Wednesday, December 28, 2005

So How Was that Holiday Menu?

To be frugal is to admit what worked and what didn't, especially in the kitchen. Having said that here's a review of the culinary side of our holiday. BTW, Ruthie was right on target with her plan to pare down their holiday menu (she is wise beyond her years!) There is part of me that is so afraid of running out of food that I always make way too much, but we'll get to that later.

Here was my plan for Christmas Eve Dinner:
Tofurkey with Roasted Root Vegetables and gravy
Potato Rolls
Molasses Cookies

Here's what we actually had:
The only change to this menu was the potato rolls. I made mashed potatoes instead. I should mention that since Tofurkeys are pricey little buggers, I always make a batch of my own rice stuffing to go along with it. The molasses cookies were the standout hit of the evening.

Here was my plan for Christmas Day Brunch:
No Fry Donuts (The Encyclopedia of Country Living by Carla Emery)
Apple Butter & Pumpkin Butter Pull Aparts (Vegetarian Resource Group)
Squash Biscuits (Grandma's Wartime Kitchen)
Cinnamon Yeast Bread (Feed Your Family for $12.00/day)
Homemade applesauce
Strawberry Banana Smoothie

Here's what we actually had:
Time ran short for food prep on Christmas Eve and because of that we nixed the donuts. We ran out of pumpkin butter, so we just had Apple Butter Pull Aparts. No one was in the mood for smoothies, so I didn't bother making them. As for the apple sauce, my inlaws brought tangerines and we had those instead. The cinnamon bread was the standout hit of the morning but everyone enjoyed the biscuits and pull aparts as well.

Here was my plan for Christmas Day Dinner:
Not Your Mama's Pot Roast (Fresh from the Vegetarian Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson)
Pasta with Chunky Sauce (my own chunky sauce made with TVP to give a meaty texture)
Red Beans and Rice (Harvest Cookbook by Nava Atlas)
White Beans and Tomatoes (Miserly Moms by Johnni McCoy)
Molasses Cookies
Any Leftovers from brunch may be used as desserts
The Most Fabulous Frozen Peanut Butter cookies on the Planet Earth we used carob instead of cocoa powder

Here's what we actually had:
Actually there were no big changes here except not a single molasses cookie made it to dinner and I made Foccacia to go with the pasta. BTW, Foccacia is just pizza dough with Italian Seasonings and a spray of olive oil over the top. The pasta was the big hit but that is to be expected. People like to stick with the familiar, especially when dabbling in vegetarian fare. Most everyone tried a bit of everything. As I also suspected, the gluten roast was only enjoyed by my kids. The texture of gluten is something that not everyone is ready for, still I'm glad we included it this year.

Tomorrow I'll tell you about the plethora of leftovers and how we made them palatable day after day!


Ruthie said...

Sounds like you did an excellent job!!! :) And tons of fun. For us, since the chief chef (mom-in-law) was busy with grampie-man all night (he hurt his neck) we were left to forge ahead on our own. We made rice-and-red beans in vinagarette with pecans and avocado (absolutely delicious), butternut squash and spinach pie turned into casserole (nixed the pie crust), greenbeans almondine, Russell's family stuffing, and potato refrigerator dough rolls. We also made rice crispie treats, pumpkin pie and chocolate cream pie with pecans. In retrospect, it was far too much food. But it's almost gone now, we love leftovers! :) We did stay up till 1:30 AM on Christmas Eve cooking.

happyvegan said...

Sorry that this is a bit off-topic, but I saw that you mentioned a slow-cooker cookbook and I need some advice in that area. I just got a crockpot for Christmas from my grandparents and am a little at a loss as to what to do with it. I don't really want another appliance cluttering up my kitchen unless I'm going to be getting a lot of use out of it, but all of the slow-cooker cookbooks have mixed reviews on so I'm not really sure which way to go. Do you find that there are enough good vegan recipes for slow-cookers? Is Robertson's book one that you reccommend? Would I be better off returning the crockpot for store credit? Thanks :)

Katie said...

Ruthie your menu sounds delicious! We love leftovers too. I don't think there is any better convenience food in the world.

Welcome Happyvegan! Don't return that slow cooker, in time you're going to love it.

The best way to put it into use without a lot of recipes is to use it to cook dried beans overnight. Right before you go to bed, rinse and sort the beans, put them in the slow cooker and fill with water. Use only enough beans to fill the cooker about 1/3 of the way. Put the cooker on low and in the morning your beans are cooked and ready to use in any recipe.

