Endings and Beginnings

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Tonight marks the end of 2017 and the beginning of 2018.  Don't worry, this is not another "new year, new me," post, though I'm not entirely clear why everyone loathes them.  But more on this later.  I'm not going to sum up my year, or make goals for next, or announce a big change in my life, or use this day as a humble brag for what I've accomplished and what will come. I'm not going to put anyone down for how they wish to celebrate the ending of a whole year.  If you feel that you want to stay home, and binge a new show all night or get gussied up and put on your best dancing shoes and get so caught up in the glitz and glamour of the evening that you completely miss the ball dropping, both of those sound like mighty nice ideas to me.

Which brings me to the whole point of this post.  I've felt a change in my attitude and my outlook on life for some time now.  It may have become apparent that my affinity for the past and distant decades has tightened its grip on me in the latter half of this year, but it has always been a part of me.  The present attitudes toward life and other people are so cynical and heated.  We are in constant argument with everyone, via the ever dreaded Facebook "debate" and nasty comments on Instagram photos.  If I had a resolution for 2018, it would be something along the lines of embracing sincerity more, and being a genuine person who tries to help whenever they can, and just wants everyone to live the life they want so long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

The New Year is also of great significance to me because it's my birthday.  I was the first baby born in Lodi, California in 1985.  While everyone celebrates the general year ending, I celebrate another year in my life ending.  I find myself exceptionally contemplative about my life, the choices I make, and the person I am and will become, more so than others I think but I can't be sure. I find myself asking a series of questions on the night before my birthday every year: Am I proud of myself this year? Yes. Have I accomplished things I wanted? Yes. Am I surrounded with people who lift me up and want to see me happy and successful? Yes, a thousand times.  I am happy, and in that happiness I no longer see a need for cynicism and negativity in my life.

Truth is, people will always speak badly of you, they will always be jealous, want to see bad things happen to you, and make snide remarks about whatever they can find that they deem is "wrong" with you or your life.  But make 2018 the year that you love yourself and your life enough that it doesn't bother you.  Make 2018 the year that you close the laptop and set down your phone, and visit with a friend, or your grandmother, or your neighbor.  Embrace sincerity and live a simple, happy life.

Have a safe and happy New Year everyone, no matter how you choose to celebrate.
And thank you for reading. I am forever grateful that I have this platform and that so many of you are enjoying my recipes and my thoughts.  Honestly, it would fill my heart with the same joy if even one person enjoyed it.

Not Historical Breakfast Burritos

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

So, I don't have a clever tie in to art history, or period dramas on TV for this recipe. But here's a vintage advertisement anyway!

I was craving a breakfast burrito all day today and nothing would satisfy me.  I love having breakfast for dinner and decided that when I got home I would make the best damn breakfast burrito I've ever had.

Listen, the first thing that people lament over when they discover you have given up meat and dairy is breakfast. Cheesy scrambled eggs, omelettes, bacon, sausage...what can you even eat in the morning beside dry toast?!  Well, cool your jets because any breakfast you can make, I can make vegan.  In addition to this glorious burrito, I will be making a vegan breakfast casserole for Christmas Morning.

I try to make a big breakfast every Sunday morning (I work Saturdays) and Alex and I also have our favorite brunch spots and none of them disappoint on the vegan breakfast and brunch dishes.  Crossroads Kitchen on Melrose is my FAVORITE for brunch, and has a killer Impossible Meat breakfast sandwich.  Little Pine (owned by Moby) is also a great spot for brunch. Mohawk Bend in Silver Lake is great if you have friends or family with you that may not share your dietary preferences, as they have meat and dairy options too!

Again, sorry for not having a clever lesson or story to go with this dish, but I do feel that this treat can stand on its own two little burrito feet.  It's basically just a tofu scramble in a tortilla, but I like a little texture with burritos and also added hash browns with green onions.  And black olives, because I just like them.  Top it off with a ton of Cholula because I'm OBSESSED, thanks to Alex.


Tofu Scramble:
1 pack extra firm tofu, cut into cubes and "scrambled" (I mash mine with a fork)
1tbsp turmeric
1/2 tbsp onion powder
1/2 tbsp garlic powder
1 small tin of sliced olives
1 tbsp olive oil
Italian parsley, diced (you can sub cilantro, if you prefer)

1/2 package frozen hashbrowns
2 green onions, chopped
1 tbsp vegan butter
1 can black beans
salt and pepper to taste

Flour tortillas

In a large skillet melt the butter for the hashbrowns and add in the green onions. Next, add in the hashbrowns and cook evenly on both sides until golden brown and crisp on the outside.

