Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Vegan-Vegetarian Holiday Menu


It’s the time of year for big, festive meals.  For many vegetarians and vegans, this is a mixed blessing.  Celebrating with a bunch of family and friends is wonderful, but then the FOOD ISSUE comes up.  Given the prevalence of vegetarians and vegans now, I’m sure almost everyone has their story of either (vegan) trying to explain that they eat more than salad to (omnivore) going out of their way to accommodate a visitor – with mixed results – only to have a refrigerator full of strange, expensive ingredients that will never be used again.  Sound familiar?

Here’s a menu certified by my omnivore friends as delicious and friendly to all vegetarians, vegans and omnivores alike.  It’s also very doable for anyone with basic cooking skills – or even someone who can read the detailed directions below.  This menu came about in my determination to enjoy Thanksgiving dinner even though I was working night shift on the medical wards all week.  I finished my shifts for the week on Friday morning, went to the grocery store to purchase ingredients, then went home, baked the pumpkin pie (because it needs to cool completely before eating), went to sleep for a few hours, then got up and made the rest of the meal.  Everything was ready in time for dinner!

Consensus – success! Many of the omnivores said they wouldn’t even miss the turkey!  Others said it would be perfect if only there were turkey.  Vegetarians/Vegans were universally thrilled.


Bottom Center, clockwise to the pie, and then center: 
Acorn Squash with Herb Stuffing and Dried Cranberries
Chioggia Beets with Pomegranate Syrup
Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Mushroom Red Wine Gravy
Rustic Mashed Potatoes
Classic Herb Stuffing
Cranberry Sauce with Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Vinegar
Pumpkin Pie
Field Roast Celebration Roast (Gardein Holiday Roast or Tofurky Roast)


Part of what makes a veggie holiday meal relatively quick to make is that the centerpiece protein is either forgone or is substituted with a commercially prepared roast of some kind. All of which take between 1-2 hours to cook in the oven, versus 2-3 times that long for an average-sized turkey.  Jokes abound about Tofurky, but there are other options on the market that are pretty good.  My favorite is the Gardein Holiday Roast. Good runner-ups are the Tofurky Roast and Field Roast Celebration Roast.  The texture of the “meaty” exterior portion of the Gardein roast is the most similar to poultry that I’ve found. It is also the least salty.  A big issue I take with many vegetarian meat alternatives (or “faux meat” as I like to call them) is that they are really salty.  However, I don’t think most people who eat out or eat a lot of processed food would notice, because all vegetarian options that I’ve encountered have less sodium than most commercial turkeys – mainly owing to the fact that many turkeys are injected with a salt solution prior to purchase.  Many people who buy non-injected turkeys brine theirs before cooking which still lends to a relatively high sodium end product.  However, the sodium level after brining is probably more on par with some of the higher sodium vegetarian alternatives.   Of course, I completely understand those who want to avoid soy protein isolate (beyond the scope of this post) which is present in the Gardein Holiday Roast.  If this is you, opt for the Field Roast Celebration Roast or the Tofurky Roast – or go completely homemade and avoid a faux meat centerpiece, opting instead for a couple more tasty sides.  I have explored making my own faux meat roast in the past, and besides being A LOT of work and VERY TIME CONSUMING, they don’t turn out much (if any) better than the commercial products.


Field Roast Celebration Roast
Nutrition Information

Gardein Holiday Roast
Nutrition Information

Tofurky Roast
Nutrition Information

Turkey - average commercially available
Nutrition Information (Breast Meat)



Notes on the other menu items: the cranberry sauce is a yearly staple.  Once people try this, they’ll never go back to the can-shaped mold of years past.  It’s easy, not as cloyingly sweet as others you’ll try, and addictively delicious. As our friends noted at Thanksgivukka this year, it’s also delicious on latkes with sour cream!  As for the classic herb stuffing, I made it with the dried cranberries and loved it.  Purists, like my fiancé however, much preferred the traditional, non-cranberry version.   The mushroom red wine gravy will definitely rival – and beat – almost any turkey-based gravy.  The roasted beets are good with the pomegranate syrup, but if that’s not your thing, just toss them with a teaspoon of red wine vinegar and a tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil after removing from the oven and they’ll still be tasty.


Acorn Squash with Herb Stuffing and Dried Cranberries
For those who opt for no faux meat, this makes a great vegetarian centerpiece for any holiday meal!



Ingredients:
1 medium acorn squash
2 teaspoons olive oil
Salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Classic Herb Stuffing with optional cranberries (recipe, below)

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Wash acorn squash, then cut in half the long way (through stem).  Use a spoon to scrape out all the seeds and inner membrane.
3. Brush both cut halves of the squash with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. 
4. Place cut-side-down on a baking sheet that has been sprayed with non-stick spray.  Bake for 40-60 minutes or until just fork tender.
5. Turn squash cut-side-up, scoop in enough Classic Herb Stuffing (with optional cranberries) to fill the center of the squash.  Return to oven for 10 minutes.
6. Remove from oven to serving plate. 

