CELEBRATE A WHITE CHRISTMAS AT THE TABLE

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

A beautiful main dish, this trio features a tasty grain as the base, topped with a hearty serving of vegetables. The final topping is a snowy white, ultra creamy walnut sauce garnished with fresh pomegranate seeds and a sprinkle of parsley.

While it looks complicated, it’s really quite manageable with good planning. The bulgur, vegetables, and the sauce can each be made a day ahead and stored in a container that can be gently warmed in the oven. You don’t even have to warm the sauce–just enjoy it at room temperature and it will be delightfully creamy and delicious.

This is a fun dish to serve because it lends itself to inventively creative presentations. Assembling the dish will tap into your innovative notions and allow you go be as expressive as your inner artist allows. If you prefer simplicity, that’s totally OK and your family will still enjoy a luscious and healthy whole grain dish complete with vegetables and a unique, walnut-based sauce that’s white as snow to top off the White Christmas Trio.

To fill out the meal, I would also add legumes, a side vegetable, and a gorgeous salad. Of course, a delicious appetizer makes a great start to the festivities. Perhaps the Yin Yang Thanksgiving Paté. A lighter choice might be the Smoky Garlic Stuffed Endive. I’ve posted some fun choices for your holiday dessert and will let you explore the many recipes by clicking on Desserts.

WHITE CHRISTMAS TRIO WITH SAVORY WALNUT SAUCE

Yield: 6 to 8 servings

Bulgur Wheat

1 1/2 cups coarse bulgur wheat or Basmati brown rice

3 cups water

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

1/3 cup raisins

Walnut Sauce

3 cups walnuts

3 cups vanilla soymilk

1 to 2 tablespoons nutritional yeast

1 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1/2 teaspoon organic sugar

1/4 teaspoon pepper

Pinch cayenne (optional)

Vegetables

2 large carrots, coarsely grated

2 large zucchini squashes, coarsely grated

1 large yellow summer squash, coarsely grated

1 medium onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced, crosswise

1/2 teaspoon oregano

1/2 teaspoon basil

1/2 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt or to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Garnish

1/2 to 3/4 cup pomegranate seeds

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

TO MAKE THE BULGUR WHEAT, combine the bulgur, water, and salt in a 2-quart saucepan. Cover, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to low, and steam for 12 to 15 minutes (steam Basmati brown rice 35 to 45 minutes, or until tender).

Put the raisins in a small bowl and cover with hot water. Set aside to plump them while preparing the remaining ingredients.

TO MAKE THE WALNUT SAUCE, put the walnuts, soymilk, nutritional yeast, salt, pepper, and sugar in a blender. Process until smooth and creamy. Adjust seasonings as needed. The sauce will thicken when standing. Set aside in a saucepan and warm gently before serving.

TO MAKE THE VEGETABLES, combine the carrots, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, water, olive oil, garlic, oregano, basil, marjoram, salt and pepper in a large deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat until the vegetables are soft, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning the vegetables. Adjust seasonings and add lemon juice to taste.

Drain the water from the reserved raisins and add them to the vegetables and toss well.

TO ASSEMBLE THE DISH:

  • Mound the bulgur wheat onto a large serving platter.
  • Spoon some of the walnut sauce over the bulgur, leaving a 1-inch border of the bulgur showing.
  • Form a ring of the cooked vegetables, leaving a 1-inch border of bulgur wheat around the edges.
  • Finish with a sprinkle of pomegranate seeds and parsley over the top.
  • Serve the remainder of the walnut sauce on the side.

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LET’S GET READY FOR A VEGAN THANKSGIVING DINNER

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

Vegan Thanksgiving yearns for a classic signature dish that becomes a cherished must-have for the Thanksgiving main course. Deliciously seasoned with flamboyant flavors, captivatingly aromatic, and visually appealing, this unique torte is a first-rate holiday entrée that delivers plenty of pizzazz. If you favor sauces to dress up the presentation, include the irresistible Roasted Tomato Aioli, an elegant complement to the torte. Both the torte and the aioli can be prepared a day ahead.

I’ve served this main-dish torte at other times during the winter and spring seasons and it’s always a hit. But mostly, I save it for Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner–that makes it special, and I change it out with other main dishes so it maintains its special status.

