Made It Just In Time!

Hiii! I left you all at the very end of vegan Mofo, when ahem, someone (Alex), filled my computer's hard drive with his own stuff and ...

Hiii! I left you all at the very end of vegan Mofo, when ahem, someone (Alex), filled my computer's hard drive with his own stuff and pretty much rendered it unusable ever since. I wasn't able to finish out vegan mofo or blog at all in the mean time due to this... issue. But I stole his computer for a second and snuck away while he wasn't looking to go post a giant photo dump, as I do every year on New Years Eve.
The Thanksliving fairy came twice this year! My Thanksliving plates are always a little sloppy and over-ambitious, since there's such good food to be had and I want it all! Once I am full, there is usually still a normal-sized portion of food left on it. This year we went to my aunt's house near our hometown, where I cooked and brought a lot of stuff, but my contributions were also met by many other vegan contributions, made special for me by non-vegan family members! My Aunt made vegan gravy, my cousin made a sweet potato casserole, another cousin made spanakopita (!!!), and another made this great quinoa-sweet potato and cranberry dish which I loved.

I made: a giant pan of roasted veggies, probably always my favorite part of Thanksliving, the Super Traditional Stuffing from Super Fun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, very good, as expected..

And, the seitan roast, stuffed with shiitakes, leeks and breadcrumbs, newly printed in Isa's new book, but this is the fourth Thanksgiving I have made this recipe for! This was actually such a big hit that there was NONE left to bring home! Alex was quite upset about there being no leftovers, and did a lot of pouting until I agreed to make him Thanksliving dinner all over again once we got home. Spoiled!

I also made a pumpkin pie, using the recipe from Super Fun Times Vegan Holiday Cookbook except I couldn't find agar at the store and had forgotten to bring mine home with me from Philly. I just went on with the recipe without it, and it was slightly less firm, but still very good. I opted to make the gingerbread cookie crust instead of pie crust, which was an option in the book, but my mom suggested it first without even knowing about it! So the crust was all to her credit! It came out great and was kicked up a notch by some So Delicious whip, better than Cool Whip ever was and will be.

After a lovely holiday, we had planned to meet up with friends from out of town, but that weekend the plans fell through and we had nothing else going on, and so I made Thanksliving dinner all over again. This is painting Alex to be a super spoiled brat (and he is) but really I didn't mind doing this at all. Everyone loves leftovers, and I love to be in my kitchen, cooking, with my tunes. It is the happy place I close my eyes and go to when I am stressed out. Also, I never get to make holiday meals in the comfort of my own home. So, it was actually a great idea. Plus, I got the chance to try even more recipes from Isa's new book. The biggest hit was the Cheesy Spinach Stuffed Seitan Roast: Okay so this was extremely sloppy to make, and in the future I will make the filling ahead of time, add extra breadcrumbs, and cool completely before trying to roll up the roast. It was so sloppy trying to do it with the filling still hot and runny. I used SO much tin foil trying to wrap it into shape, but luckily it turned out to be the best seitan roast I ever made! I can't wait to make it again. The green bean casserole was out of this world good; the mashed potatoes obviously great; the cornbread stuffing was time-consuming but very very delicious and better than the traditional one I made on the actual holiday, cranberry sauce was easy and awesome, but coming in at #2 on my favorites list- the white bean gravy! I made it with no sausage, and it was so easy! I usually spend sooo much time reducing my gravy with caramelized onions and broth, and I feel like this gravy had better flavor, better consistency and was so much quicker to make. Definitely my new go-to!!

The Chinese New Year section of the book has me mesmerized by awesomeness. I immediately wanted to dive into the General Tso's Seitan. This was probably my first encounter with a typo-style error. It says to make the sauce in a 4-quart pot, while a 1-quart pot was clearly what I should have used. Unfortunately there are a lot of errors in this book. So it's really not very good for an unseasoned or new home cook. Besides that, this recipe was great, and very spicy!

The Tofu Short Ribs look so beautiful in the printed book. Mine did not match the quality of her photo by a long shot, but it's not the worst photo I've ever taken. This meal... just didn't blow me away. I wasn't a huge fan of the root vegetable mash, and feel like I'd have preferred the veggies simply roasted instead. The barbecue sauce called for a cup of hoisin, which seemed too heavy on five-spice for me. Asparagus was dope, though. No complaints with asparagus.

I was shopping at Whole Foods, and just minding my own business, and then all of a sudden I bought a bunch of Dandies! I don't know why I did it, it just happened! So then I got home, and wondered what to do with them, and decided to put them in some hot chocolate. They were unbearably sweet and I immediately remembered why I don't buy them.

Still with over half a bag, I wondered what else to put them in. I have been keen on making protein muffins as a quick kind of breakfast that I just grab in the morning and take out the door with me. I have been slowly adjusting to waking up way earlier in time to get ready and go to work a lot earlier than I used to, and I certainly can't be bothered to make a smoothie. I need to grab a muffin, put it in my face and go find my car. That's my M.O. in the morning. Anyway, I started making this recipe from Protein Ninja that I hadn't tried before, the chocolate avocado hemp protein muffin, that called for coconut sugar instead of real sugar and all this healthy stuff. It was looking way too healthy, and then I dumped a bunch of chocolate chips in. The chocolate chips made me think of the Dandies, and so I dumped a bunch of those in too. Little did I know, Dandies explode in the oven, and what came out of the oven was a pretty serious mess. Truth be told, the chocolate chips and dandies were the only good part about this muffin. As I suspected, this recipe was just way too healthy.