Makes: 4 servings.


Chioggia Beets with Pomegranate Molasses



Ingredients:
6 medium beets (I used Chioggia, but any beets will work)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
2 Tablespoons pomegranate molasses, divided (available in the Middle Eastern groceries or aisles)
½ teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit (If your oven is set to 350 degrees for everything else, that’s fine but there will be some extra liquid at the end of cooking).
2. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
3. Peel beets and slice them about 1/4-inch thick and put them into a medium mixing bowl.
4. Add the olive oil and toss to coat. Then add 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses and salt and toss to coat.
5. Transfer beets to the baking dish and place in the oven, uncovered, for about 25-35 minutes, or until fork tender.
6. Remove from the oven and transfer to serving plate.  Drizzle with 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses.  Serve warm, room temperature or chilled.

Makes: about 6 servings


Roasted Brussels Sprouts



Ingredients:
1 pounds Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon kosher or sea salt and more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Cut off the dried out stem ends of the Brussels sprouts and pull off any wilting, yellow or bug-eaten outer leaves.  Then, slice them in half through the stem end (so each half has half of the stem).
3. In a medium mixing bowl, toss halved Brussels sprouts with the olive oil, salt and pepper.
4. Pour immediately onto a sheet pan and roast for 20 minutes.  Remove pan from oven, flip sprouts over and roast another 10-20 minutes or until spouts are browned but not burnt.
5. Remove from oven and sprinkle with a bit more salt (optional). They taste best when salted like French fries.  Best when served immediately.


Mushroom Red Wine Gravy

Ingredients:
2 tablespoon olive oil
3 1/2 cups low-sodium vegetable broth, divided
1 cup finely chopped white onion
8 ounces mushrooms of your choice (I used crimini), trimmed and chopped (1/4-inch dice)
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup any type of red wine (DO NOT USE “cooking wine”)
2 tablespoons reduced-sodium soy sauce
3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
3-4 tablespoons whole-wheat flour (3 for thinner gravy, 4 for thicker)
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:
1. In a medium or large sauce pot set over medium-high heat, heat olive oil and then add onions and mushrooms.  Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent and mushrooms have released much of their liquid, 5-10 minutes.  Reduce heat slightly if onions start to brown.
2. Add ½ cup of broth, garlic, rosemary and bring to a simmer for 1-2 minutes.
3. Add wine, bring to back to simmer and cook 1 minute while stirring.
4. Add 2-1/2 cup broth and bring back to a simmer.
5. In a measuring cup, use a fork to stir together soy sauce, nutritional yeast and flour to make a thick paste.  Slowly stir in the remaining ½ cup of broth until the mixture is smooth.  Drizzle this mixture into the simmering pot slowly while stirring constantly to prevent gravy from becoming lumpy.
6. Stir until mixture returns to a simmer and for 1 minute beyond this.  Simmer for 5 minutes longer (no need to continue stirring) over low heat to finish cooking the flour.
7. Add pepper and adjust seasoning to taste.

Makes: 4 cups


Rustic Mashed Potatoes
These are skin-on mashed potatoes. The skins add nutrients, flavor and texture. If you want a more refined product, feel free to peel before cooking.  If you peel them, you can also cut them into 1-inch chunks to speed the cooking process.  Russets are best for fluffy mashed potatoes because they have a high starch content.  Potatoes tend to have a high burden of pesticides, so it is best to use organic if possible.  If organic are not available, peel potatoes as above.



Ingredients:
3 pounds small to medium organic Russet potatoes of similar size, scrubbed
1 to 1/2 cups unsweetened soymilk or rice milk (vegan) or whole milk (vegetarian)
6 Tablespoons Earth Balance (vegan) or Unsalted Butter (vegetarian), cut up into chunks
Kosher or sea salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Directions:
1. Put the whole unpeeled potatoes in a 6-quart or larger pot with enough cool water to cover the potatoes.  Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
2. Salt the water to the saltiness of the ocean (about a Tablespoon of salt) and reduce heat to medium-low.  Simmer until potatoes are fork tender to the center of the potato, about 25-35 minutes.
3. Drain water from potatoes.
4. Add Earth Balance or butter to pot. Use hand potato masher (or stand mixer, or hand mixer) to mash potatoes, adding dairy or non-dairy milk until you achieve your desired consistency.
5. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Makes: 8-10 servings


Classic Herb Stuffing


Ingredients:
10 cups of whole-wheat artisan bread cut into ¾ to 1-inch cubes from (approximately 1 pound loaf)
¼ cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon finely chopped garlic (2-3 cloves)
1 cup chopped white or yellow onion (1/4-inch dice)
1 1/2 cups chopped celery (1/4-inch dice)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh sage (or 1 teaspoon rubbed, dried sage)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves (or 1 teaspoon dried thyme)
1 Tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary (or 1 teaspoon dried ground or chopped rosemary)
½ cup sweetened dried cranberries, optional
1/2 teaspoon salt, optional (only if using unsalted stock)
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
3 cups vegetable stock

