Baby Bok Choy and Mushrooms ~ Week of July 4th (plus bonus vegan July 4th BBQ menu!)

Another gorgeous box full of deliciousness this week. Here’s what came in my giant Harvest box from Full Circle:

Baby Bok Choy, Organic – 1.25 pounds
Russet Potatoes, Organic – 3
Cauliflower, Organic – 1
Celery, Organic – 1
Cremini Mushrooms, Organic – 0.66 pound
Avocados, Organic – 3
Red Leaf Lettuce, Organic – 1 bunch
Rainbow Chard, Organic – 1 bunch
Red Beauty Plums, Organic – 5
Pluots, Organic – 2
Nectarines, Organic – 4
Peaches, Organic – 5
Strawberries, Organic – 1 box

My substitutions this week were potatoes (traded in for radishes) and nectarines (switched with Valencia oranges). I’m so excited about everything that came in my box! The cauliflower is enormous. I don’t know if I’ve ever laid eyes on a bigger cauli. I can eat a small cauliflower’s worth of Impressionist Cauliflower all on my own at one sitting, so it will be nice to actually have enough to share with friends or stretch over several meals.

I’m quite pleased to see these nice big heads of baby bok choy, which I haven’t had in a while. A couple of old favorites come to mind. I could combine them with that gorgeous bouquet of rainbow chard to make Sunrise Noodles with Gingered Greens and Tofu or stir-fry up a mouth-watering batch of Spicy Bok Choy with Garlic and Ginger.

The lettuce, celery, chard if I don’t use it for noodles, and most of the fruit will all probably go into green smoothies. The mushrooms and potatoes look like they’d be delicious together. I’m not sure yet what I want to do with them, but I am already dreaming of some scrumptious savory mushroom-potato treat.

My 4th of July BBQ menu today was amazing! It didn’t actually incorporate much from my box; I’m not around grills much, so there were some very specific foods I was craving. It was an all-around winning combination of foods, and I want to record it here for future reference.

Vegan July 4th BBQ Menu

  • Sandwiches: GF garlic kale sourdough bread from Bread SRSLY, grilled marinated portabella mushrooms (using the marinade from Appetite for Reduction), grilled thick-cut red onion rings, spinach, sliced tomato, & wasabi mayonnaise.
  • Spicy sweet potato fries with vegan aioli (made from a mixture of 3 different types of white & orange yams/sweet potatoes)
  • “Banana boats” inspired by this post at Vegan Crunk. Our version: take very ripe bananas, make a slit in them & stuff with chocolate chips. Put them on a piece of foil on the grill & grill the heck out of ’em. Then pour some bourbon on top to do a kind of flambé thing. Make sure you grill the bananas until they’re good and soft. Then if you like, you can do what we did, which was gather around about 20 people with only 2 clean forks, so we were all feeding each other bites in a kind of banana-chocolate-bourbon mouth orgy.

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Christmas Cookies!

All throughout my weeklong silent meditation retreat, I had a recurring fantasy about baking holiday cookies. I knew the friends I wanted to bake with but I had no idea if they would still be in town when I got back. Lucky for me, they were, they were available, and they wanted to bake! So tonight we drank wine, listened to really good Christmas music (thanks, Pandora!) and baked four batches of cookies. There were some winners and some losers, and after five hours of work we somehow ended up with fewer cookies than it seemed like the time invested should have produced, but the night itself was so much fun and a great way to kick off the days leading up to Christmas.

Iced molasses cookies

The clear winners of the evening were the iced molasses cookies. Tender, chewy, perfectly spiced, and exquisitely complemented by their drizzle of icing, the molasses cookies were the ones we just couldn’t stop eating. The cookies were these from Gluten-Free Gina, made with sorghum flour instead of Bob’s Red Mill baking mix. The icing was just 1 cup + 1 tablespoon powdered sugar whisked with 3 tablespoons vanilla almond milk (because that’s the nondairy milk we had on hand – you can use anything), drizzled over the cookies with a spoon, and left to set. My goal was to evoke the soft, delicious Archway cookies with their delicious crackle of icing that were a special treat when I lived in Providence, RI. (I remembered an iced molasses, but maybe they’ve stopped making it – I only see plain molasses and iced oatmeal now. All the more reason to make them myself!) (Um, as if making them vegan and gluten-free weren’t reason enough. It’s not like I could even eat the Archway ones anymore. But you know what I mean.)

