Oh hello! Thanksgiving, pressure canning, etc.

Hi! It’s me, Renae! I am still alive, still in California, still vegan, still cooking, still obsessed with wildlife. The only thing that’s really new is the pervasive feeling of being traumatized that I’ve felt since the election. I keep reading about these “fake news articles” that are apparently running rampant on the internet. Apparently it’s mostly a Facebook thing and I use Facebook so infrequently that I actually have no idea how to even SEE news articles in Facebook, but I keep hoping that maybe all news articles about Trump winning the election are fake news. Please tell me that is the case: please, please, please. But enough about that because I just can’t deal with it.

I’ve decided to write a post here today mostly because it’s raining today here in the Bay Area and I’m therefore not out hiking as I usually would be, plus I took a few pictures of my Thanksgiving table. We hosted Thanksgiving dinner here for our friends Brad and April, who moved to the area about the same time we did last year. I made:

seitan “turkey”
mashed potatoes
green bean casserole
macaroni & “cheese”
cranberry relish

Here are some pics:

And Brad brought a really delicious sweet potato pie and brownies for dessert.

The “turkey”, stuffing, mashed potatoes, gravy, and green bean casserole I pretty much made up as I went along. The cranberry relish was from Brooklyn Supper and was really good. The bread was the poolish-version ciabatta from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice by Peter Reinhart. The sauce for the mac & cheese was from Avocados and Ales. The “turkey” was pretty similar to the recipe for breasts of unchicken from The Homemade Vegan Pantry (which I love), but I pressure cooked it as a large loaf on Wednesday, then used Miyoko’s recipe for the yuba “skin” and baked it again Thursday afternoon.

The mashed potatoes were really random (well, as random as mashed potatoes can be anyway); Brad asked me if they had red pepper flakes in them, while saying they were really good. One of the random ingredients was a garlic-based spice mix that I bought from Garlic World while stopping in Gilroy one afternoon trying to avoid heavy Highway 1 traffic on the way home from Monterey, and which apparently contained red pepper flakes. And here’s a rough recipe for the green bean casserole for others like me who hate mushrooms:

Green Bean Casserole
2 lbs green beans, trimmed and cut into 2-3″ lengths
1 small onion, diced
2-3 stalks celery, diced
1 cup vegan chicken or veggie broth
3 Tbsp Ultra Gel
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 avocado
3 oz canned fried onions

Bring a large pot of water to a boil and add the green beans. Cook until al dente, then drain and shock in cold water to stop cooking. Saute the onion and celery in some vegan butter or margarine until onions are translucent; set aside. Whisk together the broth, Ultra gel, onion powder, and garlic powder until the broth thickens. Mash up the avocado and add to the broth mixture and mix well. Stir in the green beans, onion/celery mixture, and half of the fried onions. Place in an oven-safe dish, cover, and bake at 375 for half an hour. Uncover and top with remaining fried onions, then continue to bake for 15-20 more minutes. I baked mine, covered, for half an hour, then cooled and put it in the fridge overnight so it only needed 15-20 minutes on Thanksgiving day.

Oh, and the stuffing was really easy:


1/2 loaf sliced whole wheat bread (about 10 slices)
1 large white onion, diced
4-5 stalks celery, diced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp vegan butter (I used the vegan butter from The Homemade Vegan Pantry) or margarine
1/4 cup chopped fresh sage leaves
2 Tbsp fresh thyme
1 Tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped
1 1/2 cup vegan “chicken” broth + 1 tsp poultry seasoning whisked in

Chop the bread slices into cubes and spread out on a sheet pan. Bake in a 240-degree Fahrenheit oven for about 45 minutes or until dried out, stirring occasionally. Melt the butter or margarine over medium heat, then saute the onion, celery, and garlic until the onions begin to turn translucent. Add the sage, thyme, and rosemary and cook another minute or so. Stir in the bread cubes, then add as much of the broth as necessary to soak the bread. Place in an oven-safe dish and bake, covered, at 375 degrees for half an hour. Uncover and bake another 20-30 minutes or until slightly crispy on top. Again, I baked mine, covered, for half an hour Wednesday night, then uncovered for half an hour Thursday afternoon.

I was so organized with my cooking and planning that I was able to go for a short hike Wednesday afternoon before it got dark, and on Thursday morning had a couple hours to just read and be by myself without running around like crazy. 🙂 Really all I needed to do Thursday was bake the bread (I had made the poolish the night before), set out all the appetizers, and re-heat everything. I am good at holidays!

I feel like every time I get around to making a new post I have a new culinary gadget to rave about. Last time it was my Instant Pot. This time it’s my pressure canner! A couple months ago I had 60 pounds of tomatoes I needed to can in one weekend, plus 10 pounds of beets, half of which I was planning to pickle. I’ve done 60 pounds of tomatoes in one weekend in a water bath canner before, but for some reason it was feeling really overwhelming that day and I made the somewhat impulsive decision to buy a pressure canner. It was enough of an impulse decision that I didn’t have time to Amazon Prime it, so I had to find one locally. The only Ace Hardware that had it listed in stock was in Oakland, so I drove out there and went looking for it in that store, but was unable to find it. I asked for help and was told they’d have to special order it for me. I was pretty annoyed I had driven out there for no reason AND I REALLY wanted the canner at this point so I sat in my car and tried to think who else might carry it. I thought of Bed, Bath, and Beyond and went to their website on my phone and was delighted to find that there was a BB&B TWO BLOCKS from where I was that had the same canner in stock! So I went over there and looked around for it. I didn’t see it there either and was feeling a little frantic, until I looked way UP and saw it all the way up by the ceiling. So I had to find someone to get a ladder and get it down for me, but I finally got what I wanted!

I don’t know that pressure canning tomatoes really saves time in itself: the processing time is much shorter than a water bath, but once you add in the time spent venting steam before you start, then getting up to pressure, and then coming back down from pressure (which you must do naturally), really you spend the same amount of time working overall. BUT I can fit a whopping 22 pints into my canner! So basically I can do the equivalent 3 loads at one time, which IS a huge timesaver. I’d have bought the pressure canner for that reason only. But what I’m really loving about it is all the stuff I can now can that I never could before: basically, non-pickled vegetables, beans, and soups. The same weekend I had 60 pounds of tomatoes, I also had 10 pounds of beets, which is a surprising amount of beets. I pickled 6 or 7 pounds (I love pickled beets!) and used a water bath to can them, but then I pressure canned the rest. (By the way, I used my Instant Pot to cook the beets before doing either – the beets are what’s in the Instant Pot in the picture above!) So far I’ve used some of the non-pickled beets to make an impromptu borscht.

As I mentioned on Twitter the day I canned the tomatoes and beets, the “problem” with pressure canning is there is all this time waiting for the canner to come up to pressure that ends up being devoted to drinking and taking pictures of cats, who think they are canning helpers.

