Wednesday, November 25, 2009

A Vegan Thanksgiving Feast!

Okay, Thanksgiving day did not turn out to be a breeze! But, I was thankful for all the work that I did ahead of time. Dinner was supposed to start at 7 but unfortunately our dinner guests got lost! So, we ended up eating around 9. Things were pretty well cooled off but we were all so hungry that we didn't let it bother us.

Harvest Canapés with Chipotle Cheese Topping
I had these little yummers set out when people arrived. I was not able to find chipotle chile in adobo sauce here so I used a mexican salsa instead. Not the same, but close enough. I also couldn't' find plain vegan cream cheese so I bought herb and garlic instead. I think it did a little something special! And, continuing the pattern of straying from the recipe, I garnished with carrots and cilantro. First, I don't like radishes, and secondly, I needed fresh cilantro for the salsa so, 2 birds, one stone.

Arugula Salad with Roasted Grapes
I just wanted to taste roasted grapes! Instead of pecorino cheese, thinly sliced, I used Sheese Cheshire crumbled. I picked it for no particular reason other than it seemed unique. I also used dried thyme instead of fresh in the dressing.

Poblano-Cucumber Salsa
Truly, I don't know why I am even calling it this. I didn't follow the recipe at all! I couldn't' find a poblano chile and I am allergic to cucumbers! I basically made a chunky guacamole.

Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin
I had to make some big substitutes in this recipe also! I wasn't able to find tomatillos or hominy. Instead, I used corn and beans, and a red, green, and yellow pepper. The stew was supposed to make 6 servings but I didn't feel like it was enough so I added more water, 6 potatoes and 4 carrots. I have only found one company that makes vegan cheese here and it is one I had heard about and wanted to try while living in America but never got around to. It is called Sheese. I bought the Smoked Cheddar to sprinkle in the bottom of each pumpkin before the final bake. I half pre-baked the pumpkins a day early to make it easier/faster. They only had to cook for about 45 minutes to melt the cheese and heat the pumpkin and soup before dinner.

Green Beans with Walnuts and Shallot Crisps
I made these last year. They are amazing but the shallots are a bit of a pain in the butt. Completely worth the effort though. The only change I made was using olive oil instead of vegetable. I also used my homemade "maple syrup" and it tasted wonderful!

Pomegranate and Maple-Glazed Beets
I am not a fan of cranberries but love beets so I strayed from the traditional route, but get points for similar color, right!? I was able to use my homemade "maple syrup" for this recipe also! I bought one pomegranate and decided to use my blender and make my own pomegranate juice because I knew one would be enough for the juice and the garnish (plus the juice is insanely expensive!). What a pain and a complete mess! I had to designate one sponge specifically for clean up duty. Juice was everywhere!!! I was washing parts of my kitchen that may have never been touched before.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic
I am obsessed with Brussels Sprouts and have made this basic recipe hundreds of times (seriously). I always get the same response from guests, "I don't care for Brussels Sprouts." But, I have never had a person eat one and not love them when prepared correctly!

Cauliflower Purée
You have to scroll down pretty far to find this recipe but I loved it as a substitute for mashed potatoes. I found a vegan Parmazano cheese that worked well and again, used dried thyme instead of fresh.

Mexican Mocha Pudding with Pumpkin Cream

YUM!!! I was thinking of skimping out and buying some instant chocolate pudding and adding the spices and simplifying my life. But what fun would that have been? Needless to say, I am so glad I didn't. I used Sucanat for the sugar, as the recipe suggests. I found an egg replacement product called Substitut d'oeuf. The recipe calls for 1 large egg and 2 egg yolks. I basically used the equivalent of 2 eggs. The whipped pumpkin cream calls for 15 oz of canned pumpkin. I searched high and low and gave up on finding it! I ended up roasting my own pumpkin and it was delicious and easy.

Chai-Spiced Pistachio Brittle never happened. I ran out of time but did purchase all the spices and nuts, so maybe in a future post!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Apple-Squash Soup with Rosemary Crackers

My current food obsession: soup. Could it be the rainy, cold, gloomy, dare-I-say-it, miserable weather of Vienna? Yes. But dinner tonight was so easy and so delicious! We managed to eat the entire pot of soup, minus one lunch serving for John. I had two large bowls, John had three, and the rest went to work with him today. The recipe for the soup had to be adjusted a bit. I used olive oil instead of butter and veggie broth instead of chicken. And, because of the curry flavor, I decided coconut milk would be a nice addition instead of soy creamer. Today, as John was pouring the final portion into his to-go ware for lunch, he tasted a bit with his finger and said it was even better today! The crackers were also insanely easy and I chose to put rosemary on top, but they can be sprinkled with any type of spice or herb.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Thanksgiving Dinner - Tomorrow!!!

