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Thursday, November 24, 2011

Our Mostly Vegan Thanksgiving Menu

So it has been almost a year since I have had meat and 2 months since I have had dairy and eggs.  Well, I should clarify that I may have had muffins or other baked goods at the homes of friends… here and there and I am sure those ingredients were in there ( I don’t want my food convictions to break fellowship with people-lesson learned that from a friend).  Anyhow, I gave up my beloved nonfat mistos and my occasional egg breakfasts.  I have just read too much this year… seen a few more documentaries… etc. that has enabled me to move onto a different, vegan (?) journey. 

My goal is to eat and provide in my household a “strict”, whole food,  plant-based diet.  Though, in regards to the holidays,  I always told myself that I would have meat at Thanksgiving and Christmas dinners.   Well, as those holidays were coming upon us, I wasn’t sure if I could eat the turkey… oh, this has caused me sooo much turmoil!  I LOVE Thanksgiving and Christmas (I start listening to Christmas music in October—sad, I know…).  Having these holiday dinners without turkey just seemed so untraditional!  “… But, I just can’t do it… but it is not the same without it… but I can’t…” this is what was going on in my head for a few weeks!  So with all this inner dialogue and conflict, I decided that having the turkey was OK, especially since it was causing unnecessary stress.  I mean, it is just this one time (and maybe Christmas).  I was planning a trip out of town just so I didn’t have to think about making a meal—ridiculous.

I decided to have the turkey dinner, 2 days before Thanksgiving.  Getting a local, organic, free-range turkey was out of the question. I had friends checking in Northern VA for me… our Kroger’s, local health grocery stores were out.  Ironic…haha. That day I was checking my email and came across a Forks Over Knives (documentary sensation) newsletter update with a Vegan Thanksgiving Menu.  I quickly viewed it over on my phone as I was shopping in Kroger.  I bought the ingredients I didn’t have and went home.

2 days later, the below is what we had for dinner tonight.  The first 5 recipes are from Forks Over Knives.  I tweaked the recipes here and there… the originals have been cited with their website.  The last recipe is from the food editor and show, Ask Aida—I got the Pecan Pumpkin No Crust Pie recipe (mine with walnuts) a few years ago and had changed a few things as well.  I have made this no crust pie many, many times, and it just keeps getting better and better.  My little Brinley loves it… it is dairy free, but it still has eggs (free-range, organic of course!).

The one thing I would add to the first 5 recipes is lots of garlic and maybe a pinch of salt, here and there…. J Let me know your thoughts! Try them out… enjoy!

-Stuffed Acorn Squash
-Fall Harvest Chowder
-Green Beans and Brussels Sprouts with Maple Mustard Dressing
-Tempeh Italiano
-Berry Apple Relish
-Walnut Crunch Pumpkin No Crust Pie (Dairy free, but still has eggs!)

Stuffed Acorn Squash
Serves 4
4 medium-sized acorn squash, halved and seeded
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium celery stalks, diced
4 medium carrots, diced
[1/4] cup plus 3 [3/4] water or vegetable broth
[3/4] cup wild rice, cooked
[3/4] cup brown rice, cooked
1 cup mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp. poultry seasoning (I used Mrs. Dash)
[1/2] tsp. dried sage
Ground black pepper to taste

1. Preheat oven to 375°F.
2. Place squash halves, cut side down, on 1 or 2 deep baking sheets filled with an inch of water. Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes. When done, remove from oven, remove the water, and flip the squash so it is cut side-up.
3. In a medium pot, sauté onions, carrots, and celery in [1/4] cup water or vegetable broth until slightly browned, approximately 5 minutes. Add wild rice, brown rice, mushrooms, poultry seasoning, sage, black pepper, and remaining water or vegetable broth. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat and then simmer on medium-low heat for 30-40 minutes or until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat.
4. Spoon rice mixture into each squash. Cover in foil and return to oven. Bake for 30-35 additional minutes, or until squash is tender. Serve warm.

