Cookbook Reviews by Rachel: Vegan Holiday Kitchen by Nava Atlas »
Overall Rating: A-
Level of Difficulty: Beginner to Intermediate
Best for: Anyone looking for no-fuss ways to veganize their family celebrations.
You know how they call that time from Thanksgiving to New Year’s “the holiday season”? There are holidays all year round, it turns out. (Flag Day: June 14). What would fill the “seasonal” aisle of the grocery stores otherwise? So while you might think a cookbook called Vegan Holiday Kitchen should get reviewed in like, November (which happens to be when everyone else reviewed it), it’s with an eye to strategy and not simply a result of laziness that I bring you this late March report. This cookbook covers not only Thanksgiving, Christmas, and Hanukkah, but Passover, Easter, Rosh Hashanah, and Independence Day. Plus brunch, which I guess is its own holiday.
PSA: Passover starts after sundown Friday, April 6. Easter is Sunday, April 8. Holidays approacheth! Do you have a plan?
Nava Atlas had a clear purpose with this photo-heavy offering: honor tradition, add the vegan element, and create special-occasion meals that are fun, not stressful. To that end, her recipes tend to the simple and don’t shy away from shortcuts (canned lentils?!). But the lack of elaborate preparation or unusual ingredients makes this a really awesome resource when you’re looking to cook in someone else’s kitchen (like I did for Thanksgiving), or if you’re short on time, or if you just think complicated recipes are scary.
I’ve made a lot of stuff from this book over the last six months (though it’s not an everyday go-to), but somehow I failed to photograph most of it. Here’s the Red Wine-Roasted Brussel Sprouts everyone loved in November (pre-roasting):
And here’s a sandwich I made on the Vegan Challah, which came out really delicious, if not quite as flaky as the original (secret ingredient: squash!):
While some of the recipes are restricted to particular holidays or seasons (Passover = lots of matzoh, July 4th = grilling), it’s also fun to mix and match. At Christmas, we brought Moroccan-Flavored Tofu with Apricots and Olives, in theory a Rosh Hashanah offering, to a friends’ house for fancy dinner; it got devoured with compliments.
Atlas is a good communicator: The recipes are written clearly and are easy to follow, and each is labeled at the top if it is or could be soy-, gluten-, or nut-free. I’ve wanted to tweak some of her instructions (less sweetener in the Agave and Mustard-Glazed Green Beans, for example), but haven’t had any disasters or failures, praise be.
My only major complaint is that, especially in the Thanksgiving and Christmas chapters, Atlas shies away from star-of-the-show, protein-heavy, centerpiece dishes that I think are pretty key to a vegan celebration. Stuffings and pilafs abound; hearty stews and tofus do not. Perhaps this is a rebellion against Tofurky, but I want my protein, dammit.
Anyway, this book will be my #1 go-to for figuring out what to cook in my mother’s kitchen to bring to a seder next month. I’d wanted to try the matzoh balls before writing my review, but I’ll just have to post about it later.
Final verdict: Solid, crowd-pleasing recipes designed for simplicity. Especially valuable for the wealth of Jewish recipes, more than I’ve seen collected anywhere else.
Santa visits a pig factory farm in Germany. What you’re watching is probably the one moment of happiness in these pigs entire lives. Look at how dirty they are and those awful concrete floors they live their ENTIRE LIVES ON… the pigs I know LOVE to be clean, and love to rest on soft beds, and are very anal about keeping their living spaces immaculate. They are so smart and so sweet and so fucking awesome. OK, I need to look at Eric for a second so I don’t complete my transformation into the Grinch. MERRY CHRISTMAS!
Screw Friday, let’s look at delicious cake »
We’re obviously having issues over here today and aren’t too proud to admit it. Well, we are normally too proud but today we are very tired. It’s Friday, it’s the holidays, we have sick dogs and hives and so we say, fuck it! Let’s look at cake!
Now, let’s watch this and get high and make out. Good night, sir!
Vegan Christmas cookies from It Ain’t Meat, Babe! Jennifer is in the holiday spirit! She collected cookie recipes from the near and far internet, she links to all of them in her post so don’t ask me where the recipes are.
I really like this post and not just because of the tablecloth. I like it because it reminds me of when my mom and I would make all kinds of Christmas cookies and make cute cookie plates for the neighbors. We don’t do that anymore. You know, busy life gets in the way! That was before my sister was born. We used to do a lot of fun stuff before my little sister was born! Haaaa. Hilarisad. I don’t know if she’s ever even carved a pumpkin.
Product Review: VegeUSA Vegan Whole Turkey! »
(I know this post is very Christmas-y, but basically I eat the same-ish meal for both Thanksgiving and Christmas, so of course I assume everyone else does the same!)
Last Christmas, I went all out and treated myself to a Vegetarian Plus Vegan Whole Turkey. I was super curious after seeing the ads in VegNews. Now, I’m a Tofukery fan — I like it, but I’m not in love. I’m also a vegan who LOVES faux meat, in taste and in image. I think it’s hilarious this vegan turkey is actually shaped like a turkey. I could not contain my excitement about eating a drumstick again. Vegan drumsticks = pure joy.
I bought my vegan turkey at Rainbow Grocery and lugged it to Grandma’s house in Redwood City. I showed it off to practically anyone I came across. The thing is like, 4 pounds and has to defrost overnight. So plan ahead! It also comes with gravy and stuffing, but I put those aside (in Grandma’s freezer, for a later date) and made my own. There’s actually a cavity to put the stuffing in. This thing is intense!
It’s possible I went a little overboard with the stuffing, as you can see from the split seams.