Directions:
1. Lay cubes of bread out on baking sheets in a single layer and allow to dry for at least 6 hours.  Alternatively, dry bread cubes in a 200 degree F oven until dry on outside but not rock hard.
2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit. Spray a 13x9-inch baking dish with non-stick spray.
3. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until starting to brown on the edges, approximately 5-10 minutes. Transfer to a large mixing bowl.
4. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F.
5. Heat half (2 Tablespoons) olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat.  Add onion, garlic and celery, stirring occasionally, until onions are transparent.
6. Transfer ingredients from sauté pan to mixing bowl with bread cubes.  Add sage, thyme, rosemary, salt and cranberries (if using) and pepper. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil.  Stir until ingredients are mixed together.
7. Add one cup of vegetable stock at a time, stirring after each addition until stock is absorbed. Mixture should be moist and clump together, but not soggy.  You may need to add additional stock to get this texture.
8. Transfer to baking dish and bake uncovered for 30 minutes.

Makes: 10-12 Servings


Cranberry Sauce with Toasted Walnuts and Balsamic Vinegar



Ingredients
1 pound (4 cups) fresh or frozen whole cranberries
1 ½ cups sugar
1 cup water
1 whole orange, unpeeled, seeded and chopped fine in food processor
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
½ cup crushed pineapple (from a can or chopped in a food processor)
½ cup toasted walnuts, roughly chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon balsamic vinegar
Salt to taste, optional

Directions:

1. Wash cranberries and set aside.
2. Bring sugar and water to a boil, stirring occasionally.
3. Add cranberries, chopped orange and ground cloves.  Simmer over a high flame, stirring frequently, until berries pop open. 
4. Add crushed pineapple, chopped walnuts, cinnamon, black pepper and balsamic vinegar.  Adjust salt to taste. 
5. Set aside; can serve hot, cool or room temperature.

Makes: 5-6 cups


Award-winning Pumpkin Pie
This is the pie that I won the Le Cordon Bleu student pie-baking contest with while in culinary school.  Needless to say, no one will miss the eggs and evaporated milk!
 
(A little one helped decorate…)
Ingredients:
1-12 ounce package firm, silken tofu (lite or regular) – this is the kind that sits on the shelf unrefrigerated
1-15 ounce can pumpkin (without sweetener or spices)
½ cup brown sugar
¼ cup white sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 unbaked 9-inch pie crust*

Directions:
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. In food processor or blender, blend tofu, pumpkin, brown and white sugars, cinnamon, ginger, cloves, nutmeg and salt until completely smooth (no white tofu specks should be visible). 
3. Pour filling into the piecrust and bake for 35-60 minutes.  The timing is always quite different for me; check with a thermometer in the center to see when it reaches at least 160.  Alternatively, you can remove it from the oven when the edges are well set and the center BARELY jiggles.  Cool completely on a rack and then refrigerate until serving.
4. Serve with whipped cream or the whipped tofu cream recipe below.


Pie Crust
*This is the pie crust that I use.  It makes two 9-inch pie crusts, which is actually enough for two pies. You can halve the recipe or store the second half of the dough for a pie at a later date. It is totally acceptable to use a store-bought piecrust instead if you wish.

Ingredients:
1-¼ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup whole wheat pastry flour
½ -1 tsp. salt (Only use if making the recipe with butter.  If using Earth Balance, only add 1/8 teaspoon salt)
½ cup cold, unsalted butter (vegetarian) or Earth Balance (vegan)
¼ cup vegetable shortening or extra virgin coconut oil
4-5 tablespoons ice water

Directions:
1. In medium mixing bowl (or food processor), add flours, salt, butter (or Earth Balance) and shortening (or coconut oil).
2. Use a pastry blender (or food processor) to cut (or pulse) in the butter and shortening until pieces are pea-sized or smaller.
3. Stir (or pulse) in one tablespoon of ice cold water at a time until dough forms a ball.
4. Separate dough into two equal pieces and wrap each in plastic wrap.  Refrigerate for at least 1 hour. You can also freeze at this stage if doing ahead.
5. Remove half the dough from the refrigerator.  On a lightly floured countertop, roll out with rolling pin until dough is 1/8-inch thick and larger enough to fill a 9-inch pie pan. 
6. Fold dough in half and then in half again.  Transfer dough to pie pan with the point of the folded dough exactly in the center of the pan.  Unfold dough to fill pie pan.  Crimp or scallop edges of crust as desired. 


Field Roast Celebration Roast, Tofurky Roast or Gardein Holiday Roast

Follow packaged directions.  All include recipes for a glaze.  Make said glaze and use it to baste the roast during cooking to maintain moisture and add flavor.  Baking time is 45 minutes to 90 minutes.  Cook until internal temperature is 165 degrees as indicated on meat thermometer or as indicated on package directions.