Wednesday, December 26, 2007

A Wedding, A Birthday and A Merry Christmas


Merry Christmas!

Between Friday and midnight, last night, I have been going non-stop. Naturally, I made a schedule that could have helped me out a LOT, but after three cake disasters in a row, my schedule was thrown outta whack. I haven't eaten right, slept right or even given myself five minutes to breathe this entire time. But, it is for the love of family, friends, holidays and, of course, food.

Let's start with Friday. My cousin and her then girlfriend (now wife) got married on Saturday. To honor them appropriately, I made them a little wedding cake. They didn't request this of me, nor did they expect it, but since it was a very small ceremony with only a dinner to follow, I knew they wouldn't have a cake. Every wedding needs a cake, c'mon!

So my plan was to make them a cake on Friday and frost/decorate it Saturday morning. Not to mention, I was also going to commence baking for Kevin (close friend and Acrasjia drummer) 4 different kinds of cookies for his birthday on Sunday. I got out of work early on Friday, so I had almost all day to do this. If all had gone well, I may not be so exhausted today.

Silly me decided I would make the wedding couple a white velvet cake with a strawberry filling and cream cheese frosting. Now, I've veganized many a cookie recipe before, but veganizing a cake is pure tomfoolery unless you are a master vegan chef who knows everything there is to know about baking.

First of all, I ordered white chocolate extract from Nature's Flavors and upon opening it, I realized it smelled just like hazelnut. I was so disappointed and upset. Never order from there. They're a bunch of liars.

Anyway, the batter came out pretty gross and sticky, but I tried to bake it anyway. Of course the middle was purely liquidy and the surrounding edges tasted like burnt butter. So I threw it away and tried again, after having realized I used baking POWDER when I really needed to use baking SODA (I do this all the damn time). Guess what? The second cake came out the same exact way. So after crying and stomping my feet, I threw out the recipe and searched through all my cook books for vanilla cake. Can you believe NONE of them had one except for 'La Dolce Vegan'? So I opened up the book and tried to make a simple vanilla cake. Once again, the batter was weird and sticky. So I threw it and cried some more. Then I tried it AGAIN. This time it cooked all right, but the cake was too thin. Doubling it would make it look like a small pancake, let's put it that way.

Poor Mike, who was there to help, had to pull me out of my funk. I was in tears. I was never going to bake again, you see. I sucked and I was no good and I might as well just quit it while I was ahead. I have to laugh, looking back on five days ago. I was using my new heavy duty mixer. At first I thought the mixer was no good then I decided that the mixer was fine and I was no good. Then I thought, 'It's my stove. It's gotta be my stove.' God, it was a mess- about 6 hours of wasting time, energy and ingredients.

Finally, after picking myself up, I realized that I was simply going to have to go with chocolate cake. I've made plenty of those from Sinfully Vegan and they were good every time. See, that lady knows what she's doing. I made 2 double chocolate cakes and stacked them. The batter was 'normal' and delicious and they came out beautifully.

In the end, I realized the problem was not my awesome mixer, nor was it my lack of talent or skill, nor was it my oven. It was the recipes.

Learn from this, you new chefs out there. Learn from this. Don't get sketchy ingredients off the web and don't trust everything you read in a cook book.

So now it was about 11 o'clock at night. I was exhausted. I wanted to curl up in a ball and slip into unconsciousness. But I still had Kevin's cookies! He didn't expect this of me, either, but I really wanted to make them as a perfect birthday prezzie.

I started with peanut butter cookies from 'The Joy of Vegan Baking' and added some white chocolate chips. As they were baking, the oven started smoking and the house smelled like burning plastic. We realized that the peanut oil was causing the wax paper in the oven to melt. Luckily, cookies continue baking after taking them out of the oven, so they turned out just fine without any burnt smell or flavor to them. It was scary when the oven was smoking, but at this point I was too delirious to freak out or get upset.

