Thursday, December 27, 2007

The Christmas Feast

OK folks, get ready, this is going to be a LONG post. I'm covering two days worth of cooking in this one post because I've been too swamped to get around to posting.

So, as you saw, we got the cookies for Santa made and we had one more batch left to make on Christmas Eve. That was these babies, Chocolate Mint Melties, from Eat Drink and Be Vegan. They are sooo good, although, not as minty as I had hoped they would be. I will definitely be making them again, only next time I will add more chopped chocolate bar to the batter.

While the cookies were baking I started up the Traditional Cranberry Sauce, also from ED&BV. I wanted to make this the day before so it would have time to chill because I wanted to serve it cold. I don't usually like cranberry sauce, this recipe however has changed my mind. It is super easy to make and incredibly delicious. I'll never buy or serve prepared cranberry sauce again. Unfortunately, when the time came to set up the buffet on Christmas evening, I forgot to get the sauce out of the, guess who's been eating cranberry sauce like it's going out of style the last 2 days!!

Also on Christmas Eve I prepared the gravy, as the recipe said it was better left to set over night and gently reheated. I used the vegan gravy recipe from vegweb. I thought the gravy was delicious. My family of meat eaters weren't too impressed. Actually, no one said they didn't like it, but the fact that no one said they did says it all. Needless to say, I've got loads of gravy sitting in the refrigerator as well.....too bad gravy doesn't go so well over cranberry sauce!!

Anyway, after I got the gravy cooking I went ahead and chopped up all of the veggies I would need for various things the following day, just to save myself some time in the kitchen. I also made homemade pumpkin ice cream for a pumpkin ice cream pie that I made (no picture, sorry). I just poured the soft, freshly churned ice cream into a pre made graham cracker crust and froze it.

The final thing that I prepared on Christmas Eve was the cinnamon rolls that were for breakfast on Christmas Day. I used this Orange Cranberry recipe that I saw on tv while Rob and I were laying in bed relaxing on our recent trip to Chicago. These are the rolls before they've been baked and iced. In all of the excitement of present opening on Christmas morning, I forgot to take a picture of the cinnamon rolls. By the time I remembered over half of them had been devoured and the icing was hard, cracked, and disgusting looking. Sorry, I'll snap a picture next time I make them. By the way, the cranberry's are a wonderful addition to the cinnamon rolls.

Whew!! I was exhausted Christmas Eve night (I'm getting tired again just typing about all I did!). So tired, and hoping to get in bed early, but guess what........the teeter todder that the girls got "from Santa" took almost 2 hours to put together, and Mairin's stable nearly an hour.......Santa didn't get to bed until after 11pm.

So, on to the big day.....I'll spare all of the details of present opening, etc. and just get right to the food, since that's what this blog's all about anyway. Well, obviously, breakfast was cinnamon rolls and coffee. The cinnamon rolls required 40 minutes in the oven, so we snacked on a loaf of Panera's Holiday bread while we were waiting.

Rob's family wasn't able to stay for dinner, so we made lunch for them. Our lunch was the "No Chicken" Noodle soup that I blogged about last week. We also had some shrimp cocktail for snacking, as well as some cheddar cranberry cheese and crackers.

Then came the big meal. We had 16 people for dinner, both friends and family. I was the only vegetarian. Turkey and ham were provided by my mother and my grandfather for the meat eaters. I supplied pretty much everything else. We went with a traditional Thanksgiving type meal since we missed Thanksgiving as a family this year. Again, in all of the excitement, I forgot to photograph our feast, so the following picture is a shot of my plate of left-overs that I ate for dinner last night.

The menu consisted of: Mashed Yukon Golds with Vegan Gravy, Golden Crusted Brussels Sprouts from Super Natural Cooking, Baked Sweet Potatoes with Maple Syrup, brown sugar and cinnamon, Vegetarian Stuffing (which by the way, my mom swore couldn't be make without chicken was, I made it with my home made veggie stock, and it was enjoyed by all), and a broccoli casserole supplied by my good friend Steph (thanks for the vegetarian dish Steph!!).
We had such a wonderful Christmas. We are truly blessed to have such great friends and family. This was our first year having Christmas at our house, and even though it was a lot of hard work, I hope it isn't our last.