So anyway, now I’m on a big pressure canning kick with the goal of canning a bunch of things I can later turn into dinner on very short order – such as during the summer when they days are so long I often don’t come home from hiking until 10 p.m. and I’m starving. I’ve been soaking dried beans and pressure canning them, which I love because it’s so much cheaper than buying canned beans AND contains no sodium or other additives. For some reason I find it immensely satisfying. Last weekend I bought 40 more pounds of tomatoes (which were somehow still in season where I live) in order to make tomato soup. I used this recipe from Common Sense Home, which said I’d get 4 pints out of 8 pounds of tomatoes, so I made 5x the recipe, expecting to yield 20 pints. I somehow ended up with 35 pints! I basically have a TON of tomato soup!

But it tastes great and is really versatile: in addition to serving as regular old tomato soup (usually with grilled “cheese”, of course), it makes a good base for a ton of other soups, and regular readers of this blog may remember how much I love soup.

I used a Victorio strainer to strain the tomato soup and ended up with a large amount of a really dry tomato peel/tomato seeds/celery/onion/parsley pulp/waste, so I spread it out on my dehydrator’s shelves (I used 8 of the 9 shelves) and dehydrated the “waste” overnight. When it was totally dry, I ground it up in batches in a coffee/spice grinder, and I ended up with a whole quart of what I called “tomato soup powder”, which will be excellent to add to soups, etc. (I had previously made a pure tomato powder doing the same thing with the peels and cores from tomatoes I had canned.)

Since I knew it was going to be rainy all day today, I had decided to dedicate today to making Vegan Dad’s pressure canner chili, although I ended up with 9 1/2 quarts instead of the perfect canner load of 7 quarts that Vegan Dad promised (probably because I was overly generous when measuring pretty much everything). (Because you can do two layers of pint jars in my canner, but only one layer of quarts, the maximum number of pint jars I can can at one time is 22, but only 7 quart jars.) No problem: while canning the first 7 quarts, I soaked some of the tons of dried beans I have waiting to can, and I’ll be doing a second canner load of the remaining chili, plus a bunch of jars of beans.

That’s most of the food news here, I suppose. In non-food news, the wildlife rehab gigs I have going on here are going really, really great. One of the two wildlife hospitals I volunteer at has actually hired me as a paid staff member! It’s just an occasional substitute animal caretaker position, so I’m not raking in big bucks or anything, but I was extremely flattered to be asked to do it and I’m extremely excited about the educational opportunities it affords. And I was just made a shift leader at the other hospital, which doesn’t involve a paycheck but will hopefully give me the opportunity to work even more closely with the technicians there and learn even more. I’m also working with many of the education animals at the smaller hospital, particularly with the raptors. This is one of my favorite pictures from 2016, not because I look good (I wish I knew how to use Photoshop and could Photoshop my hair into not looking stupid), but because my buddy Elvis, the peregrine, is in it. Mark, who took the photo at our fundraiser event, says you can tell from the picture how much Elvis loves me. I don’t know if “love” is the right word to describe Elvis’s feelings for me, but I hand-feed Elvis on a regular basis and we do have a special bond, one that I had to build with him. And let me tell you, it is REALLY cool to bond with a raptor, especially a more “difficult” species like most of the falcons. AND LOOK HOW HANDSOME ELVIS IS!!

I think I’m all typed out! If you want to know more regularly than once very six months if I’m alive and well, you can visit my photo blog, which I update daily.

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Boxing Day Nut Loaf

Regardless of the holiday(s) you celebrate this time of year, I hope you’re having a wonderful season. My Christmas was cold, windy, foggy, and rainy, but the rain melted all the snow and I can see our lawn again! Euge! My family eats baked ham for Christmas dinner, so I made baked “hammy” seitan, only instead of the mustard/agave glaze I used for Easter, I used my grandmother’s recipe for pineapple baked ham. I’ll do a post on it sometime. Today Boxing Day was celebrated in many parts of the world, but not America, where most people have no idea if it is some sort of pugilist holiday or what. I got some new kitchen items for Christmas I wanted to break in, and decided we’d celebrate the mysterious Boxing Day the way I’ve decided thousands of European and Australian vegetarians do: with a nut loaf. I’ve never made a nut loaf before, but it seems very British to me for some reason and I wanted to have a very British Boxing Day.

In looking for nut loaf recipes, I found that many of them call for an unfortunate ratio of mushrooms. I finally found this promising-looking recipe that requires no mushrooms (and is accompanied by a video narrated by a lady with a most delightful accent). My recipe is heavily influenced by this recipe, but instead of bread crumbs, I used some leftover couscous I wanted to get rid of. The result was husband-approved…little surprise considering my husband would live off nuts alone if I’d let him.

Boxing Day Nut Loaf

8 oz mixed nuts (I used equal proportions hazelnuts, almonds, and cashews)
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp each: thyme, rosemary, basil, tarragon (or some other combination of dried herbs to your liking, although you have to pronounce the “h” even if you’re American and it sounds weird because it’s Boxing Day and everyone is British on Boxing Day)
1 tsp dried parsley
freshly ground pepper, to taste
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
4-6 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
1 cup vegan stock
2 tsp Marmite
1 cup mixed frozen vegetables (I used corn, peas, and spinach)
5 oz cooked couscous
1/2 cup whole wheat panko (or other breadcrumbs) + additional for topping

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Celsius or gas mark 6, which is 400 degrees Fahrenheit if your oven is American even if you’re not, which you’re not because it’s Boxing Day.

Place some olive oil in a small pot over medium heat and then add the onions. This is my new orange Le Creuset sauce pot, which my parents gave me for Christmas! I LOVE it!

While the onions are cooking, grind the nuts in a food processor or blender, but call it a “liquidizer” because you’re British today. Set aside in a bowl with the nutritional yeast and dried herbs (pronounce that h!).

Whisk the Marmite (it’s British!) into the stock. It’s not pictured, but another of my presents was an electric kettle (oooh, so British!). I had requested one, although with a few reservations, wondering if I would really use it often enough to make it worthwhile. Well, aside from tea, I used it no less than five times today, so the answer is yes, I WILL use it and it’s great! I brought a cup of water to a boil in less than a minute, then whisked in the bouillon and Marmite. Yes, I could have used the microwave, but for some reason I felt a LOT better about using the kettle.

I also used the electric kettle to defrost the frozen veggies. I put them in a bowl and poured boiling water over them to cover, let sit for a few minutes, then drained.

When the onions are soft, add the carrots, cook for a few minutes, then add the garlic and cook for another minute.

Here I’m weighing my leftover couscous so I can record how much I used.

In a large bowl, combine the mixed dry ingredients, the thawed frozen veggies, the onions and carrots, and 1/2 cup panko or breadcrumbs.

Add the liquid ingredients and stir to combine.

Spread into a greased loaf pan or baking dish. I used a shallow baking dish anticipating the same problem I had with my lentil loaf, in which it stayed so moist it never held together. Smooth the top of the loaf. (This baking dish was actually a previous Christmas present from my aunt, so it’s extra appropriate for this post.)

