Tag Archives: food

Giving Thanks

Here in the US, our annual mid-fall feast of Thanksgiving is the fourth Thursday in November. Things are a bit weird here in good old USA right now, as most of the world knows. Nevertheless, I have many blessings to be thankful for, and being able to provide a wonderful meal for my family is certainly not the least of them.

I am cooking for the family this year. I cook a turkey, even though I am vegan. But I also prepare a Field Roast Hazelnut Cranberry en Croute holiday roast. It’s plant-based protein, delicious, smells amazing while it cooks, and is divine with mashed potatoes and gravy.

Regardless of the protein we choose, I always feel like the side dishes are the best part of the meal. I always go a little wild on the vegan cheese tray. Miyoko’s Kitchen makes the most amazing spreadable cheese, and it’s all plant-based. It’s quite expensive, but for a special occasion, it is so worth it.

I don’t even bother to make the icky green bean casserole that no one eats, but everyone makes anyway. Other than that, I am making all the usual sides and have included the links to the recipes below:

Roasted Ruby Sweet Potatoes

Maple and Balsamic Roasted Brussels Sprouts

Cranberry sauce

Vegan Cranberry Pecan Stuffing

Vegan Pumpkin Pie recipe

Vegan Gluten Free Gravy recipe

Vegan Mashed Potatoes recipe

Miyoko’s Kitchen|Artisan Cultured Vegan Cheese

Fruit Salad

Green Salad

We will have plenty of pies and sweets and lots of savory finger foods. So, today I am doing the prep, getting a lot of the cooking out of the way. I have bread to bake, and even though I have a feast to prepare, I will get my daily wordcount by using the small increments of downtime while things are cooking.

That is how I cook any big holiday dinner for my extended family—I start prepping food two days ahead, and by writing whenever I have a ten or fifteen minute pause in the preparations, I don’t fall behind.

This also allows me to enjoy my family on Thanksgiving Day because most of the work is already done.

After all, it may be a national holiday here in the US, but it’s still NaNoWriMo, and while I have officially “won” as of the 20th, getting that badge for updating every day is my next goal, and doesn’t happen until the last day of the month. Besides, I haven’t written all the stories on my list of prompts yet, although I have made good headway in creating my backlog of short stories.

On Friday, my husband and I will rest up, enjoy leftovers, and think about decorating the outside of the house for Christmas.

This world can be a hard place for some people to live. I am fortunate to be safe and well-fed, luxuries I thank God for every day. Where ever you are in this big world, I hope you have plenty to give thanks for.

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#amwriting: The Vegan Road Trip

tacos and burritosI had planned to be out of town this week, babysitting one of the youngest of my grandchildren (13 months old), but alas! The four-year-old has a cold, and Grandma is not interested in having another bout of pleurisy — last fall’s episode was enough, thank you very much.

It’s a busy week, here at La Casa Del Jasperson. On Tuesday we will hosting a guest for a few days, an adult granddaughter who will be up from Los Angeles for the Memorial Day holiday weekend.

For me, traveling out of town for any overnight stay involves a lot of logistics, as I am vegan.  My daughters aren’t vegan, but all three have been in the past and know I’m not difficult to cook for. Bake me a potato, offer me some guacamole to dress it up, and finish it off with a salad dressed with oil and vinegar, and I’m a happy camper.

I know it seems odd to many people, but being vegan means I eat nothing that came from an animal. No cheese, no meat, no eggs. People immediately think “how complicated!” but it’s not complicated at all. It’s simply a diet that celebrates vegetables and grains and all the many ways to eat them. Vegans consume nothing from animals, vegetarians may or may not eat dairy or eggs.

So, what do I eat and how do I flavor it? Beans, rice, any vegetable, or grain. I do like certain tempeh dishes, as tempeh is made from soybeans, but differs from tofu (which I love for curries) in that it is a whole soybean product with different nutritional characteristics and textural qualities. Tempeh has ‘tooth.’ As in everything, how you marinate the protein, tofu or tempeh, before you cook it is what will make it tasty, whereas just plain tofu or tempeh is too bland. That blandness is that is what gives them the bad reputation among new vegetarians who don’t understand how to prepare them.

A great source of simple recipes for creating flavorful tofu and tempeh can be found at Veg Girl Rd .Com.

But you don’t have to cook these things for me. I’m happy with rice and veggies.

Flavor for gravies, pilafs, and soups comes from vegetable broth. There are two ways to get good rich flavor using vegetable broth, but my go-to store bought product for use at home is the reliable kitchen staple, Better Than Bouillion Vegetable Base. Otherwise, I make my own veggie broth base, using the recipe I found here: Homemade Vegetable Soup Base. It’s quick and simple, and is one of those shortcuts to great flavor that I regularly employ.

