And one lesson is sinking in to a degree, and I think it’s the most important one:

Let go of that Currier and Ives postcard holiday thing in your head.  It’s not easy to do.  It’s a lesson worth sharing.

I let go of my usual four-day Thanksgiving weekend.  For two decades, these four days have been my holiday highlight, mostly because I’m increasingly indifferent to Christmas.  The two days I had with my husband for the annual Star Trek Movie Marathon were really nice.  We didn’t have the skid for it this year.  But instead, we three had a Harry Potter Movie Marathon that lasted over a two or three week period and we watched the movies as we had time together.  That was nice, too.  Chase was around for the last Star Trek, which is his favorite, anyway.

I made Thanksgiving brunch.  I haven’t had attachment to turkey with cranberry sauce for two decades.  It seemed that my husband and I were the rare ones who were happy to try new things, new dishes, new time of day….but it was a really nice brunch.  There was strain and family dynamics at the table….but it had nothing to do with my awesome food.  Or with me or Mark or Chase for that matter.

I have let go of the fact that my skid and his dad put up the lovely tree with lights (and forgot most of the ornaments).  The Godzilla ornament and the Packers candy cane are there….what else does this house need?  Do I really want to fuss over it?  Nope.  Are there going to be pictures of this tree that we’ll save and cherish forever?  Nope.  Ever since I threw out 25 years worth of my handwritten journals before I moved in with Mark, I’ve come to terms that nobody actually cares so much about what I’ve said that they’ll keep it for posterity.  This year bit.  I think we can skip it and keep the photos from 2011, and have new ones for 2013.

I have let go of Christmas Day being December 25.  I’m pagan.  Who cares?  We’re having family festivities on the 23rd and that’s fine with me.

The ex-wife has Chase Christmas Eve and Christmas Day.  In some stepfamilies, this would be fought over.  In court, it could be not only fought over but won easily.  We don’t actually care.  We were asked to not request him for any more extra time for the rest of the year when we asked to bring him back three hours later (at 8pm) on Sunday.  To this, even I said ‘whatever’.

We have stockings over our fake fireplace.  (It’s not actually fake….we just haven’t figured out how to get a key remade to open it up again).  I don’t worry about how the presents are, or when they’re given, and I’m not caring that we don’t have a “proper” Christmas dinner…we’re doing wine and desserts at my mother-in-law’s house.  Initially, the family agreed to this because nobody REALLY wanted to host.  Or rather, Mark and I did Thanksgiving, and I had hoped to work Christmas Day, like I have for the past six years.  And after there was significant cricket chirping, Jane volunteered….and planned Christmas gathering on her terms.  Which is fine.  Nice, even.  It is not appearing to meet with everybody’s expectations and ….should’s.

I don’t actually mind at all.

Know what I do care about?  My husband and I have the entire Christmas Day off…and have it to ourselves.  I want to take him to see Les Mis.  Or the Hobbit again.  Yeah, a large part of me wanted to go wear my Santa Hat in the ICU….just like every year for the past six.  But you know what?  I have a random Tuesday in December off with my husband and we will have fulfilled all family obligations.  We can have it…TO OURSELVES!  That’s so awesome!

I care a lot about the fact that I’m going to see my parents, when I thought I wasnt going to see them at all this year.  I care a LOT about that.  I’m flying home….don’t care at all about the $300some cost….and don’t care at ALL that it’s the weekend after Christmas.  I don’t care at all that they put up a plastic 2 foot tall tree that they decorated once, and keep decorated, stored in a box eleven months a year.  I think that’s wonderful and it makes me very happy.

Mom is delightedly making not one, not two, but THREE different kinds of gelato PLUS a homemade pie before I get home.  I estimate she has 5,000 calories planned for me.  None of it traditional holiday meal-type stuff.  All of it lacto-ovo-vegetarian because my parents love me, and they have absorbed the Rockford Italian culture that says food is love.  They just get that vegetable food is just as much love as the food we all used to eat, when my Dad’s cholesterol was much higher.

