuffing, but decided not to mess with a good thing.  My stepdaughter claimed not to like corn bread due to a “bad experience” (which turned out to involve 10-year-old boys and a living history field trip) but suddenly a piece turned up on her plate.  This is my go-to corn bread recipe now.

The Artful Vegan by Eric Tucker with Bruce Enloe:  Five-Lentil and Chard Soup.  I kinda just wanted to make this soup, because I always seem to want a soup with Thanksgiving dinner, but I didn’t think anyone would actually eat it.  Again, a surprise hit.  I found the black lentils at Trader Joe’s, and where the recipe says “Drench lentils” I’m pretty positive it’s a typo for “French” lentils.  That’s what I used, anyway.  It was comparatively easy to make and it’s one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever had.  Most guests ate it with a piece of the corn bread stuck in the bowl.

You Won’t Believe It’s Vegan!Sesame Yams.  Perfect and pretty easy.

500 Vegan Recipes by Celine Steen and Joni Marie Newman:  Curried Apple Sprouts.  Another rave.  After two perfectly edible recipes of Brussels sprouts in one weekend, my family had to concede that they are in fact a food.

Get It Ripe by jae steele: Buttahmilk Biscuits.  Luckily my husband made these spelt biscuits, or they would have gone in the compost, I’m sure.  He said they were way too wet and almost impossible to work without major adjustments.  He’s also frustrated that he believed the instructions to bake for 13 minutes and they nearly burned.  I suspect that’s due to higher altitude in the part of Canada where the author lives.  They were good but I have no idea how they would be if he’d followed the recipe more strictly.

V Cuisine by Angeline Linardis:  Wild Rice with Hazelnut Sauce.  A disappointment, and an expensive one.  For starters, the wild rice takes more like 45 minutes than 25 minutes to cook.  I wish I’d just made it plain.

Sweet Utopia by Sharon Valencik:  Holiday Pumpkin Trifle.  It tasted good, but it didn’t look like the photo.  For some reason (my inexperience, natch) the cream and custard layers didn’t gel and got all runny, but it soaked into the cake layer and was nummy.  If I were to do it again, I’d keep the cake, the relish, and the nuts, and fill in the rest with Soy Whip and perhaps a layer of pears or some other fruits.  My trifle bowl is slightly tapered, so I would definitely need something that wouldn’t run down the sides to get that ‘parfait’ visual effect.  NB: When the serving size says 18-20, they are not joking.

We also had spicy kabocha squash from a recipe I found online (too hot, not a hit), and my brother’s top secret cranberry sauce, which was a hit.

I spent about two hours on Wednesday, five on Thursday, another 90 minutes on Friday, and a frightening eight hours on Saturday cooking all this stuff.  In retrospect, I would either stop at eight dishes or do all the vegetable prep the day before.  I would also avoid doing two almost back-to-back dinner parties, because the fridge was so full of leftovers until lunchtime Saturday that I had zero room to pre-cook anything that needed refrigeration.  Last, I would have done a smaller, probably simpler dessert.

Addendum:  I’ve started a new vegan cooking blog, The Viable Vegan.

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