Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Passing on the Meat

My family recently celebrated Passover and we tried a little experiment: I would cook two vegan Seders (big, traditional dinners) and my family would go vegetarian for the rest of the holiday. Eight days without any meat in the house. My plan was to cook as much as possible, since the more I cooked, the less matzo with cream cheese they ate.

I'm pleased to report that even though the holiday ended a week ago, no meat has been consumed in our house yet and both of my parents are considering going vegetarian on a more permanent basis (they're both totally cool with keeping meat out of the house, but right now, they'd still like to eat it at restaurants on occasion). Also, I think my mother now has a bigger AR soapbox than I do. It's pretty rad.

Here's a small sample of what we ate:

That's a typical dinner plate. Starting with that big red thing on the left and going clockwise, we have a Creole stuffed pepper from Veganomicon, where I replaced the beans with quinoa, quinoa roasted pumpkin risotto from Terry Hope Romero's upcoming (really soon!) Viva Vegan!, Baked Vegetable Casserole (possibly from The Jewish Vegetarian Year? I forget), Asparagus With Black Olives And Orange Vinaigrette from The Mediterranean Vegan Kitchen and Ginger Mashed Sweet Potatoes and Apples from Isa Chandra Moskowitz's upcoming Appetite for Reduction.
Here's another shot of that asparagus (which was really freaking good):
And, of course, we started each meal with matzo ball soup:
That's the flaxen matzo ball recipe from The PPK. Usually I put some vegetables in the soup, too, but this was taken at the end of the holiday and I didn't have any left. My poor balls look so lonely!

Aaaanyway...this was approximately my 43728942nd attempt at vegan matzo balls, and the best so far. They had the texture my family likes (nice and firm), but were kind of bland. I'm definitely going to try playing with this recipe and seasoning it a bit, but I also want to try just using my mother's recipe and replacing the eggs with flax. I'll let you know how it goes.
Want to know how many vegetables it took to make enough broth to last the whole holiday? This many:
I got about nine quarts out of that and it just got us through.

Other, less traditional soups we tried were cauliflower pesto, a tester from Appetite for Reduction, and tomato avocado from Vegan Comfort Food.
The cauliflower pesto soup got some sideways glaces for 1. having cauliflower in it and 2. being VERY green, but everyone was surprised by how much they enjoyed it. Isa suggests topping each serving with some toasted pine nuts, which add a nice crunch, in addition to that real pestoey goodness.

The tomato avocado soup was my first time taking VCF out for a spin, and we loved it! I'm not the hugest fan of tomato soup, but the rest of my family loves it, and my mother can only eat the homemade stuff because of the sodium most of the boxed stuff has in it, so I made it primarily for her. The addition of slices of avocado to the tomato soup was GENIUS. I don't know if Alicia Simpson came up with that herself, or if I'm completely out of the tomato soup loop, but it was brilliant. Try it, you'll like it!

I made my own almond milk this year. This is what I got from a $6 bag of almonds:
Value! I should probably make it myself all the time, but I feel like the home made almond meal will go bad faster than the store bought stuff. Especially since I didn't dehydrate it (though I suppose I still can).

I know it wasn't Chanukah, but I served latkes for lunch a few times anyway. We had two kinds:
Yucca (pictured, from the PPK post linked above) and parsnip scallion, from Vegan With a Vengeance. The yucca ones were nice, not very different from potato, but the parsnip scallion pancakes were insanely good. I love parsnips so much and this was a really great use for them. I will definitely make them again. And again. The latkes were served with mango apple salsa.
Another lunch item was Moroccan potato salad (from MVK):
The salad looks very pretty, but it didn't go over with the family that well. I don't think any of us are huge fans of raw, fresh herbs. I need to remember that, since I hate chopping them anyway.

Breakfast. The most important meal of the day. I usually had:
Matzo with chocolate spread and strawberries. I'd never had chocolate spread before, but I had heard a lot about it (mostly with hazelnuts, though) and when I saw this stuff was kosher for Passover, and vegan (despite the cow on it), I picked it up. It was OK, but I wouldn't buy it again. The spreads in VCON are much healthier and tastier (I especially liked the Mediterranean Style Cashew Cucumber Dip this year).

Speaking of chocolate, someone was nice enough to send us a box of chocolate plagues. I swear I'm not making that up:
Unfortunately, someone ate the tenth plague (the slaying of all the first born males of Egypt) before I took this photo. Festive! And in case you're curious, here's a close up of that first plague, bright red and full of writing:
Charming, isn't it?
It was vegan and I was curious, so I tried it. It tasted like wax. The sad part is the regular chocolate wasn't much better.

The better tasting (though possibly not better looking) sweets were homemade, of course:
That's an apple pear crumble (possibly from The Jewish Vegetarian Year).
And Strawberry Rhubarb Compote with Matzo Streusel Topping from

Fresh fruit crumbles are probably the best thing to make on Passover because you don't have to worry too much about rising and binding and all of the other weird things that don't work out well when you can't eat most grains.
Other things everyone enjoyed were my Double Mushroom Marsala Marsala (marinated large portebello mushroom caps, sauteed and topped with a Marsala sauce), stuffed zucchini, taco salad (salsa, guacamole, cashew sour cream and sliced mushrooms over matzo), matzo bruschetta and a puttanesca stew.

And that was our holiday. I hope to have more updates soon, with recipes I've been testing, bake sale type stuff and other fun and excitement.

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