The next day I woke up bright and early 'cause I had a LOT of baking to do. Mike helped me out so much. He is a good little prep cook. Without him, I may have never gotten anything done, what with my cake catastrophe. All morning I was baking Kevin's cookies as well as trying out a new recipe for his birthday cake. It was not a vegan one, of course, so I had problems. Once again, the batter came out thick and sticky (due to insufficient egg replacement, I'm guessing). I had gotten a new checkered cake baking set and I wanted to use it so I foolishly decided to veganize it. A three cake batter ended up being a two cake batter somehow and the checkered shape ended up being a sort of bullseye marble thing. However, the batter tasted really good and it smelled very good, so I decided to keep it.

That morning I also decorated the wedding cake (using fake flowers because I am not yet talented enough to make frosting flowers). First, I tried to use a cream cheese frosting, but it was too liquidy, so I put it in the center of the cake with strawberry jam. Well, wasn't I a fool because the glaze kept flowing down the side of the cake. After much scraping of the sides, the middle of the cake had barely anything left on it. Oh, well.

For the outside, I ended up using butter cream frosting from The Joy of Vegan Baking and tinted it a pretty pink with India Tree dye. I finally used my new tips, but the frosting was a little too soft for the shapes to come out right. I had to keep putting it in the fridge, but the hardness would only last so long. Oh, well. It still came out very pretty, luckily. I even got paper doilies and a cake box from Michaels to make it more professional/bakery-looking.

After that, I proceeded to make the rest of Kevin's cookies with Mikey preparing measurments for me along the way. I made chocolate chip cookies from the Joy of Vegan Baking, which came out good as always. I made choco choco chip cookies from Vegan Cookies. They were good warm but got a little too hard upon cooling. They were still tasty, of course, so I used them. Lastly, I made vanilla spritz cookies from Sinfully Vegan. Mike cut out a 'K' for 'Kevin' because that was the only letter conveniently missing from my cookie cutter alphabet. Lois Dieterly (Sinfully Vegan) made the so-simple-I-never-would-have-thought-of-it suggestion of dipping them in melted chocolate. I did just that and you wouldn't believe how wonderfully it transforms the taste of a boring sugar cookie into something wonderful.

After all this baking, I had very little time to get ready. Mike and I rushed around like crazy. We left with just enough time to make it to the ceremony, but wouldn't you know that there was insane traffic all throughout Boston to the South Shore and then again at every mall exit along the high way. Last minute Christmas shoppers, you see. So a 40 minute drive turned into an hour and a half. My cousin tried to put off the ceremony for as long as she could, but eventually they could wait no longer. Mike and I would have made the end of it, but we stupidly ended up walking the wrong way down the street and couldn't find the place. AS SOON AS we found it, everyone was exiting the building. Isn't it nice how life works out like that sometimes? Sorry for the sarcasm. I'm just so cranky.

Robyn was ok with us being late because we were still there to celebrate at the big dinner and they plan on having a much bigger ceremony and reception when they renew their vows (I plan on leaving 5 hours early to be there on time). And they were so happy with the cake, so it was well worth it. But I do hate Boston traffic. In fact, I hate Boston. I think I should move to Vermont where there are only moose and no cars.

Anyway, Sunday morning was a little less stressful. Mike and I decorated Kevin's cake. It was supposed to be a drum, but I guess we failed at that because Kevin had no idea it was supposed to be that. Again, the frosting was too liquidy to stay on properly.

Mike was going to do the whole 'melt chocolate and carve it into a shape' thing like he did with my birthday cake, but he forgot his exacto blade and the chocolate ended up breaking apart when he tried to use a steak knife. So, short on time, Mike decorated the top with an Acrasjia-esque design (turning Kevin's name into the logo) and it came out superbly. Again, I used India Tree dye and it came out a pretty blue.

The cake ended up being a very weird cookie/brownie consistency and I wasn't too happy with it. Robyn (my cousin), Kate (her wife), Mike, Matt (other guitarist) and most importantly, Kevin, all seemed to really enjoy it, so at least there was that. I am sticking to cakes I know work next time. No more experimenting last minute. It's so embarrassing when I claim I can bake and cook and then I feed a disaster to people just because I didn't have enough ingredients or time to make something better. Then again, the wedding cake was won over by everyone (including Matt who decided to tell me that it was much better than poor Kevin's birthday cake).