The Buckwheat Double Dark Chocolate Chunk Cookies with Cocoa Nibs and Fleur de Sel from Gluten Free Gobsmacked were pretty darn awesome as well. I’m not partial to crisp cookies, but we got around that by eating them hot ‘n’ chewy as soon as they came out of the oven. I’ll have to try one again tomorrow (I know, my life is so hard!) to see how I feel about the “real” texture. They’re very subtle in flavor – not overpoweringly chocolatey or sweet or salty, but a nice mix of all three. The chocolate chunks really tie the whole passel of flavors together, so when I make these again I will not be sparing with my chocolate chunk goodness.

All I want for Christmas is a gorgeous guy with a cookie gun...

I wanted to make spritz cookies with my cookie press, which is basically an awesome gun-shaped thing that shoots out cookies in different shapes! But apparently the dough has to be super elastic to hold up to the process, and every recipe I found either required eggs or gluten, and I obviously wasn’t going to bake with eggs. Since I kind of hate vanilla cookies anyways, and most of these cookies were intended for giving away, I decided to just go ahead and make them with glutenous flour. Our first batch was made with spelt flour, adapting this recipe from Cake Maker to the Stars, but for some reason it came out way too wet to use in the cookie press. We jazzed up the dough with cardamom and orange flower water and just made round sugar cookies instead, but, according to my tasters (I couldn’t eat them because of the gluten) they pretty much tasted like play-dough. Oh, spelt. The next batch was made using this recipe from Sinfully Vegan with regular old bleached wheat flour and held up nicely in the press. They still taste pretty boring, but at least they look nice!

Spritz cookies

Gluten-free cookies don’t retain their texture well over time, and there are still many days between now and Christmas when I’d like to take the cookies around to my various loved ones. I’m going to try freezing them, which I’ve read can work well for extending the life of GF cookies, and while I’m not sure how the iced cookies will do, hopefully they’ll all come out okay. Either way it was a truly fun evening of baking and now I’m all sugar-bombed and zesty with Christmas spirit!

Sweet, sweet night

On Thanksgiving, as on all Thanksgivings, we ate and ate and ate. Thanks to a menu that leaned generally towards the healthy side, I actually didn’t get that traditional, but painful, groaningly stuffed feeling. I felt just right – like I had feasted but not overindulged. However, there was still an entire dessert course waiting to be conquered – or would it conquer us?

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

Vegan Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves

We decided to go for a walk. After much bundling up and changing of shoes, we all trooped out to Golden Gate Park. The whole neighborhood was nearly deserted, even usually-bustling Haight Street was dark and silent. We moved in and out of happy, chatting pairings between old friends and new acquaintances. I led us in a big loop through the park and the Panhandle, but it didn’t really matter where we were going. This wasn’t actually about the fresh air or the exercise or the sightseeing. This was about making room for dessert!

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine

Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup

We returned home having found a few crevices and crannies in our bellies where just a bite of something sweet might possibly find a home. Duck and I had planned the dessert course with even more military precision than the rest of the meal, attending to the balance between chocolate, spices and fruit, making sure to include a complement of traditional holiday flavors, and supplying beverage choices ranging from tea and coffee to a honeyed, floral dessert wine.