I know the long list of ingredients makes it look scary, but it actually comes together rather well. I’ve even made it two days ahead because it keeps perfectly. And when I bring it to the table, it always gets a few WOWs–feels really nice to hear them.

Although I’ve specified shredded carrots as part of the garnish, sometimes I use sliced persimmons or half slices of oranges. The orange colors set this dish up for an eye-appealing presentation.

Important: Because there are ingredients that require advance preparation, read the recipe thoroughly well in advance of preparing it. That way, you can have the rice cooked and ready, the pistachios roasted and ground, and the frozen peas completely thawed.

PISTACHIO AND SWEET PEA TORTE

WITH ROASTED TOMATO AIOLI

 

Makes about 10 to 12 servings

Torte

1 1/2 cups water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

1 tablespoon plus 14 teaspoon white vinegar or rice vinegar

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 3/4 teaspoons salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons coarsely ground roasted pistachios

 

2 medium onions, diced

2 medium carrots, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1 red bell pepper, diced

6 cloves garlic, minced

1 (2-inch) piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon poultry seasoning

1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, coarsely ground with a mortar and pestle

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon dried marjoram

1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric

Pinch cayenne

Freshly ground pepper

 

3 cups cooked short-grain brown rice

1 pound frozen peas, thawed

1 medium carrot, shredded, for garnish

3 tablespoons minced fresh parsley, for garnish

Aioli

1 pound Roma tomatoes, cut in half lengthwise

1 cup water

1/2 cup cashews or walnuts

2 cloves garlic

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground smoked paprika or liquid smoke

TO PREPARE THE PAN, cover the base of a 9-inch springform pan with a piece of parchment paper 2 inches larger. Snap the collar back onto the base, and cut away the excess paper with scissors. Lightly oil the sides of the pan, place it on a baking sheet, and set aside.

TO MAKE THE TORTE, pour 1 cup of the water and the cashews into a blender. Process on high speed until smooth and milky. Transfer to a small bowl, stir in the vinegar and set aside to sour.

Combine the oats, baking powder, salt, and baking soda in a large bowl and mix well. Stir in 1/2 cup of the ground pistachios.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Combine the remaining 1/2 cup of water, onions, carrots, celery, red bell pepper, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, poultry seasoning, fennel seeds, oregano, marjoram, turmeric, cayenne, and pepper in a large skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for 10 to 12 minutes, or until the vegetables are softened. Add 1 or more tablespoons of water as needed to prevent burning.

Add the cooked vegetables and the cooked rice to the oat mixture and combine well.

Put the peas in a food processor. Process until creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Add the peas and the soured cashew milk to the vegetable mixture and mix well.

Spoon the mixture into the prepared springform pan and spread to the edges, packing the mixture firmly. Smooth the top and sprinkle with the remaining 3 tablespoons of pistachios. Bake for 55 to 60 minutes, or until the torte is firm when gently pressed. Let cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

TO MAKE THE AIOLI, put the tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut side up, and broil about 3 inches from the heat for 15 to 20 minutes, turning twice while broiling, until completely soft.

Meanwhile, put the water, cashews, and garlic in a blender. Process until smooth, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Add the broiled tomatoes, lemon juice, salt, and paprika to the cashew mixture. Process until smooth and creamy, stopping occasionally to scrape down the blender jar. Transfer the sauce to a 1-quart saucepan and simmer over medium heat for about 5 minutes.

TO SERVE THE TORTE, place the springform pan on a large serving platter. To unmold, run a knife around the edge to loosen the torte. Carefully lift off the collar. Garnish the edge of the platter with the shredded carrot and minced parsley. Cut the torte into serving-size wedges and serve with aioli on the side.

STUFFED EGGPLANT IN GRAND HOLIDAY STYLE

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

An elegant dish for the festive occasion, these stuffed eggplants not only make an attractive presentation but they also bring delicious pleasure to the lucky guests who have come for holiday dinner. If the guests are eggplant lovers–even better!

To save time during the busy holiday season, you can make this dish a day ahead and cover it in plastic wrap before baking. Then, next day bring the eggplants to room temperature and bake them shortly before serving.

To determine which size eggplants to buy, it helps to be a little familiar with your guests appetites. Very hearty eaters will be able to handle one-half of the large 1-pound eggplant. Once it’s stuffed, it’s pretty impressive in size.