That night, I foolishly went out ot eat when I should have been getting started on Christmas baking. Robyn and Kate wanted to go out to TJ Scallywaggles, a vegan 'fast' food joint. I could have said 'no', but Robyn's been asking me forever and ever and I don't see them too often, so I went. I had a really nice time, but I ended up getting back at my house at 10. I was too exhausted to cook a damn thing so I ended up crashing.

What did that mean? Christmas Eve was filled with the stress of cleaning and baking like crazy. I was more awake, so I was having a little more fun than usual, but I was still going slightly crazy. I made a lasagna, which is pictured here and lots of desserts, including left over cookies from Kevin's batch.

My holiday turned out great, minus the stress, because my family was there and it was so good to be together, what with the death of my mother being so recent. I think part of the reason I stressed myself out over the holidays was not only to make things festive and to show my love to people in the form of home cooking, but also to keep my mind as busy as possible so I didn't have time to sit down and cry and be miserable. It worked. I was more focused than ever.

So, for now, I give you all the pictures of baked and cooked goods with captions attached. Enjoy, and thanks for reading my harrowing baking experience!

Saturday, December 22nd, Wedding Day

This is the double chocolate wedding cake, complete with (paper) decorative flowers and pink decorations.


From different angles for your viewing pleasure:




And my cousin, feeding her lovely bride a wonderful slice. I was so excited about the lighting in this picture, despite the dark restaurant. My aunt, who was across from me, had snapped a picture with the flash on at the perfect time. It's amazing what light can do.


Sunday, December 23rd, Kevin's B-day!

Kevin's chocolate-covered sugar cookies cooling off:


K is for Kookie (that is covered in ooey-gooey chocolatey goodness):


The left-overs from Kevin's birthday batches. You can see some peanut butter cookies peeking out! (Excuse the poor lighting; I was trying to snap a picture before everyone ate them all.):


The cookies at the top of the tin. This was layered with three different types of cookies. (Again, very poor lighting due to rushage. Yes. Rushage.)


Mike's awesome, very last minute, decorating skills, done up Acrasjia style:


It could be a snare drum, I guess. It really could be.


Kevin blowing out the candles after we surprised him at practice. :)


Monday, December 24, Christmas Eve

We mostly ate chips, fruit, cookies, the brownies my sister-in-law brought and lasagna. No picture of the lasagna, but you can see the same recipe in the link I posted earlier. Instead, I give you a fruit platter (already picked at by the fam), complete with homemade fruit dip: Toffuti cream cheese, Toffuti sour cream, 3 Tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla extract. My 3-year-old nephew LOVED this stuff. :) There was also a veggie platter, but I'll save you from having to look at a bunch of raw vegetables. I think it's safe to say that we all know what they look like.


Tuesday, December 25, Christmas Day

It is tradition to have Christmas brunch every year. This year, I tried my hand at homemade english muffins, courtesy of Isa's recipe she posted on the PPK quite some time ago. They were still a little doughy upon cutting, but after frying them a bit longer and popping them in the toaster, they were amazing. Pictured are the muffins topped with Cascadian Farms Blueberry Jam. Mmm...


For the full breakfast, I made up some tofu scramble with freshly cut tomatoes, onions, turmeric, garlic, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, sage and some dijon. You knew that was coming! Mike helped me by frying up some vegan sausage and bacon. I typically try to do everything by scratch, but sometimes you have to cheat. Like with Tofutti, food for the vegan gods. ;)


And, of course, my special hot cocoa recipe. It was always good until I discovered vanilla powder, that is. Now it's excellent! I might post the cocoa recipe for any of you looking for one. Personally, it took me forever to come up with a decent one and I'm in love with this.