In another skillet heat olive oil and add in tofu.  Stir in turmeric until evenly coated.  Stir in onion and garlic powder and olives.  When the tofu has cooked until firm, add in the Italian parsley and remove from heat.

In a saucepan, heat black beans until cooked through.

I serve my burritos buffet style, because Alex and I like to build them differently (I do this with tacos as well) and it lets you put in as much of each thing as you like.  I make Alex roll the burritos because I don't know how to. Sue me!

This is a nice simple meal, and one that I really enjoy.  I will be making a lot of elaborate stuff for Christmas dinner and Christmas morning breakfast, so I need to rest while I can.  I'm recycling a lot of old recipes this week and not really making anything new. I need my strength for the holiday!


Downton-Inspired English Afternoon Tea

Saturday, December 9, 2017

I have been rewatching Downton Abbey lately, and boy have I been inspired.  Between being incredibly frustrated that my hair isn't long enough to style in Edwardian updos and obsessively searching Etsy for tea dresses, I have been craving elaborate dinners and teas.  Though, not all impressive meals have to be complicated and elaborate to make.  

But there are other influences for this particular meal.  When I was a kid my grandma would let my sister and I have tea parties using her best linens and china.  We were exceptionally careful children who would never break the fine china, and also probably a little spoiled.  She would order and pick up petite fours from the bakery and brew some tea, and we would serve ourselves and honestly I never felt so classy in my life.  Though it wasn't traditional, it was still super fancy (especially for a kid).

Maybe that's where it started, but my sister and I have been obsessed with English culture ever since.  We huddled around the TV for the Royal Wedding, love pub food, and make English countryside meals more often than we probably should.  Though I am proud of my Scandinavian influence, heritage, and mannerisms, we are first and foremost English (and equal parts Irish and Scottish) and do feel a deep connection to Mother England.  We visited England and Scotland when I was 14 and she was 18, and I don't know about her, but it felt like coming home for me. One day soon I'll return with Alex, and I'm sure I'll be a big ball of excited fast-talking spazz jello the whole time.

One thing that has always captivated me about English culture is the formality of their traditions.  Everything has a reason and a place, and it's something that English folks are born knowing it seems.  My grandmother is from the South, but is very English in many ways (her grandmother came to the States).  I learned from her how to set a table, which fork is for what, and what to do with your napkin when you get up from the table (hint: it does not go on the table!).  I'm sure she never told me these things outright, but I learned from her example.

I decided to recreate a traditional English Afternoon Tea, which is sometimes confused with High Tea, though it's important to note that they are not the same event.  High tea is eaten at "high chairs" at a set table.  Afternoon tea is had in a salon or lounge in armchairs.  The order of food that's eaten is also important.  Savories are eaten first, followed by scones, then sweets.  The hostess will pour the tea, unless you are having tea at a tea house, in which the person closest to the pot as it's set on the table will pour.  The spoon is never to remain in the cup while you're drinking, and the cup should be picked up with both hands (please don't put your pinkie up...). Royale tea is even different still, and my favorite, with Champagne served at the beginning and Sherry at the end.  The food is really the best part of the tea, and I wouldn't be too troubled about which tea to serve.  Just remember that milk goes in before sugar.

The menu is simple, and easy to recreate with various dietary differences.

Coronation Chick'n Sandwiches:

These recipes were inspired by Edwardian fare, but Coronation Chicken wasn't "invented" until 1953, for the coronation of Queen Elizabeth II.  Before that, a similar recipe was called "Jubilee Chicken" which was made to celebrate the Silver Jubilee of King George V in 1935.  There was most likely a similar cold curried chicken dish available in the Edwardian Kitchen, as curry became popular in Britain during the Victorian period. Food was now able to be chilled, with refrigerators entering homes during this time. Similarly, curried eggs are an Edwardian staple.

1 bag Beyond Meat chicken strips (unflavored)
2 tbsp vegenaise
2 tbsp mango chutney
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp curry powder
1/2 tbsp turmeric
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 red onion
bread slices, your choice, crusts cut off and cut into triangles
(measurements are approximate, as always)

Heat oil in a medium pan, and lightly sear the chicken strips with 1/2 tbsp of the curry powder.  Just enough to heat the chicken through. Remove from heat, chop.

In a mixing bowl, combine the chopped cooked chicken with the rest of the ingredients. Mix until everything is distributed evenly and chill in the refrigerator, preferably overnight.

Spoon mixture onto bread slices and serve immediately while still cold.