Sprinkle the additional panko or breadcrumbs atop the loaf. I forgot to take a picture before loading it into the oven, so here it is in the oven.

Bake for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

While the nut loaf was baking, I tossed some baby potatoes with some olive oil, salt, pepper, and rosemary and spread them out in another baking dish, which I slid in next to the nut loaf.

Then I halved some Brussels sprouts – which I think the British love during Christmas and I’m assuming Boxing Day – and placed them cut side down in some olive oil in my OTHER new Le Creuset pot, a gorgeous kiwi Dutch oven (which I’ve been lusting after for a while) from Mark.

I let them cook for a few minutes, covered, then took the lid off, stirred them and cooked a few more minutes before seasoning with salt and pepper. I didn’t take any pictures, but in the orange Le Creuset, I made some Fiery Red Wine Gravy – I was pretty true to that recipe, though without the mint.

The finished nut loaf:

And here was our meal, served on a new stoneware plate from my parents, although you can’t see the pattern, which is red boxes (it’s Boxing Day after all!) for the food. Mark and I ate it while watching Whale Wars. The crew only eats vegan meals, which I liked to hear while eating my vegan meal, although I had a hard time with some of the scenes of whales being hurt.

I love my new pots so much I’m storing them on the stove. Well, I love them and also I don’t have anywhere else to store them. So it’s especially good I got the electric kettle since this means the tea kettle got kicked off the stove.

And in other news, Mark and I made gingerbread cookies, using my mother’s recipe, on Christmas Eve. I decorated mine pretty traditionally:

I don’t even know what to tell you about Mark’s:

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Baked Easter “Ham”

As I predicted, I baked some of the ham I made last night for Easter dinner tonight, and I have to say, it was definitely the “hammiest” thing I’ve eaten in 20 years, so I’m getting very close!

I took three of the “cutlets” I boiled last night, scored them, brushed them with a mixture of about 2 tablespoons agave nectar and 2 tablespoons of the balsamic mustard I mentioned in this post (that I got from this post on Cupcake Punk), and studded them with cloves, then baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for about 45 minutes.

I deplore having nothing green with my dinner, but I’m pretty much out of veggies and I don’t think Wegmans was open today. So homemade sauerkraut and more frozen corn it was.

I’m a little hammed out having had it two nights in a row now (and there are still more leftovers!), but I think in a few weeks when I get the urge to make it again, I’ll have a perfected recipe for you!

I also tested the babka recipe for Peter Reinhart’s upcoming cookbook, appropriately enough as it’s Easter. I wasn’t expecting it to turn out that well because it calls for a lot of egg yolks. But I substituted an equal weight of silken tofu and it turned out AWESOME!

I did some more organizing in my kitchen this weekend. What’s interesting about that is I was just looking at my first seitan “ham” post and realized that I made that attempt the same weekend I completely reorganized my kitchen the first time. Weird. Anyway, in the course of cleaning out my cupboards, I found a few things that I’m simply never going to use and I’d like to offer them to any of you who could use them.

First, I bought this set of Calphalon Hard Anodized cookware a few years ago. I use the pots all the time, but I never use the skillets, because as you know, I am extremely attached to my cast iron skillet. These are really, really nice skillets, though. I may have used the larger two once or twice, although I’m not sure I ever used them at all. They are pretty much brand new. I have used the smaller skillet a bit more often, though only for toasting things like seeds, so I therefore never use oil on it and it’s completely clean. I thought about keeping the small skillet, but then I figured I’d keep the set together and get myself one of the small cast iron skillets I’m always eyeing up and talking myself out of because I have a small skillet. If you are interested, leave a comment and I’ll email you for your address so I can send you the set; shipping is on me anywhere in the US. Internationally, let me know your country and postcode and I’ll figure out what shipping will be and if it’s a lot, we can talk. Together the set weighs just under ten pounds.

Secondly, this Italian bread pan. I used it a few times after buying it and it’s great, but I then got a huge baking stone that I now bake directly on. Same deal as above: if you want it, leave a comment.

These are both really nice items that I simply haven’t given the attention they deserve. I also don’t have room for them in my kitchen. I’d love to see them go to someone who will use them. I bought these items specifically because I like the brand name: most of my non-cast iron cookware is Calphalon hard anodized, and most of my bakeware is Chicago Metallic. I just don’t use these particular items. If you want, I can post pictures of them.

I guess if more than one person is interested in one or both of the items, I’ll pick winners at random on Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. (Eastern time). If no one responds by then, I’ll either give them to the first person to comment after that time, or I may find something else to do with them. I’d just like them to have a good home.

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Easter “ham”

I foodically (what? it’s a perfectly cromulent word!) celebrated two holidays today! I made matzo ball soup for Passover lunch. I should have taken a photo, but I made it exactly as Isa directs in Vegan with a Vengeance. I’d never had it before, but it was good.

Then I was a day early, but I found myself in the mood to experiment with making seitan ham again, so I tried to make an Easter ham. It was a last-minute, throw-it-together sort of thing and I didn’t take photos, didn’t write it down, and didn’t think it would turn out well. However, it ended up being the closest I’ve gotten to a hammy taste, so I’m going to record approximately what I did. I’ll try to tighten the recipe up later and report back to you. Oddly, I think the breakthrough thing was an accident. When I went to add the liquid smoke to the pot, I thought for some reason it had the sort of cap on it that limits you to a few drops at a time and I rather rambunctiously dumped it in before realizing it had no such thing, and I added much more than I would ever have thought of using. I thought at first I had probably ruined the broth but I tasted it and it wasn’t bad, so I figured I’d try it. I think the smoky flavor is what made it taste more like ham to me. I have no idea how much I ended up pouring in there but I guessed two tablespoons below. It could well have been three or even four, though.

Seitan Ham

Simmering broth
7 cups water
1 cup soy sauce
2 Tbsp liquid smoke
1 large onion, chopped
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried sage
1/4 cup nutritional yeast

1/3 cup soy flour
2 1/3 cups vital wheat gluten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp white pepper
1 Tbsp smoked paprika (use sweet paprika or omit if you don’t have smoked)
1 1/4 cups water
1 cup ketchup

Bring all of the broth ingredients to a boil in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. In a large bowl, mix together the soy flour, vital wheat gluten, salt, pepper, and smoked paprika. In a large liquid measuring cup, whisk together the water and ketchup. Pour the liquid ingredients into the dry and knead with your hands until all of ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Cut the resulting seitan mass into 6 pieces; shape each into a ball then flatten with your palm and place in the simmering broth. Cover the pot, reduce heat to medium, and simmer for an hour. Remove with a slotted spoon and pan fry or bake. Leftovers can be stored in the refrigerator for a few days in some of the broth.

I did manage to get a picture of the ham floating in the broth:

I don’t know that ham is often pan fried. I think it is ordinarily baked. But I was anxious to get the meal on the table so I just browned it a bit in my cast iron skillet.