Dark chocolate truffles are only meant for people who are in love with dark chocolate. They are EXTREMELY rich. I used a bittersweet baking bar, you see. The recipe told me to roll them in cocoa but I rolled them in baking cocoa like a nit-wit, so the outside is beyond bitter. Luckily, my step dad loves 'em and Kate said she wanted some dark chocolate, so they won't go completely to waste.


No Christmas, or winter for that matter, is complete without Snowball Cookies! My nana used to make them for me every year until I finally started baking. I generally use her recipe, but I thought I'd go crazy this year and use the recipe from The Joy of Vegan Baking, labled as 'Mexican Wedding Cookies'. If you haven't picked up that book by now, you really need to. Everything I've made in it has won over many. Seriously, do it!


Here is a recipe I snagged from Just the Food. Peanut butter fudge! I never even knew such a thing existed, but I was so pleased to try them. They are very crumbly and wonderfully sweet. Surprisingly, they're very easy to make too!


While on the topic of fudge, did I mention that, yes, The Joy of Vegan Baking has THE BEST fudge recipe I've ever tasted in my entire life? Not only is it easy to make, it's tastier than any fudge you've ever had. I guarantee it. Everyone LOVED it. Seriously. Go buy the book.


Close-up of the beauty:


Lastly for desserts, I present The Joy of Vegan Baking's caramel popcorn. I was just gonna wing it until I saw a recipe in the book. I wasn't sure how this was going to turn out, but everyone ended up loving it, even my picky grandpa. It was reminiscent of Cracker Jacks, but better.


For Christmas dinner, my step father made a pot roast for the family. Obviously I didn't want anything to do with that atrocity, so I made marinated, roasted and fried tofu with steamed veggies. Let me tell you- it was delicious. The right blend of spices really does wonders. I'll name a few that were used off the top of my head: majoram, dill, basil, garlic, sage, pepper, etc... I liked to dip mine in dijon, but they were flavourful enough alone, believe me!


And now this last photo brings me to today. Last night, as you can imagine, I was beyond exhausted, so I needed to make something that was quick and easy for the next three work lunches this week. So what did I make? Whole wheat pasta salad! The dressing contains maple syrup, rice vinegar, balsalmic vinegar, flax oil, fresh basil and red wine vinegar, topped with vegan parmesan. Not a feast, but a nice change to an over-load of sugar!


I want to say thanks to Mikey for aaaall the help and for putting up with my drama. You're my moo. And I'm so happy everyone enjoyed their goodies. They were made with lots of love. :)

Stay tuned for more fun desserts and meals. New Years is coming up in a few days, after all.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Pizza- It's in the Blood

For all of your Bostonians, civilians of Massachusetts and surrounding areas- all of you know that this past Thursday was about as fun as shoving a pencil in your ear. For those of you who are lucky enough not to know what I'm talking about, I'll explain. We were hit with a pretty massive snowstorm. The flakes came down hard, about 2 inches an hour, all day long, well into the evening. Normally, I'd say whatever and deal with it, but both Mikey and my step father had me quite worried. You see, everyone scurried out of work at the exact same time, causing all roads and highways to back up with bumper to bumper traffic for hours on end. My step father, who normally has an hour ride back to Boston, was in traffic for six hours. And poor Mikey! Mikey, who also has an hour drive from Framingham, was stuck in traffic for 8 hours!


I got the easy end of it. I live ten minutes away (by vehicle) from my job, so I only had to wait an hour at the bus stop whilst being pelted by snow. There was no real traffic on the road back to my neighborhood (at the time), so I really lucked out.

Those poor fellas. Quite frankly, I felt bad for everyone on the road that day, particularly those with children and even the children themselves, stuck in school and on school buses for hours on end! Oh, and here's the kicker- my town (crappy South Boston) likes to use streets that people live on to empty out for snow emergencies. Not just the main roads, but the tightly packed neighborhoods. If you lived in my town, you would know that there is virtually no parking at all in South Boston because Ben Affleck made everyone and their grandmother want to live here. If you want a parking spot close to home, you'd better get back before 7 pm on any given night.

So, therefore, Mike and my step dad each had to park at a garage about 20 minutes away from the house and walk through the blinding blizzard to make it home safe and sound.

