Friday, December 16, 2011

Family Holiday Party

Last weekend I hosted a holiday party with my immediate family in my new(ish) apartment, complete with real Christmas decorations - including a full-sized tree! Ha! What a grown person I am. It was a nice, quiet event with plenty of appetizers, cocktails, and laughs to go around. And wiener dogs!

Would you look at that tree?

Melted snowman sugar cookies! I stumbled upon this idea on a random blog while looking up something at work and HAD to make these. Aren't they pathetic/adorable??

My first cheezeball! This is typical holiday party fare, right? Recipe: take one tub vegan cream cheese, one cheddar-style Chreese packet and MOOSH. Roll in a ball, roll in chopped scallions and chill. This is beyond fantastic... I would totes make it again.

These little nuggets were perfect for dipping in said cheezeball! My amazing mother made mini Daiya-cheddar chive biscuits! These reminded me of Red Lobster's biscuits and were omni-approved.

Mini Daiya-Cheddar Chive Biscuits
(4 dozen)

3/4 c vegan margarine
2 c shredded vegan cheddar (Daiya, ftw!)
2 c flour
1 c vegan sour cream
1 T baking powder
2 T chopped chives

1. Preheat oven to 350. Melt butter over medium heat. Add cheese & cook for 2 minutes, stir constantly so it will melt evenly.
2. Stir in flour, sour cream, baking powder, and chives. Mixture will be very thick.
3. Spoon batter into ungreased mini muffin pans (2/3 full).
4. Bake 20-22 minutes & remove from pans immediately.

Ahh... what party with dip-ables would be complete without tapenade? My mama also brought over this lovely sun-dried tomato olive tapenade with pita chips! Delightful.

Sun-dried Tomato and Olive Tapenade with Capers

1 4oz jar sun-dried tomatoes in oil (reserve oil)
1 c fresh black olives
2 T fresh chopped basil
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c capers
salt and pepper to taste

1. Combine ingredients in food processor. Add 2-3 T oil from tomatoes and process until coarse & chunky.

I made some simple salad pinwheels (although they were a bitch to make and I'll never do it again) with spinach tortillas. The filling was tomato basil hummus, kale, red peppers and cucumbers. They were a hit! Also pictured: tartlets!

My dad's partner made sushi for us again! And, more importantly: she left a crap-ton of it for me as leftovers, yum. She's a pro, you guys, I'm jealous. I couldn't make sushi this simple.

Ahh, yes, tartlets. These were inspired by a sandwich which used to be served at the hip joint downtown called Crave. The sandwich was ciabatta bread with grilled vegetables (asparagus, onions, red peppers, etc.) with a hot pepper jelly. It was out of this world! But then they changed the menu and now nothing is easily veganized. Jerks. Here is a bite-sized version:

Mini Balsamic Vegetable Tarts with Red Pepper Jelly

2 pkgs frozen mini phyllo shells
1 bunch of asparagus, chopped
1 small yellow summer squash, chopped
5 oz mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
1 T olive oil
2 T balsamic vinegar
1 jar of red pepper jelly (spicy!)

1. Preheat oven as directed for phyllo shells. Heat up oil in a pan.
2. Add veggies and saute for a minute or so. Add balsamic vinegar and saute until fragrant.
3. Spoon mixture into phyllo shells and bake for 5 minutes (until shells are crispy).
4. Spoon a dab of red pepper jelly onto each of the tarts and serve immediately.

The whole spread! And I was worried we wouldn't have enough food for 6 people...

My dad, cuddling with one of my mom's dogs, Calpurnia. She brought both of the weenies over so they could mingle and play with my pup. All of the family was there!

Can you spot 3 pooches in this pic? My mom, surrounded by doggie-love. Here's the recipe for the cocktail she brought - fantabulous!

The Poinsetta

1/2 oz triple sec
3 oz cranberry

1. Combine triple sec and cranberry juice in a champagne flute and top with the bubbly.
2. Act fancy.

I'll keep m'blog updated with other holiday events as they arise, including all of the schtuff I plan on baking as gifts for my extended family and friends. See you soon!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Vegan Tour of Pittsburgh

Living in the northeast-midwest-Great-Lakes-region of the US (huh?) has its benefits. Little does the vegan world know that there are pockets of stunning vegan communities, restaurants, and shops hidden all throughout the country. A few weekends ago my mother and I took an overnight trip to Pittsburgh, PA for some retail therapy and mother-daughter goofing around time.

The 2 hour trip was mostly motivated by the draw of the fabulous IKEA, which is always an afternoon of fun. I couldn't walk away without grabbing some vegan caviar! So strange... but I will soon attempt some sort of tasty bite with this topping - anyone ever tried it before? Recipe suggestions??