As far as cookbooks go, there are two vegetarian ones that I know of, the Robin Robertson one that I mentioned and 125 Best Vegetarian Slow Cooker Recipes by Judith Finlayson. I like both but Robertson's book has a lot of fancy recipes that I wouldn't use every day. At the same time, Finlayson's book uses a lot of dairy and sometimes I grow weary of substituting.

That having been said, check out your library, I was able to get both books from mine, and decide for yourself. I have a notebook that I copy recipes into when there aren't enough good recipes for me to buy the book. Once you get a few recipes that you are successful with, you learn how to tweak a recipe, any recipe, and make it vegan and yummy.

There's also a vegetarian slow cooker yahoo group that might interest you
The archives of recipes are accessible to members. I've gotten a lot of great ideas there as well.

Glad to have you along.

Ruthie said...


A great thing about Robin's book is that she gives a lot of quips and tips for how to make dishes you'd regularly make on the stove or oven, in the slow cooker. For example, (quoted from book)
"Like soups, stews and chilis are ideal candidates for the slow cooker. The extra-rich flavor that comes from slow cooking is especially noticable in a stew, where a variety of ingredients have the opportunity to mingle. When it's ready, you have a complete one-dish meal with no messy cleanup--cook and serve everything in one pot."

Etc. I love this cookbook and don't use it enough... but I wouldn't suggest you buy it right away. The tidbits of info are great and can be absorbed by checking it out of the library or borrowing a copy from a friend.

If you're an environmentalist as well as a vegan, remember: slow cookers save energy & thus fossil fuels!

Jacq said...

Hi Kate,

I made my own tofurkey this year from the recipe at I made the "Traditional Tasting Tofurkey" and it was quite good. It really made too much for us though but I shared some with my veggie cousins the next day. We had some leftover last night (we have been eating at relatives houses for days). Tonight I'm going to cube up whats left of the tofurkey and put it in a noodle casserole with mushrooms.

The commercial Tofurkey's here cost $40 and the one I made cost about $12. I also don't like the taste of the commercial Tofurkey. I use the gravy recipe from Cooking Vegetarian. :)

Michelle said...

Regarding cooking beans in slow-cooker. You didn't say anything about soaking the beans. Do you pre-soak before putting in the slow-cooker or is that not necessary?

happyvegan said...

Thanks for the input on slow-cookers! I soak beans overnight all the time anyways, so I can just throw them in the crockpot and cook them overnight instead. It will really cut down on our canned bean usage. Beans are about the only food in store-bought cans that we use a lot of, and they are *expensive* when compared to buying dry beans.

I will have to check Robertson's book out of the library if only to get that gluten roast 5-year-old asks me to make gluten nearly every week (I make big batches and freeze in small portions), but I get a little tired of the same recipe all the time.

Hmm. I think I'm getting excited about my new crockpot now. :)

Shaunta said...

I'm not sure I want to know what the texture of glutten is! LOL But, it sounds like your holiday was very yummy :) I can't wait to get your article!


Ruthie said...


I don't know if you've ever seen it, but there is a book at our library called "How to Make All the Meat You'd Like to Eat out of Wheat" or something funny like that. It was written in the 70s by a very hippy couple. They were like, pioneering gluten experts. Also, Simply Heavenly is a book I have written by gnostic monks and they've got CHAPTERS of UnChicken, UnBeef, etc. I don't like all that much gluten (it's really one of the most refined things I eat), but if you're baby loves it, I'd say go for it. :)


Katie said...

Hi Jacqueline,
$40 for a Tofurkey?? I thought $9 for just the Tofurkey itself was ridiculous!

I just printed up the "Traditional Tasting Tofurkey" recipe from, it sounds good. I'd love to find a substitute for the commercial Tofurkey, lately I find its so salty.

You don't need to soak the beans when you cook them overnight in the slow cooker.

I've found that some beans, mainly chick peas, need to be cooked on high though. Soaking first would probably work for them but I've never tried.

I'm glad you're psyched about your slow cooker. Ruthie is right on target with her comments about the tips in Robin Robertson's book. That's where I learned about the beans overnight.

Also, as far as energy usage goes, the slow cooker is such a help in the summer months when you don't want to heat up the kitchen (and increase your cooling bills.) I read about someone who put her slow cooker in the garage when cooking during the summer so there was no added heat in her living space.

Gluten is just one of those things, you either love it or hate it. I think what throws people for a loop when I make it in the faux pot roast recipe is the beets I add give it a pinkish tinge on the outer edge. Once sliced, the inside is whitish and the outer edge is reddidh pink. It looks remarkably like the pork in pork fried rice but the texture is all wrong! That's a recipe you won't see in the article!