There probably won't be too much new to blog about over the next few days, we're kind of busy until the New Year, but there will be plenty to blog about in 2008!!

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Cookies for Santa

We're finishing up all of our final preparations before the "Big Man" comes tomorrow night. The presents have been bought and wrapped. The house has been cleaned. The Christmas dinner has been planned and the groceries have been purchased. And, most importantly, in anticipation of Jolly Ol' St. Nick, the kids have been GOOD!!!

Last evening, after getting a haircut and having 2 glorious hours to sit in Caffe Classico sipping my soy mocha cappuccino and reading the LEO and Velocity while Mairin had yoga camp, we came home to bake cookies for Santa. We always bake chocolate chip cookies for Santa, so that was a no brainer. This year, Mairin's been begging for gingerbread men as well, so we tackled that too.

For the chocolate chip cookies, we always make the Toll House recipe, but this year we changed it up a little. Instead of Toll House, which are produced on equipment that also processes peanuts, we opted for Sunspire Organic Semi Sweet chocolate chips. We used their recipe, which is nearly identical to Toll House. Instead of all purpose flour we used white whole wheat flour, which can be substituted 1:1 for all purpose baking flour. And, I didn't have any vanilla bean, so we omitted that and just used the extract. These cookies definitely taste more buttery than the Toll House version, and honestly, I think that makes them delicious!! This recipe made 3 1/2 dozen, so we have plenty for the rest of the holiday season!!

For the gingerbread men we used Heidi's recipe at These were very easy to make, and relatively healthy too. They rolled out nicely and were easy to cut, not sticky at all like I've heard about other gingerbread recipes (I've sadly, never made these cute little cookies before). This recipe also made 3 1/2 dozen cookies. Our 42 gingerbread men are patiently waiting naked in the freezer to be iced and decorated on Christmas Eve.

Since Mairin's been begging since November for the gingerbread men, she had decided that we would give Santa the chocolate chip cookies and she would keep and eat all of the gingerbread men. We of course, taste tested each set of cookies at Mairin's insistence......."we have to make sure they are yummy for Santa, he doesn't like gross things you know". Well, Mairin decided after the taste test that she's not really a big fan of gingerbread cookies, but that Santa will surely love them better than the chocolate chips. So Santa, get ready for some gingerbread and milk with you get to our house!!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

"No Chicken" Noodle Soup for the Soul.

So much for finding an interesting suitable substitute for Chicken Noodle Soup. None of the recipes I've tried really satisfied that need for chicken noodle soup in the winter.....and surely none of them were winning Mairin over! So, I gave up on trying to find our oh-so-cool veg substitute for the soul warming goodness of chicken noodle soup, and just went back to basics.

Tonight, we had "No Chicken" Noodle Soup......perfect, it was absolutely perfect (Rob dubbed it Noodle Noodle Soup). EVERYONE loved it, and to make a dish that all of us like is quite a feat (making something Mairin likes is the true test!!). At first Mairin threw herself on the floor in a full fledged tantrum, refusing to eat the soup because I said we were having chicken noodle soup, and there was no chicken.........she wanted a chicken bite. The funny thing is, when we at meat, and I made chicken noodle soup, she picked every bit of chicken out of it!!

I just went back to my stand-by, quick and easy, chicken noodle soup recipe, excluding the chicken and substituting the chicken stock with Imagine No Chicken Broth. I'm telling you, you would never ever know this wasn't the real thing (except of course that there is no chicken meat floating around in there).