Feeling awfully sorry that there was nothing I could do to help, I tried to make the coming home part ten times better. I spent my day cleaning up the house and cooking, of course. I turned on the Christmas lights in the living room, popped on the radio and proceeded the baking as I chatted with Mike on the phone to keep him company.

I had a real hankering for cupcakes, but with very little ingredients in the house, I wasn't sure what I could make. Taking out my brand new Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World, I decided on simple chocolate cupcakes with chocolate frosting.


Those chicks really know what they're talking about. I've made chocolate cupcakes many times, but they've never come out this good! The batter was very dark and moist. The frosting tasted incredibly rich and creamy. It's amazing what one can come up with using house hold ingredients. A tsp of vanilla extract and a 1/2 tsp of almond extract was suggested, so I gave it a go. I thought it would taste all almondy, but it was quite the contrary! The perfect blends of extracts allowed the almond flavour to sneak in there just a bit so that if you didn't know I put it in there, you might not be able to guess what it was at first. It really added that special something.


Oh, and I got to use my brand new mixer, which made it even more fun!

For dinner, I was going to go with the ol' pasta crap, but then decided to be wild and make a pizza. The first pizza I ever made was a horrible recipe I found online and it makes me nauseous when I think about it. So I like to pretend that this was the first pizza I've ever made.


I actually combined two different pizza recipes from Vegan Italiano, by Donna Klein.

I decided to use a fast-rising dough because I was impatient and starving and I knew Mikey would be as well whenever he got in from the storm. After kneading it and letting it rise, I tried rolling it out with a rolling pin, but it kept shrinking back towards the middle. I then decided to give something a try that I never thought I could do. I flipped the dough, right up in the air!

The first couple of times it fell back on the table in one big plop, but eventually I figured out that you have to flip it at an angle in order for it to work. So I proceeded to do that and it stretched the dough out quite beautifully.

I am very, very proud of myself. When you're a new cook, every little accomplishment is exciting.


There was no sauce on this pizza. Instead, I basted the dough in about 2 tbsps of olive oil. I tossed some sliced tomatoes, drained and diced tomatoes, red, green and yellow peppers, onions, basil, oregano and garlic powder on top of it and slid it in the oven on the bottom shelf at 500 degrees for about 18 minutes.

It sent gorgeous aromas wafting through the house! Of course it was just as wonderful going down the hatch as it was pleasing to look at and sniff. ;) My favourite part was the crust. I think I did a fine job:


So while I give myself a pat on the back, I do have to be honest about one thing. The center of the dough base was too thin. I got a little carried away flipping the dough around, I think... Under the weight of the juice from the tomatoes and all the roasted veggies, the middle became soggy. It tasted just fine, of course, but it was more of an 'eat with a fork' type pizza. Haha Oh, well. I've learned my lesson and hopefully next time it will be thicker and more substantial in the middle. At the very least, cooked dough, when moistened, takes on the look and consistency of melted cheese.

Next time I plan on using sauce and a little Vegan mozzarella for a more 'pizza-ry' kind of pizza.

Alas, the storm ended and it was back to normal activities. I ate a lot of junk over the weekend, so to make up for it, I cooked up a mushroom barely stew.


'Stew' is definitely the right word for it as it is a very thick and substantial meal. I just simmered green onions, peppers, chickpeas, pearled barely, carrots and small mushrooms (about 20) in 4 cups of veggie broth along with some Braggs sauce, a dash of tobasco and salt and pepper to taste.

I accidentally singed the chickpeas slightly when cooking them separately (I always simmer dry beans outta the bag; I hate canned foods), but luckily they tasted as good as ever after having been simmered in the soup.

For work lunch this week, I finally tried the famous Quinoa everyone's been talking about. For the longest time, I was pronouncing it "Kwin-oh'-ah" (c'mon, you know you all did it at one point)*, but thanks to Veganomicon, I now know the correct pronunciation! Keen'-wah!