Today is a busy day so that tomorrow I can work on making the house look nice, setting the table, and the final assembly of the food. And a bit of relaxing before guests arrive! So, the plan for today is as follows:

Clean and roast the 4 pumpkins for the soup bowls. (I will only half-roast because I plan to heat them and the stew up along with melting the sheese in the bottom tomorrow. I don't want them to be too mushy).
Prepare the spread for the Canapés.
Make the salsa, the dressing for the salad, the mocha pudding, the dressing for the green beans and beets, and the brittle.
Roast the grapes for the salad.

I won't add the dressings or spreads or put anything together, just have it all prepared and in air tight containers in the fridge.

It seemed like a lot to do in one day (it was!) but it all came together pretty quickly. And tomorrow will be a breeze :-)

Thanksgiving Menu

We thought it would be fun to invite a few of our new non-American friends over for Thanksgiving. John has made friends with a guy at work and he and his girlfriend will be joining us for dinner. I am so excited to meet new people and make friends! So, last week I created a spread sheet of 5 meal options and, with John's help, narrowed it down to the final menu! Most of the items come from the October 08 issue of Vegetarian Times Magazine. The meal includes:

Harvest Canapés with Chipotle Cheese Topping
Arugula Salad with Roasted Grapes
Spicy Fall Stew Baked in a Pumpkin
Poblano-Cucumber Salsa (goes on top of the stew)
Garlic Roasted Brussels Sprouts
Pomegranate and Maple-Glazed Beets
Green Beans with Walnuts and Shallot Crisps
Cauliflower Purée
and for dessert, Mexican Mocha Pudding with Pumpkin Cream and Chai-Spiced Pistachio Brittle.

The brittle is a little unnecessary but John drooled over the picture for a few minutes so I tossed it into the mix.
My first thought, this is a lot of food for 4 people. But, the stew will be baked in individual little pumpkins and, although there will be more stew to offer, I wonder if people will ask for seconds considering the massive amount of other things to choose from. Also, most of the side dishes make food for 6-8 people, but I am making half portions.
Knowing this meal was going to take quite a bit of time to prepare, I got to work as soon as the final menu was set in stone. I started buying the dry ingredients about a week ahead of time because a) I have trouble finding ingredients here mainly because their names are in a language I don't read/speak (yet)! and b) there are so many ingredients to find.
Today, 2 days before Thanksgiving, I accomplished the following: All ingredients are purchased. Veggies are appropriately washed, chopped, and stored in Green Bags (these are the most amazing invention ever!).
The pumpkin for the dessert topping is roasted and pureed(this is only if you live in a country that doesn't have canned pumpkin or if you just want to make it fresh yourself).
The walnuts are roasted and I prepared the shallots for the green beans.
The bread is sliced and in the freezer in an airtight container.
I made the maple syrup substitute. (Again, this is if you live in a country that charges €9 for maple syrup. Please! That is over $13.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Apple Strudel Pie

I purchased some Strudel Pastry by mistake a few days ago. I grabbed it thinking it was phyllo dough but instead it was much thicker and softer. It seemed ideal for an apple strudel so I combined an old favorite recipe for "Apple Wrapper Pie" with the strudel pastry dough and came up with a scrumptious treat! I guess I call it the Apple Strudel Pie. I mixed 4 golden delicious apples, diced and peels on, with 2/3 cup brown sugar (it is called brown sugar here but it really is turbinado sugar) and 1/3 cup flour. After spreading the dough out, I dumped the apples on top and folded the dough around, leaving a hole in the top. It baked in a pie dish at 350F (176C, approximately) for about 25 minutes. Yum!