I served it with some broccoli and cheeze sauce, corn, and some yeasted bread, because for me, Passover was over.

Tomorrow I may bake the leftovers for my “real” Easter dinner. If I do, I’ll let you know the results.

Mark really liked the ham. Although I asked him if he thought it tasted at all hammy and he said it tasted more like horse. I asked him when he’d ever eaten horse meat and he said once when he was young he said he was hungry enough to eat a horse and a genie appeared and granted him his wish and a horse appeared so he cooked it and ate it. And I said I didn’t believe that story because he doesn’t know how to cook. And so he said he microwaved it. And I asked how did he have a microwave big enough to fit a horse and he said it was a tiny show pony. I still think he might be lying though.

And another thing. When Peter Reinhart’s new cookbook comes out, don’t be afraid to make the cheese bread! I can’t share the recipe, but I made it using a mixture Follow Your Heart nacho and Cheezly mozzarella and it was AWESOME!

Also, my mom reminded me to tell you how Brachtune got her name. I know you’re probably sitting up at nights wondering. I didn’t name her. When I was in college, I rescued her from some neighbors who had her for a while, and because they were irresponsible college boys, no longer wanted her and were going to take her to the pound. They informed me her name was “Brocktoon” and said that it had something to do with Mr Belvedere, which I never fully understood. Although it was not my initial plan – I already had two cats – I ended up keeping her and as I had never seen her nonsensical name in writing, I had to make up a spelling, so I made the spelling Brachtune, figuring it looked vaguely German. People would often ask me what it meant and I’d have to say vaguely, “uh, Mr Belvedere?” One night, however, I had a party which an old friend of mine from high school I hadn’t seen in a long time attended. He asked the name of my cat and when I told him, he laughed and said, “oh from the Saturday Night Live skit with Tom Hanks! That’s hilarious!” Not only did he know what Brachtune was, he had a video tape of the very episode! Two nights later I was at his house watching The Guy Who Plays Mr. Belvedere Fan Club! And it all suddenly made sense.

It’s on the Best of Tom Hanks SNL DVD, by the way, if you ever have a chance to watch it. It IS funny.

Also, since it is Easter, I will share with you a strange factor about my life. PEOPLE ARE ALWAYS MAKING ME DRESS UP LIKE A BUNNY. I DON’T KNOW WHY.

It started when I was very young. This is me and my godmother. I’m what, a month old?

Late-breaking addition from my mom:
I was then a bunny on what my mother said was my first Halloween, but as I was born on October 19, this was either technically my second Halloween or I was a very early walker:

I guess she meant my first Halloween dressing up. I guess I went as an infant for my first Halloween.

Then when I worked in the grocery store in high school, THEY made me dress up like the Easter bunny and walk around terrorizing small children. (There’s a sign for ham behind me, ugh!)

After a time, I just gave in. When a friend of mine asked me to be a bridesmaid, I insisted on hopping down the aisle wearing bunny ears. She vetoed that idea but I did get away with wearing them at the reception.

And this…I can’t even explain this. (Yes, that’s Fortinbras.)

Speaking of Fortinbras, wow, I had no idea you guys were going to want to start a Fort Fan Club! I shouldn’t be surprised as he is pretty awesome. He’s excited to make another post, possibly even next weekend, so keep your fingers crossed. We may have to nag him about it, though. You saw how long it took him to make his Christmas post. In the meantime, here’s one of my favorite pictures of us. We’re in New Orleans for Halloween:

I’m also fond of this one …

… though this one is a bit more typical:

Man, you want more pictures of Fortinbras? That’s a dangerous request. I have more pictures of him than I do of Tigger. I have more pictures of Fortinbras than I do all other subjects put together! But I think instead of digging up old photos, we should just implore ole Fort to make more guest appearances! He’s not vegan, but he’s always been extremely supportive of me, and in fact, he veganized ALL of the holiday foods he made to give away to friends and family just because he was baking them at my house.

And now I’m going to go celebrate my third holiday of the day: it’s Godless Saturday. I figure, since Jesus died yesterday and he’s not to be resurrected until tomorrow, we can all sin with impunity today! And with that, I’m going to go get another beer.

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Guest Post by Fortinbras! Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies

Note from Renae: I’ve been promising you Fortinbras’ Christmas post forever, and he decided Easter was as good a time as any to get around to it. (He exists! He exists! I didn’t make him up!) So with no further ado…

heeeeeere’s Fort!

…and just in time for Easter, I Eat Food Presents:
Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies (a delicious story of addiction, decadence, and ultimately redemption)

6 bottles of champagne
1 cup of granulated sugar
1 cup of light brown sugar
2 sticks of margarine (slightly cool and softened)
The equivalent of 2 eggs using egg substitute (we used egg replacer)
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1 cup of unsweetened, salted all natural crunchy peanut butter (Crunchy is what the recipe calls for, but smooth can be used instead, really the decision is left to the discretion of the baker. Remember: Life is short, as Jesus has taught us, so you use the type of peanut butter that you desire because, who knows? Tomorrow somebody may want to crucify you and you don’t want to be hanging there wishing you had used the kind of peanut butter that you prefer. Amen)

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup of soy milk chocolate chips (optional)

Preheat your oven to 350 and get ready to make the most delicious cookies you have ever eaten in your entire life. Seriously, they are life altering good.

Go on ahead and pop open that first bottle of champagne.

Pamper yourself and pour a nice healthy glass and take a big ol’ swig from the bottle, as if you could be, if given the proper circumstances, a rock star or a naughty politician.

Now that we all feel better about life let’s begin to mix together the essential wet ingredients. Mix the sugars, the egg substitute, the vanilla, the margarine and lastly the peanut butter together in a large bowl.

When incorporating the margarine it is very important that it be soft and slightly cool. If the margarine is melted or room temperature your cookies are still going to taste good, but they will be more thin and crisp after baking. Also, the cookies tend to come out better if the peanut butter is added last, I have no idea why this is but I do know it has something to do with physics and viscosity, parallel dimensions and the letter W. VERY SCIENTIFIC COOKIE STUFF, Y’ALL.

By now you should have finished, at the very least, one of your bottles of champagne. So lets open another, shant we? Why yes, yes we shall.

Now, children of the New Testament Era, it is time to sift the flour and the salt and the baking soda together in a bowl of your choosing. So take a few sips, refill that glass and hop to it.

After sifting the dry thangs together, you should be tired, so reward yourself for all of your hard work by taking a long smooth drink of your cool bubbling champagne. Feel free to laugh as the bubbles tickle the back of your tongue and throat, knowing in your heart of hearts that you deserve this moment. Lucky, lucky you.

