My man and I have been together for many years now but we have never been really into Valentine’s Day. Actually, on the first one we shared he went all out decorating and buying me The Bodyguard on DVD (some say it is the greatest love story of our time) but since then it has all been kind of meh. This year for whatever reason it hit me that I celebrate all sorts of holidays that I don’t care about like St. Patrick’s Day and Independence Day so why not Valentine’s day. Lucky for me my partner played along and got me flowers and fabulous cupcakes from Sugar Mama’s and I made the best meal ever and we watched a movie that was significantly worse than the Bodyguard.
Unfortunately with all the revelry I took really horrible pictures on my phone but I am going to post them anyway because it was so good. We started with the baked brie from The Complete Guide to Vegan Food Substitutions which was may be my favorite part of the whole meal. Going to four stores to find roasted macadamia nuts for the recipe was totally worth it (whole foods got rid of their nut roasting counter! Central Market had them). Next time I will back off on the agave though because it was really sweet. After that we had a spinach salad with niçoise olives and blood oranges. Then the main course was gnocchi with a creamy mushroom sage sauce, topped with frizzled leeks and roasted asparagus.
The only problem was this portion was way too filling. See all those gnocchi on my plate? I tried to eat them all. I made the sauce by caramelizing some onions, adding garlic, sage, white beans, earth balance, and a little bit of creamy mushroom soup. The leeks were roasted in the oven with lemon,a little bit of clove and ginger and the asparagus were roasted with salt and lemon because why mess with perfection.
Did you ever want to just eat stuffing for dinner? Was there a time when you cracked open a squash and said “Where is the stuffin’ in my dumplin” well if so folks I have the meal for you. The Wild Rice & Pecan Stuffed Sweet Dumpling Squash. I think this could even be a good Thanksgiving or Christmas meal with some gravy and a cranberry dish. I was worried that it would be dry but I ended up just stuffing the squash not roasting it all when it was done. Mostly, because I was hungry and the squash was already cooked.
2 Sweet Dumpling Squashes (or any other similarly sized squashes)
1 cup of uncooked wild rice
1 medium onion, chopped
1 leek, chopped,
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
2 small apples, chopped
1/2 cup of pecans, chopped or crushed
1/2 cup of broth
1 TBSP fresh sage, finely chopped
1 TBSP fresh parsley
1 tsp rosemary
.5 tsp thyme
1 tsp marjoram
salt and pepper
First, bring the wild rice to a boil on the stove with 2 cups of water, reduce to heat to low and cover once it starts boiling. Next, cut around the stem of the squash in the same way you cut off the top of a jack-o-lantern. Remove the seeds and the stringy flesh and put the tops loosely back and place in the microwave. Heat on high for 7 minutes, rotate and flip, and microwave another 7-9 minutes. (If you don’t microwave you could also roast the squash in the oven for an hour or so). Meanwhile, heat olive oil or margarine in a large saute pan to medium high heat. Start sauteing the onion, leek, celery, and carrot until the squash is done (about 10 minutes). Open the squashes and remove as much flesh as possible with a spoon or knife without puncturing the outside. Chop the freed squashes into pieces and add to the pan. Add the apples and pecans and some broth to deglaze the pan. After apples are cooked through and starting to soften add the herbs, stir well but carefully and then add the drained wild rice. Salt and Pepper to taste. Stuff mixture into the squash and Enjoy!
I have never owned a real casserole dish, in the past I have always used a very old 8X8 glass baking dish for nearly all of my baking needs. Since I started preparing recipes from the VEGANOMICON I bake things in the oven and make a lot more casseroles than any other time in my life so I really need a new dish. I saw this beauty and I had to have it and now I have been using it left and right, forcing items into is sleek oblong shape.
I have wanted to make this recipe for Pumpkin Sage Crusted pasta since I first read about it; pasta with cashew ricotta mixed with caramelized onions and pumpkin combing for the sauce and then a crusty top of bread crumbs, walnuts and sage. Somehow I managed to hold off until the dish was weather appropriate. In my case in Austin TX that means the time when we get to where pants and turn off the AC because *gasp* it is only 85 degrees outside. My partner’s parents are coming in a couple weeks and I thought I would give this one a dry run to see if it would meet the not-in-laws approval.
This dish was fantastic! It is everything that I ever wanted but never find in Vegan Mac and Cheese. The problem with Mac and Cheese is that it is trying to be mac and cheese (which I used to love to make) and it will never be the same as its dairy counterpart. The Pumpkin Pasta, on the other hand, isn’t trying to be anything but a yummy, gooey, noodley casserole with a crispy top and so it succeeds by not having to compare to its non-vegan version. I usually find that the key to good vegan food is to
not try to be something else
utilize the wonder that is vegetables
and here the vegetables really shined. There are few things better in this world than caramelized onions and I realized I should really cook with pumpkin more. The cans are cheap and easy to work with and don’t seem to contain a lot of strange preservatives like some processed canned things and you don’t have to peel anything with is what is usually annoying about winter squashes. I served this dish with roasted asparagus and it made 6 meals. Six actual meals, not 6 “servings” which isn’t usually very correct for us. I think I will make it again for the family or at least the next time I am feeling sorry for myself. I think it would be a great recipe to southwesternize too, using cumin instead of sage for the topping and mixing jalapenos, sauteed peppers and maybe a can of tomatoes into the sauce. Me Gusta calabaza!