I think a Christmas evening at my mother-in-law’s place sounds nice.  Her house is comfortable to me, and it’s full of quilts, and it’s just as good being the family’s Geneva or Switzerland as our house is.  I think it will take me less time, this holiday, to blow off the strain and family dynamics.  Because it isn’t about me.  I’m gonna have egg nog and listen.  That’s what I usually do at tables of large people…most of the time, I listen.  Mark’s family is full of talkers, so this tends to work fine.

I’m happy about the cool presents I gave Chase, and even the iTunes my folks got him…am excited to see him open them.  I’m happy about the really nice coat I got for Mark, and the nerdy laptop fan that he’ll love.  I’m happy about giving my niece grown-up makeup….Gramma Jane got her some, too, but she’s going to be 14, and ready for big girl stuff.  It’s cool.  I don’t know what Mark and Chase have gotten Colton, my nephew yet, because I was told “you get the girl stuff, we’ll get the boy stuff”, but it’s always fun to watch him open presents, too….he and Chase run around together and have a good time.  The three of them are great kids, and they’re fun to watch run around and have a good time.

I’m not making kiffles this year.  I gained 10 lbs with the new job.  Nor am I making my Christmas cheesecake.  (Okay, maybe I’ll make Christmas cheesecake.) …..(All right, maybe ONE batch of kiffles, but only to bring to Jane’s house.)  Maybe.

I know I had the anxiety dream right before Thanksgiving….but deeper into the holidays, and things are going a little easier.  I’m taking what’s put in front of me this year….instead of deciding what should be there and noticing how reality doesn’t match.  I wish I could have gone back in time and told myself this before.  I just have to remember to KEEP telling myself this.

It’s like my Christmas tree.  It’s beautiful as it is.  I need to stop looking for things that should be there, and are not.  Happy holidays.


I picked up a new cookbook, which I need like I need a seventh ear.  I was browsing/Christmas shopping for the folks, looking through the cookbooks (which my folks need like a twenty-eighth ear), and I found one I could not resist:  Meat-Free Monday Cookbook by the McCartneys.  It’s a lacto-ovo vegetarian recipe, intended for meat-eaters.  What I like a lot about it is that it’s organized by seasons, so makes the most of what’s in season.  Love that.  It feels like a British cookbook, too…and by that I mean there’s quite a bit of hearty rootstock stuff, but taking much more from Asia than the Americas.  I would expect Indian flavorings, and there’s not much from Central America.  This is good, and interesting.  I don’t have a cookbook quite like it.  So far, I’ve gone through the Winter section, and I’ve used up an entire container of little sticky notes to tag pages with recipes I’d like to try.

On a second go-through, I looked today for ridiculously simple dishes that would be okay cold to pack for a lunch.  My new job has me living out of my car.  This is fine but I have no microwave, and I end up getting high-fat expensive eat-out stuff.  I’ve gained ten pounds in the past six weeks…it’s horrible.  Granted, citrus rice is not going to sound as good as stopping at a Village Inn for a garden skillet, but I need to train myself to eat cold lunches.  I may have eaten peanut butter and jelly sandwiches every single day for lunch when I was a child, but I can’t do it now.

This cookbook also has the advantage that it has specific recipes for packed lunches.  Way cool.  It calls this a side dish, and it is….but it’s interesting and snacky and low on the calories, high on the protein and vitamin C….all good things.

source:  The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by Paul, Stella, and Mary McCartneycitrus rice

lacto-vegetarian, gluten –

  • 1 1/2 c basmati rice
  • juice and zest of 1 lime
  • juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro
  • 1/3 cup yogurt

Cook the rice “according to box instructions.”  Mix everything else together, serve warm.