*Original recipe by Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT-

Fall Harvest Chowder
Serves 8
6 cups vegetable broth or water
1 small yellow onion, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
2 small zucchini, diced
1 (16-oz.) package frozen corn
1 large sweet potato,  peeled and diced
4 bay leaves
2 tsp. dried thyme
½ lb. of frozen spinach, thawed

1. Over medium-high heat, sauté onion, carrot, and celery in 1/2 cup vegetable broth until slightly browned, approximately 5-10 minutes.
2. Add remaining vegetables, broth or water, bay leaves, and thyme. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer until vegetables are tender, about 30-40 minutes.
3. Remove bay leaves from soup and pour into blender until mostly pureed. Add a little bit of the frozen spinach in each batch as you blend. Pour back into pot or a nice large soup serving bowl.

*Original recipe by Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT,-

Green Beans and Brussels Sprouts with Maple Mustard Dressing
Serves 4
1 [15-oz.] can cannellini beans, rinsed
[1/4] cup tahini
 [1/4] cup stone-ground mustard
3 TB Braggs Amino Acids
2 TB. 100% pure maple syrup
[1/4] cup nutritional yeast flakes  (great for Vitamin B12)
[1/2] cup water
1 to  ½ lb. of steamed green beans and Brussels sprouts.

1. Preheat oven to 400. Place all ingredients into blender and blend until smooth.
2. Pour over steamed veggies in a casserole dish and lightly mix together.
3. Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes.  Serve hot.

*Recipe inspired by Chef AJ’s House Dressing-

Tempeh Italiano
Serves 4
[1/4] cup wheat-free tamari
2 TB. Balsamic vinegar
1[1/2] TB. Garlic, minced
[1/4] cup vegetable broth
1 TB. chopped fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary, crushed a bit with your fingers
1 TB. chopped fresh thyme or 1 tsp. dried thyme 1 tsp. dried basil 1 tsp. dried oregano
[3/4] tsp. ground fennel seed
[1/2] tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 (8-oz.) pkg. tempeh, cut into quarters

1. Preheat the oven to 400°F. Line a baking dish with parchment paper.
2. In a medium bowl, combine tamari, balsamic vinegar, garlic, vegetable broth, rosemary, thyme, basil, oregano, ground fennel seed, and crushed red pepper flakes. Add tempeh cutlets, and stir well to evenly coat. Transfer tempeh cubes to the prepared cookie sheet, and spread out into a single layer.
3. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from the oven. Stir tempeh with a spatula, and spread out into a single layer again. Bake for 10-15 more minutes or until tempeh is golden brown around edges. Remove from the oven. Serve hot or at room temperature as desired.

*Recipe from The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Gluten-Free Vegan Cooking by Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, and Beverly Lynn Bennett.

Berry Apple Relish
Serves 4
1 pound fresh cranberries finely chopped
2 tart green apples, peeled, cored, and finely chopped 
10 oz. package frozen blueberries, thawed and drained
[1/2] cup 100% fruit apricot jam
[1/2] cup 100% pure maple syrup
Juice of 1 lemon

1. Process the fruit ingredients in a food processor and pour into large bowl until well-combined.
2.  Mix in the remaining ingredients and pour into a deep baking dish and bake with the veggie casserole 15-20 minutes at 400, covered).  Or serve cold.

*Original recipe by Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT-

Walnut Crunch Pumpkin No Crust Pie (Dairy free, but still has eggs!)
Serves 8
3-4 tablespoons Earth Balance butter (or any vegan butter), at room temperature
1 (15-ounce) can organic pumpkin puree (not pie mix)
1 cup vanilla coconut milk
4 large eggs (free-range/local)
1 cup coconut palm sugar, 1/4 divided
1 tablespoon vanilla (or bourbon)
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon, divided
1/8 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 cups roughly chopped walnuts (or pecans)
1/4 cup spelt flour 
1 tablespoon pure maple syrup

1.    Heat the oven to 350 degrees F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat an 8 by 8-inch baking dish or pie plate with butter and set aside.
2.    Combine the pumpkin, coconut milk cream, eggs, sugar, vanilla, ginger, nutmeg, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/8 teaspoon salt in a large bowl. Whisk until evenly combined and pour into the prepared baking dish.

