December 1, 2011

Recipe - Vegan Chunky Monkey and Thanksgiving Recap

Hidee-ho! Hope everyone had wonderful Thanksgiving celebrations this year! It was my second year celebrating Thanksgiving as a vegan, but my first one cooking. Last year we went to Connecticut to spend the day with Johnny's brother and his family, so I picked up a few things from Whole Foods. While I am eternally grateful for the convenience and selection that Whole Foods offers, this year I wanted to try my hand at veganizing some of the classics. It is so much cheaper and, generally, tastier to make stuff on your own, don't you agree?

On Tuesday, I began by cooking the cranberry sauce as I knew it would keep well and it was the only component of the meal that was meant to be served cold. I used this recipe from Sunset Magazine as I remembered my sister making a cranberry sauce with Earl Grey tea in years past that I loved. This called for some exotic spices like cardamom pods, star anise, and whole cinnamon sticks so I made my way to Kalustyan's and managed to buy all three for under $10. Man, I love that place! I simmered the spices and tea bags in a water and sugar mixture, then cooked the cranberries in the liquid until they all burst and cooked into a thickened sauce. I was super pleased with the results of that one, it was a positively delicious addition to the meal! I also made up a batch of hummus on Tuesday for an appetizer - we all know how much better hummus tastes after it sits in the fridge for a few days anyway.

Wednesday night I tackled dessert - the Maple Pecan Pie from the new book "Vegan Pie in the Sky" by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero. Those ladies have stolen my heart when it comes to vegan baked goods and vegan food in general. Their recipes are so thoroughly tested and well-written that I never have to worry about yielding a less-than-tasty result. The on-line reviews of this pie recipe were split: some had great success and others had a bit of trouble. I, too, ran into some issues when I let my caramel cook a bit too long. It completely hardened and crumbled, so I blended it up in the food processor and hoped for the best. Luckily, it all worked out and it was a delicious pie! Johnny said it was a bit too sweet for his tastes, but I thought it was just right. (Though expensive to make... we paid $8 for the pecans and it used most of my $7 bottle of maple syrup. Yikes!)

I wanted to have as little cooking to do on Thursday as possible. We spent the morning making our way to the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade, only to find that we'd missed all but the last two balloons and Santa. EPIC FAIL. Better luck next year. When we got home, I got to work making mashed potatoes (I baked the potatoes, scooped out the innards, and mashed with plenty of soy milk, vegan margarine, and salt and pepper) and sweet potato casserole (I also baked the sweet potatoes, scooped out the innards and mashed with a bit of maple syrup, a couple tablespoons of margarine, some cinnamon and allspice and about a 1/2 cup of toasted walnuts, then I baked it with some vegan Dandies marshmallows on top. YUM!). Johnny made his famous stuffing using margarine, veggie broth, stuffing mix and lots of chopped apples, celery and onions. Then I just had to heat up the rolls and the vegan mushroom gravy. Our guests brought the BEST ROASTED VEGGIES I'VE EVER HAD that included butternut squash, cauliflower, and turnips. Monica says the secret is to roast them at very low heat for a long time, so I'll be utilizing that method in the future.

Everything came out so wonderfully and I had a plate full of vegan goodness upon which to gorge myself. And thanks to leftovers, I continued to gorge myself through the entire weekend! I was so busy trying to keep everything hot that I didn't really snap any good pics though. Bummer. We also saw the new Muppets movie that night and I must say, it was fantastic. A theater full of adults weeping at the sight of a frog puppet? Yes, please. 

In this brief hiatus between Thanksgiving and Christmas, I'm trying to get back to eating a bit healthier so as not to send my system into complete meltdown. I bought a gigantic bunch of bananas at the grocery store while shopping for Thanksgiving and they started to get a bit brown. I knew they would be perfect in a baked good like banana bread. But instead, I chose to freeze them and make banana soft serve! This stuff seems to be all the craze these days and I know why: it's so easy to make and it tastes divine. You can mix-in anything your little heart desires, but when I think of banana ice cream, I automatically think "Chunky Monkey". By far my favorite Ben & Jerry's flavor, it combines banana ice cream with dark chocolate chunks and walnuts. This version gives you all those flavors, but with about 1/10th the fat and calories. Big time WIN!

Johnny ate a bowl of this ice cream, licked the bowl clean, then returned to the freezer to eat the rest. I was so happy he liked it so much! A much healthier way to satisfy an indulgent sweet-tooth. Have you ever made banana soft serve? What are your favorite mix-ins?

Vegan Chunky Monkey

5 frozen bananas
1/4 cup vegan chocolate chips or dark chocolate chunks
1/4 cup raw, unsalted walnut pieces

Break up the bananas a bit and add to a food processor. Begin blending, scraping down the sides of the bowl as you go. You will have to blend for awhile, 5 minutes or so, but don't overblend as it will start to melt the ice cream. Once everything is smoothe, transfer to a bowl (a chilled bowl would be great here) and stir in the chocolate and walnuts. You can either place this back into the freezer to harden it up a bit, or serve right away. Sprinkle a few extra chocolate chips over the top and garnish with a mint sprig.