A couple of notes on this…I love brown rice.  I realize that people unused to it prefer white rice, but I think this dish would be heartier and richer with brown rice, add more nutrients and add a nutty-like flavor that would be welcome in this dish.  I buy basmati for cheap at Indian grocery stores….I pour the rice into the pan, and fill with water until my finger touches the top of the rice, and the water covers the first digit of my finger.  I learned that from May Goh’s mom and have made perfect white rice ever since.  You could make this vegan by removing the yogurt…it adds some texture, but the dish wouldn’t suffer without it.  I let the rice cool to see if I like it cold, and it’s just fine as a cold snack.

Nothin fancy, but nice.  Wonder if the brown rice would be enhanced with orange instead of lime.  Worth experimenting.

This was my first time to host Mark’s side of the family for Thanksgiving, and so it was vegetarian Thanksgiving brunch.  I took some photos beforehand….

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAI had a greek yogurt bar, with the homemade granola, and honey and fresh fruit.  I made pancakes as people sat down, which seemed to work okay.

mashed and gravy

Had mashed potatoes and cashew gravy…I discovered sort of the hard way, that even though the cousins were open to eating some of everything….adults are more difficult.  Adults don’t try things like fake sausage.  I thought the sausages turned out delicious….but it’s too weird for some people to try on a holiday.  Cashew gravy isn’t a revelation or new or weird in this house.  I have to remember that this is still an alien food to some.  The cranberry ginger sauce turned out great, too.  Though because this, too, was a slightly weird food….I’d intended it for the pancakes, but people put it on mashed.  It was good there, too, though.  I was happy everybody liked it.


The seitan sausage rocked.  I did prepare it beforehand, and all I did was fry it lightly in some olive oil just to give it a bit of crunch.  It’s awesome, and I’ll definitely make it again.  Though the kids and Jane (who is vegetarian) and Mark and I had some at brunch, the rest was leftovers.  After everyone was gone though, Mark and I finished it within a day.


I made two quiches…I went with both of them being identical, basically Mom’s recipe.  Quiche isn’t too weird at brunch, and that went over just fine.  Jane had brought one, too, which didn’t even get carved up.  (We had a LOT of food.)

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERABeverages, too.  Had mimosas, which most grownups had…with Chandon Brut.  The white was something called Mohua, and it was crisp and green apple-ish.  Forgot which red we served, but it was a nice one, too.

Most of the family liked the brunch, and the vegetarians and the kids loved it.  (Chase did try everything…I made him…and he dubbed the pancake ‘awesome’).  (Had I been sitting next to him, he would have eaten more quiche….but his father sat next to him.)

pumpkin pancake setupCooking lessons from Thanksgiving:

Serving hot pancakes is easier with smaller groups than seven adults and three kids.  The first kid is done with her pancake before the adults have started theirs…and she wants seconds.  😀

People need the centerpiece fussy dish….it’s the meat-eater way.  Spiced pancakes are not turkey, nor is quiche.  A nibbling many-dishes is a great brunch…but the fussy big main dish still says Thanksgiving to many.

Even with the pancake-flipping, I timed brunch pretty damn well fabulously.  Everybody had a hot meal, all at once, in front of them.  Things got cold in the kitchen by the time most of us pushed back to rub our bellies at the table.  I did not account for people coming an hour late.  So when they arrived, the mashed, the gravy, the sausages were cold.  I offered to flip pancakes, but they didn’t want any.  I didn’t account for that.  Not sure how I could have better handled it, but I’ll think about it next time.

Adults didn’t quite get the yogurt bar.  Even when I told the kids to put yogurt in cups and add whatever toppings they wanted (which they took to, enthusiastically and immediately), it didn’t quite happen with grownups.  Dunno why.  Also, nobody goes for the nonfat yogurt.  (I should have known that.)

Nobody but me in the family drinks coffee….gasp!  I had a cute setup with a large pot of coffee with fixins and my grandmother’s china and the whole bit.  I set out holiday tea with the way die hard coffee-drinkers do….I have the stuff, and expect one person will have tea.  One person did.  And I was the only one drinking coffee….no wonder my husband is strange and is not a coffee-drinker.  Nobody in his family had any.