Dessert:
Chocolate Mousse with Whipped Cream and Fruit Preserves (recipe follows)
Pumpkin Pie from Crave Bakery (review follows) *not vegan
Poached Pears in Spiced Red Wine Syrup (recipe follows)
Chewy Ginger Cookies (recipe follows) *not GF
Muscat de Beaumes de Venise
Coffee & tea selection

More on each dish follows… Continue reading

Banana Pomegranate

As committed as I am to thorough documentation of the ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving, I’ve been dragging my feet on writing up the final few posts. Why? Because the pictures I have from that night are just AWFUL. I really do my best to have this blog be a pleasant place to visit with some wordy but entertaining writing and pictures that at the very least look like stuff you would want to eat. And I do not regret for a moment that I sacrificed good lighting and composition in favor of atmosphere and conviviality for the beloved people who were actually at the Thanksgiving table with me, but I am having a hard time dealing with the consequences nonetheless.

Banana Pomegranate Casserole, Green Salad, Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream, Shitake Mushroom Gravy

Banana Pomegranate Casserole, Green Salad, Pumpkin Soup with Coconut Cream, Shitake Mushroom Gravy, Cranberry Chutney

But I’m going to have to get over it. Because I have a photo here, a flash-lit, snapshotted, slightly blurry photo, that illustrates what was possibly the number one best-loved dish of the entire meal. Duck and I are exceptionally lucky in that all of our parents care about food and are great cooks. We had intended to ask Duck’s dad to bring salad and stuffing until we tasted the trial-run of the Celery Root & Butternut Squash Gratin and we realized that stuffing was the last thing we needed. So he offered to make one of his signature Thanksgiving dishes, a Banana Pomegranate Casserole. Bananas and pomegranates and casserole – huh?

A slightly better shot from a more recent Thanksgiving meal. We've continued to make this one every year and it's always the favorite!

There was just no way that my mouth could imagine what tastes this title might imply. Then the dish came around at the table and I saw it was like a loose bake of sweet potatoes, pomegranate seeds and large pieces of banana. That seemed a little more graspable, but then I actually put it in my mouth and it tasted nothing like I had imagined either time. It was sublime! This was the dish that everyone looked for forlornly at the end of the night when we packed up their leftovers goodie-bags (there was no more to be had, we had eaten it all!). This was the dish that made each person’s list of favorites when Duck and I made all our loved ones obsessively go over all the details of the evening. I still can’t quite explain how it tastes but just trust me that it is AWESOME.

Recipe follows… Continue reading

The elephant on the table

When you have a vegan Thanksgiving with people who aren’t all vegan or vegetarian, or even with current non-meat-eaters who weren’t raised in meat-free households, there’s going to be an elephant in the room. Or, should I say, on the table. Yes, our friend Tom. The big, shiny bird. The great source of all giblets. The turkey.

turkey

For some reason I found myself feeling a little righteous about not having a turkey this year as I prepared to host Thanksgiving for the first time. Not condemning of other people’s Thanksgiving turkeys, but definitely taking on the kind of non-apologetic attitude that can swerve easily into aggression without provocation. Although, bless our families’ hearts, certainly no one was being provoking. A vague idea was floated that someone might bring some turkey for the meat-eaters in order to carry on that tradition, but I could feel in my belly that this was something I wasn’t interested in being flexible about. This was a rare opportunity for Duck and me to respectfully ask others to join in our family’s food traditions, and also a chance to knock their socks off with such astounding food that by the end of the night Thanksgiving turkey would seem like one more “optional” item, like candied yams or pecan pie.

Read on for the rest of the story, and for two great vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving main dishes, with recipes!… Continue reading

On a roll

In planning out the ultimate vegan, gluten-free Thanksgiving, part of my strategy was to make a list of the traditional foods I imagined people would associate strongly with being part of this holiday meal, and then find a way to include those, either in actuality or in essence. Things like green-bean casserole and sweet potatoes with marshmallows may be vital to particular family traditions, but I was aiming for more catch-all categories, like “stuffing,” “potatoes and gravy,” and, of course, I would eventually have to deal with the big one, “turkey.”