Walnut Crunch Pumpkin No Crust Pie-finished product!
3.    Cut the butter into small pieces and add to a medium bowl. Stir in the walnuts, flour, maple syrup and the remaining 1/4 cup coconut palm sugar, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, and mix until it holds together somewhat but still crumbles. Scatter the topping over the pumpkin mixture and bake until the edges are puffed and the filling is set in the center, about 55 to 60 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool to room temperature.

 *Original recipe by Ask Aida 

Ready to eat!

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Carrot-Walnut Cookies (Vegan)

2 tablespoons of ground flax + ½ cup of boiling water
1 cup raw unsalted walnuts
1 cup rolled oats
1 cup raisins
1/2 cup sprouted spelt flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
2 carrots, grated
1 apple, grated
1/4 cup apple juice

Preheat oven to 350°F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. 

Combine ground flax and water, set aside until it thickens—you can stir it.  Then combine walnuts, oats and raisins in a food processor and pulse until finely ground. Transfer to a bowl and stir in flour, baking powder, cinnamon and ginger. Add carrots, apple, flax/water mixture and apple juice and stir until combined. Drop by rounded tablespoons an inch apart on the prepared baking sheets, making about 24 cookies. Press down on each cookie with the back of a fork to flatten slightly. Bake until tops and bottoms are lightly browned, 20 to 25 minutes. 

I am always trying to find recipes that are vegan, low-fat (or good fat J) and require no sugar… but taste yummy.  This is one of them!  My kids love ‘em! 

I was inspired by a Whole Foods recipe card I obtained this past week.  It actually called for 1 ripe banana, but my little kiddos ate the last of them for breakfast.  I assumed that the banana was not only used for extra sweetness, but as a binding agent… so I subbed in the flax-water mixture instead.  In general, if you are trying to cut back on using eggs in baking and would like a good substitute, the flax-water mixture works great!  :)  WF’s recipe also called for whole wheat pastry flour, but we have been in the habit of using sprouted spelt flour as our “main flour”.

Enjoy! :)

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Plain ole Whole "Grain" Biscuits (that everyone loves)

I am SO excited that my husband has jumped on the vegetarian train with me.  I "committed" to go all veggies (minus dairy/eggs) in 2009.  Since then--it has been up and down--well up until January of this year.  Since then, I haven't had any meat and we discovered that my hubs gets really sick/hives after eating red meat.  Now, we can't pinpoint that he has a "meat allergy" but we do know that something isn't right when he consumes it.  Since then, he has surprised me EVEN more in his food choices.  Sure, he still will have meat here and there... and as frugal as he is...on days he doesn't pack a lunch, he succumbs to the $1 Menu Temptation... ("My "Food Snob" self is embarrassed to admit this).  Though, I am proud to say that he ate a salad the other day.  WOW! WOW!

Anyhow--"Carol get to the point!"  

I have been making these REALLY easy biscuits for a long time... My husband used to hate them.  According to him, they tasted too healthy.  Haha.  But now, I made these biscuits when our wonderful "Canadian" family came down for a holiday last weekend.  Brinley liked them--always had.  I was so used to he and I eating them all.  Well, I made a dozen and they were all gone.  The babies even loved them!  These biscuits were a perfect side for my Italian Kale and Rice Casserole (with black beans hidden in the sauce to trick 'em all, mu-ahhh!).  Someday, I will get to post that recipe as well.  It is a family favorite!  Anyhow--back to biscuits:

2 cups of flour (spelt is my favorite, but I also use whole wheat, rye... really any whole grain flour)
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp fine sea salt
1/2 cup oil (typically I use safflower or coconut oil-depends on the day)
1-2 tbsp brown rice syrup (or raw honey)
1/2 cup nondairy milk (I have used rice, almond, and coconut---all good.  You may need a little more milk as you knead)

Preheat oven 450 degrees.