NOW FOR THE DEAL, THE OPUS, THE SHOW! Grab your wet ingredients and your dry ingredients and get thee to a mixing station! If you are using a hand mixer I am gonna tell you now, there comes a point with this dough, that you will have to get in there with your hands and mix it using the raw power of all ten digits. Don’t be afraid, it will be okay, take a sip of your fourth bottle of champagne and get in there and make that magic happen! Humph! For those of you who own a professional mixer you may want to forgo allowing those ingredients to fornicate together in the relative privacy of the mixing bowl and just pretend that you own a hand mixer and get in there as well. Let’s keep it clean, but let’s not forget to keep it sexy as well. Everyone begin to add the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until they form a firm dough.

And for the love of God do not forget to take that fifth bottle of champagne out of the freezer!

Now, at this point you should have a good buzz and a stiff cookie dough going. Form the dough into a ball

And, if you were raised in the circus as I was, feel free to toss it about as if it were a bowling pin or a baby.

But remember, accidents can happen.

So if you are not circusy you should probably just take that ball of dough and put it in a bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 to 20 minutes. Use this time to prep your cookie sheets with parchment paper or tin foil, again, remember the cross, and do what you prefer. LET THERE BE NO REGRETS DURING YOUR CRUCIFIXION!

15 minutes and one bottle of champagne later:


By now you should have lost the pretense of the glass and you should be drinking long and deep directly from the bottle, you should also be removing the ball of dough from the fridge and getting out a tablespoon sized scooping apparatus from your drawer of apparati. Now get your cookie sheet in front of you and get that scoop in your hand and I want you to take a very healthy tablespoon sized scoop from your ball of dough using your scooping apparatus of choice and then I want you to roll that scoop of dough between your palms until it is in the shape of a ball.

I suggest that you start with eight scoops on your first tray, spacing them evenly until you gage how much your dough will spread during baking.

Now that you have your dough balls spaced evenly on your baking sheet I want you to smoosh them down slightly, giving each potential cookie a little smack down.

Next place 1 to 3 soy milk chocolate chips in the center of each of the smooshed down dough balls.

Now it is time to raise your bottle and your adorned cookie sheet in celebration of the fact that you have come this far. You are very intelligent and gifted, by this point in the recipe you should already be aware of this.

NOW, very carefully, (because by now if you have been following this recipe to a tee, you are drunk) place the baking sheet with your unbaked smooshed down cookie dough upon it onto the middle rack of your oven and remember to close the door .

You are going to want to bake these cookies for 13 to 16 minutes depending upon your oven, if you have a slow oven you may need to bake them even longer. After you get a feel for how the dough bakes you can increase or decrease the temperature of your oven if you feel that it is necessary. Baking times are so inconsistent between ovens that I refuse to draw a hard line where time and temperature are concerned. Just know this: These cookies aren’t going to be golden brown; at the golden brown stage after they have cooled they tend to be a little over done, still more delicious than any other cookie on the planet, but a little over done. Instead, I recommend that all bakers everywhere should shoot for finding that point where they are simply cooked thoroughly. I find that tasting the first tray of cookies, even if it means that you have to eat them all, can reveal the subtleties of the cooking process that will give you the information necessary to bake these Peanut Butter Salvation Cookies to perfection, just the way Jesus would.


Fort out – it’s Renae again. I CAN’T BELIEVE OF ALL THE PICTURES OF ME FROM THAT DAY I SUPPLIED HIM WITH, HE CHOSE THE ONE CALLED “VERY UGLY RENAE.JPG”. Why is he my best friend again? Oh yeah, because he’s hilarious. And also he thinks it’s okay for us to drink six bottles of champagne while doing all of his holiday baking. And also “very ugly Renae.jpg” was probably one of the least horrible looking photos of me in the batch. (I’ll never let very ugly Renae-2.jpg get out to the public, boy.) Yes, I love Fortinbras. But since he didn’t include any of the nice pictures of the ole Tiggster from that day, I shall:

Tigger used to always hang out with us during parties, no matter how raucous we got. Brachtune, on the other hand, doesn’t know what to make of us when we get rowdy and tends to hole up in a safe place:

And with that, I wish you all a happy Easter as well!

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day, a day late! I made “corned beef” last night:

I was going to share the recipe with you, then decided it’s not quite there yet, but worth working on. At least it was edible. Whenever someone says to me, “everything you make is so good,” Mark is always quick to say, “not EVERYTHING”. When asked to elaborate, he never fails to bring up “the corned beef”. I tried to make “corned beef” seitan about five years ago – following a recipe from the internet, I don’t know which one – and it was so salty it was completely inedible, and it’s saying something when Mark finds something too salty to eat because he’s a saltasaurus. A complete disaster. So I went very easy on the salt in my invention last night, although I think real corned beef is fairly salty. (I’ve never actually had corned beef. I know, I led a very sheltered life before going vegetarian! What’s weird is I think reubens would have been my favorite food ever had I ever had one.)

The other thing that I have made that was not good was the infamous “gasoline cake” that I baked for a friend’s birthday shortly after going vegan. However, that incident was entirely Fortinbras’ fault. It must have been a wacky cake because it had vinegar. Fortinbras showed up at my apartment to help decorate as I was mixing the batter, which I tasted and found to be “off”. I claimed I was going out to buy more flour and mix up a new cake because I’d ruined that one, but Fortinbras tasted the batter and said it was “fine”. I was still pretty new to cooking and baking and didn’t really feel like running up to the store, so with some misgivings, I listened to Fort and baked it up. I decorated it nicely and it looked quite lovely. After singing Happy Birthday, the cake was sliced and pieces were handed around. Suddenly people were making faces and politely putting their pieces down without finishing them. “What’s wrong?!” I shrieked. “It tastes like gasoline,” the birthday girl (never one to mince words) informed me. The only thing I can think of is I added too much vinegar. Only Fortinbras finished an entire slice, claiming it was “fine”, while I yelled at him because I’d TOLD him it there was something wrong with it and had wanted to make another.

A year or two later, though, I baked a cake for another friend who said it was the “most incredible cake” he’d ever tasted and who took the leftovers to his family who also said it was the most amazing cake they’d ever had. So I redeemed myself, just as I hope to redeem myself in regards to the corned beef incident.

I really like the texture I get from pressure cooking seitan, but I’ve been noticing that whenever I do, no matter how many flavorings I put in the seitan and in the broth, the finished product always tastes somewhat bland. I’m really quite baffled by it. Both the liquid for the seitan and the broth I made last night were very flavorful and I thought that seitan was going to be amazing, but it was just…seitan. Like all the flavor had cooked out of it. So I think I have the ingredients right, I need to work on the execution. I’ll try steaming this time. Has anyone else encountered this problem? Were you able to fix it?

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Love Day Lasagne

The lyf so short, the craft so long to lerne,
Th’assay so hard, so sharp the conquerynge,
The dredful joye alwey that slit so yerne:
Al this mene I by Love, that my felynge
Astonyeth with his wonderful werkynge
So sore, iwis that whan I on hym thynke
Nat wot I wel wher that I flete or synke.