"No Chicken" Noodle Soup
2 Tbs Olive Oil
3 Large Carrots, peeled and sliced into rounds
4 Stalks Celery, diced
1 Medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt and pepper to taste
2 tsp dried thyme
2 32 oz boxes of No Chicken Broth
3/4 of a 12oz bag of No Yolk Egg Noodles
Heat oil in a soup pot over medium high heat. Add vegetables and saute until carrots are beginning to soften. Add salt and pepper and thyme and saute for a minute longer. Add 2 boxes of broth and bring to a boil. Here I turn down the heat and let it simmer for awhile, then add the noodles about 5 minutes before you are ready to serve.

This soup is "MMM MMM Good". I served it with grilled cheese sandwiches. You can expect to hear about this one being made many, many more times this winter (chicken noodle soup was always something I looked forward to and loved in the winter months, and I can't wait to eat it again....actually, just blogging about it is making me hungry all over again)

Sloppy Joe, 2nd Edition

Yesterday the girls and I shopped until we dropped. We braved the last minute crowds and spent SEVEN hours shopping. And, we survived!! However, we were all beat when we got home. Luckily, I had made some sloppy lentils in my crock pot the night before, so all I had to do for dinner was heat up the lentils and whip up some sides. As you can see, we had oven baked, frozen, crinkle cut fries and steamed broccoli.

This time I used the sloppy lentils recipe from Fresh from the Vegetarian Slowcooker. I added a bit more chili powder than was called for, and I also added some cumin, which wasn't on the ingredients list. But honestly, I really couldn't tell a difference from the Snobby Joe's I made last month, and these are less labor intensive. Plus, the fact that they cook in the crock pot, so you don't have to be around while they are cooking.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Revisiting Eat Drink and Be Vegan

Yes, it really has been 5 days since I've cooked a meal. Well, almost. I did make some lentil soup in the crock pot last Thursday, but it's been 5 days since I've really cooked. Rob and I have been in Chicago celebrating our 8th anniversary and spending some much needed time alone together!! I've been letting someone else do the cooking for me. We had room service for breakfast every day. Oh, how heavenly......laying in bed while your breakfast is delivered right to you. I can't even remember the last time I got to lay in bed, eat my breakfast, and then continue to lay in bed for 2, yes TWO, more hours. Dozing off and on, no kids climbing on me, heavenly I tell you, simply heavenly!!

We did get out of bed and venture into the city as well. We had a lovely dinner at the Silver Spoon. Fried tofu with peanut dipping sauce for starters, and Spicy Crazy Noodles with Tofu for a main course. Followed by drinks at the Palm Court of the Drake Hotel. For our anniversary dinner the following night we ate at Sushi Wabi. I, unfortunately, didn't stay totally's hard to do at a Sushi Bar. Here we had Yawa Ragani (tempura soft shelled crab with honey wasabi dipping sauce) for starters. Followed by a Godzilla Roll for me (tempura shrimp, orange tobikko, avocado, cream cheese, green onion, chili sauce, spicy mayo and sesame seed). We finished with Green Tea Cheesecake and again drinks at The Drake. I had intended to take pictures of our weekend meals, but we failed to bring the camera, so you'll just have to use your imaginations.

So, on to tonight. I decided to revisit ED&BV for Dreena's Olive Oyl Pasta. This is basically a pasta of your choice topped with a tomato based sauce with sauteed garlic and shallots (I substituted some minced red onion), and a combo of Kalamata and green olives. All drizzled with extra virgin olive oil. As expected, this dish was out of this world.......Dreena really does have some amazing recipes in this book. I served the pasta with some garlic bread that I made by slicing a mini baguette from WFM then brushing it with a bit of melted butter and sprinkling with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Then I baked it at 350 until it was starting to brown and was crisp. Rob says it was possibly the best garlic bread he's ever had!

For dessert Mairin and I made Oatmeal Raisin Cookies, also from ED&BV. Again, they are amazing. And again, they were another "best I ever had" from Rob. They really are great, and relatively healthy too. And an added bonus, they don't have one single ingredient that Stella can't eat, which seems to be unusual these days. So, we've finally found a treat that Stella can eat...yay!!

