Saturday, December 1, 2012

Thanksgiving Dinner

Last year I cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the first time. The meal was small, just my sister and myself, but it was a fun, long and busy day. When I heard that a few people in my life were possibly going out to eat for Thanksgiving this year, I decided I was up for cooking for a few more. Four people ended up coming for dinner besides myself, including my roommate from college and her boyfriend and my boyfriend and his brother. Woo! This group included one vegetarian and one vegan, so I decided to make most dishes vegan, which is to say, turkey was not part of the plan. Unfortunately because I was busy cooking, cleaning and having people over, I forgot to take pictures of most things. Ooops. Anway this was the menu:

  • Whole wheat crockpot bread - I used something like this recipe, cooking the bread in the crockpot on high for 3 hours. I'm not sure if my yeast was bad or what, but it didn't rise as much as I expected, and as a result the bread was a little more dense than I hoped. It was still ok with the soup and cut very thinly for grilled cheese sandwiches. I want to try this technique again at some later point I think.
  • Tomato & Delicata squash soup - I didn't really follow a recipe for this soup, but it was similar to this soup. I used fresh tomatoes and delicate squash instead of the butternut squash called for. I also used more veggies and spices in it since I didn't use the cheese or chicken stock. My trusty vitamix made the soup nice and smooth.
  • Israeli Cous Cous salad - This has become my go-to recipe for Thanksgiving potlucks since it's easy, can be made the day before, doesn't require any reheating and includes some fruits and veggies and the ever favorite carbs. I used dried rosemary and thyme, adding it when cooking the couscous, which seems to add more flavor than adding once it's cooked. I also added in some quinoa instead of all of the couscous (like Trader Joe's Israeli Cous Cous pilaf mixture.) Sometimes I also add some orange zest as well as pink lady apples instead of green, green onions and cucumber if it's on hand. If I have it around I also will use fresh squeezed orange juice instead of some of the apple cider vinegar. I usually forget the almonds. I really like this as a fresher, vegan version of stuffing/filling.
  • Green salad - Nothing crazy here. Just a green salad with strawberries, Asian pear, green onions and maybe some other stuff I'm forgetting with a vinaigrette.
  • Green Bean Casserole - The first and only time I had made green bean casserole before this was a few years ago with my cousin and sister for Christmas with a recipe from the Moosewood Cookbook. It turned out well, but I don't have the cookbook, so I found this recipe online instead. I took a shortcut, using the harcot verts from trader joes, which I steamed and didn't bother cutting any smaller. I also used 4 largish portabella mushrooms instead of the wild mushroom mix. I was so happy how this worked because the mushrooms added so much flavor to the dish and I wanted to make the dish a little more substantial. I also didn't use the veggie bullion cube, instead opting to use some dried thyme, sage, rosemary and a little nutmeg for seasoning instead. I also added some leek into the mix for more depth of flavor in conjunction with the onion and garlic. Finally, I made my own "fried" onions, gently frying some onions mixed with whole wheat flour and light seasoning in olive oil.
  • Sweet Potatoes - I pretty much used this recipe, except I used 2lbs of sweet potatoes and not as much topping as mentioned in the recipe. I also used a mixture of pecans and walnuts on top.
  • Baked Salmon with herbs -  I vaguely used a recipe similar to this for the salmon. For the herbs, I layered roughly chopped parsley, green onions and very thinly sliced lemon on the salmon. I was surprised at how much flavor these brought to the salmon.
  • Vegan almond Cream with fresh fruit & my friend brought a pumpkin pie! - I vaguely used this recipe for vegan almond cream. I had made it before without the agar, which was still tasty, but I wanted to see how it would change the texture. So I ventured into Little Tokyo to pick a few packets of agar agar powder at a fraction of the price of what Whole Food's had. I used already blanched almonds from Trader Joe's, which I soaked a little bit and then blended into an smooth cream with my Vitamix. I didn't bother straining the mixture before boiling it with the agar and sugar. After letting the mixture firm overnight in the fridge, I added a bit of lemon juice, lemon zest and apple cider vinegar for an extra level of tangy flavor and to losen the mixture (from what I've read, acids can cause the agar to not set if added in excess) a dash of cardamom while breaking up the mixture into a smooth cream after it set. It was delicious with both the cut strawberries and persimmon as well as the pumpkin pie.
Overall, I think things went well and I didn't have any major disasters. It was relatively easy to make nearly the whole meal vegan and I enjoyed making dishes from scratch since I like adding more fruits & veggies, cut down on the excess fat and enhance the spices. Everyone seemed to enjoy the meal and I enjoyed the company and having the chance to cook for people since that's definitely a way I like showing my love (especially when it's foods I know are healthy!) I wanted to make sure I made some of the traditional Thanksgiving dishes while still remaining true to some of the concepts and cooking techniques I usually utilize. I experimented with some techniques and recipes that I want to continue using going forward (like the green bean casserole! That was my favorite leftover!) Overall, a Thanksgiving day success!

aww. and a sweet little rat to be thankful for.

1 comment:

  1. What an awesome feast! And thanks for the mention. :) Teehee. I miss you and hope we get to see you soon. WE can have some cooking fun together. I have all sorts of fun recipes to try now thanks to this post!