Okay, okay…I won’t subject you to any more of The Parliament of Fowls, but consider yourselves lucky because I’ve been known to read the whole thing on Valentine’s Day. Yes, I am a Chaucer geek, and in the days, so long ago, before I met Mark, I was particularly enamored not only of the idea that the first written association of St. Valentine’s Day with romantic love was made by my buddy Chaucer, but also that it ends with the female bird choosing none of her three tercel (eagle) suitors. (As I was picky about men myself and spent many Valentine’s Days alone.) I copied the above out of my battered but beloved Riverside Chaucer, but I’ve found both the original and a modern translation for you. Enjoy!

I’ve been fortunate to have a Valentine for the last eight years and I asked him what he’d like me to make for dinner tonight and he requested lasagne. It occurred to me that I’ve never featured lasagne here, so I documented it. Pour a glass of wine and sit down: this is going to be long. Not because it’s particularly hard to make lasagne, but because I took a gazillion photos….

Love Day Lasagne

1 lb lasagne noodles
1 1/2 quarts marinara sauce (recipe follows)
1/4 recipe cashew cheddar (from the Real Food Daily cookbook; the recipe is here. I only made half a recipe and barely used half of what I made.)
12 oz fresh spinach
1 lb vegan sausage (optional; Mark requested this)
1 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 recipe vegan ricotta (recipe follows)
vegan mozzarella and parmesan, for topping (optional)

Vegan Ricotta
1 lb tofu
2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1 Tbsp miso
1 tsp salt
1 tsp dried basil
juice of 1/2 lemon

Marinara Sauce
1 onion, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 head garlic, minced or pressed (I love garlic, reduce the amount if you’re a vampire)
2 28 oz cans diced or crushed tomatoes
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional; I like a little punch)
1 tsp salt
freshly ground pepper, to taste
juice of 1/2 lemon

First, start the marinara sauce. In a Dutch oven or large pot, heat a bit of olive oil then add the onions and carrots. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the garlic and saute another 5 minutes.

This is about the time Tigger was taking a shower in the sink.

He was really thirsty.

Anyway, when the onions and carrots are soft, add the tomatoes and bring to a boil.

Then add the rest of the ingredients except the lemon juice and turn down the heat until the sauce is just simmering. Allow to cook for half an hour.

While the sauce is simmering, fill a large stock pot with water. This is where I encountered a problem:

Is this normal?!?

When you are able to get rid of the cat, bring the water to a boil and add the lasagne noodles. I have never had luck with no-bake noodles, or not pre-cooking regular noodles, so I always cook my noodles. If you’ve had better luck than I have not cooking your noodles, go for it.

When the sauce if finished cooking, blend in batches in a blender (only after cooling!), or use an immersion blender. (This step is optional.) The stir in the lemon juice.

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes.

Crumble the vegan sausage.

To make the ricotta, place the tofu in a bowl and use your hands to crumble it.

Add the remaining ingredients.

Mix thoroughly; it’s easiest and most fun to just use your hands.

Unmold the cashew cheese.

The last time I made the cashew cheese, it firmed up enough to shred, but I had blender issues this morning and added more soy milk than called for, so it was too soft to shred. So shred it if you can, otherwise, you can just smear it on!

To prepare the spinach, stick it in a bowl and microwave it for 2 minutes. I had to do it in two batches because I didn’t have a large enough bowl to handle it all at once.



To assemble:
Spread about 1/4 cup of the sauce on the bottom of a 9×12 lasagne pan.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of cashew cheddar.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of sausage and sun-dried tomatoes.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add the spinach in a layer.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add the ricotta in a layer.

Add a layer of sauce.

Add a layer of noodles.

Add the rest of the sauce, making sure it slides down the sides of the lasagne.

Cover with foil.

Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour. Remove the foil.

Add shredded vegan mozzarella and/or parmesan.

Return to the oven, uncovered, and bake for an additional 20 minutes. Remove and let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

Serve with fresh, crusty bread!


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Chinese New Year

By now most of you have probably heard about Monday being the Chinese New Year, this year being the year of the ox. I wanted to celebrate but had something to do Monday night so I had to postpone my celebration. Yesterday may have been ideal for implementing my celebratory plans, as the weather was all sorts of snowy and icy and I worked from home, meaning I should have had plenty of time to make dinner, however, I wasn’t hungry at dinner time because I ate lunch too late. So tonight it is Chinese New Year at Mark and Renae’s! The holiday is traditionally celebrated over 15 days anyway, so I don’t feel too bad about being a couple of days late.

I just wanted something light for dinner tonight so this is not an elaborate feast, but I did do something special and that is I made pot sticker wrappers from scratch for the first time. I usually buy pre-made wrappers from Super H, and frankly, although they consist of no more than flour and water, making my own never even occurred to me. I’m not really good with things that need to be rolled out evenly. It seemed like an unfathomable amount of work. As I mentioned earlier, though, the weather is being stupid here and I didn’t have any wrappers in the house. And I’d seen Jes’s pot stickers on Cupcake Punk the other day, which inspired me. So, home early tonight, I embarked on my first pot sticker wrapper journey. The journey wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it would be!

These recipes were adapted from Bryanna Clark Grogan’s Authentic Chinese Cuisine.

Pot Stickers

1 1/2 cups vegan ground beef substitute, either a commercial product (which I used because I had leftovers) or TVP reconstituted in water or vegan “beef” stock
1 carrot, minced
1 parsnip, minced – this is a weird addition and very optional; I only included it because I have parsnips I have to use up
1/2 onion, minced – I’d have used a bunch of scallions instead of the onion if I’d had any
2″ piece of ginger, minced
5 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 Tbsp soy sauce

I used a chopper to mince the veggies:

Mix with the remaining ingredients in a medium bowl.

Next up, the wrappers! Feel free to buy them pre-made, though. I won’t think any less of you! (Do check that they are vegan, I’ve seen egg in them on rare occasion.)

1 3/4 cups all purpose flour
1/2 cup + 2 Tbsp very hot water

Mix the flour and water together, either with a wooden spoon (or your hands) in a bowl, or in a food processer.

If using a food processor to knead, pulse for about 30 seconds. If kneading by hand, knead for about 5 minutes.

Roll dough out into a long “rope”.

Cut off a piece about 1″ long and flatten a bit. As you are working, keep the unused dough covered with a wet tea towel to prevent it from drying out.

Using a rolling pin, roll the lump of dough out into a thin circle about 3 1/2″ in diameter.

I rolled out about 5 wrappers, then filled and sealed them, then rolled out 5 more wrappers, etc. For sealing the filled wrappers, you have two choices: you can either use a pot sticker press or you can pleat them by hand. Until tonight, I have always used a press because I figured it was really hard to do by hand. I was wrong; it’s really pretty simple and nearly as fast as using the press once you do it once or twice. I had to do about half of my dumplings by hand tonight whether I wanted to or not because my wrappers were too small for the press. In either case, have a small bowl of water handy.

To use the press, lay the wrapper on the open press:

Place a scant tablespoon of the filling in the center:

Dip a finger in the bowl of water and rub it along the outer edge of half of the dumpling. Then close the press and squeeze lightly.

