Food Fare: Create vegan versions of holiday fare – Times-Mail

Posted: December 10, 2020 at 7:55 am


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When I was growing up, my family didnt always have typical holiday experiences. My mother saw and heard things that werent there, which often led her to concoct ornate rules. She tried her best, but our holidays were different.

And although my wonderful spouse, Frank, is an excellent parent, he doesnt actively pursue normalcy. When our youngest was first learning to talk, he was carrying her into the YMCA when she saw a Santa doll and started pointing and babbling.

Other parents saw her enthusiasm and smiled, asking, Oh, does she love Santa?

But as my spouse walked closer, they could hear that she was chanting Goblin, goblin, theres a goblin! Everyone was aghast.

My spouse claims there was a reasonable explanation. Theyd been reading Else Holmelunds childrens book Little Bears Visit, and one chapter includes a gnome. Maurice Sendaks charming illustration of this gnome vaguely resembles Santa.

But Holmelund apparently couldnt countenance a silent g in her childrens book, so she called this gnome a goblin.

On that day in the YMCA, people probably assumed that Frank, with his gothy makeup and goofy hair, had intentionally taught our kids that Santa is a goblin. Who knows what stories our children had heard about Santas ominous sack!

This year, none of us will have all our normal holiday routines. My family usually goes out walking, ringing doorbells and caroling our neighbors. Well have to do this differently.

Which is why Im so excited to let you know that you can make vegan versions of so many traditional holiday meals. If youve recently switched to eating more food made from plants, you can still have your favorites. Our food, at least, can still be normal and delicious.

And Im especially thrilled about the pecan pie recipe that Im sharing today, taken from Isa Chandra Moskowitzs Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook. Even Frank had seconds, which has happened with exactly two desserts in the 15 years of our relationships. Its that good.

I absolutely ruined the filling on my first go, turning my bubbling pan of caramel into a giant, rock-hard cough drop with the flavor of a forest fire. Nothing in Isas recipe prepared me for the fact that my stove is apparently much, much hotter than the ones on which this recipe was tested. Now were cooking with gas, indeed.

The distinct aroma may or may not have drawn Frank and the kids to the kitchen with some rapidity, mouths open in concern. Me? I stomped around for a while, heated the pan on the stove with soapy water in it, and tried again.

All this is to say: If you are a newbie to candy making or cooking sugar, remember to go slowly. The cornstarch and (shhhh) silken tofu youll add later will hold things together, even if you undercook the caramel on the stovetop. Its a fine balancing act, which you can perform with aplomb by sniffing the caramel as it cooks you want lots of toasty flavor without tipping toward the smell of a highway accident involving a marshmallow truck. Remember that you can always lift the pot off the stove to slow things down. Just keep whisking with your other hand.

I was again aghast when, after my careful second round of caramel construction, the whole thing seized up into unpleasant grittiness after I added the coconut oil and chocolate chips, like when you try to melt chocolate chips without a double boiler and burn em. But, as Franks second helpings attest, the final texture of the pie was extremely fine, almost like fudge, and the flavor is tremendous. Our omnivore taste testers were certain theyd misheard me when I mentioned the tofu.

Look for agave syrup in the baking aisle near the other sweeteners, or occasionally hanging out with the maple syrup. I prefer agave thats a light amber color. Also, be advised there is a great, palm-oil-free pastry crust recipe in the cookbook that this recipe is from, as well as lots of other ideas to keep vegan cooking and baking exciting all year round. But I went for traditional holiday expediency and used a crust straight off the grocery store shelf.

Because thats what we did when I was a kid. And, this year especially, I want nostalgic foods.

Ill even teach my children to make a vegan version of the traditional Milks family holiday nachos, although I loathed this meal growing up. Papa baked Christmas nachos during the years he was raising my sibling and me on his own, usually after hed celebrated too much to feel able to cook anything else.

But now, I miss those nachos. And Papa.

Whatever we make this year, as long as we cook and eat with love and kindness in our hearts, well find a way to make some new good memories. Stories that we can share later, when were all gathering together again.

From The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

1 pie crust, homemade or store-bought

1/3 cup organic granulated sugar

3 tablespoons refined coconut oil

1 cup semisweet chocolate chips

6 ounces firm silken tofu (extra firm if you can find it; about half of a 12-ounce package either way)

1/4 cup unsweetened almond milk (or your favorite nondairy milk), cold

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 heaping cups pecan halves

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Press the pastry crust into a 9-inch pie plate, crimp the edges with a fork or your fingers; set aside.