With the holiday's coming, the posts may become few and far between, as I've got a a lot of planning and prepping to do, but keep checking, there will at least be a few this week. I do have quite a feast planned for Christmas day, so hopefully in the hustle and bustle of it all I can remember to snap a few pics for you guys!!

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Not Planning to Cook Tonight, What Can I Throw Together??

I wasn't planning to cook tonight. It was Holiday Meal night at my Grandmother's nursing home, and we were all meant to go dine with her. Of course, as seems to be the norm around here lately, things didn't work out as planned. Stella was running a fever this afternoon, and was more or less miserable. So, needless to say, I didn't think a nursing home was the best place for a sick toddler to be, for her sake and the sake of it's residents.

Being that Rob works about 2 minutes from her nursing home, he kindly went to have dinner with my grandmother while I stayed home with Stella. Now, as you know, I do my menu planning on the weekend, and hadn't planned to cook tonight. So, what to eat? Well, I had a gander through the fridge and came away with eggs, an avocado that was about to go, some cheddar cheese, a few tortillas, a jar of tomatillo salsa, and some left over beans and greens from Monday night. From that I came up with a scrambled egg burrito with a side of beans for myself and some scrambled eggs and avocado slices for Stella. The burrito is self explanatory and doesn't really need a recipe, so I'll spare you. It sounds really weird, but honestly, it was really really good. If I were single with no one else to cook for, this is the kind of thing I'd eat nearly every night.

This decadent Dark Chocolate Sorbet on the other hand, was planned for tonight. I figured there would be desert served at the holiday dinner. And, well, Stella can't indulge in desserts that aren't homemade. What with the nut allergy, the milk intolerance, the soy allergy, well, it's just not safe to eat commercially made desserts. So, our wonderfully thoughtful Aunt gave us this really nice ice cream maker for Christmas, and tonight was our first batch. This sorbet was incredibly rich, and surprisingly creamy. You almost wouldn't know that there was no dairy in it. I followed the recipe that came with the machine, which called for 2 cups of unsweetened cocoa. As I said, it was rich........really rich. I think next time I'll cut the amount of cocoa in half and see what we come up with. Just for fun, here are Stella and Mairin after they've enjoyed the sorbet!!

As an aside, and un-food related, if any of you are interested in yoga, I started a new blog today, feel free to check it out!!

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Vegetable Gratin and Beans with Greens

Wow!! December has been a whirlwind for us, and it doesn't look like it's going to slow down until the Holiday's have passed. I apologize for the sparse blogging of late, but I've been cooking very little and making a lot of easy repeats (pizzas, quesadillas, and soups). We've also been eating out a fact, way too much.

I did find some time for cooking last night though. It's been cold, gray, and rainy here for days. We've been so busy, running around from here to there, Christmas shopping, Christmas parties, School Programs, and Dance Recitals. Yesterday we finally got to take a breather from all of our running and it was the perfect day for some hearty comfort food. So, I made a rainbow vegetable gratin and some crusty white beans with rainbow chard from Super Natural Cooking. It was delicious and perfect for the cold, rainy weather.

The vegetable gratin is a combination of red potatoes, sweet potatoes, shallots, carrots, and green onion all browned on the stove-top and then sprinkled with whole grain bread crumbs and grated Parmesan cheese before baking to a crispy golden brown in the oven. I've been wanting to try this one out, because I was planning to use it as part of our holiday meal. Well, it definitely makes the holiday meal cut, it was outstanding.

The beans are just some white kidney (cannellini) that I cooked up in the crock pot over the weekend. They too are browned on the stove top along with some onion and garlic, rainbow chard is then wilted in and the whole thing gets sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese before serving. Again, delish!! This would actually be a great meal all on it's own, possibly with some corn bread....yum!!