Those with more average appetites will be very satisfied with one-half of a 1/2-pound eggplant. Keep in mind that the mushrooms, carrots, and the brown rice mixed with the eggplant make even this size a robust serving.

I’ve chosen pecans for the crusty topping because of their natural sweetness, but chopped cashews or walnuts would also make excellent choices to give the topping a pleasing crunch.

PECAN CRUSTED STUFFED EGGPLANT

 Yield: 8 average servings or 4 very hearty servings

Eggplant Stuffing

4 small eggplants, about 1/2 pound each for average servings or 2 large eggplants (1 pound each), for very hearty eater

1/2 pound fresh button, mushrooms halved and thinly sliced

7 garlic cloves, minced

2 medium carrots, diced

1/2 cup water

1 1/2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon soy sauce

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cider vinegar

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

1 cup cooked short grain brown rice

3/4 teaspoon salt, or to taste

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon onion powder

Freshly ground black pepper

1 or 2 pinches cayenne

Topping

3/4 cup pecans, coarsely ground in a nut mill

1 tablespoon white miso

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Have ready a large, rimmed baking sheet. Cut the eggplants in half lengthwise. Using a serrated grapefruit knife or paring knife scoop out the eggplant flesh, chop it into bite-size pieces, and set it aside in a medium bowl.

Brush the shells inside and out lightly with oil, put the shells on the baking sheet, and put them under the broiler for 3 to 5 minutes, until the flesh is soft and golden brown. Remove and cool.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Transfer the chopped eggplant flesh to a large skillet. Add the mushrooms, garlic, carrots, water, and oil and cook and stir over high heat for about 3 to 4 minutes.

Add the soy sauce, vinegar, and lemon juice and cook another 1 or 2 minutes. Add the rice, salt, garlic powder, onion powder, pepper, and cayenne. Adjust seasoning if needed. Mix well and stuff the mixture into the eggplant shells, filling them to the rim. Store extra stuffing in the refrigerator and see note for leftover suggestion.

Put the topping ingredients in a small bowl and use the fingers to mix it well. Spoon the topping over the eggplant and press gently to secure it. Bake for 20 to 30 minutes and serve.

Note: Extra eggplant stuffing is delicious as an appetizer spread that can be spooned onto toasted pita wedges or crackers. These handy leftovers bring a delicious appetizer to the table quickly.

VEGAN GREEN POSOLE FOR CHRISTMAS EVE!!!

Posole

The Scoop on Posole–WHAT IS IT?

Posole, a traditional Mexican soup, is such an integral part of Mexican cuisine, some consider it the country’s national dish. If you’re in Mexico on a Thursday, you might enter a restaurant and see nearly everyone dipping their spoons into bowls of posole.

Where posole really shines in Mexican households is on Christmas Eve. For several nights before Christmas Eve, Las Posadas is a fun family tradition in Mexican households. With traditional songs and a bit of play-acting, family members retell the story of Mary and Joseph on their journey to find shelter before Jesus is born. Those playing Mary and Joseph knock on the door and sing their request for shelter and are told several times there is no room. On Christmas Eve, they are welcomed in, resulting in a happy celebration and a hearty meal of posole and all the typical accompaniments added to the soup.

Because posole is such a delicious soup made with ingredients available year ’round , it’s an ideal make-ahead hot meal any time, but becomes extra celebratory at Christmas time. The real fun with posole is the variety of add-ins typically spooned into the soup, creating interesting textures for the soup adventure.

 Where did the name posole come from?

Taken from the Aztec Nahuatl language, “posole” means foam. Apparently the Aztecs thought the voluptuous posole, or hominy kernels, resembled foam and named the soup potzolli. The soup dates back to the pre-Columbian era. In the true Mexican tradition, posole is actually made with pork and, sometimes, chicken, but this version is strictly vegan. Typical Mexican seasonings include garlic, onions, cumin, oregano, and red or green chiles, depending on regional preferences.

Posole corn, prepared from field corn, was made by the ancient Aztecs in limestone caves. Today’s process of soaking the corn in powdered lime and water results in the familiar puffed, chewy kernels known as hominy. The actual posole corn, which might be white, yellow, or blue, is sweeter and tastier than hominy but is not readily available in chain groceries.