Combine dry and then stir in the oil until it is crumbly-looking with a fork. In a separate bowl, combine the sweetener and milk and pour/stir into the flour/oil mixture.  If it seems a little dry, add a little more milk (or water) by the tablespoon. Make into a ball--you can either roll this out onto a floured surface or just leave in the bowl (which is what I do since it saves on time).  You can use a biscuit cutter if you rolled this out onto a surface.  I just use my hands and pat about 1/4 cups worth or so into a round-looking discs and place each onto my stone baking sheet. I like to put a piece of foil to cover them to help keep them moist while they are cooking--but this is optional.  Bake for about 10-15 minutes (longer if you lay the foil on top-unsealed).  Yields about 10-12.

My "Chubby Bubbies"-Eating the Pumpkin Biscuit Variation
I tweaked this recipe from Alicia Silverstone's "The Kind Diet" (p. 197).  I have mentioned this book numerous times on this blog.  It really is one my all time favorite cookbooks.  The "Vegetarian Mother's Cookbook" is one of my new favorites and there is a similar biscuit recipe that calls for sweet potato.  While I have never used sweet potatoes, I have added about 1 1/2 cups of organic canned pumpkin to this recipe, but I reduced the amount of milk and oil (1/4 cup each)... and added cinnamon.  My babies, Henry and Smith I think ate 3 each in one sitting!

Okay, I am too excited to share these biscuits and I am just rambling... so I will end on this note.  For breakfast, make these biscuits.  They pair so well with a cup of coffee!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A hot summer

This, by far, seems to be the HOTTEST summer EVER!  Though, I can appreciate it.  I am sitting at one of our local coffee shops, "The Whitehart", grading my life away... but it is so peaceful in here, it makes getting away from the family for an hour or two--worth it.  Solitude is a concept that is mostly absent from my life!  There are some people on their computers doing who knows what... Facebooking,  grading maybe??  Others are sitting together talking so quietly.  It is just so nice to see people engrossed in intimate conversations with each other, drinking the best DRINK known to man: coffee.  Being a wife, a mother of "3 under 3" (how corny-LOL), and working from home... I am taken away from developing deeper relationships with people.  I pray for little opportunities like this and I am thankful for friends that need things from me... and when I drop them off, we have deep conversations.

Okay, back to grading.  Go to Whitehart on a week night:

Christmas in July

I keep hearing snibits of "Christmas in July" parties, specials, sales... etc.  I am not really sure about that tradition-if it is something common around Virginia, but somehow Brinley was informed of this, haha.  It finally dawned on me... we had been listening to Christmas music for a little over a week and now we were reading Christmas books.  Last night Brinley wanted to read some stories about the birth of Christ.  We read two books and in both, there were illustrations of angels.  He was so attracted to these angels.  "Mommy, can you sing me a song about aaaaaaannngels?"(He says this with a smile that is so cute!)  So, when tucking him in to sleep, we sang "Hark the Herald Angels Sing" and O Come all Ye Faithful".
Brinley and his cousin Rhiannon jammin' to Christmas music

This kid (Brinley) could be a DJ... I tell you, this strong-willed, strong-minded kid sure likes to tell me what to do!  Most of the time I stand strong, but when it comes to what music to listen to... he pretty much has good taste.  Right now we are listening to Christmas music... it is July (well now August)... and you know what, it actually lifts us up.  Personally, I LOVE Christmas. It has been a long, hot summer... sometimes depressing, quite honestly... but the beautiful Christmas music has given us all happy feelings. :)  I will take it any season!

A few personal favorite songs in "queue" via DJ Brinley: Constant Craving-K.D. Lang, Busted-Ray Charles, Gravity-John Mayer, Sweet Memories-Dean Martin... oh, and he loves all of Colbie Callait.