After cooking up a batch, I mixed in corn, black beans, peppers, green onions, cilantro, celery, tomatoes and avocados. For the dressing, it was simply olive oil, balsalmic vinegar, flax oil, salt, pepper and chilli powder. Mmmm... Quinoa has a very harvesty, earthy taste, but I dig it. I think after all that junk I had consumed the past few days, the whole grain will do me good in cleaning out my system.

So, that's all for now, folks. I probably won't be updating again until after Christmas, but I do want to make a quick note to wish everyone a happy celebration this month. See, the whole 'pc' thing irritates me, because I don't get it. Personally, I would NEVER be insulted if someone said 'Happy Hanukkah' to me, even though I don't celebrate it. I would say it right back and mean it. People get offended too often and too easily these days. Whatever you celebrate, as long as it is in good cheer and means being giving, thankful and spending time with loved ones, then I am happy for you and I wish you the best.

So instead of the boring and annoying 'Happy Holidays' (whatever that means), I give to you the following:

'Happy ChristmaHanuKwanzaakah and a fabulous New Year!'

*I also pronounced 'agave' as "ah'-gayve" until this Saturday when friend and fellow Acrasjia web mistress, Elly Blue, made some tea with Agave nectar and happened to say the word appropriately.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

More of the Daily Foods

This month is going to be a busy cooking month, particularly the end of the month. Of course you'll all get to experience, virtually, the dinner, desserts and snacks that will be had by family and friends of mine, but for now I will continue with the weekly soups and work lunches.

Most recently, I made a matzo ball soup.


Being that matzo is purely wheat and water and I only added 2 tbsps of potato startch, I truly thought this soup would be a little on the plain side. Well, I was pleasantly surprised! The matzo took on the flavour of the broth, simmered with green onions, carrots and peas. It was both hearty and delicious! Oh, and not to mention- nutritious.

Next up we have more lunchables. First, I made a coconut curried noodle dish.


All it requires is cooking up some rice noodles, simmering shallots, garlic, sesame oil, curry powder (the original called for paste, but I preferred the powder), tamari, turmeric, salt, and coconut milk. After it's mixed altogether, you throw in some some diced tomatoes and fresh basil.

For a different noodle dish, I made rice noodles with spicy nut dressing.


For the salad, I chopped red and yellow peppers, added some freshly chopped cilantro (and let me tell you- it was the first time using my food processor and I was beyond amazed at how wonderful it is at chopping such food items!) and toasted peanuts. The dressing included peanut butter, veggie stock, rice vinegar, tamari, toasted sesame oil, a bit of sugar, cayenne pepper and a freshly grated ginger root.

I prefer the nut dish over the curry dish, personally. I think the sweeter flavour does me right.

Next up is a macaroni bean salad. This is one of my faves and I plan on making a big bowl of it for future cookouts.


After boiling up some elbow rice pasta, I mixed together some Veganaise (is there any other kind?), fresh minced parsely, red wine vinegar, sugar, basil, celery seed, paprika, salt, pepper and garlic powder. I combined this with grated carrot, green bell pepper, red onion, and tons and tons of kidney beans. The recipe called for relish, but I'm not much of a fan.

Psst... Add some dijon. You won't regret it.

Lastly, I give you the typical black bean and corn salad, but with an excellent dressing.


Lime juice, flax oil, red onion, cilantro, green onions, cumin, chopped tomato, salt and black pepper made this a very tasty work lunch indeed. However, I think throwing it in some whole wheat wraps makes it even better. So that's exactly what I did.

Now for a review: Hemp Milk vs Soy Milk


I tried chocolate hemp milk for the first time last week and I have to say, I didn't like it too much at first. It's definitely an acquired taste. Mike described it best: It's like a protein shake. It's grainy, it tastes a little like chalk. But you know what? After a few sips, I started to like it. It is very reminiscent of Ovaltine and I used to drink that stuff by the gallons when I was a kid.