Vegan Rosemary Scones:

2 1/2 cups flour
6 tbsp sugar
1 tbsp baking powder
1/2 tsp nutmeg
about 3/4 tbsp salt
about 4 sprigs rosemary, minced
6 tbsp vegan butter
1 cup soymilk, vanilla

In a large bowl, mix together flour, sugar, baking power, salt, nutmeg and rosemary.  Add in butter and mix until course.   Stir in the soy milk until dough consistency.  Wrap dough in plastic and freeze for 10 minutes. Preheat oven to 450.

Remove dough from freezer and knead on floured surface.  Flatten into a disk and cut into wedges.  Transfer wedges to a parchment or aluminum lined baking sheet or dish and bake for 15 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. 

Serve alongside strong Earl Grey tea.

Hasselback Ham with Pears and Persimmons and Maple Dijon Glaze

Monday, December 4, 2017

One thing that I find difficult to recreate during the holidays is ham.  Thanksgiving in my home as a child was a giant turkey, and Christmas always meant ham.  Turkey is easy to make vegan -- that and chicken have been done to death.  Tofurky just came out with a new ham substitute and I gave it a shot.  I decided to do ham a different way.  Traditionally in the 1920s, ham was made with pineapple, and that's how my mom made it.  I decided to do something a little different and make a hasselback ham and stuff it with pears and persimmons.  The pears I had already known I wanted to use, and when I was in the market they had beautiful persimmons and I got them not knowing what I was going to do with them.  It turned out I found a spot for them! A glaze is always important with ham, and I did a twist on the maple glaze I used for the chickpea meatloaf from a few posts ago.

The glaze is DELICIOUS.  The flavors work perfectly together and it's the perfect compliment to the flavor of the ham.  Those 1920s hams are honey baked and studded with cloves, so I added the cloves to my version as well.  It became a mashup of 1920s and 1940s ham recipes and I am thrilled with the results.

I served it with Potatoes and Broccoli Au Gratin, which I will be posting later.  It was another retro meal made vegan that was such a success.

1 Tofurky Holiday Ham Roast
2 persimmons, sliced
1 large pear, sliced
whole cloves

For the glaze:
2 tbsp dijon mustard
1/2 cup maple syrup
splash of liquid aminos
even smaller splash of liquid smoke

Preheat oven to 350

Remove the outer wrapping from the ham and slice the ham horizontally, making sure not to slice all the way through to the bottom.  Slide the slices of persimmon and pear in between ham slices.  Put the ham in a 9" roasting pan and surround with the leftover slices of pear and persimmon.  Stud the ham along the slices with the whole cloves (see photos).  Pop in the oven for about 45 minutes.

In a small bowl, whisk together the ingredients for the glaze. Set aside.

Take ham from the oven and pour glaze evenly over the top. Put back in to roast for another 30 minutes. 

Slice the ham the rest of the way through and serve with persimmon and pear slices, with drippings from the pan.

Et voila! Happy Holidays everyone.


Holiday Side: Leek and Mushroom Sauté with Butter and Wine

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

This Thanksgiving was unique in many ways for me.  It was my first Thanksgiving visiting Alex's family (not my first time meeting them) and my first time at his Aunt's gorgeous home in Shingle Springs.  It was chilly outside and warm inside, full of laughter and family and I was so danged happy I could puke.  You know when sometimes you just feel like you are exactly where you're supposed to be?

Anyway, another thing that made it unique was that we spent the weekend in a hotel with a "kitchenette" and I had to prepare our whole meal in the room and transport it 40 minutes away. I'm a firm believer in bringing your own meals to family gatherings and holidays if you have dietary restrictions that are not shared by more people present at the meal (private and small dinners are different) and we all know how I feel about etiquette and manners.  I was in no way going to let Alex's family prepare TWO dinners, one of which they wouldn't even eat, and I would sooner die than eat takeout on a holiday.

Anyway, the stove was crooked and had only two burners, with no oven.  I had to think of ways to make the whole holiday meal work without baking or roasting anything, which meant any kind of casserole (and you guys know how I love casseroles...) was out and even the Field Roast Celebration Roast needed to be thought through.  I ended up slicing and frying the Celebration Roast, (which was a great decision), I made mashed potatoes and gravy which are easy on a stove, and staples in our household.  I had trouble deciding what to do with a vegetable dish, since most Autumn/Winter vegetables dishes are roasted, and I also wanted to make enough so that everyone at the dinner could have some if they wanted.  I love mushrooms sautéed in butter and white wine (escargot style), but wanted to add something a little different.  I found some huge leeks at the market and decided to give that a whirl.  It turned out sooooo great and the leeks were nice and tender.  I believe that a good cook can cook anywhere and make anything good with what they are given, and I made a hell of a dinner on that crooked stove, and even managed to make breakfast simultaneously ;).

