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Thursday, November 20, 2014

Thanksgiving Inspiration Part I - Hors d'oeuvres and Desserts

It's been a while since I've done a holiday suggestion round up, but since the blog just featured a great vegetarian option for Thanksgiving, it made me think it would be worth putting together a guide. Although my blog is flexitarian, these suggestions are vegetarian and vegan in focus. So here, in no particular order, are my humble suggestions!

Hors d'oeuvres

Easy snacks for arriving guests are the name of the game here. These are do ahead treats that go great with wine and require little from you on turkey day. 


Fermented Cashew "Boursin" cheese. Yup, vegan, dairy free, delicious. If you want to shock your eaters, make this amazing "cheese." It's amazingly mind-blowing!

Olives are always easy and fun and when you marinate them yourself, you can taylor the flavors. Here's my version of them Moroccan Style.

Nuts are always a great snack to serve and these Maple Rosemary Glazed Walnuts will be a huge hit. But truly heed my warning and triple the batch, they are seriously addictive!


Desserts

I have to admit that desserts are very much an afterthought for me, except at Thanksgiving! While my sweet tooth is general MIA, pumpkin pie is one of my favorite foods, probably because the sweetness factor isn't too high! That being said, if you are cooking for a crowd, it is good to have some variety. So beyond the traditional pumpkin and pecan, here are some suggestions.


Limoncello Macaroons with Lemon Icing are definitely not traditional turkey day fare, but they are easy to make and improve with age and will keep well in the refrigerator! Oh, and deliciously addictive to boot!


Chocolate is usually de rigor in some sort of dessert, and last year I had a sinfully rich chocolate pecan pie, but it really was a recipe for a bellyache! Try this Chocolate Ricotta Tart instead. Rich dark chocolate taste with the creaminess of ricotta!

Lastly, a fruit pie of sorts, inspired by the French: Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette. Rustic in look but elegant in taste.


Happy meal planning

Hugs!

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Wild Mushroom Nutloaf with Porcini Gravy

As any scientist will tell you, sometimes experiments go haywire. Liquids boil over, beakers catch on fire, mini explosions occur. Other times, your hunches serve you well and things go your way. The same is true in the kitchen. We all are kitchen chemists, mad culinary scientists looking for something new or interesting to do with the same ingredients and sometimes it all comes together and you feel pretty pleased with yourself.

Exhibit A: Wild Mushroom Nutloaf with Porcini Gravy.

Yes, this is not what you make when you need to throw dinner together in a hurry. And it looks like a daunting list of ingredients and preparation. It's not really, probably most likely you have everything already in your refrigerator or a well-stocked vegetarian pantry. And if dried porcinis are not a part of your pantry, buy some. They make mushroom meals that much tastier; a few pieces of dried goodness imparts so much flavor.

This is my own recipe, a reasonable guess you could call it. These are the things that were on hand, so maybe if you don't have all of the nuts, you can just make sure there is a cup and a quarter of nuts in the loaf or greek yogurt instead of sour cream. It's really a throwback to hippie food but with lots of zip and pizzaz. While you may be tempted to not make the gravy, talk yourself out of that laziness, the gravy really makes the meal, particularly if you make mashed potatoes to go with it! This to me is the perfect vegetarian Thanksgiving meal, forget about any kind of phony tofurky business!

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Aloha Marinated Tofu Burgers

Where I live is paradise to me - gorgeous virgin beaches, redwood forests and lushness all around, small artistic and intelligent community, bike friendly and environmentally minded. On top of all that, we have an incredible local food economy, everything from great local produce to local corn chips, salsa, breads, cheeses and tofu. Yup, we have a local tofu producer and they make lots of great marinaded tofu products. So inspired by their aloha marinaded tofu I made this burger.

I bought Tofu Shoppe's plain tofu and put it through some hoops, namely I froze it. Freezing tofu and then defrosting it makes it more chewy and better able to absorb marinades because in freezing and then defrosting the tofu, you remove some of its moisture, more so than just pressing it. It soaks up marinades like a sponge! Of course if you're short on time, you can just press fresh tofu and marinade it for 30 minutes. But if you remember to do the freezing/defrosting process, it does produce a more flavorful burger.

I'm calling this an aloha burger since it has similar flavors to the aloha marinaded tofu that our Tofu Shoppe sells, but its just basically pineapple and ginger that give it that specific flavor. And those are ingredients specifically found in Hawaii.

By the way, in case you actually looked at the picture closely, that is a ceramic Coke bottle which my beau included in the picture which he took, because as he said, "it's a burger!" Love him!

Sunday, November 2, 2014

Polynesian Inspired Red Cabbage Slaw

Here's another fun cabbage salad. It's easy to make and deceptively delicious with the addition of pineapple and its juice. I know it's kind of tacky calling anything Hawaiian or polynesian just because it has some sort of tropical fruit in it, but it captures the spirit of the salad even if it's wholly inauthentic!

Polynesian Inspired Red Cabbage Slaw
(serves 3-6)

2 cups red cabbage, shredded
1/2 cup corn
1/2 cup pineapple, diced
1 carrot, sliced in thin rounds
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1/2 cup cashews, toasted
1 tablespoon sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup cilantro, minced
1 serrano, deseeded, minced
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1 lime, juiced
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt

Combine all ingredients and toss well. Allow to sit or serve immediately.

Hugs!

Recipes currently inspiring me:

Grilled Eggplant and Mint Salad at Sidewalk Shoes
Dosa Spring Roll at Holy Cow!
Plum and Marzipan Crumble Pie at Eats Well With Others

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Wild Mushroom Marinara with Strozzapreti

Mushrooms have been landing on our plates quite a bit lately, in part because they come to us free but also because their substantial texture is great for vegetarian fare. This marinara is a great example.

My beau's youngest daughter loves her marinara sauce and it was actually her idea originally to mix mushrooms with green olives, something that really wouldn't have occurred to me. But what deliciousness! I added the capers for a little more briny flavor and a pinch of red pepper flakes since any marinara usually can benefit from a little zip!

Like most homemade tomato sauces, this one comes together super fast and if you can make it with fresh pasta it almost feels like a treat! Lucky us we have a shop here in Arcata that sells fresh, organic pasta for only $6 a pound - such decadence! We usually get fettucine or linguine, but for this chunkier sauce the strozzapreti was just the shape, holding the sauce and the mushrooms in its slight waves. Any other corkscrew shape would work well too.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Waldorf Salad for the 21st Century

I love cabbage. Really. Green, red, I love it all. My mom used to pack wedges of it in my high school lunches and I ate it without shame, despite the heckling. My current family is slowly warming to my cabbage love, but making salad like this one certainly speed the process!

Waldorf is one of those salads that got stuck in the time-warp of the 1970s - thick mayonnaise dressing with lots of sweetness that often made it cloying and reverse mouth-puckering for me - too sweet! It was an attempt to make fruits and vegetables more palatable by adding, of course, more sugar. Here I've toned it all done with a honey mustard vinaigrette (hey, it's vegan!) and added the cabbage for a little more veggie heft. The raisins didn't make it to the party simply because they weren't in the pantry and sometimes (often!) I'm lazy. But feel free to add them in if you like or any other dried fruit of that size - blueberries, cherries, cranberries - all would work well.

It's apple season in much of the Western Hemisphere so when you're tired of eating them plain as a snack, make this updated Waldorf salad with those delicious, crisp and juicy apples. Your taste buds (and diners) will thank you!