This isn't the type of meal that Rob is very keen on, but he did enjoy it none the less. Mairin of course, didn't even try any of it. And Stella, well, Stella is digging the beans lately, so she ate a big bowl of beans and some applesauce.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Chickpea Noodle Soup

Well, my cooking has been about as lazy as my blogging this week!! We've all been feeling a bit under the weather at one point or another, and after taking care of sick children, and then being sick myself, well, my menu didn't quite pan out as planned this week.

So, after a short hiatus, here's Wednesday's dinner. We had Chickpea Noodle Soup from Veganomicon.

Unfortunately, I made this on the first night I was not feeling well, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I was hoping I would. It was very delicious, but my stomach just couldn't handle it. Stella and Rob also approved (although, I had to serve Stella's before I added the miso, so it was slightly different). As a matter of fact, Rob enthusiatically approved of this soup, and he's usually one to turn his nose up at soup (which is unfortunate for him, since I'm a huge soup fan and make LOTS of it in the winter months).

The soup did not capture the essence of chicken noodle soup, like I had hoped it would. I have to admit, chicken noodle soup is one thing I'm sure missing so far this winter, and I was hoping this would be my replacement. I'm going to have to keep looking I think. I had big plans for making some Chicken Noodle soup with some No-Chicken Broth and some chicken style seitan, but after the seitan incident of last week, I'm not sure if I can stomach it or not. Perhaps I'll try the recipe without the seitan and see how it goes.

Chickpea Noodle Soup will definately be made again this winter. However, next time I think I will use regular spaghetti instead of the soba noodles. The brown noodles really freak Mairin out(I have to cover our whole wheat spaghetti with sauce so she doesn't know the noodles are brown!!), so I think regular spaghetti will ensure she will at least try it. Other than that, the recipe is practically perfect.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Vegetable and Soba Stirfry with Orange-Chile Sauce

Well, we had a pretty jam packed weekend, so we did a lot of eating out. Saturday we were busy with yoga class, dance rehearsals, and a bit of shopping that needed to be done. Plus, we'd promised Mairin that we'd go see Santa that night. We ate at Panera Bread after our visit with Jolly Ol' St. Nick. Their Mediterranean Veggie Sandwich is to die for, the cilantro hummus they put on it is incredible, I could eat this sandwich every day and never tire if it.

Sunday was Mairin's Christmas recital and we'd promised her pizza after the recital, so we went to one of or local favorites, Bearno's. The omni's ordered the Mama Bearno's, I had a small veggie that I shared with the girls. Theirs is that American version of pizza, doughy, saucy, and loaded with toppings, that I've blogged about before. Sunday evening, it really hit the spot!!

When I was making my menu and shopping list for the week on Sunday evening I was having a craving for something Asian, and spicy. So, this little stir fry is what I came up with. Turns out stir fry was a good choice for Monday's dinner. I ended up not getting to the store on Monday morning because Stella was sick, I sat in the doctor's office with her for almost 2 hours on Monday afternoon, and it was nearly 7 o'clock before I ever made it home with groceries. So, something quick and easy was what I needed.

Because I knew I was going to be pressed for time getting dinner ready I opted to pay the premium for the stir fry veggie mix that's already washed and chopped. It included broccoli, snow peas, mushrooms, shredded carrot, zucchini, and bean sprouts. I added some sliced onions, frozen shelled edamame and some chopped ginger, and minced garlic. I stir fried the veggies in canola oil, then added in about 4 oz of cooked soba noodles to stir fry for a few minutes, slathered it all in my orange-chile sauce, let it cook for a minute while the sauce thickens and serve it sprinkled with some fresh chopped cilantro.

Orange Chile Stir fry Sauce
Zest from one large navel orange
Juice from 2 large navel oranges
2 Tbs. tamari or other soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp chile paste
1 Tbs. brown sugar
2 tsp. sesame oil
1 1/2 tsp arrowroot powder

Mix all ingredients in a small bowl. Pour over stir fry during last few minutes of cooking. Stir until sauce thickens. Serve stir fry garnished with chopped cilantro.