Is posole a cure for a hangover?

If you think posole has curing powers, you head for a big bowl of it. In some regions of Mexico people think  it’s the hot chiles that have given posole its reputation for curing hangovers. Because of this notability, posole is often served on Saturday and Sunday mornings to aid recovery from the past night’s revelry.

Posole waves the colors of the Mexican flag

There are many variations of posole. The soup can be red, green, or white, like the colors of the Mexican flag. Red posole gets its bright color from roasted red chiles. The green posole is made from tomatillos and thickened with ground pumpkin seeds, while the white posole contains hominy in a clear broth with chiles served on the side.

Posole, a festive meal in a bowl, makes a hearty main-dish soup served on special occasions throughout Mexico and is frequently served on Christmas Eve to recognize life’s blessings. When served on New Year’s Day, posole is thought to bring good luck. One of the main ingredients that give this dish distinctive character is hominy, a specially treated white or yellow corn with a pleasantly light flavor and chewy texture. The soup is more festive when accompanied by a banquet of add-ins served on the side, along with corn or flour tortillas.

Add-ins to enhance the soup

The long list of Add-ins I’ve included in the recipe represents all the regional preferences throughout Mexico. Rarely do people serve all of these at the same meal. Choose your favorites and enjoy a delicious bowl of green posole. It makes Christmas Eve dinner a  hearty, jubilant meal.

Holy Moly Posole/Add-ins

 HOLY MOLY GREEN POSOLE

 Yield: 5 to 6 servings

1/2 cup raw pumpkin seeds

1 1/4 pounds fresh tomatillos, husks removed

3 cups vegetable broth or water

1 (14-ouncew) can diced tomatoes

2 large fresh tomatoes, chopped

1 large onion, chopped

3 large cloves garlic, coarsely chopped

1/2 to 2 jalapeno chiles, minced

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon garlic powder

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon chili powder

1 large zucchini, chopped, or 4 ounces green beans, cut into 1-inch lengths

1 red bell pepper, or 1 carrot, chopped

1 (15-ounce) can black beans, drained and rinsed

1 (15-ounce) can pinto beans, drained and rinsed

1 (1 pound, 13-ounce) can hominy, undrained, or 1 (15-ounce) can corn kernels, undrained

1/2 to 1 teaspoon salt

Lemon juice

1 1/2 cups Tofu Sour Cream (recipe below)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Put the pumpkin seeds in a single layer on a 17 1/2 x 12 1/2 inch rimmed baking sheet. Bake for 8 minutes or until toasted. Alternatively, toast the pumpkin seeds in a skillet over high heat, stirring constantly for 1 1/2 to 2 minutes. Immediately transfer them to a plate to cool. Put the seeds in a blender or food processor. Process until ground to a fine meal.

Wash the tomatillos under running water. (They will retain their somewhat sticky surface.) Slice them into quarters and put them in an 8-to 10-quart stockpot.

Add the vegetable broth, the canned and fresh tomatoes, onion, garlic, jalapeno, cumin, coriander, garlic powder, oregano, and chili powder. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium, uncover, and simmer for 10 to 12 minutes.

Add the zucchini and bell pepper and cook 5 to 8 minutes. Add the black beans, pinto beans, hominy with liquid, salt, and the reserved ground pumpkin seeds and cook another 5 minutes to thicken the posole.

Before serving, add the lemon juice and adjust the seasonings. Ladle the posole into large soup bowls, and place a dollop of Tofu Sour Cream into each serving. Serve the add-ins of your choice on the side.

Red Posole/Jackfruit

Add-ins: Sliced radishes, chopped onions, shredded lettuce, shredded green cabbage, diced avocados, sliced green or black olives, crushed baked tortilla chips, steamed or mashed chopped chayote squash, hot sauce, shredded vegan Jack, Cheddar, or nacho cheese, lime wedges, dried oregano, chopped cilantro.

Tofu Sour Cream

1 (12.4-ounce box extra-firm silken tofu, drained

1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon rice vinegar

1/4 teaspoon salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Use immediately or refrigerate for 8 to 12 hours to thicken. Stored in a tightly covered container and refrigerated the Tofu Sour Cream will keep for 1 week.