Pasta with wine sauce and roasted veggies

John and I bought a large white squash when we first moved here. I am not sure why we chose this squash, I have never cooked one like it before, but it was in the shape of a flower and we love squash! I googled the German name and it is in the Pattypan family. So, I chopped it up, cut the outside off and added a sliced eggplant and orange pepper, mixed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted for about an hour. I boiled some bow tie, whole grain pasta and mixed it with the roasted veggies. For a sauce, I followed the recipe that I used for the Louie's Cannelloni, No Baloney. It is from the VegNews magazine. I am excited to say I will still be receiving the magazine here in Vienna, but as online material! Savin' those trees! I reheated left-over Rosemary rolls and served a mixed green salad with Balsamic and Olive oil dressing and sliced beets. It was a really delicious and filling meal.

Julia Child's Potato and Leek Soup with Rosemary Rolls

I have been reading the book Julie and Julia. It is a memoir about a lady that did a blog about cooking every recipe in Julia Child's first french cookbook, in one year. It was just recently made into a movie staring Amy Adams and Meryl Streep. I actually watched the movie on our flight here to Vienna! The first recipe she describes is a potato and leek soup. It is mentioned as very easy and very delicious, of which I love both! It is also one of very, very few recipes of Julia Child's or french cooking for that matter, that can be easily made vegan! (And I think Julia Child would probably be spinning in her grave if she knew I was taking the butter and/or cream out of her recipes!) The weather here in Vienna is gloomy and cold and perfect for hot soup! I found the recipe here and only had to substitute the cream for a vegan version. The EuroSpar grocery store right next to our apartment carries a great product called Cuisine Sojacreme zum Kochen und Verfeinern (Soy cream to boil and refine?!?!) Anyway, the cream container has a great picture of a bowl of soup with the product being poured in. And it did not disappoint! The soup was heavenly. To go along, I made my favorite Rosemary rolls with whole wheat flour. I was nervous about the rolls turning out because 1) yeast is called germ and it took me a long time to figure this out and 2) the flour that I bought apparently already had "germ" in it. But, the rolls were the perfect companion to the soup.

Indian Curry with Naan and Samosas

I found these cute triangle shaped Naan breads and was inspired to cook an Indian meal. But, before I describe the meal, I have to get something off my chest. Before we found out we would be moving around the world for the next two years, I was busy building up an arsenal of spices and herbs and seasonings of every color, culture, and combination! I had such an eclectic collection that was so diverse and delicious! To wrap this rant up, no food items make it through customs. I am really happy to have given everything to my friend Rachel, whom I know will use it all! But I desperately don't want to start building the collection again, knowing we are moving in 8 months. So, I have been opting for small amounts of packaged spices or jars of spices that are multipurpose. (Yes, I am bitter. But I am working on it!) For the Indian meal, I opted for a jar of Korma Curry Paste. The recipe was already translated for me on the back and was very simple: cook an onion in oil, add meat, add the Curry paste and water, and serve. What a snap, right!? Instead of the meat, I roasted potatoes, eggplant, and yellow pepper. After getting it all into the pan, I noticed it was very thick. A thick consistency like gritty syrup. It didn't look right at all. In a panic to save my lovely roasted veggies, I poured the sauce out of the pan and started retracing my steps. The directions were so simple, too simple! I realized that when it said, "add Curry Paste," it didn't say how much to add. I assumed that it was the entire jar. WRONG. So I now have an entire jar of watered down Korma Curry Paste in a plastic container in my fridge that will probably make 15 Indian meals, not one! At any rate, when I got the majority of the sauce out, it turned out flavorful and delicious. Because I am not working and have tons of time on my hands, I decided to make Samosas to go along with the Indian meal. This website has a video describing how to make the Samosas. I substituted spinach for the peas and a package of curry spices for the 4 that they suggest. Also, the "cone" that she suggests did not work out for me. I just wrapped them up like a little box.

