Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Home Grown Tomatoes presents...Tight Pants and Baking

Thanksgiving Wrap-Up

Home Grown Tomatoes is a weekly Vegan/Vegetarian column by Giovanina Bucci

Before Thanksgiving I had a few pair of "work" pants to select from ...I'm officially down to one pair. Enter Thanksgiving gut and all garments with an elastic waist band. But man oh man, did we have a great long weekend, filled with games, laughter, entirely too much food, delicious Bloody Mary's, and a glass of wine or two.

This was my first full on Thanksgiving meal that I was completely in charge of (hence, the bossy looking picture above), from start to finish. My main focus in leading up to the big event...try like hell to get everything on the table hot. Mission accomplished. Now mind you I know there were only four us, but I cooked enough to feed an army, so I felt pretty proud of the delivery. I am not going to go into all the details, but I have to say there were a few crucial lessons and tips learned that I must share with you and then we can move on!

Sadly, I made the mistake of making "heavyish" appetizers, so by the time dinner rolled around, it was a matter of stuffing, rather than enjoying, the food. Keep those starters light, easy, quick, and painless. Let the meal itself be the reward and focus. And do not fry anything!

I spoke with my parents on Thanksgiving day and for the first time they spread their meal for 12 out over a 3 hours time span. Genius, I thought to myself. Soup. Dishes. Salad. Dishes. Main course. Dishes. Dessert can be enjoyed without a huge cleanup to deal with at the end and each course has been savored. Which, with a a meal that takes ALL day to cook, sometimes two, it damn well should be savored!

A quick menu rundown (for those of you who are dying to know what a vegan Thanksgiving looks like!)

Pumpkin Black Bean Soup
Individually stuffed Acorn Squash (stuffed with traditional dressing)
"Dirty" Mashed Potatoes with a hint of Cilantro
Candied Sweet Potatoes with Walnuts
Fresh Cranberry Sauce laced with OJ, Gran Marnier, and Maple Syrup
Brussels Sprout Coleslaw (from the October Issue of Bon Appetit)
Steamed Green Beans with sliced Almonds
Vegetable Stock based Gravy

A couple of leftover tips:

Since none of us finished the entire squash we created our very own "pot pies". Filling each one with leftover mashed potatoes and gravy (on top of the leftover dressing inside of the squash). Yum. The following morning I made vegetarian sweet potato pancakes, which received good reviews from the egg eaters! Finally, what to do with the heap of cranberry sauce leftover? I layered crackers with cream cheese, fresh basil, cranberry sauce and small bit of dried apricot - now there is a worthy appetizer suggestion!

Phew. OK, now we're moving on. Scarlet Lily and I had a little chat about making the next few posts dessert oriented with MORE holidays around the corner. I'm just delving into the world of baking, so my individual creativity in coming up with fabulous desserts hasn't quite surfaced. However, I've made quite a few delights out of My Sweet Vegan, of which I will be posting my reproductions and the recipes (almost directly) from the book. First up...

Poppy Seed Cupcakes with Lemon Curd Filling

I think these would be perfect for Christmas morning. Although they are referred to as "cupcakes", they are light and fluffy, and the curd adds a smooth, rich compliment. (This recipe also sheds a whole new light on "Instant Mashed Potatoes" by the way.) The other appeal (at least to me) is that they are not overly sweet. I find that breakfast danishes, pastries, and muffins tend to have an excessive amount of unnecessary sugar in them.

Serving Size: 12 Cupcakes

Lemon "Curd"

1/2 C. Instant Mashed Potatoes
1/2 C. Rice Milk (or your choice of milk)
1. Tbs. butter
1 fresh lemon worth of juice and zest
1/2. C. sugar

Begin by heating the potato flakes and milk on med/low heat until milk is absorbed. Add remaining ingredients until you reach a well mixed, smooth(ish) texture (like applesauce). Remove from heat and blend until the curd is smooth like pudding. It takes only a couple of minutes to make, but you want to prepare it a few hours ahead of time so it can set up properly.

Poppy Seed Vanilla Cupcakes

1 C. Rice Milk
1 tsp. Apple Cider Vinegar
1 C. all-purpose flour (non-bleached and non-enriched)
1/4 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt (I used just a dash)
1/4 C. vegetable oil
1/2 C. sugar
11/2 Tbs. poppy seeds
1 Tbs. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together rice milk and apple cider vinegar and let stand for 5 minutes (this allows for the milk to curdle, don't be alarmed!). Mix all dry ingredients together (except for sugar and seeds) and set aside.

Meanwhile mix oil and sugar together, then add the milk/vinegar combination. At this point you can begin to slowly add your dry ingredients to the bubbly mixture of oil, sugar, milk and vinegar (be careful not to over mix). Finally, fold in the poppy seeds and vanilla. The batter will be very light and delicate...just what you want. Bake in the oven for 17 to 20 minutes (or until the 'ol toothpick comes out clean)!

In My Sweet Vegan, Hannah makes darling little curd filled heart shapes on top of the cupcakes. As you can see, I haven't mastered that aspect yet...note large curd overflow in pictures! I cut about a quarter sized hole out of the top of the cupcake (1/2" deep or so) and filled it right up, letting the curd spill over a bit, and then topped with lemon and orange zest. (And yes, you get to eat all of those "scraps" that you cut out!)

Well, hopefully the length of this beast didn't stress you out too much! There was just SO much to discuss...I hope you all had a great holiday. Most importantly I hope that you were able to spend some time with those you love!


steffanb said...

I am going to forward this recipe to my vegan friends, thank you.

Courtney said...

Where is your cocktail while you are bossing everyone around in the kitchen? Hmmm?

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