 

POLENTA TURNS MAGICAL AND FESTIVE!!!

Polenta TortePOLENTA HOLIDAY TORTE

This festive, voluptuous polenta dish, with its enticing eye appeal, was created when I was invited to a family holiday dinner and happened to have some Hummus and Basil Butter on hand. It was a natural to combine them with polenta and add the Sun-dried Tomato Pesto as the top layer. Notice that the Basil Butter contains no oil, yet still delivers the delightful undertones of basil.

Below is an array of topping recipes to get you started in making a fun and easy make-ahead polenta dish. Consider these recipes as suggestions that you can adapt in any way. The recipes may even spark a few new ideas for polenta toppings.

I’ve made this dish in a ton of different ways because the polenta makes such a perfect base for almost any topping. And you can have fun garnishing it in myriad ways, too.

In one variation, I assembled it with Hummus, Basil Butter, and Veggie Mountain on thepolentamountain copy top.

At one company dinner, I had put the polenta on a large oven-safe platter and cooled it in the refrigerator. Shortly before dinner, I warmed it briefly in the oven at about 200 degrees F. I served each person a pie-shaped wedge and topped it with a delicious ragout. The finishing touch was a garnish of Homemade Parmesan, giving it a delicious Italian touch.

polenta w:tomato sauceOnce, I substituted the veggie mountain with Easy Tomato Sauce and topped it with Homemade Parmesan.

Feel free to be creative with the topping combinations and you’ll discover that no matter what you choose, you’ll have a great main dish on the table that’s wholesome and attractive.

To make this recipe come together with ease, prepare the toppings of your choice a day or two ahead. That way, the assembly is super-easy and stress-free.

This dish is also a great traveler for short distances. If you’re asked to bring a dish to a potluck or a friend’s for dinner, just place a few toothpicks around the edge and near the center. That way, the covering of plastic wrap won’t spoil your design.

An enjoyable main dish, the polenta can be served any season of the year, gently warmed or at room temperature. Add a heaping tossed salad and the meal is complete.

Polenta TortePOLENTA HOLIDAY TORTE

 Yield: 6 servings

Polenta

4 cups water

1/2 cup unsweetened soymilk

1 teaspoon salt

1 cup coarse cornmeal (polenta)

TO MAKE THE POLENTA, have ready a large, round platter about 15-inches in diameter. In a 4-quart saucepan combine the water, soymilk, and salt and bring to a boil over high heat. Watch carefully to prevent a messy boil-over.

Reduce the heat to medium-high and add the cornmeal. Stir frequently with a wire whip for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the polenta is fully cooked and has thickened to the consistency of thick oatmeal. Spoon the polenta onto the platter and set aside in the refrigerator to cool and solidify.

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ASSEMBLING THE DISH: After you’ve prepared the polenta and chosen and prepared the toppings you plan to use, you’ll want to assemble the torte.

Start by spreading a generous portion of the first layer over the cooked and cooled polenta, leaving a 1/2-inch border of polenta visible.

Follow with a second topping, spreading it over the first layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border.

Choose as many or as few toppings as you like. You don’t have to use the entire recipe–sometimes just a few spoonfuls are all you need to enhance the polenta. Put the leftovers in the fridge for a future recipe or to spread over rice, pasta, or baked potatoes.

To serve the Polenta Holiday Torte, cut it into several wedges and serve.

CHOOSE YOUR FAVORITE TOPPINGS!

Hummus

1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drainedPolenta Torte

1/4 cup tahini

1/4 cup fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 teaspoon salt

TO MAKE THE HUMMUS, place the garbanzo beans, tahini, lemon juice, garlic, and salt into the food processor and process until thick and creamy. Transfer to a small bowl and set aside. Makes 1 3/4 cups hummus.

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Basil Butter

2 cups chopped zucchini

2 cups lightly packed fresh basil leaves

1/4 cup raw pine nuts

1/4 cup raw or roasted pistachios or pecans

2 1/2 tablespoons red miso

1 clove garlic

1/8 teaspoon pepper

TO MAKE THE BASIL BUTTER, combine the zucchini, basil leaves, pine nuts, pistachios, miso, garlic, and pepper in the food processor and process until smooth and creamy. Transfer to a bowl and set aside. Makes 1 1/2 cups basil butter.