Mushroom and Spinach Strudel

John keeps commenting on how much my cooking style has changed since we moved to Vienna but I am trying to combine my style with some of the traditional local favorites. (Side note: to say they eat a lot of meat and cheese is the greatest of understatements!!!) So, when John came home one day with his bottom lip quivering because "Everyone eats this delicious looking strudel for lunch every day," I decided to get this strudel thing under my belt! A blog I have check out many times and borrowed recipes from in the past had exactly what I was looking for. It is called "What the hell does a vegan eat anyway?" and is hilarious with amazing pictures, recipes and raw food weekly. Instead of using tofu (I still haven't found a tofu here that I am absolutely in love with) I used the extra Wiener Schnitzel patties from the previous week. I had to use 2 sheets of phyllo because I couldn't get one piece to fold and be large enough, like the blog suggests. I wilted my spinach in a little bit of the wonderful soy butter I found a few days ago and cooked my mini-portobello mushrooms in a combination of basil, garlic, dark soy sauce, salt and pepper, and onion. The wrap up was pretty easy (no doubt because of the massive amount of butter I spread on the phyllo!) and I baked it on a sheet of foil. I am still getting used to Celsius temperature so I think 400F is equivalent to about 204C. If I am way off, I am not worried because it worked out very well!!! The gravy was easy to make because I had left-over mushrooms so I added them to a cup of water with a Vegetable Bullion melted down and a tablespoon of flour. On the side, steamed brocolli (and yes, I did add a little of the soy butter that is my new obsession, while it cooked!) I made sure to have an extra piece for John to take to work! You should have seen his sweet face when he realized he would get to show off with strudel to his co-workers!

A few staples for the Vienna kitchen

I bought a basil plant that I will attempt to keep alive for the 8 months we are here (Pray for my basil). I also purchased whole flax seed but now worry about leaving my seed grinder back in Portland! I am not confident my food processor will do the trick, but fingers are crossed. And, my favorite find, vegan butter!!!! It is soy based and when used to saute spinach, is absolutely heaven!

Vegan Chocolate Chip Cookies

I made these cookies for 2 reasons. 1) I missed chocolate chip cookies, American style. Bakeries here in Vienna have amazing, delicious baked goodies, but I haven't seen good ol' Chocolate Chip cookies anywhere! 2) I missed baking and wondered if it would be possible for me to bake some of my old stand-by favorites with the ingredients I have access to here. The result, not my old stand-by's but John and I managed to eat all 2 dozen in about 3 days. :-)
In my pursuit for the appropriate ingredients, I learned quite a lot of German! Baking Soda was challenging to find because my translation of it was not correct. Also, I never did find Vanilla extract. In it's place, I used Vanille Zucker (vanilla sugar) which is just what it sounds like, vanilla bean stems soaked in sugar. A blog claimed that, in equal measure, it could be substituted. I also chose a different recipe from what I am used to because I couldn't find vegan butter. This recipe uses oil for moisture. I didn't find tapioca flour, so used all-purpose instead. The brown sugar that I bought (Brauner Zucker) was basically just turbinado sugar. I used soy milk and sunflower oil (instead of canola) and chopped up a dark chocolate bar for chips (couldn't find them!!!)
So, the flavor was very sweet, almost too sweet. The vanilla sugar was very strong, not in a bad way, just a different way. The exterior of the cookies were very shiny. All in all, I won't make this exact recipe again, but I will continue to try to make a good chocolate chip cookie!

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Eating Vegan in Vienna - Sehr gut

My husband John and I moved to Vienna, Austria last week. His job (wind turbines) requires us to make a few international moves and Vienna is stop number one. I was extremely nervous before moving here about the possibility of eating without giving up my vegan values! Fortunately, I have been able to get around the grocery store (there is one on every corner) and have not had a problem finding organic veggies and fruits, grains, and tofu (trust me, it is no Portland Ota tofu, but it will suffice). We have also found a list of vegan restaurants to try on the Happy Cow website and other Vienna vegan bloggers have great ideas too.

So, I have been cooking a lot of simple dishes with veggies and grains. For fun, I found a vegan version of the traditional Wiener Schnitzel at the grocery store. John loved it and it cooked on the stove top in a little olive oil in 5 minutes. The company is Vega Vita and we have also tried their "chicken nuggets" which were so-so. Along with the Wiener Schnitzel, I sliced and roasted an eggplant, and made whole wheat pasta. The pasta is added to a sauteed mixture of shitake mushrooms, onion, garlic, salt and pepper, and a green leafy veggie that I could not figure out what it was! First, I thought it was baby spinach but after opening it, I realized it was not!!! I forgot to google the name and have since thrown the bag away. At any rate, it had a very nice flavor! We dowsed it with onion and basil tomato sauce and enjoyed.

A few of my favorite lines from the eating out section of my German handbook:
1. Nichts mit Augen. (Nothing with eyeballs.)
2. Ich esse nur Insekten. (I eat only insects.)
3. Ich bin Schnapshund. (I'm a boozehound.)

Guten Appetit!