I was happy with my effort.  It was a LOT of effort, but I was really excited about different dishes.  Most of what I served were new recipes to me, and every one came out on a range of good to fantastic.  Lesson learned?  Some folks aren’t into ‘new’ on Thanksgiving.  *shrug*  And also, family is family.  You get everybody together for a fun meal, and you’re still the same family that was snapping at each other last week.  The reason Mark and I hosted is because we get along well with everybody.  We are Switzerland.  As fun as it was to make cool interesting and yummy food, sometimes some folks are more interested in glowering at each other across the table than in your cool food.

But I’m a mighty decent food assembler.

I am finally getting around to posting this recipe.  Have to say that it ROCKED (if I do say so myself).  The kids came back for multiple servings…  I don’t have any photos of the pancakes themselves, as I was cookin.  But I do have photos of the Turkey Day setup before anybody arrived.

source:, but I got the idea from Moskowitz’s Vegan Brunch

lacto-ovo-vegetarian, gluten +

  • 1 1/2 c milk
  • 1 c pumpkin puree
  • 1 egg
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 tbsp vinegar (I used apple cider)
  • 2 c flour
  • 3 tbsp brown sugar
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2 tsp salt

In a bowl, mix together milk, pumpkin, egg, oil and vinegar.  Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, allspice, ginger and salt in a separate bowl.  Stir into the pumpkin mixture just enough to combine.

Heat a lightly oiled griddle over meium high heat.  Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 c for each pancake.  Brown on both sides and serve hot.

Everybody says phyllo is a pain in the butt.  They sure are right, but it was worth a try.

I love Greens Restaurant in San Francisco.  Mark took me there on our engagement trip, which made me blissfully happy.  This is, however, a deeply snooty cookbook.  It’s Thanksgiving, so I thought I would try snooty, because when else will I have the automatic excuse?

source:  The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison

vegetarian, gluten ?

  • 1/2 pckg frozen filo pastry
  • 1 c walnuts, freshly cracked if possible
  • 2 to 3 leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves, finely chopped or 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
  • 2 tsp marjoram, finely chopped
  • 1/4 c white wine or water
  • 1 lg bunch spinach or chard, washed and finely shredded
  • 8 oz goat cheese (Montrachet, Boucheron, Lezay)
  • 2/3 c ricotta
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 8 tbsp unsalted butter, melted

Remove filo pastry from freezer and let it come to room temp while you prepare the filling.  Unfold the dough, and cut the stack of sheets in two.  If you are making just one recipe, refold half the dough, and wrap it in plastic.  It can either be frozen or kept for a few days in the fridge.  Cover the sheets to be used with a sheet of waxed paper covered in turn with a damp kitchen towel, to keep them from becoming dry and brittle.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Roast the walnuts for 5 to 8 minutes until they are fragrant; chop them finely, and set them aside.  Rinse the leeks, and shake off the excess water.  Heat the butter in a large skillet, and saute the leeks for 2 to 3 minutes before adding the garlic, some salt and freshly ground black pepper, and the herbs.  Stir to combine, add the wine or water, and cook slowly, covered, until the leeks are soft.  Add the spinach, toss with the leeks, then re-cover and cook until the spinach is wilted.

Remove the veggies to a bowl, and combine them with the goat cheese, ricotta, and eggs.  Season with more salt and pepper, if needed.

Brush a 9 by 13 by 2 inch pan with the melted butter and lay down a sheet of the filo pastry.  Brush pastry with butter and continue layering and buttering until you have used half the sheets, scattering half of the chopped walnuts between several of the pastry sheets.  Brush the top sheet with butter and spread the filling over it.  Continue layering the rest of the pastry sheets, buttering each sheet, and again distritributing nuts between several of the sheets.

