My last post was about my first vegan Halloween. And there's been a whole lotta stuff that's gone down since then in the realm of family drama, travel, getting knighted, stolen purses and spinal taps. Doesn't leave much time or inclination for blogging.
But now I'm kinda going through withdrawl. There's still not much time for blogging, but the inclination has returned, hence my Christmas reflection :)
And I was totally lying about the whole getting knighted thing.
It seems kind of late to blog about Christmas, but my tree is still up, as are my lights and a whole crapload of other decorations, so it's still appropriate. Plus we just had a snow day on Friday (score no school!) and my Zooey Deschanel Christmas cd is still in my car. I can drag this Christmas stuff out for a little while longer.
Which brings us to Christmas Dinner. This year we opted for a low-key Christmas, and just had some close friends over on Christmas Eve. This worked out great for me, as our tradition has always been a meat-free Christmas Eve. At my mother's insistence we still had fish on the table, but at least I didn't have to tolerate the revered turkey carcass that has been the centerpiece of so many Christmas Days.
The meal began with a Polish staple, borscht (beet soup).
Vegan by default, this is a soup I grew up on, staining many a white shirt over the years. It's tangy and red and delicious, made even better paired with uszka, little perogy-dumpling like bits of dough stuffed with mushrooms.
Uszka literally translates into ears (gross), and this was the first year I bothered to question why they were called that, only to realize that they do kind of look like ears.
This Christmas my mother was kind enough to veganize the dough so I was able to partake in the uszka goodness, which is awesome because beet soup just isn't the same without doughy, mushroomy chunks of awesome floating around in it.
A couple of years ago, after watching too many episodes of Hell's Kitchen (where Gordon Ramsay would always feature either lamb or beef Wellington at dinner service) I made it my life's ambition to try beef Wellington. I had the opportunity to do so on a cruise ship, and quickly discovered I loved meaty things wrapped in pastry (which should have come as no surprise considering the amount of cocktail wienies I've consumed in my life). This is why I was super excited to bust out my Field Roast Cranberry Fig Loaf for the main course this Christmas Eve.
This dish has that special occasion vibe to it...it's not something you have just any day. It's awesome. The flakyness of the pastry on the outside combined with a tasty, slightly sweet inside thanks to the cranberries and figs makes for a nice, classy main dish. I topped it off with Cranberry Apple Sauce (which I think I found in a Taste magazine from BC Liquor stores a couple of Christmases ago) and Savory Gravy from Skinny Bitch (p. 146).
This is hands down my favourite cranberry sauce...and I'm not even totally sure where I found the recipe. Regardless, it's super easy, delicious, and such an integral part of Christmas dinner that I'm going to go ahead and post the recipe:
Cranberry Apple Sauce
- 1/3 cup apple cider or juice
- 1/4 cup sugar
- 12 oz bag fresh cranberries
- 2 apples, peeled, cored, & chopped
In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, dissolve sugar into juice over a medium heat. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until cranberries pop and sauce thickens. Makes about 4 cups.
That's it. Super easy. Super festive. Super yum.
The Skinny Bitch gravy is made with miso and nutritional yeast, giving it a strong, distinct flavour, and is super creamy. The recipe also makes a ton of the stuff, so we had a lot left over. It worked brilliantly on the Field Roast, and would be just as brilliant on mashed potatoes or Gardein or oatmeal (maybe if you're pregnant).
Field Roast Cranberry Fig Loaf - 4 Happy Tongues
Cranberry Apple Sauce: 4 Happy Tongues
Savory Gravy - 4 Happy Tongues
I also busted out a couple of tried, tested and true Alicia dishes...Scarlett Roasted Vegetables (Kind Diet p. 267) and my favourite Cornbread (Kind Diet p. 163).
With the help of my mother, we also veganized a couple more Polish staples...cabbage rolls and perogies, but they deserve a dedicated post of their own (coming soon! Unless I get another friggen spinal tap and end up with another week-long spinal headache and need another epidural blood patch so I can sit upright without my head exploding or I really do get knighted...that might result in another blogging hiatus).
My vegan dishes did have to share the table with some non-vegan options, because my mom hasn't quite embraced the plant-strong world fully yet, but overall the potential for a totally vegan Christmas was evident. And considering the copious amounts of leftovers we had (because overestimating the amount of food you will need is somehow engrained in the Polish community), I am hopeful that next Christmas we can eliminate even more animal products from the dinner table.
Of course, we cannot forget dessert.
Firstly, this Tarte Aux Pommes from Vegan Yum Yum has a delicious, easy to make crust, and with it's warm, fruity, cinnamony essence, it falls under the comfort food umbrella and brings me to my happy place.
I didn't roll out my dough enough, so it was a bit short to fold up over the top all around, but luckily this is a very forgiving dessert to assemble because you don't have to close off the top with dough.
Also, if you're in the mood for something ridiculously sweet and decadent, you must try this Sinless Sticky Toffee Pecan Pudding from Oh She Glows. My friend tweeted this recommendation to me, and I knew I had to try it. Holy crap, does this taste naughty without being all that naughty thanks to brown rice syrup. This dish is best right out of the oven while it's still nice and warm. and I'd assume it would be even better with ice cream. Brown rice syrup has a unique flavour, and it might take newbies a couple of bites to acclimatize to it if they're expecting a traditional caramel/toffee flavour, but the satisfying sweetness easily won me over.
Blurry pic quality...my bad.
Tarte Aux Pommes - 4 Happy Tongues
Sinless Sticky Toffee Pudding - 4 Happy Tongues
So there you have it...an easily veganizable, delicious Christmas dinner that is colourful, nutritious, delicious, and kept me full all the way through Midnight Mass that night. And of course I snuck another piece of pie after Midnight Mass, because it was Christmas, and anything you eat in the middle of the night at Christmas doesn't count. Santa will totally back me up on that one.
Speaking of Santa, we also left out vegan snickerdoodles from Enjoy Life for him that night, along with a glass of almond milk. I'm sure he was most appreciative, because they were all gone by Christmas morning.
And Rob the Husband, in addition to hooking me up with a She & Him Christmas cd, an iPhone 4S (SCORE!!) and having my wedding dress heirloomed (after 8 years of it sitting scrunched in a bag in my closet), also got me a beautiful box of di erbe vegan bath stuff from Winnipeg...body lotion, lip balm, soap, and facial stuff.
That bath stuff should make up for my birthday milk bath faux pas in Whistler a few months ago.
The vegan gift awesomeness continued as my mom and sister gave me two vegan dessert books to add to my Vegan Cupcakes Take Over the World.
Sigh...so Christmas 2011 was the last time I'll experience my first vegan Christmas. As I approach the one year mark of my plant-strong lifestyle, I'm quickly running out of vegan firsts, having gone through all the major holidays and all four seasons. But I figure there will still be lots of other plant-strong firsts to experience along the way.
Like my first time listening to She & Him's Christmas Waltz while eating kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Quick...go grab a bag of kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast and we can experience this first together! Unless you've already listened to She & Him's Christmas Waltz while eating a bag of kale chips sprinkled with nutritional yeast. Then it won't be a first for you. It's ok...Zooey loves you anyway.
That just put a smile on my face for the rest of January :)
But I'll try not to smile too big because kale chips like getting stuck in my teeth. Not attractive.
Merry Very Belated Christmas :)