In a 2-quart saucepan, mix the sugars and agave. Heat over medium heat, stirring often with a whisk. Once small bubbles start rapidly forming, stir constantly for about 10 minutes. The mixture should become thick and syrupy, but it shouldnt be boiling too fiercely. If it starts climbing the walls of the pan in bigger bubbles, lower the heat a bit.

Add the coconut oil and chocolate chips and stir to melt. Turn off the heat, transfer the mixture to a mixing bowl, and cover it to keep warm. In the meantime, prepare the rest of the filling, working quickly so that the caramel doesnt completely set.

Crumble the tofu into a blender or food processor, along with the milk, cornstarch and salt. Puree until completely smooth, scraping down the sides of the blender to make sure you get everything.

Add the tofu mixture and the vanilla to the warm caramel in the mixing bowl and mix well. Fold in the pecans to incorporate.

Transfer the filling to the pie crust and bake for 40 minutes. The pie is going to be somewhat jiggly, but it should appear to be set.

Let cool at room temperature, then chill in the refrigerator to completely set for a few hours or overnight. Slice and serve with whipped cream, a dash of cinnamon, or both.

From The Non-Dairy Formulary: Vegan Cuisine for the Ethical Gourmet by Skye Michael Conroy.

No artificial, unpleasant-tasting stiffeners here the secret is using the natural cream from coconut milk and keeping things quite cold. As Chef Skye reminds us, this is not a low-calorie food, so consume in moderation.

Youll need to get the cans of coconut milk into the fridge two days beforehand, which seemed a bit much at first, but follow the recipe carefully and you will be rewarded with about two cups of lovely whipped cream.

NOTE from the recipe author: Coconut cream, which is called for here, is the solid fat that rises to the top of full-fat coconut milk when chilled. Creamed coconut and cream of coconut are not the same product, as they often contain sugar and additional ingredients including fragments of coconut meat. Coconut manna is also a different whole food coconut product in other words, it contains the coconut meat as well as the cream.

NOTE from the columnists: The amount of coconut cream in coconut milk will vary from brand to brand and even from can to can. Weve used several brands available in markets around the area you can find cans in the international aisle of the big stores and had success every time.

1 1/2 cups solid coconut cream, which you will scoop from two 13.5-ounce cans of unsweetened, full-fat coconut milk

1/3 cup organic powdered sugar (see note below)

1/2 teaspoon real vanilla extract

Special equipment needed:

A ceramic or metal mixing bowl (ceramic is ideal because it stays cold longer)

If you only have granulated sugar: Place 1/3 cup organic sugar and 1/2 teaspoon cornstarch in a dry blender. Pulse process until the sugar is finely powdered and store in an airtight container until youre ready. By using organic sugar in place of conventional white sugar, youre not buying a product that uses animal bones during processing.

Chill the cans of coconut milk toward the back of the refrigerator for a minimum of 48 hours. The cans must get as cold as possible without freezing. This will ensure that the cream is completely solidified and separated from the coconut water.

Place your mixing bowl and the metal beaters in the freezer to get very cold.

When its nearly time for pie, open the top of the cans with a can opener, leaving a small hinge for the lids to stay attached. Scoop up the solidified cream until you reach the coconut water. It may be quite solid, which is fine. Place the cream in the cold mixing bowl. If youre using a good quality coconut milk, there should be a substantial amount of cream.

Close the lid and drain away the coconut water, reserving for another use if desired (smoothies perhaps?). Do not add the coconut water to the mixing bowl.

Open the can lid and scoop out any remaining cream that may have solidified near the bottom of the can (if any) and add to the mixing bowl. Add the vanilla and powdered sugar to the cream and fold in to combine.

Beat the mixture on high speed for several minutes until the mixture is thick, smooth, and peaks begin to form. Transfer to an air-tight container and refrigerate until ready to use. The whipped cream will stay firm as long as it is refrigerated.

From The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

These are fantastic mashed potatoes. Here, were getting traditional creaminess from cashew cream and a combination of refined coconut and canola oil. The result is buttery, fluffy goodness without any coconutty taste. Seasonings are easy to adjust to whatever your family enjoys. Try experimenting with a few sprinkles of garlic powder, herbes de Provence, etc.