Alex's aunt made the most beautiful table setting and we all crowded around it and ate and laughed and talked (yelled, haha) and I drank too much wine.  After dinner, I helped Alex's cousin and her daughter put up the vintage 1950's aluminum Christmas tree (and was spazzing out the whole time because vintage!) and then we all just sat around and listened to the records that we bought as a present for Alex's cousin's daughter.  It was honestly the perfect holiday.


3 tbsp vegan butter
3 large leeks, sliced
3 green onions, chopped
Tarragon, chopped
16 oz. mushrooms (caps only), halved
1/2 cup white wine
salt and pepper to taste

 In a large pan, melt butter and add green onions.  Sauté until fragrant and add in mushrooms and after a few minutes the leeks, stir until they are all evenly coated with butter.  Stir in white wine.  Let these flavors mingle for a while and add in tarragon and salt and pepper.  Leave on medium heat until leeks are tender.  Serve topped with butter and wine from pan as a light sauce.

If you have access to an oven, you can even roast this =P

1940s Thanksgiving Part II: Chickpea Meatloaf with Maple Glaze

Sunday, November 26, 2017

I used to love meatloaf as a kid, and honestly my mom probably loved making it because I was a picky eater and she worked AND took care of us brats, so it was a quick and easy dinner.  In the 1940s, women were dealing with a lot.  As stated in my previous post, most food was rationed and the goal was always to make enough food to feed your whole family on a very tight budget.  Stretching ingredients was a learned skill, and meat wasn't as abundant or affordable as it once was, so filling out your meat with breadcrumbs and various vegetables allowed you to make a meat dish while using less meat.  Maybe you only had a pound of ground beef for the whole week to feed your entire family on, so only using a portion of that and adding in bread crumbs, etc. would make it go a LOT farther.

Meatloaf consistency is pretty easy to imitate.  Ground beef is honestly one of the easiest textures to recreate with plant-based products, so this was a breeze.  I used chickpeas for this meatloaf, but honestly you could use Beyond Meat or LightLife (both of which I have used extensively for my recipes) to give it a more meaty texture.  The secret to giving this meatloaf that "meat" flavor? Always liquid smoke and vegan Worcestershire sauce. I add a splash of both to most of my dishes that are supposed to be meat replacements and you'd be hard pressed to tell the difference.

I adapted this recipe from a mix of authentic 1940s meatloaf recipes and got the idea to use chickpeas as a base from Connoisseurus Veg.  I didn't really know how I was going to like it, because foods that are too chickpea heavy aren't usually my favorite, but I left this loaf a little lumpy and I kept it in the fridge overnight so that it would be sufficiently solid. I am really pleased with how it turned out and it was sooooo easy.  It tasted very meaty and honestly, tasted like something my mom would have made.

2 cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
3 green onions, chopped
1/2 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups breadcrumbs
3 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. liquid smoke
splash of soy sauce
1/2 cup unsweetened soy milk
2 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1 tbsp. tomato paste

For the glaze:
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 tsp white wine vinegar
3 tbsp maple syrup
splash of soy sauce
1 tsp paprika
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 degrees, brush oil on a 9" loaf pan and set aside.
Combine all ingredients for the meatloaf in a large mixing bowl, and stir well until all ingredients are evenly distributed.  In a blender or food processor, blend all ingredients until well blended, but not too much.  I prefer mine to be a very chunky and still have recognizable vegetables.  Just make sure the chickpeas are broken up (I left some of mine intact, makes it a little more rustic and hearty).  Transfer to loaf pan and mold into loaf shape. Put in oven for a half hour.

Meanwhile, combine all glaze ingredients in a bowl and whisk.  Set aside.

Take loaf out of the oven, top with glaze evenly, and return to oven for another 15 minutes.

You'll want this to cool sufficiently so it will solidify before serving. Honestly, the best thing to do is prepare the night before and refrigerate overnight.  Reheat to serve at about 350 for 20 minutes or so.

Hint: This is also great in sandwiches, with a little gravy and stuffing...