Blue Corn Muffins with Green Chiles

One thing I went back and forth about was the category of “bread” or “rolls.” Some kind of bread or roll is usually part of any big American holiday feast, but Thanksgiving is so carb-heavy that it seemed a little absurd to go to the trouble of making gluten-free vegan bread (which I’ve never done before) just so there would be one more plain starch on the table along with all the fancy ones.

Then I came across a recipe from Karina, the Gluten-Free Goddess for Blue Corn Muffins with Green Chiles and I knew a hot basket of these would get the meal started off right. Karina was even kind enough to tell me how to freeze and reheat them, so I was able to make them a week in advance, which was a great boon for streamlining the T-day preparations. (Scroll down to the bottom of the comments below Karina’s recipe for her freezing advice.)

I made the muffins exactly as directed, with the only difference being that, with the muffin papers about 2/3 full, I had enough batter for 16 rather than 12 muffins, which was perfect. This was my first foray into the type of gluten-free baking that uses GF flour combos and I was a little nervous, but thanks to Rainbow Grocery’s extremely well-stocked bulk section and Karina’s tried, tested, and true muffin expertise, everything went perfectly.

My one comment on the muffins is that, unless they were piping hot, the texture seemed oddly grainy and soft in the center. Once they were hot, though (I reheated them in the toaster oven right before we sat down to eat and then kept them warm in a basket wrapped in a towel) that softness seemed like melting goodness. There were a couple left over, and we ate these the next day with butter (er, Earth Balance) and those twice-toasted muffins were the best of the whole batch!

Let’s get this party started

Tonight was the first chance I’ve had to look over the photos from Thanksgiving. They bring back many delightful memories of an evening well spent in the company of those I love, but when it comes to the food photos it’s a different story. It was a very catch-as-catch-can situation – dim lighting, distracted camera-wielders who were for some reason more interested in eating than in taking pictures, and gorgeous food that did not show itself off at its best when piled helter-skelter onto well-laden plates full of gravy.

pate1

I wish I had better photos to do justice to this meal (it is time for a new camera, that much is painfully clear) but I’ll just use the best ones I have, since one purpose of these posts is to help folks find new vegan, gluten-free holiday meal options. Being able to anticipate the finished product goes a long way, for me at least, in helping me plan a menu.

So let’s start where all good parties start, with the appetizers. Our Thanksgiving starters this year were mushroom-walnut pate, home-pickled turnips and zucchini, and assorted olives.

turnipsThe turnips were an unqualified hit, which was gratifying for me as I’m just beginning my foray into hardcore homemaking (which for me means making my own stock and pickles and such). They were just my usual recipe for Middle-Eastern-style turnip pickles, only I left out the beet that usually turns them bright pink because these turnips were so lovely, slender white roots with lavender tops. The sweet-and-spicy zucchini pickles were an experiment that turned out okay but I still want to tweak the recipe before I share it.

The mushroom pate was fantastic, and got even better over the next few days. I had quite a few post T-day meals that consisted entirely of pate and crackers! I started with a recipe from Cooking Debauchery (check out her post for a much better photo of the pate!) but when Duck had whipped it all up in the food processor and we’d each had a bite we turned to each other, a little panicked. It was just… blah.

After a fair amount of experimentation we determined that the missing elements were salt and onions. We sauteed a diced onion until it was fairly brown and threw it into the food processor with the pate and that was perfection! Reading over the Cooking Debauchery post I see that the author can’t stand onions in any form, and notes that the recipe is adapted from a Passover cookbook (yes! perfect vegan chopped liver!) so I wonder if her adaptation was to remove the onions…?

We doubled the original recipe, and while only half of the pate was eaten that night, the bowl was scraped clean and we were too busy to refill it, so who knows how much could have been put away by our kitchen full of guests if we had let them eat their fill? I would say that for a dozen guests it would be best to make the double recipe, just to be safe, plus, as mentioned above, the leftovers are AWESOME. The only other change I made was to use Shaoxing cooking wine instead of sherry or cognac. I often see that you can use sherry as a substitute for Shaoxing wine, and so I figured the substitution would work in the other direction as well.
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