Friday, November 24, 2006

The right way to celebrate

I've been cooking so much in the past couple of days (not necessarily all for Thanksgiving) that I haven't even had a chance to blog about it! But it may be some days before I really cook anything again--we have got enough food in our fridge right now to last us nearly a week! But I am excited that I finally have a few minutes to share it with you.

I told you that I have been meaning to try the Rosemary Seasoned Tofu Balls from Vive! Bob and I finally cooked them on Wednesday afternoon for lunch. They turned out to be a very labor-intensive meal--partly because I made my own breadcrumbs so I had 2 food processors working. The only tweak I made to the recipe was to use a green pepper instead of red, as that was what I had that needed to be used up. This recipe was incredibly delicious! I loved the texture of the balls--crispy on the outside and soft and tender in the middle. They were packed full of flavor, and the balsamic marinara sauce that the recipe provides to serve them with added another dimension of sweetness and tanginess. This is a recipe I would use again if I was really trying to make someone say "Wow..."

After we had lunch on Wednesday, we went over to Common Ground Athens where Food Not Bombs was cooking. They always cook and serve on Wednesdays and Sundays, which are our two church days. But this Wednesday we didn't have a service so we wanted to check it out for the first time. We had the most amazing time cooking and serving the homeless people in front of the winter shelter downtown. It was so cold outside Wednesday night, and the people who were gathered at the front of the shelter waiting for us when we got there were largely wearing only light windbreakers or long flannel shirts. I was so glad that the food was piping hot and that there was plenty for everyone--what if this was the closest thing to a Thanksgiving meal that some of these people would get? I cannot think of many causes I believe in as much as taking produce that grocery stores would otherwise have thrown away, and making it into a delicious and healthy meal to feed to people who need it. It was a wonderful experience, and I hope that we can be involved more often--even if we come by to cook before church and then have to leave before it is time to serve.

And then, of course, was Thanksgiving. We went to celebrate with Bob's family, and it was a wonderful visit. Let me count... I think there were 17 people there overall, which I must say was kind of a shock to me, because Thanksgiving with my family has always been four, five, maybe six. This was my first year not being with them and in a way it made me sad, but in the end I was comfortable being with Bob's family.

Besides the food that Bob and I brought, the dishes that we were able to eat were flat Italian green beans cooked with almond slices; cranberry chutney (which was from a jar, but still excellent); baked sweet potatoes; and a gorgeous salad full of cucumbers and grape tomatoes and every color bell pepper I've ever seen, except purple. Here was the spread that Bob and I brought along:

And of course, for dessert:

We made mashed potatoes, using red potatoes, golden potatoes, and some beautiful purple potatoes that I remember seeing Leslie blog about and thinking, I should try those! The marbled look was so beautiful, particularly since we left the peels on. Anyone know anything about the nutritional value in different kinds of potatoes? Maybe I'll have to look it up... Anyway, we made a big batch of The Grit's Yeast Gravy to go along with the mashed potatoes, and the gravy seemed to be well-received at dinner.

I was so intrigued by these potatoes because, well, they were beautiful. See?

And we had to buy a potato masher because we've never had one before. But the cheapest one was this silly looking one with googly eyes. I thought this picture was too funny:

Anyway, moving on... We made garlicky kale again, which goes incredibly well with mashed potatoes and the nutritional yeast gravy from The Grit. We made two bunches of kale, and there is one serving left over. I have to credit VWaV for the idea of Garlicky Kale, though Bob and I have just taken to making it our own way and serving it our own way.

Our main dish was this stuffed acorn squash, and I just developed the recipe along and along. I've made something similar before, and I intended on following the recipe that I used the last time, but I did end up modifying it substantially with great results, so I'll share my new recipe.

Laura's Acorn Squash with Apple-Tempeh Stuffing

3 acorn squash, halved, seeds & pulp scooped out
1 cup uncooked rice (I used a brown & wild rice blend)
1 package tempeh, crumbled (I actually made the Tempeh Sausage Crumbles recipe from VWaV, which was a very nice touch)
3 large tart apples, diced
4 ribs celery, diced
4 teaspoons yellow onion, minced
1/2 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/3 - 1/2 cup apple cider
Dried sage
Salt & pepper to taste

Cook the rice in 2 1/4 cups water until all of the water is absorbed, about 45-60 minutes. Mix the apples, celery, onion, bread crumbs, and tempeh in a large bowl. Add the cooked rice. Add apple cider as needed to make the entire mixture moist but not too liquidy. Add sage and seasonings to taste. In an oiled casserole dish, line the squash halves and stuff the cavities with the stuffing. You can pack it in pretty tightly. Place the rest of the stuffing around the squash in the pan; you may need a separate pan for some of the stuffing, if there's too much. Cover with tin foil and bake at 400 degrees for at least an hour, but two hours or so if you have time.

This made an excellent main dish; it was so filling, though, that I only managed to eat half of one before I had to stop.

Finally, dessert was the pumpkin pie recipe from Bryanna that we made before, but this time we tried her streusel topping. We also put a couple spoonfuls of brandy in the pie, which I would highly recommend--but if you do, you may need to reduce some of the other liquid by a spoonful or two, as our pie didn't set quite as well this time as it did before. No worries--it was still absolutely worthy of being the finisher for a wonderful Thanksgiving meal, especially with a little dollop of Soyatoo! whipped topping.

