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Thursday, November 10, 2011

Thanksgiving for us All, Even Vegetarians!

            Thanksgiving is coming up very close, and it really is one of my favorite holidays. I love the food, hanging out, and that it is simply that. No presents to stress out about, no crazy expectations, just delicious food. You always get to see people you haven’t seen in a long time, and it always seems like a happy day. Thanksgiving wasn’t always my favorite holiday; there was about four years when I was a vegetarian. My family used to make fun of me, placing only celery on my plate as my entire meal. Overall, being a vegetarian is pretty hard in general, when it comes to eating out in restaurants, going to parties, but Thanksgiving seemed to be the most difficult holiday. Everything seems to be made of with a meat substance, the gravy, stuffing, the main course (turkey), and the appetizers. If you are a vegan, it is even worse, the vegetable tray seems to be your only option.
            During my vegetarian days, I did have my family try to adjust for a year. We had a tofurky, which was interesting, made our gravy with vegetable broth, and tried to focus on the vegetarian side of things. Not only did people think most of the food was strange; I have to admit it didn’t have the feel of the holiday. I believe that everyone should get a great holiday. Well I think that vegetarians deserve to have a delicious holiday season as well.

            So, I am open to provide some delicious recipes, but I think one of the hardest things is having your family and friends agree to a vegetarian meal. There are many ways I would recommend to this; one method (the easiest) is having both meals available, and everybody is happy. Another idea is having your own with vegetarian accepting individuals. The final decision is having a family brave enough to try it all together. I would have to say if they were open, they wouldn’t regret, since they will come out very delicious.

Mini Brie and Apple Quiches

30 mini phyllo shells (two packages)
1/2 green apple
5 eggs
1 t Dijon mustard
1/4 t salt
ground pepper
ground nutmeg
4 ounces of Brie cut into 30 squares
            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Arrange phyllo shells on a baking sheet. Chop us apple into 30 slices, and place each piece into each shell.
            In a bowl, whisk eggs, mustard, salt, a dash of pepper and nutmeg. Pour the egg mixture over the apple to the top of the shells. Put a piece of Brie on top of each pie shell.
            Place the piecrust into the oven and bake for about fifteen minutes. 

Baked Butternut Squash and Cheese Polenta


1 butternut squash
2 T olive oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 onion (yellow)
1/2 t dried sage, crumbled
Salt and pepper
6 c water
2 c coarse polenta
Unsalted butter
I c smoked Gouda, shredded
1/4 c Parmesan cheese


            Preheat the oven to 375°. Place the squash on an oiled baking sheet and roast for 30 minutes or tender when poked with a fork. Place the squash in a bowl and mash well. Place the pine nuts on a pan, and toast until brown, about five minutes. Pull out and let cool.

            Place the olive oil in a saucepan and turn on medium-low heat. Chop the onions, sage and place into heated pan. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cover and cook over moderate heat, stirring, until golden, 25 minutes, add water if needed, this is caramelizing the onions. 

            In a large pot, bring the water to a boil. Slowly add the polenta, mixing it in with a whisk, and a dash of slat. Turn the heat on low, and stir often until thick, about 30 minutes. Stir in 1 T of butter along with the mashed squash, pine nuts, onion, Gouda and half of the grated Parmesan cheese. Pour the hot polenta into a buttered large baking dish. Smooth out the polenta, and place in the refrigerator for at least three hours.

            Rub the surface of the polenta with softened butter and sprinkle with the remaining grated Parmesan cheese. Bake in a 375° oven for 1 hour, until the top and side are lightly browned and crisp. Let stand for 20 minutes before cutting it into wedges.

1/2 c pumpkin seeds
1/2 c sunflower seeds
1/4 c butter
1 c onion (chopped)
3/4 c celery (chopped)
3/4 c carrot (shredded)
1 t cardamom
1 T thyme
2 T fresh parsley
2 bay leaves
1 loaf whole-grain bread, sliced into cubed
1 c wheat and barley nugget cereal
1/4 c dried cranberries
salt and ground black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
2 c vegetable broth
            Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread the pumpkin and sunflower seeds onto a baking sheet. Toast the seeds in the oven until lightly browned and fragrant, about 5 minutes.            
            Melt the butter in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onion, celery, carrot, cardamom, thyme, parsley, and bay leaves to the butter and cook until the vegetables are tender; remove the bay leaves.
            Toss together the toasted seeds, bread, cereal, cranberries, and vegetable mixture in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper. Add the eggs and mix. Add the vegetable stock gradually until the mixture is moist, but not mushy. Transfer mixture to a lightly greased casserole dish.
            Bake in preheated oven until browned, about 30 minutes.
Vegetarian Gravy
3/4 c crimini or shitake mushrooms
1 yellow onion, minced
1/4 c vegan margarine
2 1/2 c vegetable broth
2 T soy sauce
1/4 c flour
1/2 t sage
 ½ t thyme
½ t marjoram
salt and pepper to taste
            In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Saute for just a minute or two over high heat.
            Reduce heat to medium and add vegetable broth and soy sauce. Slowly add flour, stirring well to combine and prevent lumps from forming. Bring to a simmer or a low boil, and then reduce heat.
            Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

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