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!

Peasant Mushroom, White Bean and Kale Soup

Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Abraham van Beveren, "Still Life with Lobster and Fruit," 1650s

Though we like to think of turkey legs as Renaissance food, but real Renaissance dining was much more varied, and honestly more interesting (and most people didn't eat a lot of meat).  What we call "The Renaissance" was the period between the 14th and 17th centuries that began in Italy, and spread throughout Europe.  It was a time of excess, and luxury, and indulgence.

There were no stovetop cooking systems as you and I know them, so a lot of foods were cooked in pastry and served as pies. Broth was made in a pot directly over a fire.  Soups were popular and abundant, but most were expensive.  Soups were usually dressed up with foods of many different colors, pomegranate seeds, and dressed with aromatic herbs.  This soup I call Peasant Soup, because it is more simple, dressed down, and not as pleasing to the eye as would be seen in court.

Peter Wtewael, "Kitchen Scene," 1620s

I based this on Renaissance recipes for soup and vegetables, but it is by no means authentic.  Kale would not have been available during this time, and the broth might have been too salty as salt was almost as precious as foreign spices. For a more period accurate version, you could substitute cabbage for the kale, and cut way down on salt. You could also make your own broth, which I will be posting very soon!

1 cup white wine or sherry
2 tsp liquid aminos
4 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz. sliced mushrooms (wild mushrooms are best)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, diced
3 large kale leaves, without stems and roughly chopped
1 can cannellini beans
1/4 cup flour (or less, to thicken broth)
salt and pepper to taste
thyme, to taste
splash of white truffle oil
About 32 oz vegetable stock (I think I used a bit less)

In a medium stock pot, heat olive oil and add shallots and garlic.  Sauté until shallots are transparent and add in mushrooms, kale, and thyme.  Let these flavors mingle for just a bit, then add in salt and pepper, truffle oil (just a small amount), splash in the liquid aminos, followed by the wine and vegetable stock.  Bring to a boil and add in the beans and lower heat to let simmer while covered.  Your soup is done when the mushrooms and kale are tender.  Your very last step should be whisking in enough flour to thicken the sauce just a bit (it should remain a little thin).  Serve garnished with thyme stems.

Silent Supper Stew and Baked Apples

Friday, November 3, 2017
Daniel Maclise, "Snap-Apple Night," 1833

The last day of October and the first few days of November, no matter what culture you are from, typically come with some kind of holiday or ritual or connotation.  Christians turned Samhain into All Hallows Eve in the 8th century to make it easier to convert the Celts.  By keeping their sacred days on or around the Christian sacred days, the Christians thought the Celts might feel a touch better about having their culture stripped from them (yeah, sure).  The Mexican tradition of Dia de los Muertos is still very steeped in Pagan tradition.  Most cultures have their own way of honoring the dead, but all have similarities.

Samhain (Sow-in, not Sam-hane) is a day to honor the dead and to celebrate an abundant harvest to prepare for the upcoming winter months.  Candles are placed on the graves of the dead, harvest foods are eaten, and no rituals are done on this day.  Fire is important on this day, as it is on most Pagan Sabbats, with bonfires being lit and candles being ubiquitous. Death in modern times is rarely celebrated, and if it is it's usually for the wrong reasons, but in the past many cultures had days celebrating their passed family and ancestors.  On this day, we celebrate our dead kin by holding a Silent Supper.

During the Silent Supper, we set the table with all black or white dishes or use our best china.  A place is set for each dead relative or, one place setting is set for the lot of them.  A black shroud is placed over their chair, and a candle is lit and placed on their plate.  The menu should be kept simple, and food should be served buffet style or easily served yourself, as it is tough to communicate "please pass the potatoes" when not speaking.  I made stew, which is symbolic of the bountiful "harvest" and also is a full meal with just a few ladles full.  Before the meal, it is wise to sage or otherwise cleanse your table and yourselves, and some may even say a brief prayer or rite before sitting down.  A bell is helpful to signal the beginning and end of the meal.  Once the meal begins, none may speak and all light must be candle light.  The guest seat is served first, always.  Use this time to reflect on the past year, those your lost, and those who may be sitting at your empty seat tonight.  Some may even bring a note to leave for the dead, this note should be burned in the dead's candle once the meal is finished. Once you are finished, the united meal may be buried or set out for squirrels or others if you live where it so permits.

I plan to carry out this tradition for years to come, as Alex and I both really enjoyed it.

Silent Supper Stew

5 yukon gold potatoes, roughly cubed
2 VERY large carrots (or 4 regular sized)
2 broccoli crowns, chopped
1 shallot, diced
8oz mushrooms, sliced
1 or 2 leeks, sliced
Small bunch of kale, roughly chopped
1 can cannelini beans

salt and pepper to taste

1 cut white wine
32 oz vegetable broth
vegan worcestershire sauce
splash liquid smoke
olive oil

flour to thicken

Plug in crock pot and set on "high" setting.  In separate sauce pan, heat olive oil and sauté shallot until transparent.  Add shallot to the crock pot.  Next, add in all vegetables except kale and beans.  Add all wet ingredients.  This will take around 6 hours to cook through.  About the last 2 hours, add in the kale and beans as they will not take as long to cook. Whisk in flour after all vegetables are added to thicken sauce. Stew is done when carrots and potatoes are easily pierced with a fork.  Keep tasting your sauce, and season as you go. It may need a bit of this or that to be to your liking.

Baked Apples

4 apples, cubed
4 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 tsp cornstarch
4 tbsp vegan butter
splash of whiskey (LITTLE splash, the flavor can get overwhelming fast).

Heat oven to 400 degrees.  Lightly grease a baking dish and add in apples and all dried ingredients.  Stir until apples are evenly coated. Drizzle whiskey on top and stir once more.  Pop in the oven for about 30 minutes, stirring periodically.  This will be perfectly sweet, bubbly and delicious.  You can serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream (both vegan, of course!)

Pumpkin Spice tea seasoned with rosemary and spiked with whiskey
Do you have any special traditions for Halloween/Samhain?
I'd love to hear about them.