1940s Thanksgiving Part I: Creamed Spinach Casserole

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Ah, the joys of having a growing family!
This year is the first time in years that I haven't had to work the day after Thanksgiving.  I worked in retail for most of my life and would always be shackled to the dreaded Black Friday workday. Sometimes it was fun, mostly it was awful. But this year I have a normal adult job and get to spend my holiday driving back from the Bay Area, where we will visit Alex's family. But my family had Thanksgiving early, so my parents drove down from Northern California and I made way too much food as per usual.

This year, I wanted to make some authentic 1940s classics but vegan, of course.  It's no secret that I love vintage everything, and vintage food is no exception.  I love how holidays looked in the past.

The decorations that my grandma would always break out during the holidays were so whimsical and classy, and I have a whole Etsy cart full of things that I remember from being a kid.  I'm going to Christmas it up folks, and I don't care what anyone thinks about it!

But back to the holiday at hand.  Thanksgiving is something people always ask about when they talk to me about not eating meat.  Don't you miss turkey and gravy?! No way! I can make a mean vegan gravy, and honestly if you put gravy on anything it tastes like Thanksgiving.  Normally families of vegans and vegetarians will purchase the obligatory tofurky concoction at the local Whole Foods, and that's all well and good (and super thoughtful to have an option for us!), but this year I wanted to do something a little different. I decided to make 1940s inspired dishes, that come from actual 1940s recipes, but made vegan.  I chose to do a maple glazed meatless loaf instead of trying to recreate turkey or ham (this will be in Part II).  It's incredibly easy, and can be made the night before, which if you're traveling with your food is helpful.  I also decided to skip the green bean casserole (though I made a great one last year) and make a creamed spinach casserole.  I normally make a mushroom gravy, but decided to keep with the spirit of trying new things and go for a heartier, meatier brown gravy to pair with the loaf.  My sister made the stuffing, and I made my thyme mashed potatoes from an earlier recipe, and we had ourselves quite a feast.

In the 1940s, women really had to stretch their dollars when planning meals, since food was rationed and their husbands were most likely away at war. Food that could be reheated and would keep well, and made out of simple, abundant ingredients was really the focus. Women were also encouraged to grow and can their own foods. Pretty much everything during this time was done so that factories could be freed up for the war effort, and so money could be saved to go to the troops.  I took a 1940s makeup class at Besame Cosmetics recently (which was AMAZING, they're one of my fav makeup brands and almost everything in my daily routine is from their store), and a big focus of the class was learning how women did without their favorite beauty products, and how they even made their own.  Luckily, keeping your looks up was still part of the war effort, so women in the military were often given cosmetics by cosmetics companies (especially red lipstick) so they could keep up with their beauty routines and (honestly probably the biggest reason) keep their morale up.

This recipe was adapted from a recipe from Oh Waffle, that was inspired by real 1940s creamed spinach. This recipe is very reminiscent of real 1940s cuisine and is incredibly frugal to make even today.  There are very few ingredients, which is what makes this recipe so delicious and an instant favorite. 

I enjoy cooking during the holidays more than almost any other time, because I get to share what I love with the people that I love.  My parents seem to be please with my recipes (even though the concept of meatless and dairyless is perplexing to them), and my sister is honestly up to try anything, which I love about her.  My brother in law always seems pleasantly surprised.

I can't wait to cook for Alex's family and share my food with new people, and I'm already salivating over starting to plan my Christmas menu...which will be massive and way too decadent.

Happy Holidays everyone, remember to smile.

Rationed Creamed Spinach Casserole

3 8-10oz bags of frozen spinach, chopped
4 tbsp vegan butter
2 cups vegetable broth
3 green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
pinch of paprika
3 tbsp flour
salt and pepper to taste
about 3 tbsp Leaf Cuisine Peppery Jack spread
bread crumbs and/or french fried onions to top

In a medium pot, bring water to a boil and drop in all the spinach.  Do not over cook, just heat enough to thaw thoroughly.  Drain, rinse with cold water and set aside. Preheat oven to 350.

 In a large pan, melt butter (but don't brown) and toss in garlic and green onions with salt and pepper.  Saute until fragrant, then add in the flour and broth.  Let flavors mingle and bring to a low simmer.  Stir in the pepper jack spread and melt.  Once the mixture is slightly bubbly, toss in the spinach.  Stir until the spinach is evenly coated and the mixture is evenly distributed.  Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish and top with bread crumbs and french fried onions (one or the other if you prefer, I like both).

Bake for about 15 minutes until onions are browned and casserole is nicely bubbling.
Serve hot.  Traditionally, this is served on top of mashed potatoes, but I serve alongside the rest of the meal in the place of green bean casserole.

This recipe is very easily reheated in the oven, so enjoy leftovers!