I tried to bake this monster according to the directions, but unfortunately my aunt had turned off the oven, forgetting I had to prepare my vegan meal! (I’m sure it was just an accident…) So, it took a little longer than the directions stated.
The turkey was well worth the wait! So tender! So moist (ew)! So flavorful! I AM IN LOVE. I have been so excited for the holidays to roll around so I can get another one!
For real, this faux bird is delectable. It’s meant to feed 8 - 10 people, but I have the appetite of 5 people so I ate half of it in one night. I think I’ll lay off of doing that again this year (no promises). I learned my lesson the hard way, and felt sick for days (which didn’t stop me from eating the leftovers. Really. It’s that good. Don’t get me started on the turkey sandwiches with veganaise…)
Vegan Christmas plate! ‘Turkey’ drumstick, gravy, stuffing, carrots and twice baked chipotle sweet potato (recipe from The Vegan Girl’s Guide to Life).
Check out the SF SPCA’s holiday windows at Macy’s Union Square! »
I know, it is basically the SF SPCA blog over here lately, but we are on Krista’s mailing list and she has a lot to say right now! Hi, Krista!
Every year the SF SPCA and Macy’s Union Square get together to promote local animal adoption, by designing fancy winter-holiday (Christmas) windows to show off all the cutie-pie puppies and kittens you could adopt as your winter-holiday present to yourself, because you’ve been super-good this year and besides of which, giving a needy animal a home is a total mitzvah, better than getting all your loved ones exactly what they put on their wish lists.
Last year “about 300 animals featured in Macy’s holiday windows found new homes from the adoption center on the Main Floor and more than $70,000 in donations was raised for the SF SPCA.” Awesome job, shoppers.
If you’re not ready to adopt a new best friend right now, you can at least go see the animals and get in the holiday spirit—it’s too late to complain, CHRISTMAS IS HERE—when the adoptable animals are unveiled in their windows this Friday, Nov. 18 at 5 p.m. at the Macy’s Union Square. Go be charmed! The SPCA windows will be up through Jan. 1, 2012.
[photo from the SF SPCA’s 2010 holiday windows; see more here]
Save the songbirds: reuse your wrapping paper! »
I ran across this post on thedailygreen.com about songbirds and the paper industry. Apparently, “logging of the boreal forest in Canada and Siberia is happening at a lightning-quick pace that is proving too speedy for many that live there.” What can you do? Buy recycled paper!
Greenlife.com has a similar story and tells us this issue is especially relevant during the holiday season: “Americans throw away up to 25 percent more garbage (5 million tons more than the average daily amount of 3.5 pounds of garbage we usually throw away) between Thanksgiving and the New Year.” Yowza! That’s a lot of wrapping paper! And most of it isn’t even recyclable so it has to end up in the trash (unless you recycle it yourself—get crafty!).
There are many companies that sell recycled wrapping paper but the easiest way to save trees (and birds in those trees) is not to buy wrapping paper at all. I generally wrap presents in old newspapers during the year but my mom keeps us rich in Christmas wrapping paper so I usually wrap all my presents with that. Not next year! Actually, my brother and his wife did the whole newspaper-wrapping this year. They decorated the paper with cut outs from magazines (mine had puppies and female action heros, my dad’s had naked chicks)—they were fun! And more importantly, recycled.
[image from energyace.com]
Happy holidays from the ASPCA! »
Awwww, so cute. Adorbs, if I may say so. Let’s watch cute videos all day!
I have a soft spot for the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals because that’s where I got both my cat and my dog. What I REALLY wanted to post today was a new ASPCA commercial I saw starring Roberta Flack! It’s another one of those super-depressing commercials where they show the shivering puppies behind bars. Sad face. I can’t really handle those commercials, for real. But this time, the commercial is with Roberta Flack! Roberta Flack and cute sad animals—the ASPCA is trying to kill me! Keep an eye out for it.
Christmas at the Rascals’! »
I got it the recipe for this squash stuffed with apple cornbread dressing from that Philadelphia Inquirer article, and it became the center of the vegan part of our Christmas dinner! Well, we ended up just buying vegan cornbread from Whole Foods. It was supposed to be delicata squash but we couldn’t find that so my mom got this carnival squash instead; it had a sort of pumpkin-y flavor. The cornbread-and-apple stuffing—OH! the cornbread-and-apple stuffing! It’s what stuffing dreams are made of. And one squash is very filling, I could only eat half with all the sides we had. Oh, I should warn you, at one point in the cooking process I got really cranky because cutting the squashes and scooping out the innards was like totally hard and annoying. But in the end, it was worth it! So keep calm and carry on.
Not all my vegan dreams went so well; my vegan popovers didn’t pop! I always get pouty when the omnis eat my mom’s Yorkshire pudding (it’s the food of my people!) so this year we tried to make a vegan version but, alack, it didn’t work. I let my mom make them (I’m so nice to her!) and she’s notorious for adapting recipes, so we can’t be sure what exactly went wrong. Next year, though! Meanwhile, if someone has a killer vegan Yorkshire pudding or popover recipe they want to share with me, COME FORTH AND BE COUNTED!
Here’s my favorite present of the year: Mitsy! Just kidding; I’ve had little Mits for years (and we didn’t really wrap her up)! How many kitties out there went crazy for the wrapping paper and ribbons and boxes? Mitsy was not at all impressed with her kitty-grass seeds from her grandparents but the PAPER they were wrapped in was apparently out of this world.
Another holiday surprise: it snowed! The holiday being Boxing Day of course—it was not a white Christmas. I’ll still roll a snowball in your honor, West-Coasters! Happy holidays to all my pals!