I celebrated my ninth veganniversary a few months ago. But, until this year I was never in charge of the Christmas meal. “Make whatever you want”, I was told. So, I began looking through various vegan recipes searching for recipes I thought I could manage, as well as recipes that would go well together. After a few days of contemplating, I decided on the meal:
Fully aware that my meal was carb-heavy, I knew it would hit the holiday spot! I decided to add the fennel salad for a couple of reasons. First, I thought it would add some crunch in an otherwise moist meal. Second, I thought it would be a good break on the palate and third, I thought the fresh ingredients (especially the pomegranates) would add color to the otherwise brown and beige plate. I also like to add dishes that I can easily make the day before so as to alleviate some of the stress the following day.
The most difficult aspect to the fennel salad recipe was finding some of the ingredients. Fennel bulbs are not available everywhere (I was able to find them at Publix) and salad cress was simply not to be found. I saw that in the comments, however, that water cress could be used instead. This recipe also calls for a mandolin in order to very finely slice the fennel bulbs; I found working with the fennel bulbs challenging and I couldn’t seem to get the slices equal to each other in width or size.
Peeling a grapefruit was something I realized I had never done before. Memories of my grandmother peeling various fruits in her kitchen came rushing back as I slowly and methodically moved the knife just under the skin. I remember how peeling an entire fruit without every breaking it was always met with great praise. My grandmother would display such talent by hanging the peel from a hook on the ceiling. The spirals brightened up the room. I am proud to tell you that I was able to peel the entire grapefruit without breaking the spiral!
I decided to make the mushroom gravy the day before too. This recipe, as well as the popover recipe, was taken from my previous vegan travel blog. The steps were relatively easy and basically involved frying, whisking and blending. The kitchen filled of an earthy savory aroma as I cooked it, which made me get even more excited for the big meal.
Who among us can make baked mac and cheeze with crumbs on top and not think about Grandma’s house?! The most challenging part of this recipe , other than always remembering that I was cutting the measurements in half, was simply getting the multitude of ingredients for the cheeze. After making and draining the pasta, I simply combined the cheeze and stirred. I was so delighted when adding the mac and cheeze to the baking dish because the amount was perfect! I added the bread crumbs and placed it in the oven. A short 30 minutes later and the sides were bubbling and the crumbs on top had browned. I think my grandmother would have been proud.
On to the dish! The holiday roast that would take about 2.5 hours to make and the one I was most nervous about. This recipe uses vital wheat gluten (seitan), which I have witnessed being very finicky and difficult to work with. This recipe also requires wrapping the loaf in cheese cloth and tying off the sides, something I had never done before. After blending a few items, I added the wheat gluten and mixed it to form a dough.
One of the notes on the holiday roast recipe strongly recommended to aerate the wheat gluten before transferring it via spoon to the bowl. The note further warned not to press down the powder. This advice helped quite a lot as I didn’t have as much trouble working with the stretchiness of the dough. I stuffed it with store-bought stuffing as per the recipe (maybe next time I will try making my own), wrapped it up with the cheese cloth and placed it in the oven in a bath of broth and fresh rosemary and thyme.
I set an alarm every 20 minutes so I could rotate the dish. Overall, it was to bake for 1.5 hours. However, I made a mistake. On the last 20 minute alarm, I mistook it for the final timer and pulled it out and began to follow the rest of the instructions. I removed the cheese cloth and put on the first glaze before I realized that it was missing 20 minutes of baking. Feeling it was too late, I decided to proceed and hope for the best. After 5 minutes, I removed the dish again, flipped over the roast and glazed the other side before returning it to the oven. Despite my flaw, the roast looked pretty ok, although nothing like the perfectly round and perfectly glazed picture in the recipe. LOL
I began working on the popovers. This was a Thanksgiving family favorite ever since I was a kid. But, the amount of eggs, milk and butter in the recipe made me think that this dish was lost to history. I was delighted when my ex-wife discovered a way to make this childhood favorite of mine completely vegan. Although I’d seen her make them several times, I had never done it myself. I used Vegan Egg replacer, almond milk and vegan butter. Warning! The Vegan Egg smells like egg farts. LOL
Unlike the non-vegan version, vegan popovers require much more time in the oven. This is due to the egg replacer. So, after an hour of baking at two different temperatures (25 minutes at 450 and an additional 30 at 350), I was able to taste my efforts. After an hour of waiting, I made the decision to take them out of the oven despite the fact that they hadn’t risen at all. The tops were getting brown and I figured more time wouldn’t help. I popped the popovers out of the tin, placed them on a plate and, despite the fact that they looked like hockey pucks, I carried them to the table where the other dishes were waiting.
I was so proud of myself as I looked across the table to see what I had accomplished. Chrissy added a delicious (and colorful) cranberry sauce to the meal. Despite some minor setbacks I had while cooking, everything came out tasting really flavorful and delicious! I was also happy with the combination!