However, nothing can win my heart over like soy milk. Certainly not rice milk. Bleck! I love rice, but not when it's all liquidy and gooey. No, no. My heart belongs to the almighty soy, master of several different milky flavours, including vanilla, chocolate, chai, mocha, coffee, spice, nog, pumpkin, chocolate mint, etc... Not only is it delicious and a very good substitute for recipes requiring milk, it is also a pleasant treat in a glass, void of all grain and chalk.

Of course I am aware that plain soy milk gives off a tofu-y flavour when consumed by itself, but why drink it plain when you could always have chocolate? :)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Last One in the Chain of Thanksgiving Posts

First of all- thank you all so much for the birthday wishes and nice comments! :-D

Now that I have relished in how kick-ass my birthday was this year, I can move onto my Thanksgiving summary, as promised.

First of all, I hopped on the band wagon! It was time to 'give back' on Thanksgiving. Mike chipped in to help me adopt a pretty turkey from Farm Sanctuary. Her name is Cicada and she is living her life peacefully and happily.

If you haven't already, you should also consider donating money/adopting a farm animal. It helps support the growth of the farm and continuing rescue and care of tortured factory animals.


Cicada says, 'Cruely is buggin'. Go veg.' ;)

Onto the food! I will warn you now- this isn't going to be a gigantic post with an awesome feast.

Simply because...

I am a VERY slow cook.

I was only able to prepare a tofu roast and a pumpkin pie Thanksgiving eve, so you can imagine how little time I had to cook on the actual day of Thanksgiving. Luckily, I didn't have to wake up at 6 in the morning to start.

My mother passed away this past April, so this was our first holiday without her. Normally, most of the family would have Thanksgiving dinner at her house and the rest would come over for dessert, drinks and a pleasant evening of family 'togetherness'. This year, everyone went to my brother's mother-in-law's for Thanksgiving. I was invited, but truth be told, the only way I'd sit in front of a depressing turkey carcass is if my mother made it. No, it doesn't make it all right that a turkey was tortured, murdered, injected with chemicals and fed to the masses. However, my mother loved spending time with her family and so I stuck around and ate the veggie side dishes and the premade tofurky.

This year, of course, was very different. So while most of my family was down in Dorchester, I was making a tiny, little feast for myself, Mike (after returning from lunch/dinner at his parents), my step father and my sister who is, by nature, a grazer and rarely gets full.

Now, I can give you a quick run-through of what I made, but there are no close-ups other than my yummy dessert and the cranberries cookin' because I thought it looked pretty. This is because not only did I burn the tofu roast to a crisp, I was also so stressed out and the weight of my mother's death was stronger than ever. I kinda just didn't want any pictures. I wanted to go to sleep. But I'm not going to make this a sad post and bring you all down. The truth is, most of the food came out really great (as tiny as my dinner was) and once my family arrived for dessert, I was feeling really good.

As a matter of fact, it was the perfect time to give thanks that I still have a wonderful, supportive family, including some extremely adorable nephews. My mother would have wanted us to be happy and to cherish our time together. If there is, in fact, an after life of any sort, I know she is watching us with pride and love.

So! This is what I made with love:

Mashed yam potatoes with kale- This was a savoury dish. I'm so used to the boring mashed potatoes with salt and soy butter, so this was quite a pleasant change. I added lots of spices, garlic and dijon (the secret ingredient to all salad and potato dishes as far as I'm concerned) and it was wonderful.

Next, I made fancy biscuits- I've made these before, so I'll do some picture recycling.


These biscuits are made with green onions and dill. Of course I like the plain white biscuits, but these make my taste buds dance with glee. My sister was a huge fan of these. In fact, most of my family had one, despite their full tummies. They were gone pretty quickly.

As a quick and easy 'oh my god, I have to get this done and there's practically nothing here to eat', I steamed organic carrots, string beans, corns and peas and threw them altogether. They made a very colorful dish.

I also made a miso gravy that topped the potatoes and biscuits beautifully.

I made a homemade cranberry sauce, much better than any globby mess you'll get out of a can! (Though it did drip on the floor, much to my step father's chagrin.) Here it is, simmering in sweet, organic maple syrup:


And, of course, the tofu roast.