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Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto

1 (5-ounce) package unsulphured sun-dried tomatoes (I used the ones from melissas.com)

Boiling water to cover

5 to 6 tablespoons tomato soak water

1/4 cup pine nuts

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic

1/2 teaspoon salt

TO MAKE THE SUN-DRIED TOMATO PESTO, put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over to cover. Set aside to soften for 7 to 8 minutes, or until soft. Transfer the softened tomatoes to the food processor and add the soak water, pine nuts, olive oil, lemon juice, garlic, and salt and process until smooth and creamy. Set aside.

Note: This recipe makes more than you’ll need for the torte. You may want to cut it in half or simply enjoy the leftovers on pasta or baked potatoes.

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Veggie Mountain

1 large zucchini, diced

1 yellow pepper, diced

2 Indian or 1 Japanese or Chinese eggplant, diced

1 cup chopped broccolipolentamountain copy

1/2 small onion, chopped

2 tablespoons water

Salt and pepper

1 lemon cut in half (optional)

TO MAKE THE VEGGIE MOUNTAIN, combine the zucchini, bell pepper, eggplant, broccoli, onion, and water, and water-sauté over high heat for 5 to 8 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Add small amounts of water as needed to cook the vegetables and prevent burning them. Season generously with salt and pepper. Set aside.

If using the Veggie Mountain, spoon all of the cooked vegetables over the top, piling them as high as necessary. If desired, add a squeeze of lemon juice over the top. Alternatively, cut a lemon into 6 wedges, arrange the wedges on a small serving plate and serve at the table for anyone who might like to add a splash of tang.

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Homemade Parmesan

1 cup almonds

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

TO MAKE THE HOMEMADE PARMESAN, put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. (Avoid over-processing or it will turn into almond butter.)

Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 month.

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Easy Tomato Sauce

1 1/2 pounds Roma tomatoes, dicedpolenta w:tomato sauce

1/2 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

TO MAKE THE EASY TOMATO SAUCE, put the tomatoes, onions, garlic, and oregano in an open 2-quart saucepan and cook and stir over medium high heat for 3 to 7 minutes, or until they are cooked down and somewhat thickened. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

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Polenta Goes Ragout
1 pound Brussels sprouts, quartered
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 large sweet onion, sliced vertically
1 large portabella mushroom, chopped, or 8 ounces sliced button mushrooms
1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 1/4 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup soy sauce

1 or 2 tablespoons cornstarch
1 or 2 tablespoons water

1 green onion, sliced, for garnish

1 tablespoon well-drained capers

TO MAKE THE RAGOUT, combine the Brussels sprouts, bell pepper, onion, mushrooms, garbanzo beans, wine, water, and soy sauce in a large, deep skillet. Cook and stir over medium-high heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the Brussels sprouts are tender. Adjust the heat as needed to prevent burning the vegetables.

Combine the cornstarch and water in a small bowl or cup and stir well to form a runny paste. Add the paste to the simmering sauce a little at a time, stirring constantly, for about 1 minute, or until the sauce is thickened to desired consistency.

To serve, cut the polenta into pie-shaped wedges, place a serving on each dish, and spoon a generous portion of the warm Ragout over the polenta. Finish the top of each serving with a sprinkle of sliced green onions and a few capers.

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Leftovers:

Hummus and Basil Butter are the makings of a seductive sandwich. Start by spreading whole grain bread or sprouted wheat bagel with a layer of Hummus. Top with Basil Butter. Then, finish with a thick slice of tomato and greens like spinach or romaine.

MAKE IT ITALIAN–MAMA MIA!!!!

TOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Tomato Pine Nut Pie SummerSuch a beauty and such a company favorite! You don’t even have to wait for the holidays to enjoy this tasty dish, because all the ingredients are available year-round.

In summer, when the home-grown or farm-stand tomatoes are fire-engine red, melt-in-the-mouth sweet and ultra juicy, the pie has a bright, cheery appearance. So tempting, the summer pie looks like the one above.

The bright tomato color turns a bit pastel in winter, but the pie still pops with the rich OacakesItalian-inspired flavor of homemade “Parmesan” and always makes guests ooohh and aaaahhh a little. I think it’s because this pie is so unique and looks really appetizing and festive.