Interrupting my photo dump of food pics, I bring you a lovely intermission: an MOTD!
I have shifted from spending all of my money on just food, to spending most of it on vegan and cruelty-free makeup. I love trying out new stuff that I see online and on Instagram on my friends' beauty blogs. This pic reminds me of that OFRA cosmetics blush stripes highlighter palette that came in my fall Vegan Cuts Makeup Box, that got crushed and ruined when I brought it home with me for Christmas! So so sad. Maybe I will have go and by the Kathleen Lights highlighter palette from Makeup Geek to replace it?? Which highlighter palette should I get??!!

And we're back, hot with tacos. Alex's taco game is so strong lately. He makes the rice and beans, and a little onion-pepper sofrito, and I usually make a little slaw and guac to put on mine too. He heats the oil up and then sprinkles in salt and pepper, then toasts the tortillas in it so they get golden and crispy. It seriously elevates your taco. I always top mine with hot sauce, in this case, Sriracha.

At work, I somehow got placed with planning the Holiday party. Not sure why or how, but I did it! I think it went well and people stayed at least two hours after it was supposed to end, so I guess that meant we all had fun! I had a blast and it's always great to get to hang out with your coworkers outside of work. I have a really great group to work with and it was so fun getting to hang with them all. Here's me lookin fresh before I left for the party.

Xmas came a few days early for Alex. Santa brought him a new guitar!! Alex has been playing music for fifteen years and has never gotten a new guitar. He usually just borrows gear from friends, but he really deserves to have the guitar he wants. He got a Fender Starcaster, a re-issue of a guitar from the 70s that he always wanted. I'm so glad he finally got the one he wanted :)

On the weekends, it's fun to make a whole breakfast, seeing as I usually run out the door with mine in my hand during the week. I have been loving Kite Hill's unsweetened plain yogurt. It took me a while to come around to it, but now I think I like it even better than the So Delicious plain unsweetened. Still missing Anita's of Brooklyn, though!

I am still chipping away at the recipes in Super Fun Vegan Holiday Cookbook and don't anticipate to finish anytime soon. This is the Porcini-Crusted Tofu with Scallion Mashed Potatoes and Shallot Pan Gravy from the Valentine's Day chapter. The tofu was so good! The mashed potatoes, I didn't love. It was kind of like eating green-smoothie potatoes. I definitely won't blend the scallions before adding them next time, just mash them in whole. The gravy was awesome, caramelized shallots melt away into a light sauce. V delicious.

The week before xmas, I made the Irish Stout Stew with Mashed Potato Biscuits from the St Paddys Day chapter. I have made this at least twice before from her blog, but this time it was just better. I love the porcini mushrooms and the meaty kidney beans. Also, mashed potato biscuits are just too dope to tangle with. I will never make biscuits without them again. This was just a cozy pot of wonderful winter dinner and I want to take a nap inside it.

Xmas cookie time came and went. I spent a long time and a lot of dollars making these, but I also loved every minute, because my kitchen and tunes and cookies are my favorite things. Instead of paper boxes, this year I gave out my cookies in tupperware! I had a LOT of tupperware and needed to get rid of some, so I'm glad this green option came at no expense to me. Anyway, the cookies are all Isa Chandra originals, five of which are from her new book. The only two that are not, are the Chai-Spiced Snickerdoodles, (which Alex just cannot live without. He came down while I was making cookies looking for them and threw an adult fit when he found out I wasn't making any of that kind. So like an enabling mother, I made him some), and the chocolate gingerbread cookies with white chocolate chips. That one was one of my top 3! The lemon thumbprint claimed my #1, and the peanut butter chip, my other favorite, was definitely everyone else's favorite. The peppermint chocolate fudge cookies were good, but I don't know how much I am actually into minty stuff that isn't gum, the cranberry spice oatmeal cookies were great, but the coconut oil made the dough really inconsistent, so a lot of cookies spread out completely flat and others did not spread at all. The rugelach, I was so excited for the but the dough was super sticky, hard to work with, and not all that flavorful. I was so disappointed because I loved rugelach so much! I will have to try to tweak it, adding more good stuff to the dough.

Wigilia was hosted at my mom's house this year! Our house is smaller than her sisters' houses but we made it work. I made a lot of stuff, but my cousins and aunts helped out so much and brought so much tasty food. Alex's dad was in town from Florida, leaving early to go back home on Christmas morning. Because we knew we wouldn't get any time with him Christmas day, we had him come to Wigilia with Alex's brother and sister as well! It was so great having them with us! It made it so much more special to have both sides of our family together, and introduce them to our family tradition! First up, my risotto! Pumpkin, sage, and cranberry! Not a lot to it, but they go wild for it, and so I keep making it.