I spent lots of time, carefully preparing this damn roast, I'll tell ya. I made an utterly delicious stuffing, packed with spices, garlic, wheat bread, sauces, golden raisins and walnuts, I drained two packs of firm tofu of all possible liquid, spreading it out on a colander, laying on the stuffing and covering it as best I could with the remaining tofu, proceeding to let it sit in the fridge over-night to drain. The following morning I whipped up a delicious marinade, spread some on the roast and tossed it in the oven.

All of these steps! Each one taken with love and care!

Wait... what did Suzie forget to do... for an hour and a half? She forgot to cover the dish with tin foil. That's right!

Cripsy tofu. Mmmm.


You can imagine my upset. Luckily I wasn't preparing a huge meal for a ton of people, else I would have been freaking out.

Not to go roast-less, I decided to spread some cranberries around the pathetic-looking tofu and put it out on the table. Some people tried it, despite my repeated disclaimer, then politely put it aside, saying, 'It's not THAT bad.'

::sigh:: Ah, well. In any event, the rest of the dishes were received favourably.

Now, for my 'gigantic' lay-out in all it's glory!


(You can imagine how silly I feel after having read all your posts and looked at all your amazing feast pictures!)

I have to ask, how did you all do it? Perhaps I'm a slow cook. Perhaps it's because I had no help whatsoever. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because I had no food processor and spent a good deal of time scraping down the sides of a rickety old blender, causing the spoon to hit the spinning blade, which in turn caused a gigantic blob of un-blended tofu to fly high up in the air, barely grazing the ceiling, falling flat onto my gorgeous pumpkin pie, cooling off on top of the stove.

In any event, I have a nice, new, amazing food processor, so perhaps next year will be different.

Being a new cook, I will be slow, I will be foolish and I accept that. It makes for a good story. Besides, the pie was salvagable!

Behold, the pumpkin cheesecake pie from Sinfully Vegan!


I can give myself a big round of applause, too, because this is the very first crust of mine that came out beautifully. :)

Ah, you win some, you lose some.

I'm not a huge fan of over-consumption and I'm obviously not big on the whole sickening dead turkey thing. I think the history behind Thanksgiving is bloody and awful too. But like most of you, I take this opportunity (and day off from work) to break bread with my family, make food with love (even if I burn things sometimes) and be thankful for all that I have.

Now I will show you a dish I was planning to make until I realized that the brussel sprouts were never purchased.

Dijon Brussel Sprouts:


I went to the supermarket that weekend and picked some up. I had planned on making them, the shallots were already chopped, so I figured, 'Might as well make some as a side dish to go with the left over lasagna from my party!'

Believe it or not, this was my first time eating a brussel sprout, at least that I can remember. The dijon, red wine vinegar, garlic and mustard seed mix really give it a kick (I think they are too bitter without some kind of sauce), but next time I think I'll double the sauce recipe. Brussel sprouts, to me, taste like little cabbages, but a little more 'earthy'. But not to worry! I have many recipe plans for these little suckers. ;)

And finally, I give you some simple party snack ideas that you probably already thought of before I even knew what 'nooch' was.

Nothing says 'party' like a bowl of popcorn or chips. The following are, thus far, some of my favourite snackables:

Stove popped popcorn and salt-free tortilla chips, covered in melted Earth Balance butter, salt, pepper, garlic powder, celery seed and tobasco sauce:


It really wasn't too spicey, though you could add more hot sauce if it suits you fine.

Next, a yummy tortilla cheese dip. This recipe I found in 'La Dolce Vegan' and it's one of the few fake cheeses I really enjoy. You melt a block of fake cheese (I use Vegan Gourmet's cheddar) with butter, flour (for thickness), Braggs (or soy) sauce, nooch, dijon mustard, salt and pepper.



It also goes great on macaroni. =)

Lastly, for now, I give you the popcorn and organic pretzel stick combo, topped with soy butter, pepper and barbeque sauce mixture.


For some reason, these make me think of football games, or Friday night poker. I never really engage in either activity, but I'd love to throw a party just so I could serve these goodies.