The first thing my guests notice is the unusual crust. And, yes, it is certainly different. Rather than a standard flour-based pie crust, this one features sweet potatoes and almonds and balances the savory flavors with a pleasant, delicate sweetness.

For a small gathering, one pie is just right and can actually go a little farther if there are several other dishes on the menu. When I was expecting about 15 people, I doubled the recipe and prepared it in a large rimmed baking sheet. Of course, I planned an additional entrée and several side dishes, too. Made in the baking sheet, the pie becomes more of a tart and makes a delicious appetizer, too.

Pine Nut Tomato TartTOMATO-PINE NUT PIE WITH SWEET POTATO AND NUT CRUST

Yield: 1 (9-inch) pie or 6 servings

Crust

12 ounces sweet potatoes or yams, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces

1 1/4 cups whole almondsOacakes

2/3 cup mashed tofu

1/4 teaspoon salt

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Light oil a 9-inch pie pan.
  2. To make the crust, put the sweet potatoes in a 2-quart saucepan with water to cover. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat. Decrease the heat to medium and simmer for 5 minutes, or until the sweet potatoes are fork-tender. Drain the sweet potatoes well, transfer them to a large bowl and mash them well. Set aside.
  3. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a little texture. Add the tofu and salt and process until well incorporated, stopping occasionally to scrape down the work bowl. Spoon the tofu mixture into the bowl with the sweet potatoes and mix well.
  4. Spoon the sweet potato mixture into the prepared pan. Use your fingers to press it onto the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Build up the sides of the crust 1/2 -inch higher than the pie pan. Bake the crust for 15 minutes and let cool.

FillingOacakes

2 green onions, sliced

1 to 2 large cloves garlic, minced

1/3 cup pine nuts

2 to 3 tablespoons Homemade Parmesan (recipe below) or prepared vegan Parmesan

2 to 3 tablespoons cornstarch

1 small eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/8-inch slices

Salt

Freshly ground pepper

4 to 5 large red or green tomatoes, seeded and sliced

  1. To make the filling, put the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan in individual bowls. Sprinkle the cornstarch on a plate.
  2. Cover the bottom of the crust with one layer of eggplant slices. (This prevents the crust from getting soggy). Reserve remaining eggplant for another use. Sprinkle the eggplant slices with salt and pepper.
  3. Dredge only the first layer of the tomato slices in the cornstarch. Arrange the dredged tomato slices over the eggplant, filling all the spaces with small bits of tomato. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper. Sprinkle one third each of the green onions, garlic, pine nuts, and Homemade Parmesan over the tomatoes. Repeat the process to make three layers.
  4. Bake for 45 minutes. Let cool 10 to 15 minutes before serving.Vegan Holidays lowres

Note: If using green tomatoes, the pie might have to bake another 15 minutes.

This recipe is one of the tasty dishes from my Vegan for the Holidays cookbook. Order from Vegetarians in Paradise http://www.vegparadise.com or from Amazon.com

HOMEMADE PARMESAN

Often I’ve come to rely on a sprinkle of vegan Parmesan to add sparkle to a dish, soup, a casserole, or an appetizer. With only five ingredients, this recipe is almost instant to make and tastes enough like the real thing to put the Italian touch on everything from pizza to minestrone and a host of holiday or everyday dishes.

1 cup almonds

1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons nutritional yeast flakes

1 teaspoon onion powder

1 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Put the almonds in a food processor. Process until they are finely ground, yet still retain a bit of texture. (Avoid over-processing or it will turn into almond butter.)
  1. Add the nutritional yeast, onion powder, salt, and garlic powder and pulse until well mixed. Transfer to a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use. Covered and refrigerated, Homemade Parmesan will keep for 3 months.

I BROUGHT A GHOST TO THE HOLIDAY TABLE!

GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

White pumpkin 2My idyllic vision was to make a dramatic presentation of a tasty, savory stew served inside a plump white pumpkin. I could even picture the dramatic moment I would lift the lid of the pumpkin, stand back, and let my dinner guests watch in amazement as the giant plume of steam rose up from the steaming stew.

After several experiments, I found it impossible to prevent the pumpkin from totally collapsing or half the stew from oozing out the bottom of the cooked pumpkin. Neither was a pretty site. I was glad I hadn’t experimented on guests.

