Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's on your Christmas menu?

For the last four years, our holiday dinner is pasta with three sauce choices, and we have that Christmas Eve night. Christmas morning I'll make cinnamon rolls, but I'm so out of practice they won't be ready until it's almost afternoon. My husband bought some boxes of sugar cereal (usually forbidden in this house), and we'll end up snacking on tangerines and Christmas candy, and probably even serving the egg dish while the rolls are still baking.

I know. It would be more exciting if I were making a meal around homemade vegetarian tamales. Or serving parboiled broccoli, cubed cottage potatoes, and torn bread to dip in spicy peanut butter fondue. Or bringing out a platter of roasted Sliced Acorn Squash rings (because they look like stars) stuffed with apples or mushrooms and rice and nuts. Or, if I hadn't been making it every thursday for last six weeks, Spatzle with mushroom gravy, with lingonberry jam for a side of Christmas color.

Instead, all I need to make it a holiday is one green salad with pomegranate seeds sprinkled in it, and my really large and perfect Christmas tree.

Merry Christmas.

And your holiday secrets, menu or otherwise, do tell.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Heather cooking vegetarian from scratch

I was just visiting commenter's blogs and wanted to point you to two vegetarian recipes that Heather of What's for Dinner recently posted on her site.

Kid-pleasing Chili Mac

Lynette's Vegetarian Chili that can be made in a crock-pot. I keep saying I'm going to wean myself off canned Hormel's Chili vegetarian.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Spätzle with mushroom cream sauce

Fifteen years ago, my neighbor, who was a great cook, invited me over for dinner. She had made homemade spätzle with a spätzle maker she'd found in a yard sale during a visit to her home state. The maker looked like a cheese grater with a shuttle across the top of it. I was delighted when she demonstrated it: the dough drops through the holes as the shuttle scrapes over them, dropping drippings of spatzle dough right into the boiling water. How clever; how sensible!

Spätzle fascinates me. I classify it as a homemade pasta or egg noodle, and I love that there's no running the dough through a pasta maker several times to make it smooth, and no figuring out where to hang the pasta to dry. But there's still enough effort involved that it feels like a homemade food project, a bit of an adventure, a bit celebratory.

I've been wanting to make spätzle for years since, so on my recent trip to Austria I purchased a spätzle maker of my own. It has a curved surface with holes, and a rubber scraper for pushing the dough over them. It's wide enough to rest over any of my boiling water pots. I understand you can substitute a large-holed colander for a spatzle maker, but I've never tried.

The recipe I used: 500 g flour, 6 eggs, 150ml water, teaspoon of salt. I let my stand mixer do the work.

I brought a potful of water to boil, adding salt and oil.

I put a big scoop of dough on the spätzle maker. I could tell the consistency was right because it drooped through the holes but didn't fall or run out. I scraped back and forth which forced the dough out. The spätzle that floated was done; I pulled it out with my mesh kitchen sieve.

Now, what to serve with it? Spätzle is a German food I associate with chunks of meat and gravy. Yet like egg noodles, it's good with butter and a little salt. I made a simple mushroom cream sauce by sautéing chopped onion and finely diced mushroom (used food processor to chop) and then adding some cream and cooking it a bit more. Add a side salad, and we had a delicious dinner tonight.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

How was your Veggie Thanksgiving?

We had Thanksgiving at our friends' place this year. They were really cool about making alternates of a couple side dishes to expand the vegetarian menu. And I learned how they make gluten-free pie for their family!

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday, and I must really love my friends or I would never have enjoyed giving up my role as host and menu czar. I was thinking next year I might serve salmon along with the turkey, since my vegetarian daughter added fish to her diet.

Tell us about your menu this year! And like me, are you already plotting for the next?