Open the press and remove the dumpling.

To pleat by hand, place a wrapper in your palm and then place a scant tablespoon of filling in the center.

Lightly wet half of the outer edge with your finger as described above, then fold the dumpling in half, squeezing the edges together to seal.

Starting on one side of the folded dumpling, make a pleat like this:

Continue pleating the entire semi-circle:

Here is a dumpling made using a press (on the left) next to one hand-pleated (on the right):

Continue until either all the dough or all the filling is gone – hopefully they are about even – placing the filled dumplings on a cookie sheet and covering with a towel so they don’t dry out.

To pan fry, heat a large skillet until hot. Add a tablespoon of oil (I used peanut oil with a bit of sesame oil mixed in, as Bryanna suggested) and tilt the skillet until it is coated evenly. Place as many dumplings as you can fit into the skillet without overlapping, pleated side up.

After two minutes, pour 1/3 cup water into the pan and immediately cover.

Cook until water is evaporated (about 5 minutes). Remove lid and if necessary, continue cooking until bottoms are brown and crispy:

The dumplings will have puffed up a bit.

To freeze leftover (un-fried) dumplings, place the dumplings in a single layer on a cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap to avoid freezer burn.

When they are frozen, remove from the cookie sheet and place in a freezer bag. Cook them exactly as you would fresh dumplings: no need to thaw.

Serve pan-fried dumplings with a dipping sauce. I usually just throw together a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, shaoxing wine (substitute dry sherry), vinegar, hot chili oil, and garlic. Your dipping sauce could be as simple as soy sauce and vinegar or soy sauce and sesame oil.

Although I wasn’t hungry for an elaborate meal, eating nothing but pot stickers for dinner seemed a little wrong, so I also threw together a very fast soup. I just flipped through the same cookbook to find a soup that was very quick to make and called for only ingredients I had on hand. This one fit the bill perfectly (though I had to use frozen instead of fresh spinach).

Tofu and Spinach Soup

2 1/2 cups vegan broth or stock, any flavor
1/2 cup frozen spinach
1 ounce bean thread noodles
1/2 cup tofu, cubed
1 1/2 Tbsp shaoxing wine
1 Tbsp soy sauce
Sichuan pepper, to taste (optional)

Place all ingredients into a small pot. Season with sichuan pepper if you’d like.

Cook for 5 minutes. Eat.

And that was my little Chinese New Year celebration! Happy Year of the Ox everyone!

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Robbie Burns Night

My first mistake was informing Mark it is Robbie Burns Night. My second mistake was reminding him, as I do every year, what Robbie Burns Night is. My third and final, fatal, mistake was admitting that yes, I’m making vegan haggis.

Although I’ve been vegetarian for five times longer than Mark, and although I swear it does not resemble nor taste a thing like real haggis (which I assume is true although I have no idea what real haggis looks or tastes like), Mark absolutely refuses to so much as try a bite of anything I refer to as “haggis”. What I should have done is told him it was “meatloaf” (though we just had meatloaf on Friday, which was poor meal planning on my part), or anything but haggis. I made it once before, the first Burns Night after we were married. It seemed appropriate: we were married in Scotland, so the country holds a special place in my heart. Mark, however, ate nary a bite. So for subsequent Burns Nights, I’ve not bothered with the trouble of making a haggis no one is going to be eating but me. This year, however, I am the proud author of a food blog, so I felt somewhat obligated to celebrate. Even if haggis is really, really disgusting.

The first time I made vegan haggis, I used this recipe or something very like it (sans mushrooms, of course). I tried telling Mark – truthfully – that it tasted like stuffing, which he loves, but he wasn’t having it. This year I did my typical glance-at-a-few-differentrecipes-then-make-something-up routine. This is what I did:

Vegan Haggis

2 Tbsp barley
2 Tbsp green lentils
1/4 cup steel cut oats (I used Irish oats, sue me)
1/2 cup vegan “beef” broth
1 Tbsp Marmite
1/2 large onion, minced
1 stalk celery, minced
1 parsnip, minced
3/4 package vegan “ground round”
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Note: I used commercial “ground round” because I had a package that was set to expire. Next time I might try bulgur or something more natural.

In a small pot, cook the barley in 1/2 cup water for half an hour.

In another small pot, cook the lentils in 1/2 cup water for half an hour.

Toast the oatmeal briefly in a frying pan over medium heat.

Mix the broth and Marmite together, then add the oatmeal. Cover and set aside.

(I added the seasonings in this step, but I’ll instruct you to do it later because I realized it dumb to do it at this step.)

Mince the onion, celery, and parsnip. I used a chopper.

Heat a small amount of oil in a medium frying pan. Add the minced veggies and saute until soft.

Add the “ground round” and seasonings; saute for 3 minutes.

When the lentils are done …

… drain them …

and add to the “ground round” mixture. When the barley is done …

… drain it …

… and also add to the “ground round” mixture.

Drain the oatmeal, reserving the broth.

Add it also to the “ground round” mixture.

Dump the mixture into the center of a large piece of muslin or heavy cheesecloth.

Mold it into a lump with your hands.

Wrap it up as tightly as you can, securing with kitchen string.

Place the reserved broth and enough water to make 4 cups of liquid into a medium pot, then add the haggis.

Bring to a boil, cover, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 hour or longer. Remove from broth and allow to cool until you can touch it. Squeeze out as much liquid as you can without smashing the haggis. Unwrap.

(I boiled it because it seemed like what you do with haggis, however, I think next time I might bake it like a meatloaf.)

Serve with gravy.

Apparently you pretty much have to serve haggis with “neeps and tatties”, or mashed turnips and potatoes. I assume most of you know how to make mashed potatoes so I’ll skip that. I took a hint from Bryanna and roasted the neeps first. They got very small in the oven; six turnips barely made two servings.

Mashed Roasted “Neeps”

6 – 8 turnips
olive oil

Trim, peel, and chop the turnips into evenly sized pieces. Place on a baking sheet. Pour a small amount of olive oil into your palms, then rub the turnips with it.

Roast at 375 degrees for 40 minutes or until done. They will have shrunk!


This year I tried something new and also made cock-a-leekie soup, the traditional Burns Night starter course. How could I resist making something with that name?! I’m not sure if barley is normal in this soup, but I saw it called for in this recipe and thought it sounded like a good idea.

Cock-a-Leekie Soup

1/2 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1 parsnip, chopped
3 leeks, chopped (white and light green parts only)
4 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
4-6 cups vegan “chicken” stock
1/3 cup barley
1 cup Soy Curls
2 large or 4 small potatoes, chopped
1/2 tsp thyme

Chop the leeks.

Chop the parnsip.

Chop the celery.

Heat some oil in a soup pot, then add the onions. Saute for 3 minutes.

Add the leeks. Saute for 5 minutes.

Add the celery, parsnips, and garlic. Saute another 3 minutes.

Add the broth.

Add the potatoes, Soy Curls, and barley.

Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat, and simmer for 30-45 minutes or until barley is cooked.


And here is the entire meal. I had leftover gravy from Friday’s meatloaf; you can make your favorite recipe.

I drank wine with mine instead of Scotch, firstly because I don’t generally drink hard liquor, especially on work nights, and secondly because all I have is Irish whiskey (from a Bloomsday celebration, which honestly I take a little more seriously). I might get away with using Irish oats, but surely I’d be in trouble for drinking Irish whiskey on Robbie Burns Night! I also failed to pipe the haggis to the serving table, mostly because I don’t have bagpipes nor know how to play them. To make up for that, though, here is a picture of Ian, the piper from our wedding. Yes, that’s Pig.

Here’s one reason I don’t play the bagpipes:

Nor did I recite any of Robbie’s poetry, for which I have absolutely no excuse other than my Scottish accent is awful.

I’d have made Mark wear the kilt he wore to our wedding, but it’s at his mother’s house (she made it for him!) and every time she tries to get him to take it home with us, he “forgets” it. Sigh. So maybe I failed being very Scottish today. But don’t get me wrong: I love Scotland.

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I didn’t bother documenting my preparations for Thanksgiving because I didn’t do anything unique, unusual, creative, or different, so I figured I’d spare the world a boring post. But then it occurred to me that I might be interested to know what I did this year, next year. I only cooked for me and Mark. We went to the parental homestead, but my parents make a traditional meal and there’s no way I could ever convince them to eat vegan on Thanksgiving. Maybe some other day, but not Thanksgiving. My mother does make vegan portions of her dishes where possible, so I was saved from making a few things like mashed potatoes. It took me about three hours to knock out the following:

1 seitan “turkey”
green beans
“turkey” gravy
cranberry sauce
1 loaf of bread

In the past, I’ve spent more than three hours simply trying to decide what to make, perusing my cookbooks and the internet, looking for recipes and ideas. I’ve found it’s so much easier to just go into the kitchen and make stuff up as I go along!

I cheated on the bread: I had frozen a loaf before the final proof on Sunday, and just popped it out of the freezer and into the refrigerator the night before, then proofed for longer than usual before baking. And it wasn’t for really for Thanksgiving as my mother had two different kinds of rolls. The bread was for leftover “turkey” sandwiches later. Mark was so excited about the “leftover” sandwiches he started eating them the night before!

Everything I made (other than the bread) was totally off the cuff, and since I wasn’t planning to post it, I didn’t even try to mind measurements. But here is approximately what I did:

Seitan “Turkey”

2 1/4 cups (1 box) vital wheat gluten
1/2 cup soy flour
1/3 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp poultry seasoning
1 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp white pepper
2 cups vegan “chicken” broth

Mix dry ingredients together. Add broth. Form into log, wrap in cheesecloth, tying off ends like a Tootsie Roll, then pressure cook for 45 minutes. Remove from pressure cooker, set in foil inside a baking pan, and baste with some sort of sauce (I used one from the Tofutti site: some apricot preserves, soy sauce, pepper, and water). Bake at 375 degrees for an hour, basting periodically.


10-12 slices whole grain bread, sliced and cubed
1/2 onion, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 half Granny Smith apple, chopped
1/2 tsp rubbed sage
1/2 tsp cracked rosemary
freshly ground pepper
1/2 cup vegan “chicken” broth

Because my bread was pretty fresh, I spread the cubes out on a baking sheet, then after baking another loaf, turned the oven off, let it cool for a few minutes (it had been at 430 degrees Fahrenheit), stuck the sheet in the oven and let the bread cubes dry out for somewhere between 5 and 10 minutes. Then in a cast iron pan, I sauted the onion and celery until soft, then added the apple, sage, rosemary, and pepper and stirred, then mixed in the bread cubes. Then I poured the broth over everything and combined until the cubes were mostly soft. I moved the mixture to a Pryex baking dish, patted it down, and baked at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for half an hour. Mark was obsessed with the stuffing and tried to eat it all before we even made it to my parents’.

“Turkey” Gravy

2 Tbsp Earth Balance
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 Tbsp nutritional yeast
1/2 tsp poultry seasoning
1/2 tsp salt
freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegan “chicken” broth

In a heavy-bottomed pot, melt the Earth Balance. Whisk in the flour and other dry ingredients to form a roux. Slowly whisk in the broth, adding a little at a time to avoid lumps. Heat until thickened.

Non-Casserole Green Beans

1 pound green beans, trimmed
shallot salt (from Penzeys)
fried onions

I used to loooove green bean casserole, although my mother always made it with cream of celery soup instead of cream of mushroom because I hate mushrooms. Even as late as last year, I would make vegan versions of the traditional green bean casserole. But the idea of adulterating green beans that way sort of makes me ill these days, so I cooked the green beans for 5 to 7 minutes in boiling, salted water, then drained, tossed with shallot salt, and topped with fried onions. They were almost entirely cooked, but I left myself a little leeway for continued cooking when reheating them the next day. If I were serving them right away, I would have cooked for another minute or two.

Cranberry Sauce

12 oz fresh cranberries
1/3 cup agave nectar
1/4 cup orange juice

Heat all ingredients in heavy-bottomed pot until cranberries have all burst and mixture is somewhat thickened (it will thicken more upon cooling). Refrigerate for at least an hour.

My mother made a vegan dessert! Look!

It’s wacky cake! Here’s the recipe:

Classic Wacky Cake

Serves 6 to 8

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa powder
3/4 tsp. baking soda
1/2 tsp. salt
5 T. vegetable oil
1 T. white vinegar
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1 cup water
confectioners’ sugar for dusting

Adjust an oven rack to the middle position and heat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease an 8-inch square baking pan.

Whisk the flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt in the prepared pan. Make 1 large and 2 small craters in the dry ingredients. Add the oil to the large crater and the vinegar and vanilla separately to the small craters. Pour the water into the pan and mix until just a few streaks of flour remain (but break up lumps). Immediately put the pan in the oven.

Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30 minutes. Cool in the pan, then dust with confectioners’ sugar. (The cake can be stored at room temperature for up to 3 days).

Mum’s tip: don’t dust with the confectioners’ sugar until just before serving because the moisture in the cake will soak it up, causing it to “disappear”.

From “America’s Best Lost Recipes,” by the editors of Cook’s Country.

Per serving (based on 8 servings): 238 calories, 3 grams protein, 9 grams fat, 1 gram saturated fat, 37 grams carbohydrate, 2 grams fiber, 0 milligrams cholesterol, 264 milligrams sodium.

After we humans ate dinner, my parents’ silly dogs got some dog treats. This is Shannon scarfing them down:

This is him smiling about it:

Those treats were lip-smacking good!

Sophie Mae didn’t want to be photographed eating, but here she is being wary of me:

And that’s it for today! I hope all my American friends had a great Thanksgiving yesterday (or last month for the Canadians), even if the Australian Muck accidentally wished me a Happy Independence Day instead.

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