Other than that, I eat regular vegetables, just sautéed in olive (or any other organic vegetable oil) rather than in butter, which comes from cows. I use almond milk or coconut milk,  Tofutti brand Better Than Sour Cream, and also their Better Than Cream Cheese, two dairy-free and delicious products. I also use an egg-free mayonnaise, Veganaise, which tastes just like Best Foods Mayonnaise (Hellman’s if you are from the East Coast) but is made with no animal products.

bread machineThe great thing about being vegan is how little it costs to eat well. Going sans meat is the lazy person’s dream diet. It’s amazing how quickly you can get a meal on the table, and when you are making beans from scratch, the crockpot is your best friend. I even make my own bread from several different recipes using my bread machine, which takes less than five minutes to assemble the ingredients. It hardest part for me is remembering to push the button to start baking. (I laugh, but it is a problem.)

I would far rather spend my time writing than cooking, but meals in our household are celebrated. Our time at the table is where we come together and talk about the day and things that are important to us, and good food makes our mealtime cozy and comforting.

So, in honor of that family tradition, I offer one hour a day to the cooking gods, and try to be as creative as the fresh vegetables in the grocery store will allow. On the housekeeping front, I may spend 20 minutes a day tidying the house (or not), but the rest of the day is mine to do as I want, which is writing or reading. And, since I don’t spend a lot of time cooking for me, I don’t expect anyone else to either.

Portland, Oregon is paradise for vegans and vegetarians. The city and  surrounding suburbs are full of restaurants catering to those of us who are of the vegan persuasion, and so this road trip will be both full of family events and delicious.

Food is central to a region’s culture, and the West Coast, Portland and Seattle in particular, are great places for vegans and vegetarians to travel and dine when on the road. Fortunately for me, this area is where I do most of my traveling.

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Vegans #GiveThanks too: The Famdamily Feast

1024px-Pieter_Bruegel_the_Elder_-_The_Peasant_Dance_-_1526-1530 to 1569I make no secret that I am vegan. It confuses my friends, and my family tolerates it. They worry what to feed me. I always say, “Vegetables.”

I like food that is
– made with Non GMO ingredients
– 100% meat and dairy free (vegan) made from ingredients with words I understand and can pronounce.

I don’t really care for the traditional vegan staple, the Tofurkey roast, although many vegans do enjoy that particular product. I LOVE Tofurkey brand’s tempeh products, and use them all the time.  I even like their 100% meat free hot dogs.

Field Roast celebrations roastI prefer Field Roast products, when it comes to getting my protein in a vegetable form. Thus, while I am roasting an actual organic, free-range turkey for my sadly carnivorous family, I will also make myself a Field Roast brand Celebration roast, with a cranberry glaze.

All of the traditional side dishes will be there but they will have no animal product in them–and there will be no  lack of Thanksgiving flavor at my table!

I will make the traditional sweet-potatoes, using Dandies vegan marshmallows.

There will be chips and salsa and guacamole, and  tea-bread and  chocolate chip cookies. No one but me will know they are vegan, because there are many great recipes that don’t require butter or eggs.

I will make mashed potatoes, using Earth Balance margarine (100% vegan, has no lactose in it) and almond milk:

  • 5 to 6 potatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 Tbsp vegan margarine optional
  • 1 cup Almond milk, warmed (rice milk if allergic to nuts)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

My mashed potatoes will pass the taste test–Courtney, the pickiest eater ever, will love them.

I will make Balsamic Roasted Vegetables with this glaze:

1/3 cup vegetable broth
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

homemade croutons image © connie jasperson

homemade croutons

I will also make a tasty Vegan Stuffing, using croutons made from homemade bread: Made like garlic bread, cubed, and seasoned with my own poultry seasoning. Baked at 350 for 25 minutes, stir half way through.