It would have been a beautiful holiday dish and a magnificent presentation–would have–but—–

I tried the experiment about three times and just gave up in frustration! Yet, somehow I hoped to bring a rich, flavorful stew to the table that included scooping up some of that delicious, delicately sweet pumpkin flesh as I was spooning out the stew.

White Pumpkin RagoutMy instincts led me to cook and serve them separately and allow the two to meet up in the soup bowl. That worked like a charm! Here’s a little detail about ghost pumpkins:

Ghost pumpkins, also called albino, Snowball, Casper, Lumina, Baby Boo, Cotton Candy Pumpkin, stand apart from the familiar orange jack-o-lanterns in many ways. Their flesh is considerably thicker and shows off a gorgeous hue of brilliant golden orange. The texture is pleasantly firm and delightfully moist.

White pumpkin 1The white pumpkin’s best-kept secret is its pleasantly sweet flavor, though not as sweet as butternut or kabocha, the Japanese pumpkin. White pumpkins are still less common than the jack-o-lanterns but are becoming more available at chain groceries and farm stands.

A perfect marriage, the white pumpkin is the ideal mate to enhance this celebratory ragout that needs little else to bring pleasure and satiety to a holiday meal.

To give this flavorful ragout its moment in the sun, I served it in a wide, shallow soup bowl and heaped the serving into the center. Serve the stew with plenty of hearty whole-grain bread to mop up any bits of delicious sauce that remains in the bowl.

 GHOST PUMPKIN RAGOUT

 Yield: 12 to 14 hearty servings

1 medium or large ghost pumpkin or 2 large butternut squashes

5 cups waterWhite Pumpkin Ragout

2 cups dry red wine

2 (6-ounce) cans tomato paste

1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

4 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sticks cinnamon

2 teaspoons dried thyme

2 bay leaves

3 medium carrots, angle sliced

2 to 3 medium leeks, white part only, cleaned and thickly sliced

2 medium yams, cut into bite-size pieceswhite-pumpkins

1 pound baby white rose potatoes, scrubbed

1 large sweet onion, coarsely chopped

1/2 small cauliflower, chopped

2 small beets, diced

1/2 pound green beans, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths

1/2 pound button or cremini mushrooms, thickly sliced

1 cup red lentilsWhite pumpkin 2

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

1/4 cup natural sesame seeds

1 pound frozen peas, thawed and held at room temperature

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Wash the pumpkin and dry it. Using a firm paring knife, cut a 5 or 6-inch diameter hole in the top and gently lift it out by the stem. Use a large spoon to remove the seeds and stringy matter from the pumpkin. Set the seeds aside to roast separately. Place the pumpkin on a large rimmed baking sheet lined with parchment paper or aluminum foil. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, or until soft when gently pressed, yet still firm.
  2. When the pumpkin is cool enough to handle, cut it into 2-inch chunks, peeling the skin as you go. Set the chunks aside.
  3. While the pumpkin is roasting, combine the water, red wine, tomato paste, soy sauce, garlic, cinnamon sticks, thyme, and bay leaves in a 12-quart stockpot.
  4. Add the carrots, leeks, yams, potatoes, onion, cauliflower, beets, green beans, mushrooms, and red lentils. Cover the stockpot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are just softened.
  5. Before serving, add the lemon juice to taste and adjust seasonings, if needed.
  6. To serve, spoon some of the pumpkin pieces into wide soup bowls. Spoon the ragout over the pumpkin and sprinkle the top with sesame seeds. The finishing touch is a generous sprinkling of plump peas over the top.

Note:

Butternut squashes make the perfect stand-in if ghost pumpkin is unavailable. Bake them at 400 degrees F. til tender, about 50 to 60 minutes.

Don’t throw those pumpkin seeds away!

roasted-pumpkin-seedsRoasted Pumpkin Seeds

Clean the stringy flesh clinging to the seeds by rinsing them in a bowl of water. Put the seeds on a large rimmed baking sheet and sprinkle with 1 or 2 teaspoons of canola oil. Use your hands to mix the seeds and coat them with the oil. Sprinkle the tops lightly with salt and pepper and toss with a spatula. Put the pan in the oven and roast at 200 degrees for 8 to 10 hours. I let the seeds roast overnight.