The original recipe uses an immersion blender, but with gumption and, perhaps, a little additional vegetable broth or neutral-tasting soymilk, you could mash your way to this perfect side with a well-utilized potato masher. Youll get about 4 quarts whose leftovers will firm up in the fridge, thanks to the coconut oil, but a gentle reheating will get things flawless again.

5 pounds russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1 1/2-inch chunks

3/4 cup raw cashews, soaked in water for at least two hours

3/4 cup vegetable broth, purchased or homemade (see note)

1/3 cup refined coconut oil, at room temperature

Freshly ground black pepper

Thinly sliced chives or other greenery, for garnish

NOTE: Because one of us has trouble digesting onions, we almost always use a quick miso broth as a stand-in for often-oniony vegetable stock. Just whisk mild, yellow miso paste into warm water (one teaspoon miso to one cup water) and youre good to go.

Put the potatoes in a pot and cover them with salted cold water by about an inch. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.

In the meantime, combine the cashews and broth in a blender. Puree until completely smooth; this can take up to 5 minutes, depending on the strength of your machine. Periodically stop the machine to prevent it from overheating and scrape down the sides of the blender jar with a rubber spatula to make sure you get everything. Take your time, because you want the texture of this to be as smooth as your final potato clouds.

Once the potatoes boil, lower the heat to a simmer, uncover and cook until fork-tender, about 12 minutes. Drain the potatoes, then return them to the pot. Do a preliminary mash with a potato masher, just to get them broken up. Add half of the cashew mixture, along with the coconut and canola oils, salt and lots of black pepper; mash until relatively smooth with no big chunks left.

Now comes the creamiest part. Add the remaining cashew mixture, mix it in, and then use an immersion blender on high speed to whip, whip, whip. The potatoes should become very smooth, fluffy and creamy. Taste and adjust for salt and pepper along the way, transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with chives or other delights, and serve.

From The Superfun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz.

Heres a lovely trick a thick, creamy. savory gravy with all the traditional flavors that uses white beans as an essential thickening agent. You wont be able to taste the beans, but theyll be in there, adding nutritional heft to your plate. We omitted the onion, as we do, and liked the results even without additional flavoring.

If your family enjoys a biscuits-and-gravy kind of holiday, Isa suggests you crumble two vegan Italian sausages in just before you adjust the gravy for salt at the end. But we went with the smooth version, draped over our whipped potatoes and pretty much everything else on our plates. Youll get about 4 cups of gravy, but be advised it will not last long.

1 medium yellow onion, roughly chopped

Freshly ground black pepper

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

3 1/2-3 3/4 cups vegetable broth, purchased or homemade (see note)

2 (15-ounce) cans navy beans, rinsed and drained, or 3 cups cooked navy beans

1/3 cup tamari or soy sauce

NOTE: Remember, for a quick vegetable broth replacement, whisk 1 teaspoon of mild, yellow miso paste per 1 cup of warm water and youre good to go.

Preheat a saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Heat the oil, then saute the onion and garlic for 5 minutes. Add the thyme, sage and lots of black pepper; cook for 3 minutes more. While that is cooking, in a small bowl, whisk the flour into 3 cups of the broth until dissolved.

If you have an immersion blender, add the beans, broth mixture and tamari to the saucepan. Blend immediately and lower the heat to medium. Stir the gravy often for about 10 minutes while it thickens.

If you are using a countertop blender, blend the beans, broth mixture and tamari until smooth. Transfer the onion and the other stuff from the pan to the blender. Puree again until no big chunks of onion are left. Return everything to the pot and stir often over medium heat to thicken.

Once the gravy thickens, reduce the heat to low. Now you can decide exactly how thick you want it by adding extra broth, anywhere from 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup. Cook for about 10 more minutes to let the flavors deepen, stirring occasionally. (Add the torn-up sausage pieces here, if youre using them, and let them heat through). Taste and adjust for salt. Keep the gravy covered and warm until ready to serve. If the top hardens, use a whisk or strong form to reincorporate before digging in.

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Food Fare: Create vegan versions of holiday fare - Times-Mail

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December 10th, 2020 at 7:55 am

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