Saturday, November 26, 2011

still alive - be thankful!

I know other bloggers have gone far longer than a week without a post, but I am not normally among them so it feels like forever.  I hope you'll excuse my absence, considering how busy I've been preparing for Thanksgiving and Black Friday - or I should say it like this:

  1. the first Thanksgiving (or holiday at all) that I've hosted in my own home!
  2. the first Black Friday I've worked retail in fifteen years.
Fortunately, both went off pretty well, yet both were fairly stressful in the days leading up to them.  Additionally, I just haven't felt like I had anything interesting to say.  I realized recently that one of the reasons I've found blogging to be so much fun and so fulfilling in the first two years of this little blog was because I was still learning how to cook new and interesting things, so I was always trying to make something I hadn't made yet so I could come up with a unique post.  Over the last several months, I've found myself perfectly happy to repeat "favorites" from the last few years, and although I only rotate recipes every few months, I still didn't have anything interesting to say about making "this" dish again.

Here is a quick recap of my Celebrate Vegan mini-menu:

The two pasta dishes (Pasta with Shallots and Chard and Pasta with Red Peppers and Basil) were just like I remembered them - relatively easy with a ton of flavor.  Neither of them made as much as I thought I remembered, but believe me, with Thanksgiving coming up, there was no place in our fridge for leftovers anyway.

I made one new recipe from the book I wasn't able to make before because it needed tweaking for Mister's intestinal safety, the Jambalaya and it was quite tasty and fake-meat-alicious!

So let's switch gears.

There's a lovely song by Josh Groban (which you can hear a beautiful cover of here) with the following lyrics:

Some days we forget to look around us.
Some days we can't see the joy that surrounds us.
So caught up inside ourselves, we take when we should give,
So for tonight, we pray for what we know can be,
And on this day we hope for what we still can't see.  
It's up to us to be the change,
And even though we all can still do more...
There's so much to be thankful for.

I'm thankful for a great many things, not the least of which being how well my first Thanksgiving as the cook and hostess turned out!  Here was our menu:

When my parents arrived, we set out mixed olives, veggie crudites with Muhammara (from Celebrate Vegan) and store-bought dill dip (thanks, Mister), and Spanakopita (from The Accidental Vegan).  The main course was a Torfurky Roast which Mister has wanted since his first non-meat-eating Thanksgiving and I was thrilled to be able to give it to him.  Alongside the Tofurky was mashed potatoes, roasted broccoli, and my mom's becoming-famous salad, then dessert was Apple Pie with Vanilla "ice cream" by So Delicious.  Dad brought two delightful bottles of my favorite wines - Apothic Red and the 2009 vintage of Georges deBoeuf Beaujolais-Villages, as well as a four-pack of mini-champagnes "for after work."

Oh?  You wanted a picture parade?  Okay!

I began my preparations on Monday or Tuesday night, starting with the Muhammara dip since it would taste the best after sitting in the fridge for a few days.  I figured it was best to make it the same night we had Pasta with Shallots and Chard since my home already stank of an onion sibling (and since I already had the book out).  After simmering three chopped red peppers with a chopped onion and sliced garlic for an hour, I dry-toasted some walnuts,

And then placed everything in the blending machine...

and pureed it until it was mostly smooth and homogenously orange.

After it cooled a little, I scooped it into a "tupperware" and stuck it in the fridge, to be forgotten until Thursday.

Wednesday night, I intended to make the spanakopita because I've found that it sticks together better if it's made the night before it's eaten.  So I chopped up a shallot to substitute for the revolting onion in the recipe and sauteed the onion and spinach while the lentils cooked.

Added the brown lentils (I'm not actually sure why, either)

and then a big heap of crumbled feta tofu,

and stirred it all together.

This is where it gets fun.  By the time I started making this, I'd only worked one eight-hour day at work (the others went long in preparation for Black Friday) and after that 8-hour day (of being one half of the sales force, since one person got sent home with an eye infection) I had a 2.5 hour hair appointment (oh, how I missed you, Candi KaBoom!), so I really wasn't on my most... "with it" behavior.

I realized after all the work of assembling the spanakopita, including gluing sheets of phyllo together with olive oil while listening to the darkly angelic voice of Amy Lee through my earbuds, that I had missed one step of the two-step process required to preheat my ancient oven.  So, finding (at 2am) that my oven was still cold after it was "preheating" for 30 minutes, I covered the spanakopita with plastic, put it in the fridge and went to bed.

It came out just fine when I baked it the next morning.

Then came the piece de resistance.

Mister's long-awaited Tofurky Roast, complete with wild rice stuffing.

I put it in a little Corningware casserole dish and surrounded it with quartered potatoes and carrots, then poured half of the sage marinade over it and stuck that puppy in the oven.

It's not a real puppy, by the way.

appetizers - from the top: Muhammara, Dill dip, olives

more apps: Spanakopita, crudites

The Torfurky, all basted and roasted and ready to eat!

Sides: mashterpaters, roasted broccoli, and the canned
cranberry "sauce" Mister insisted we needed

I realized in a panic a few days before Thanksgiving (and a few days after I constructed the menu) that I had completely neglected to get/make gravy.  In an incredible (and incredibly fortunate) coincidence, my dear Mama Pea posted this recipe to save my butt.  It was good and easy to make in a pinch, but a little too thick to become a regular occurrence in our home, so next year we'll think ahead and find something a little more pourable.

Next year?

That's right!  It seems my parents enjoyed themselves enough to consider sharing the holidays - with any luck, that means I will always host Thanksgiving and they can have Christmas :)  In any case, thanks to my hard-working dishwasher and helpful husband, it didn't take all that long to clean up after dinner, allowing me to get to bed by nine(ish) since I had to be up at 3am to go to work.

In case you were wondering, Philadelphia is incredibly quiet and peaceful (and dark) at 5am.

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