Cut the pastry into 3 inch squares, then diagonally into diamonds, making sure you cut through all the layers; refrigerate the pastry if you will not be baking it right away.  Bake in a 400 degree oven for 40 to 50 minutes, or until browned.  Serve the pastries warm from the oven, slightly cooled or at room temp.  For a wine, serve a dry sauvignon blanc.

Okay, so I have completely the wrong size pan, and my pastry might become a gooey mess.  This smells wonderful, but because my pastry dough sheets were too long for 9 x 13, I cut the sheets in half.  That made them much too small for the pan, so the gooey cheesy stuff is oozing off the sides. 

If it ends up being a flop, nobody will ever know that I tried it, right?

So, it sort of worked?  They are messy, but they smell wonderful.  The nibbles I’ve had so far are tasty, too.  It’s SO buttery.  Worth experimenting with more another time, also.


I love to cook things from around the world.  I have tried very litter, er, cuisine, from the UK.  There’s that haggis factor and all…  Mark wanted to make cashew gravy and mashed potatoes.  Everybody likes us to bring that to Thanksgiving every year.  Meat eaters don’t do mashed potatoes without the meat, I don’t think.  I found this recipe in Moskowitz’s fabulous book, and bam!  Bangers and mash it is.

I have not yet spent any time in the UK (Heathrow airport layovers do not count….I used the ATM just so I could get pounds out once.), so I have no idea if this is even remotely British food.  I do know that seitan is good, though.  I have no idea if the meat-eating part of the family will even be brave enough to try it.

Meat eaters.  Too many culinary cowards among them.  Every one that has tried my homemade seitan loves it.  So, here we go.

source:  Vegan Brunch by Moskowitz

vegan, gluten ++++

  • 1/2 cu cooked navy beans, rinsed and drained (I used black beans)
  • 1 c veggie broth
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • 1 1/4 c vital wheat gluten
  • 1/4 c nutritional yeast
  • 2 tsp fennel seeds, crushed
  • 1 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • several dashes fresh black pepper

Before mixing ingredients, get your steaming apparatus ready and bring water to a full boil.  The rest of the recipe comes together very quickly.  Have ready four sheets of tinfoil.  In a large bowl, mash the beans until no whole ones are left.  Throw all the other ingredients together in the order listed and mix with a fork.  Divide dough in four even parts.  Place one part of the dough into tinfoil and mold into about a 5 inch log.  Wrap dough in tin foil like a tootsie roll.  Don’t worry about shaping it; it will snap into shape while it’s steaming because this recipe is awesome.

Place wrapped sausages in steamer and steam for 40 minutes.  That’s it! You can unwrap and enjoy immediately or refrigerate until ready to use.  I like them sliced and sauteed in olive oil for a few minutes, or grilled whole then sliced.

I think what I’d like to do with these tomorrow is slice them into ovals and lightly fry them in olive oil.  These are GREAT, by the way.  Spicy, and tasty.

Ginger cranberry sauce

Posted: November 24, 2012 in vegan recipes
Tags: ,

This is to be ladled over the pumpkin pancakes, to be made tomorrow.  It’s ideal, according to the recipe, to have this warm.  I plan to warm it tomorrow, but I’m also looking for things that I am able to make in advance.  As it is, we’ve got a lot to cook tomorrow.  This seems easy enough to gently warm tomorrow.

source:  Vegan Brunch by Moskowitz

vegan, gluten –

  • 2 c fresh cranberries
  • 1 1/4 c water
  • 1/3 c sugar
  • 1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1/4 c pure maple syrup

Mix together cranberries, water and sugar in a saucepan.  Cover and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat a bit and let simmer for 10 minutes.  Uncover and let simmer until mixture is reduced by half, 10 more minutes or so.  Remove from heat and grate in the ginger.  Let cool for at least a half hour and stir in maple syrup.  Serve warm.

I’m multitasking in the kitchen, so I have no photo yet.  Gotta get the bangers for the bangers and mash started, too.