Friday, November 29, 2013


Paul in his happy place.
Thanksgiving used to be my absolute favorite holiday. Not only did I get together with my family, whom I love, but it was one of those few days a year of unbridled consumption without shame. My sister and I would pop open the champagne at about 9am and bond over potatoes and bubbles. It is in this state that we have decimated a number of garbage disposals by putting down quantities of potato peelings without thought. But I digress...

When Paul & I chose vegan and became all too familiar with the horrors of animal agriculture, particularly the birds, that joy was diminished. It was replaced with a wonderful curiosity and eagerness to make vegan Thanksgiving sumptuous.

Michele's 1st vegan Thanksgiving & she didn't miss the Turkey!
I wish my family had more curiosity about spending a Turkey-less holiday with me, but as one family member said "_____ will not give up his bird." That is one special bird. Actually a V-Giving looks identical to what everyone is familiar with with the exception of the bird. 

Most of you know I'm not a hard sell when it comes to veganism or exposing animal agriculture, and I won't start now. However, I do like to provide links for those whose interest is piqued. Bird animal agriculture is horrifically cruel. 45 millions turkeys ended their short, miserable, dirty, lives for Thanksgiving 2013. Here is one link regarding this. To find out more about how amazing and loving turkeys really are, please visit my favorite group, Woodstock Animal Sanctuary's turkeys.  Did you know that turkeys love listening to music, especially classical music?

Our menu for this year was:
  • Sherry laced "crab" stuffed mushrooms
  • Cranberries & orange sauce
  • Garlic mashed potatoes with cashew creme
  • Whipped pecan candied sweet potatoes
  • Green beans with mushroom creme and crispy shallots
  • Stuffed Vegan Roast en croute 
  • Crispy Vegan Roast stuffed with apricots and sage.
  • Bread stuffing with vegan sausage.
  • Maple pecan pie
  • Pumpkin Pie
  • Brownies
This is an auspicious occasion as this is the first time I'm sharing an original recipe (well, nothing is completely original, perhaps I should say it is an innovation on a standard). If you are still in redneck heaven with Campbell's cream of mushroom and French's fried onions, I get it. However, if you are yearning for this with an upscale twist, I'm pleased to oblige.
Green Bean Casserole w/ Mushroom Creme & fried Shallots
Green bean casserole

For the mushroom cashew cream:
1c organic whole raw cashews (do not use cashew pieces, they are too dry to make the cream)
1.5c vegetable broth
1T and 1t of arrowroot powder
8 oz. mushrooms sliced (I like to de-stem them prior to slicing)

For the green beans:
1 lb. green beans, cleaned and ends trimmed
1-2 cups shredded vegan Cheddar cheese (my fave is Daiya brand)
1T olive oil
Ground black pepper

For the fried shallots:
6 large double-shallots
High heat frying oil (organic canola, safflower or sunflower oil)
2 cups Flour for dredging

The night before:
Cover cashews with filtered water and let soak overnight, or at least 8 hours. If you have a high powered blender (Vitamix or Blendtec, you can reduce soaking time to 2-3 hours, however, longer is better).

The day of:
Add green beans to a pot of boiling water (salt the water if at altitude). Cook until bright green ( approx 5-7 minutes) and the transfer to a colander. Place ice cubes on top to stop cooking for about 5 minutes. Drain and place in casserole dish.

Meanwhile, drain the cashews and add them with broth and arrowroot powder to blender. Blend until smooth and creamy, scraping down the sides, as needed.  If you have a high powered blender like a Vitamix or a Blendtec, this will take only a couple of minutes. Lower powered blenders could take up to 5 minutes. Scrape out with flexible spatula, and set aside.

Heat 1T olive oil in pan and cook mushrooms until soft, and most of the liquid from them has evaporated. Remove from heat and fold in cashew creme. Add ground black pepper. Taste for seasoning. Set aside.

Add the flour to a mixing bowl. Slice shallots, and while they are still moist, add them to the flour and stir to coat. Heat 1/2" of oil in fry pan. Shake of extra flour prior to frying. When oil is hot (test by adding a small piece of shallot, it should sizzle immediately), add shallots in batches. Fry in one side the turns I a slotted metal spatula to the other side. Drain on paper towels and add salt.

Frying Tip: If you need to add additional oil, do so in between batches and allow oil to get hot again. Adding shallots to oil that is not very hot will allow the food to soak up oil, rather than fry, resulting in soggy shallots.

Assembly: Pour mushroom creme mixture into casserole and fold in cheddar. Cover with foil and bake at 350F for 15-20 minutes until warmed and cheese is melty/soft (vegan cheese sometimes take longer to melt than dairy cheese). Remove foil, add fried shallots to top, and bake an additional five minutes so shallots are crisper.
Serve hot.

Time Saving Tip: Everything can be made and assembled up to 2 days before, except for the fried shallots.

Next year, y'all are invited.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Love & Food

Yam & Green Chili Pirogi
Happiness is not the best muse for songwriting, but it is my muse for cooking. So after a 2 year hiatus, this blog will resume.

My cooking commitment this winter will be to two things: Bread and Cheese.

Cheese. Yes. Vegan cheese. Don't laugh or you won't get any. My first unsuspecting suspects will be at the annual vet clinic Holiday Party in 3 weeks. I have my supplies coming 2-day air from (you really must get an Amazon Prime account. Free 2nd day shipping and tons of movies to watch for free. It's the best deal in town).

My first attempts will be a Chevre, Brie, and a hard cheese - probably the Harvest Cheddar. I will document as I go along.

Chocolate cake w/mocha buttercream
High altitude baking does present a challenge, but as I've become more adept in the cake & pie department (still far from my goal), I think I'm ready to tackle yeasty things. My last attempt with Cinnamon Rolls, were a success, which was inspiring. The decadent looking cake on the right is a chocolate cake with mocha buttercream. I was also trying my hand at a little entry-level decorating. I'm glad I sing better than I decorate. Regardless of beauty, I took half to Sunday's Unity meeting and the other half to work at the clinic. Needless to say I'm glad I reserved a slice for Paul & I as it was demolished in no time flat.

One of the reasons I started this blog was I kept getting asked "What the hell do vegans eat, anyway?" and this is my loving response. Tomorrow you'll see that Thanksgiving can be decadent, overindulgent, and cruelty-free.

Happy Thanksgiving and Happy Hanukkah to all!