  • 10 cups 1/2 inch bread cubes from 1 lb firm wh wheat or other sandwich bread
  • 2 Tbsp + 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh garlic (2 – 3 cloves)
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped celery
  • 1 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/2 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1+1/2 tsp dried rubbed sage leaf
  • 1 tsp dried thyme leaf
  • Optional: 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 2 – 3 cups vegetable stock OR 3 c. water + veggie BetterThanBoullion to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Oil a large shallow casserole dish

  1. Toast bread cubes in a large baking sheet in the oven until golden brown. Set aside in a large bowl
  2. Turn oven down to 350 degrees F
  3. Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large skillet on medium heat. Sauté onions, garlic, and celery until soft
  4. Using a rubber spatula, transfer the veggie mixture to the bowl of bread crumbs
  5. Add parsley, sage, thyme, optional salt, and pepper
  6. Optional: Drizzle 1 Tbsp olive oil into the mixture
  7. Stir until until everything is well mixed
  8. Add 2 cups vegetable stock, and stir until it is absorbed. Add more stock as needed so that the mixture is moist and clumping together, but not soggy
  9. Bake in a covered shallow casserole or baking dish for 25 minutes
  10. Optional: Uncover and bake another 15 minutes to form a crusty top
onion and mushroom gravy

picture via google images

But the best part will be the ONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

  • 3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté for just a minute or two over high heat.
  2. 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, then reduce heat.
  3. Add poultry seasoning, salt and pepper, stirring consistently. Allow to cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until gravy thickens.

And–there will be pumpkin pie and cherry pie, with coconut whipped cream, all made with all-vegetable ingredients.

Vegan pumpkin pie–for the recipe, click here: Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

Food Network Vegan Pumpkin Pie

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The Queen of Bags

father-christmas-saint-02I love the sights and scents of the holiday season. Cookies baking, houses on our street with lighted displays–you don’t have to go wild to make a huge impression. My dear hubby always puts a few decorations out, little trees made of white lights and lighted candy-canes.

All up and down our neighborhood, homes are decorated for the season. Anyone driving through our little valley will see some ambitious displays. Our home is really quite simple in its holiday decorating–a tree, candles, a cute centerpiece for the table. We keep it simple because we have to tear it down and put it all away over New Year’s day, and that rapidly becomes a bore.  It’s work, and I don’t like anything that falls into the category of labor. But I love looking at other people’s efforts!

christmas-gift-bagsWrapping the presents is also a bore, but I am now the queen of bags! I love that all I have to do is remove the price-tag, fold a little tissue around it and stuff it in a bag. Jam a little tissue in the top and voila! Christmas is served! No more tape sticking to the wrong place, and no more hunting for the scissors I just set down.

Just lazy me, blowing through wrapping the pile of presents like a sleigh through snow!

We have a lot of grand-kids. We’ll make sure their gifts arrive at their houses before the big day. It’s sad when their presents are out from under our tree and under the trees in their homes because our tree looks a bit lonely. But not for long–we’ll soon have a few bags under there, just a little something for the two old people to enjoy on their quiet Christmas morning.

Field Roast holiday roastIt doesn’t take a lot to make the place feel festive. A little here and there, and the house feels warmer, cozier. An atmosphere of peace and well-being. I will roast a turkey breast for my hubby because he is a carnivore, but I will make a vegan entrée for me, a Hazelnut-Cranberry Roast made by the Seattle-based Field Roast Company. Everything I cook will be vegan except Greg’s turkey, and it will be delicious.

I make all the traditional dishes, substituting Earth Balance vegan margarine and almond or rice milk for the dairy. I use vegetable broth to make the cranberry-walnut stuffing. Anyone can eat well, if they choose to, and it’s not anymore expensive than eating junk-food, cheaper if you want to know the truth.

This is my recipe for:

onion and mushroom gravyONION AND MUSHROOM GRAVY

Ingredients:

  •  3/4 cup white or button mushrooms, chopped
  • 1 small yellow or white onion, minced
  • 1/4 cup vegan margarine
  • 2 1/2 cups vegetable broth
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tbsp poultry seasoning (or 1/2 tsp each of sage, thyme and marjoram)
  • salt and pepper to taste

Preparation: 

In a large skillet, melt the vegan margarine and add onion and mushrooms. Sauté 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, then reduce heat.

santa in snow stormI love this time of year. Great food, all the Christmas lights and decorations–I kind of go nuts. When we take the presents round to our children’s homes I feel a sense of having succeeded–they have new traditions for their children, combined some from our past. I feel a sense of continuity–We’re the grandparents now, the old-fashioned ones, the ones who always have time for a cuddle and never deny a grandchild a cookie when he wants one.

We’re always there, slightly in the way of Mom getting things done, but trying not to be. We’re happy to be mauled, sat on, have our hair brushed, even our toe-nails painted if that’s what makes a child happy. We’ll play Legos with them until the cows come home, so their parents can get the real work of the holidays done.

When their parents were small, our parents were there for them, being the old, wise people who loved our children as unconditionally as we love our grandchildren. 

In this holiday dance, the circle is complete.

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