Thanksgiving: The (upside) run-down

Yes this looks almost the same as last year, but why mess with what works?

 

Whenever you cook a giant meal, somethings got to give, and depending on what that something is, you either have a giant success, or a giant mess. Before I tell you what this year’s “something” was, I will say, this year was a giant success.

 

Worth every OCD-inducing minute.

 

Here are some things I learned this Thanksgiving:

 

When you have an old oven, you must be prepared to sit there and watch as your oven thermometer goes up and down with no rhyme or reason, or concordance with the actual temperature-dial.  This oven assumes you have nothing better to do.

 

Even if you cook several things beforehand, there will be an hour when you are absolutely nuts, when you can’t stand people coming into the kitchen, and when you are a bit of a terror. It’s the price of a good cook.

 

Gravy – good, from scratch gravy – is a bitch. For those who like to have a complex savory-yet-sweet flavor, it is a long road. Also, gravy never comes out the same every year. You may find yourself putting odd things into it, but it really doesn’t matter – it’s your secret.

 

Getting baked.

 

No matter how many pies you make, they will be gone very quickly – if not that night, the next morning. (We are all animals when it comes to homemade pie. Especially pecan. Damn.

 

And finally, some things that are completely wrong come out completely right. Case in point: this year, I cooked the turkey upside-down. I shall explain: My turkey came in a bag that was hard to see through (spices and such) and when I shoved it in the oven at 9 am I must have missed the fact that it was in fact, face-down (breast-down? whatever). I didn’t notice it was thus until, whilst carving, I wondered why there was no breast meat on my turkey.

 

Ha.

 

BUT – as it turns out, this works. Cooking the turkey upside down ensures that the dark meat is done and that the breast meat is very moist – perfectly so. All the juices go to the bottom of the bag and hang out in the white meat. My fellow diners suggested that I should make this mistake next year. Who knew?

 

This year, I am thankful that my mistakes turned out to be blessings, and I had people I love to share them with – even if those people drove me crazy, I am thankful that it’s always a good day.

 

Coming up: a pie you need to make.

An Especially Tasty Gluten-Free Sweet Potato Casserole

dinner2I spotted this recipe on Oh She Glows, one of my favorite food blogs, last holiday season, and little did I know what an impact it would have on this year’s Thanksgiving! Seriously, it turns regular yams/sweet potatoes into magic.

It’s sweet, but not too sweet to be a side-dish, and the topping is crispy and delicious. It’s also pretty darn easy to make. Perfect for breakfast the next morning too!

While you can make this while your turkey is cooking, I baked it the night before and reheated it at 350 while the turkey was resting; it took around 30m – just keep an eye on it. You don’t have to add the pecans, but I firmly suggest you do; they lend a very tasty pecan-pie flavor.

~* Gluten and Dairy-Free Sweet Potato Casserole *~

(Vegan Too!)

adapted from Oh She Glows

Oven Temp: 350, Pan Size: 2 quart casserole dish

Ingredients:

Filling:

  • 4 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cooked
  • 2 tbsp Earth Balance
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 5 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1/2 tsp fine grain salt
  • 3/4 tsp nutmeg
  • 3/4 tsp cinnamon

Topping:

  • 1/4 cup Earth Balance
  • 1/2 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/3 cup sorghum flour
  • 3/4 cups chopped pecans

cass2 Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel and boil sweet potatoes/yams until tender. Drain and mash the sweet potatoes with Earth Balance until smooth – leave a few chunks to keep it “rustic.”cass3

Whisk together the maple syrup, salt, nutmeg, and cinnamon; add to sweet potatoes. Transfer mixture into a lightly-greased (with canola oil) casserole dish.

Using a fork (or your fingers), mix together the topping ingredients until well combined; it helps to have softened butter. Add pecans last. Sprinkle topping over sweet potatoes and bake for 50 minutes, checking to make sure topping does not burn. cass5

This dish is ridiculously versatile; it works for breakfast, brunch, potlucks, dessert. Dessert especially if you are someone who likes their desserts without overwhelming sweetness. Something about the twice-cooking/baking of the sweet potatoes really improves the sweet potato texture too.

And if, when shopping, you get confused about the difference between yams and sweet potatoes, usually what is labeled as a yam is actually a sweet potato. The USDA now requires the “yam” label to always be accompanied by “sweet potato.” It’s very unlikely to find a real yam here in the U.S. Bottom line is to look for the ones which dark orange flesh and reddish-brown skin.

2sweetpotatovsyam SweetPotato2

Creamy Vegan and Gluten-Free Potato Soup

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Yesterday I had lunch with my mom at Slice of Life, a vegan and vegetarian restaurant in Sebastopol, and we had a very tasty blended potato and vegetable soup. It was so tasty, in fact, that I decided to make my own version. 

This recipe has many lovely attributes: it’s gluten and dairy-free (of course), vegan, filling, low in fat, high in nutrients, and cheap economical. If you buy all these items in bunches, you can even get another full recipe out of it.

~*Creamy Vegan Potato and Veggie Soup*~

Makes a medium pot of soup, or around 2-3 servings

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium russet potatoes
  • 2 small, fit-in-your-palm size yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 carrots
  • 4 celery stalks
  • 1/2 of one large yellow onion
  • olive oil
  • soup seasoning mix, or veggie/chicken broth (obv. chicken is not vegan)
  • any other desired seasonings; salt, pepper, etc.

Peel and wash potatoes; cut russets into 2-inch pieces and yukon’s into 1-inch chunks. Chop peeled carrots and 3 of the celery stalks into 1-inch long pieces, and dice the remaining stalk into small pieces, the same size you normally use for aromatics. Slice onion so the layers are in 2/3 inch-long pieces. image

Drizzle a little olive oil over the bottom of your pan; sauté the diced celery and onion for a few minutes over high heat, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Once the onion starts to get transparent, add the potatoes and remaining veggies, along with a healthy sprinkling of your seasonings.

I used a no-salt mixture along with a seasoning/soup mix and water in lieu of a broth. My favorite kind of soup mix is Vegeta, which I was turned onto by my boyfriend’s Russian mother. You might have to go to a European grocery or store like World Market to get it, though I haven’t actually looked for it in the regular grocery. Per the directions, you add about a couple spoonfuls to the pot of water. It’s quite tasty, but you can use bullion or broth if you like.

Add enough water/broth to just cover the ingredients, and stir in the seasoning. Cover and simmer the soup over medium-low heat until the veggies and potatoes are soft and cooked, around 20-30 minutes. Check halfway to see if you need to add more salt, seasoning, etc. Tip: if the soup has too much of a salty-vegetable flavor add something sweet, like juice or a teaspoon of sugar.

1 To blend the soup using a blender, fill it up and add just enough  of the broth for it to blend; mix on high for a few seconds until it’s smooth. If you like your soup with a little bite like I do, only partially blend the rest of the soup so that there are still chunks of the veggies and potatoes, and mix it in with the smoother first batch.

There’s something about blending the potatoes with the veggies that makes this magic; it’s thick and creamy comfort food without that heavy feeling. And the best thing? Leftovers!

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Forget Ramen noodles and all that other cheap crap people are forced to eat when they’re short on cash; this is the kind of inexpensive food that not only fills you up, but keeps you healthy too!

Gluten-Free Dreaming Copyright 2011.
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