My mother-in-law asked me to make her a gluten-free blueberry pie. I tried. I really did. I followed the minimalist baker's recipe and like mostly all the other recipe's of hers that I've tried, it didn't come out! I was a crumbly sandy mess. I was going to try again, and put it back in the food processor and add more coconut oil or something, but my mom then said, "Why don't you just make a blueberry cobbler?" And that was the best idea I ever heard. I had enough filling and crust to make two, so I served one on Wigilia and one with Xmas dinner, and they were both completely devoured!! I couldn't believe how well they went over!

It goes without saying that we made pierogis. My BFF Jessica stopped over to hang out, drink, and pinch some pierogis together, too. My mom, Alex and Jessica were the pinchers, I made the dough, and my dad boiled them. My mom and I fried them the next day before we served them. But I couldn't very well have a Holiday post without detailing my pierogi-making experience with you all.
We made two kinds: Kapusta and Potato. Here is the Kapusta, Polish Sauerkraut with lots of fresh thyme and sautéed onions and garlic.

I made four rounds of dough, with all the scraps being re-rolled, cut, and pinched in between. We made holiday drinks and made an evening of it.

Action shot of the fillings, beers, my mom's mead, and workstation.

Some pinched, ready-to-boil pierogis, and already boiled ones on the side. My dad's station is very carefully organized.

Done! Here are a few hundred pierogis, ready to fry the next day!

Another thing we tried to make, was the Chocolate Raspberry Buche de Noel cake from Isa's new book. So many errors in this printed recipe! The first, is that it calls for seedless raspberry jam, and then never mentions it in the actual recipe. I just left it out. She says to mix the almond milk with the vinegar, and never refers back to it, so my mom was making the cake batter, and then thought it looked a little thick. Then she realized that the almond milk hadn't been re-added to the batter! We had to mix it back in and try to get all the lumps out of the batter without over-mixing. We baked and cooled the cake, so that it was pretty much cold to the touch. Then, we rolled it up with the towel and plastic as directed and let it cool even longer. Then we un-rolled it and spread the frosting on, and began rolling it back up, and the cake just broke completely. It would not roll back up, even as slow and carefully as the two of us were going. So- my dad had a great idea (my parents with the great saves this year!!!!) of turning it into a Christmas Trifle! We carefully piled the layers into a big punch bowl, sprinkling some chocolate chips in between and pouring some ganache in between layers of frosting. We poured most of the ganache over the top, and spread So Delicious coconut whip over the top of that and dusted it with cocoa powder and sprinkled on a few reserved raspberries. Guess what? It was so delicious and was also a huge hit! The only dessert that did come out as expected, the vanilla cake with soynog frosting, was neglected for the two crisis-averted desserts!! Xmas miracles, I guess! It was so fun making these desserts with my mom and dad, and such a fun surprise when it turned out that everyone loved them, even though they came out nothing like we originally intended.

Christmas Day, we spent mostly with Alex's mom, stepdad, brother and sister.  For Xmas dinner, I brought mashed potatoes (leftover pierogi filling!!) to go alongside the Classic Seitan Pot Pie from Isa's new book. I couldn't find seitan at the grocery store in my hometown, but I did find some gardein chicken strips, which are actually extrememly delicious, so I sautéed those and used them in place of the seitan, leaving out the teriyaki sauce packets, of course. This pot pie. OMG. We couldn't stop eating it. We went back for seconds. Then a couple hours later, we went back and ate a third piece. It was so good! The olive oil crust had such an amazing texture, too. I will make this again soon, for the forthcoming winter. It's not feeling much like winter here in Philly, so far. But I'm sure it's on it's way, and with it, will bring a chilly season of pot pie, curries and other hibernation-style stews to make. Plus, my winter gear is waiting patiently in my storage containers!

Here's an action slice!

I was only home for three days, but I had a great time cooking and hanging out with my family and friends. It was the perfect Christmas :) I also love when it's cold enough out to use the back door room as a second fridge. We utilized this winter gift, as you can see from the picture below. I never photographed the golabkis I made but they are safely covered in tinfoil behind the soy nog cake, beside my pot pie, and the pierogis resting carefully on a cutting board on top of the recycling bin, not to mention all the beverages chilling on the floor! What's in the fridge, you might wonder? Condiments. Bottles and bottles of condiments. You never know when you might need them. 

I hope everyone is gearing up to have a very fun and safe New Years Eve! I plan to greet 2017 with some Philly friends and assorted booze inside my little apartment this year. We got chex mix, booze and tunes, so we are pretty much all set for everything 2017 could throw at us. I've got lots of resolutions, mostly to compost and recycle more, and enjoy the present moment. What are your resolutions? What have you been cooking or are planning to cook?? I am so sad to have been away so long and can't wait to catch up on all my favorite vegan blogs!! Thanks for reading, as always, and I'm so happy you all exist. 
Much Love & Happy New Year!

<3 KZ

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  1. Another fun post as always! That's so great that your parents helped you to repurpose recipes that went awry. No one could be sad about a trifle or crumble! And of course, I always envy/love hearing about your pierogi making. Sounds like a delicious group project!