Friday, September 30, 2011

Shana Tova

Just a quick post for this morning - I want to share with you all the wonderful food we had for Rosh Hashanah.  I know that one thing that can be scary as you consider making this transition is wondering what will you do on holidays.  Are you going to have to give up your traditions or feel like you are missing out?  I am here to show you that the answer is absolutely NO.  The holiday foods you know and love can easily become part of the vegan lifestyle.

More importantly, I discovered this year how much additional joy the vegan lifestyle brings to the holidays.  The Jewish new year is already filled with joy; how wonderful to make it even more so.  I know that many people may start this journey for health reasons, as I did, but it has been interesting to see how my compassion for animals has grown over time, and how that has become a bigger and bigger factor.  This Rosh Hashanah I was interested to see how happy it made me to have a celebratory meal that did not rely on any animal products.  It feels like a true celebration of life and of the bounty of the world, with no inconsistencies in those thoughts present on my plate.  What a wonderful feeling.

So what did I have on my plate?  Let me show you.

1. Kugel!  What is a Jewish holiday meal without kugel?

I used the recipe over at VegKitchen, making a couple small alterations.  I chopped the apple instead of grating it (because I'm lazy :) ), and I used silken tofu.  It set quite nicely after cooling, but I think I would use flatter noodles next time to hold things together a little bit better.  But oh my god YUM.  Absolutely exquisitely delicious, and exactly like any kugel I have had previously in my non-vegan life.

2. Tzimmes

This one we just made up.  :)  Apples, sweet potatoes, figs, pineapple (leftover from the kugel!), figs, and some wine, put in a pot and simmered together for a while.  Think of any great combination of fall fruits and veggies, and you will probably come up with a delicious tzimmes.  We served ours over Israeli couscous.

3. Not-honey cake

I've never been a huge honey cake fan, but when I found this recipe over at VegKitchen as well, it seemed like experimenting needed to happen.  And look how pretty!  Tastes exactly like honey cake too.  How wonderful.  It was perfect when it came out of the oven - the next day it was a teeny bit drier than I would like, and falls apart a bit.  So I may try to add a bit more moisture the next time, and probably a flax egg for a little binder.

4. We also had Gardein chik'n filets with my mother's traditional apricot sauce, a beautiful salad of greens, pomegranate seeds, orange pieces, walnuts, and balsamic dressing, a beans and apple casserole, and an exquisite fruit tart, but I didn't manage pictures of any of those!  But more ideas for you.  :)  The fruit tart I must replicate soon - phyllo dough spread with apricot jelly, topped with blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, and a sprinkling of pistachio nuts, and baked.  Amazing.

It's a new year!  A perfect time to give a new lifestyle a shot if you are still exploring this option, or to add some new recipes to the mix if you are already happily on this path.  And if you have other holiday meals I would love to hear them in the comments.  Because really, who can't use more awesome food on the Jewish holidays?  :)

Shana Tova!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Shabbat Shalom

I recently attended Vida Vegan - a conference for vegan bloggers, held for the first time ever this year.  I had the honor to be able to take a writing workshop with Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and this piece is born out of that class.  One of the exercises we did was to do a stream-of-conscious piece on the last meal someone prepared for us.  The result of that piece seemed like the perfect inaugural piece for my blog to show you a bit about who I am and where I come from, so ... here goes!

One Friday night in August, I went to my mom's house for Shabbat dinner, as I do many Friday evenings. My brother was heading out of town in a month, so this was one of the last Shabbat dinners we would all have together before he left. Makes me totally sad just writing that, and I teared up thinking about it that day. But that night it was a wonderful, relaxed Shabbat evening, which we don't always have as he and I often rush off to other places after dinner. Seems that when the time is growing short, we want to spend more time on the things that are important, and family is very important to us.

Is it funny that I don't even remember what she made? I'm sure I will shortly, but at the moment it's escaping my mind. As important as food is to me, it's not what's important about those times. The important thing is the time shared with family. Sitting around a table, talking, laughing, sharing stories. My brother had just come back from a long trip to Florida, a music festival, and Hawaii, so we couldn’t wait to hear about all of the adventures.  It never ceases to amaze me how food does can do that. Sharing a communal meal just brings people together. I'm so grateful that one of my parents cooked dinner every night, and we had family dinner together every single night. I would have to leave stage crew at high school to come home for dinner, and then go back later, while other people were busy ordering in takeout. My family was never vegan, or even kosher at the time, but I wonder if that priority that was placed on family dinner somehow led me to where I am today. Where food is important, and not something that just fuels you but can be largely ignored as long as you get the calories you need.

So last Friday my mom cooked us pasta, a recipe she found in the Post I think. A simple dish served on a beautiful ceramic pottery platter.  A tasty dish that used a huge pile of fresh tomatoes. She has trouble finding recipes that I can eat (she has not yet succumbed to the wonderful addiction of the vegan blog world), but she always finds something, or makes up something. I'm lucky it seems, having a supportive family. My brother is a total omnivore and has become such a foodie who will try anything and everything. But he also understands how important this is to me, and some of the best vegan dishes I've had have been ones he's researched and then cooked for me. Everything he's made I've had to have the recipe for later. I really am lucky.  I always know that, but putting it on paper reminds me how true it is.