After IKEA we went downtown to scope out an omni grille I had researched, which boasted a modest selection of vegan fare. I was enticed by the promise of yummy seitan wings, although when we were presented with the dish I was disappointed. My mom said that the chewy texture of the "wheat meat" was off-putting and I agreed. Plus, they were dredged in cornmeal, fried, and then covered in BBQ sauce - the combination didn't make sense to my taste buds. Perhaps the hot sauce version would have been better, but I doubt it.

Following the wings was their lentil burger. They were out of the vegan buns and so it was served on dry wheat toast. And dry it was. This burger was... interesting. It probably would have fared better in meatloaf form with a tomato glaze of some sort, it wasn't that great on a sandwich. Plus the square shape reminded me of Wendy's burgers! Creepy. All in all, the Double Wide Grille was not a place that I would enthusiastically try again.

Afterwards we spent a few hours walking around a quaint artistic district of town, including vintage clothing shops, one awesome hippie shop, local coffee places, and other interesting stops. The weather was kind to us and we enjoyed having nowhere to be and no time constraints.

Dinner was an obvious choice: Loving Hut! I appreciated there being an all-vegan joint close to our hotel. Loving Huts are found all over the place, yet they allow each location's chefs to create a distinctive menu.

This was found on the ceiling in the dining room!

I loved the wall decals - they covered the space with inspirational veg-conscious quotes.

Being intrigued by the "drumstick" appetizer, I had to try! It was a mixture of mushrooms, veggies, and soy protein wrapped and fried with a plum dipping sauce. See also: mom's wontons in the background. She approved!

This feels so... wrong?

Not wanting to miss the opportunity to finally try soy shrimp, I ordered the "Spicy Cha Cha". Although, I didn't realize that the shrimp would be fried; I was expecting a stir-fried dish with sauce over rice and had already gorged myself on a jumbo fried drumstick. Most of what you see turned into leftovers as my belly protested! Still: very yummy.

On the way out I fell under the spell of the dessert case... You mean I can have anything? You mean I can have EVERYTHING?! Such tough decisions.

Two walls covered in notes from happy customers!

Chocolate cheesecake. Nom.

Cookies & cream cake. Extra nom.

Three different kinds of doughnuts: pumpkin, s'mores, cookies & cream. Yum!

That night my fried food coma turned into a sugar coma as I tried bites of all of my desserts. My mom and I snuggled down with a movie before passing out after a long day of awesome.

The next morning, after dyeing my mom's hair (so girly!) we packed up and headed back downtown for brunch at the vegetarian Quiet Storm. My mom got a creamy frittata and I ordered the "hangover hash": potato hash with soy chorizo & veggies, and a curried tofu scramble. I also ordered a side of steamed kale because, holy shit, I needed some green!

As we drove home I realized how close we were to The Flaming Ice Cube in Boardman, OH. We had to stop! The original location has a large shop to the side with all sorts of goodies. We browsed for a while, my mama picked out some lovely earrings, and I ordered the "Mediterranean panini" to go. Creamy artichoke spread, kalamatas, tomatoes, spinach... yes. Yes. Lovely last meal of a lovely trip.

I wish I could go on a mini-vacation every weekend with my mama. :) Where have you been on a mini-vay-cay that was too much fun??

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Oh yeah... Thanksgiving.

What a whirlwind this fall has been! MoFo came and went in the blink of an eye, Halloween whizzed by, and Thanksgiving is already in the past! Slooow down, life. Anywho, here's my Thanksgiving post. It was the 4th year I have been vegan during T-give and have hosted my own feast for my family! And... each year I have hosted I have lived in four different places. Weird. Let's check it out!

I set up my table for four with my new chairs, new fall decorations, and resurrected passion for cooking and entertaining. How lovely!

I was joined by my father, his partner, and my brother. My dad's partner, who is Korean, made a huge dish of veggie sushi! I have always envied those who can make sushi... I tried once and have been afraid to dare try again. This stuff was an excellent, nonconventional appetizer. Carrots, cucumber and radish, mmm.

The Dordles, reveling in all the attention and love she received.

Aw, photo opp. Why isn't my dog focused?! So cute. :)

My li'l bro. Isn't he handsome? Yeah, I know.

The fall feast staple: Vegan YumYum's butternut squash bisque. Wildly addictive, super-creamy, and always a hit.

My full plate! This year I served Gardein's Stuffed Turk'y, which sparked loud praise from my omni family ("It's so moist!", "This is really good!", etc.). I recommend this for any meal in which you would like to showcase vegan meats for omni folk. And it comes with bomb-ass gravy! Also, Isa's greenbean mushroom casserole, mashed sweets, mashed golds, and maple-dijon sprouts.

Best breakfast-lunch-and-dinner leftovers you could imagine.

Instead of making a pie I made a pumpkin roll. This recipe is tried and true. I accidentally spread the dough too thick and so it didn't bake to a moist-cakey texture, but instead stayed kind of creamy. It was like a pumpkin pie/cream cheese roll, which was 100x better! Yum.

Stay tuned for my vegan tour of Pittsburgh, PA!