I have always had excellent, excellent Thanksgiving meals, all my life. My mom is a wonderful cook, and she really goes all out on Thanksgiving. I really do think this year was the best, though--not because I cook better than my mom, but because I knew that no turkeys or cows or pigs had to withstand any sort of cruelty to bring a delicious meal to my plate. Not only that, but the food Bob and I contributed was about 95% organic, as was, I'm sure, the first Thanksgiving. It just felt like the right way to celebrate the holiday.

In the future, though, I really look forward to veganizing my mom's cornbread dressing recipe--it is really tasty and I know that I can make it delicious and animal-free! But not anytime soon--Bob and I have tons of food to finish up as it is.

Happy weekend to you all!


springsandwells said...

What a fun and interesting post! I love reading about all your delcious-looking culinary creations, and also about your experience with Food Not Bombs.

I most especially love the rainbow mashed potatoes! How fun!!

:) Amey

aTxVegn said...

Oh my goodness, what beautiful food! Everything you made turned out perfect! I love the potatoes. I told Leslie I would have walked past the purple potatoes in the bin if she hadn't blogged about them. They're so pretty mashed with the other color potatoes. Maybe their color gives them some added nutrition over white potatoes (like sweet potatoes).

The food service is a great community service. It really is disgusting how much food we waste.

Again, everything looks amazing. You did an awesome job! I'm glad you enjoyed your Thanksgiving.

Johanna3 said...

wow looks like you have a amazing day. love all the food looks so good!

Dori said...

Food looks great and I love the potato masher... lol! I have been eyeballing stuffed acorn squash recips. I love the looks of them, Dreena has one that I think I'll try soon.

Hope your Thanksgiving has found you with much to be thankful for. :)

bazu said...

I love all the pictures and descriptions and can totally identify with not wanting or needing to cook for a while! (Plus I love leftovers) But, being the silly person that I am, my favorite pick that I keep going back to is that potato masher- too cute! When I first saw the photo I thought you had painted a happy face on a potato! =)

raising_kahne said...

I think the puple potatoes are so cute! I like how you guys leave the skins on when you mash them. I always leave mine on, I hate peeling them. Your potato masher is so funny! Ive been hearing quite a bit on how the tofu balls are really good. I dont really like rosemary that much, so I havent given them a try yet. What kind of pie was made for dessert??

Carrie™ said...

I've made those rosemary tofu balls from Vive and I quite liked them. I made a huge batch and froze them so whenever I'm in the mood for some, voila!
I have never seen blue potatoes before. Orange cauliflower, but not blue potatoes. I'll have to keep my "eyes peeled" HA! And I adore your potato masher! How fun!
I'm glad you had a nice Thanksgiving. When I was growing up, big family gatherings like that ended up being at least 15 people and now with Jim's family, maybe 6 or 7, so I find it a bit of an adjustment the other way.
I wish there was a Food not Bombs closer to me. I think it would be a truly great thing to do. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.

Candi said...

So much good food!! I love the tofu balls! Do you think they would be really labour intensive if you used already made breadcrumbs? I'll have to check out the book!

Food Not Bombs is such a great idea. I hate to think of all the food that we waste, and love that some people in need are receiving meals because of amazing people like you.

Ok, about my favorite foods ever: potatoes, your tri-coloured dish looks excellent! I leave the skins on too:

The skin of the potato contains the majority of the potato's fiber, and many of the nutrients are located close to the skin. *

Regarding nutritional differences in the potato varieties, My nutritionist always says to go for the brightly coloured fruits and veggies (purples, blues, red) including potatoes. Here's a quote off the web:

VIBRANTLY COLORED VEGETABLES ARE often more nutrient-packed than ones with tamer hues, and that holds true for potatoes as well. Red- and bluefleshed potatoes, found in the produce section or in potato chip bags, get their color from pigments called anthocyanins. In other foods, like grapes and berries, these anthocyanins have been shown to protect cells against oxidative damage, which is responsible for many age-related diseases.


I love that potato masher!!!! Lol!

The stuffed squash look really yummy and fancy! Thanks for posting your recipe!!

I'm glad you had a great Thanksgiving with awesome vegan foods, and a chance to make a difference to those in need!!

Vicki said...

goodness, this all looks so delicious. love the spuds with all the color - & the spuddy buddy masher is adorable! it's all about the potatoes here. lol! :o)
laura, your thanksgiving sounds wonderful, but i think the best part is that you served the homeless. you have a big heart & that's what makes the world go 'round.

jess (of Get Sconed!) said...

First off, TWO food processors? I'm excited enough about owning 1! Now you've put the wicked thought of 2 into my head~
The tempeh stuffed squash looks and sounds so, so tasty (especially since the market had one that looked similar, but what do I need more food in the house for).

funwithyourfood said...

What a wonderful feast you had! I'm glad you were able ot feel comfortable with such a large crowd. I have a small family too but richard's is HUGE. I'm sure our first family get-together may be a bit terrifying ;) hehe


laura jesser said...

Thanks for all your friendly comments. I've been sick for several days and therefore not reading blogs much (headaches only get worse from staring at computer screens), but I'll be back to your blogs soon, I promise!

Raising kahne, I made Bryanna's pumpkin pie. It was soooo good!

Candi, thanks for all the info on the potatoes--cool!

Urban Vegan said...

I need to sit down and digest after just looking at all these wonderful dishes. The pie especially looks so luscious and decadent.